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SAINT OF THE DAY – FEBRUARY 24

Blessed Luke Belludi’s Story

In 1220, Saint Anthony was preaching conversion to the inhabitants of Padua when a young nobleman, Luke Belludi, came up to him and humbly asked to receive the habit of the followers of Saint Francis. Anthony liked the talented, well-educated Luke and personally recommended him to Francis, who then received him into the Franciscan Order.

Luke, then only 20, was to be Anthony’s companion in his travels and in his preaching, tending to him in his last days and taking Anthony’s place upon his death. He was appointed guardian of the Friars Minor in the city of Padua. In 1239, the city fell into the hands of its enemies. Nobles were put to death, the mayor and council were banished, the great university of Padua gradually closed and the church dedicated to Saint Anthony was left unfinished. Luke himself was expelled from the city but secretly returned.

At night he and the new guardian would visit the tomb of Saint Anthony in the unfinished shrine to pray for his help. One night a voice came from the tomb assuring them that the city would soon be delivered from its evil tyrant.

After the fulfillment of the prophetic message, Luke was elected provincial minister and furthered the completion of the great basilica in honor of Anthony, his teacher. He founded many convents of the order and had, as Anthony, the gift of miracles. Upon his death he was laid to rest in the basilica that he had helped finish and has had a continual veneration up to the present time.


Reflection

The epistles refer several times to a man named Luke as Paul’s trusted companion on his missionary journeys. Perhaps every great preacher needs a Luke; Anthony surely did. Luke Belludi not only accompanied Anthony on his travels, he also cared for the great saint in his final illness and carried on Anthony’s mission after the saint’s death. Yes, every preacher needs a Luke, someone to offer support and reassurance—including those who minister to us. We don’t even have to change our names!


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SAINT OF THE DAY

Saint Polycarp​

Born 69 AD Smyrna, a Greek city (now in Turkey) Polycarp is one of the Fathers of the early Church, and his letter to the Philippians is one of the early pieces of Christian writing in existence today. A disciple of the apostle John, he was a leader of the second generation of Christians, the first Christians who were not eyewitnesses to the death and resurrection of Our Lord. Extremely influential in the catechesis and initiation of new Christians, he was named bishop of Smyrna, located in modern-day Turkey. Polycarp was martyred for his faith on 23 February 155 in Smyrna at the age of 86. He is a patron of those suffering from earaches.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 

To let love in, we must be prepared to get our hearts broken. When we choose to love, we have signed up for the whole package; we have chosen the cross. We must carry that cross with every breath we take, knowing fully that the Lord is not just by our side, but also bearing the weight on our behalf. The Lord is never far away from those who need him the most. When people we love die and we are devastated, the Lord will sit by our side and cry with us. When we lose everything we have worked for, the Lord will provide exactly what we need. When sickness steals time from us, and we feel hopeless and lonely, the Lord will be our companion and give us strength. The Lord is drawn to us when our hearts are broken because we are closest to his heart.

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FEAST DAY

Chair of Saint Peter​

Early Roman Christians celebrated on this day a feast in honour of their departed loved ones, including their predecessors in the faith, Peter and Paul. In the 4th century, when the feast of these two saints was moved to June 29th, the emphasis of this day shifted to celebrating Peter and his successors as bishops of Rome, and expressing gratitude for their service. “The ‘cathedra’ is literally the seat of the bishop,” Pope Benedict XVI said on this day in 2006, “It is the symbol of his authority and, particularly, of his ‘Magisterium,’ as successor to the Apostles. To celebrate the ‘Chair’ of Peter means, giving it a strong spiritual significance, and recognizing therein a privileged sign of the love of God.”

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church… Matthew 16:18

One late Sunday afternoon, I was surprised to look out a window and see a stranger dropping off my teen son with his bike, a towel wrapped around his arm. Riding with friends, he’d had a fall, and the brother of one of the friends came and got him. He stood in the bathroom and gingerly unwrapped the towel. I had peroxide and bandages ready, but I took one quick look at the gaping wound on his elbow and said, “This is too much for me. We’re going to the ER.” And I was right. The wound ended up being rather complex, and closing it required stitches. An orthopedist on call made sure no grit had gotten to the bone or tendon level. It was, indeed, too much for me. So it is with faith and all of its mysteries. I am graced to be created in God’s image with the freedom to be in communion with the Lord. But I can’t answer all the questions. I can’t fix all the wounds. I’m just a small part of this Church built on the rock—and I need it. St. Peter, pray for us.

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SAINT OF THE DAY – FEBRUARY 21

Saint Peter Damian’s Story

Maybe because he was orphaned and had been treated shabbily by one of his brothers, Peter Damian was very good to the poor. It was the ordinary thing for him to have a poor person or two with him at table and he liked to minister personally to their needs.

Peter escaped poverty and the neglect of his own brother when his other brother, who was archpriest of Ravenna, took him under his wing. His brother sent him to good schools and Peter became a professor.

Already in those days, Peter was very strict with himself. He wore a hair shirt under his clothes, fasted rigorously and spent many hours in prayer. Soon, he decided to leave his teaching and give himself completely to prayer with the Benedictines of the reform of Saint Romuald at Fonte Avellana. They lived two monks to a hermitage. Peter was so eager to pray and slept so little that he soon suffered from severe insomnia. He found he had to use some prudence in taking care of himself. When he was not praying, he studied the Bible.

The abbot commanded that when he died Peter should succeed him. Abbot Peter founded five other hermitages. He encouraged his brothers in a life of prayer and solitude and wanted nothing more for himself. The Holy See periodically called on him, however, to be a peacemaker or troubleshooter, between two abbeys in dispute or a cleric or government official in some disagreement with Rome.

Finally, Pope Stephen IX made Peter the cardinal-bishop of Ostia. He worked hard to wipe out simony—the buying of church offices–and encouraged his priests to observe celibacy and urged even the diocesan clergy to live together and maintain scheduled prayer and religious observance. He wished to restore primitive discipline among religious and priests, warning against needless travel, violations of poverty, and too comfortable living. He even wrote to the bishop of Besancon complaining that the canons there sat down when they were singing the psalms in the Divine Office.

He wrote many letters. Some 170 are extant. We also have 53 of his sermons and seven lives, or biographies, that he wrote. He preferred examples and stories rather than theory in his writings. The liturgical offices he wrote are evidence of his talent as a stylist in Latin.

He asked often to be allowed to retire as cardinal-bishop of Ostia, and finally Pope Alexander II consented. Peter was happy to become once again just a monk, but he was still called to serve as a papal legate. When returning from such an assignment in Ravenna, he was overcome by a fever. With the monks gathered around him saying the Divine Office, he died on February 22, 1072.

In 1828, he was declared a Doctor of the Church.


Reflection

Peter was a reformer and if he were alive today would no doubt encourage the renewal started by Vatican II. He would also applaud the greater emphasis on prayer that is shown by the growing number of priests, religious, and laypersons who gather regularly for prayer, as well as the special houses of prayer recently established by many religious communities.


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SAINT OF THE DAY – FEBRUARY 20

Saints Francisco and Jacinta​

Between May 13 and October 13, 1917, three Portuguese shepherd children from Aljustrel, received apparitions of Our Lady at Cova da Iria, near Fátima, a city 110 miles north of Lisbon. At that time, Europe Portugal was in political turmoil, having overthrown its monarchy in 1910; the government disbanded religious organizations soon after. At the first appearance, Mary asked the children to return to that spot on the thirteenth of each month for the next six months. She also asked them to learn to read and write and to pray the rosary “to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.” They were to pray for sinners and for the conversion of Russia, which had recently overthrown Czar Nicholas II and was soon to fall under Communism. Up to 90,000 people gathered for Mary’s final apparition on October 13, 1917. Less than two years later, Francisco died of influenza in his family home. He was buried in the parish cemetery and then re-buried in the Fátima basilica in 1952. Jacinta died of influenza in Lisbon in 1920, offering her suffering for the conversion of sinners, peace in the world, and the Holy Father. She was re-buried in the Fátima basilica in 1951. Their cousin Lúcia dos Santos, became a Carmelite nun and was still living when Jacinta and Francisco were beatified in 2000; she died five years later. Pope Francis canonized the younger children on his visit to Fátima to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first apparition – May 13, 2017. The shrine of Our Lady

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Luke 5: 30

 This question by the Pharisees reflects the social situation of India. Over the years a million times the same question might have come up in India in different forms to different people. Excluding people in the name of something or the other is the bane of the society in this country though with the advent of Christianity a new trend of inclusion also set in. A man like Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara (Feast day February 18) through his visionary efforts tried to open Catholic schools to Dalit children in the southern Indian state of Kerala at a time when these children were not even allowed to educate themselves because knowledge was presumed to be the preserve of the highest caste people. Jesus too lived in a society which proudly held itself as the preserve of a particular people who excluded sinners and tax collectors from its ambit besides having the trump card chosen people. By calling Levi to his discipleship and by eating with him and his group of people the carpenter’s son wanted to send out a strong message that in God’s vision there was no place for exclusion. 

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SAINT OF THE DAY – FEBRUARY 19

Saint Conrad of Piacenza​

Born circa 1290 to a noble family in northern Italy, Conrad as a young man married Euphrosyne, daughter of a nobleman. One day while hunting he ordered attendants to set fire to some bush in order to flush out the game. The fire spread to nearby fields and to a large forest. Conrad fled. An innocent peasant was imprisoned, tortured to confess, and condemned to death. Conrad confessed his guilt, saved the man’s life, and paid for the damaged property. Soon after this event, Conrad and his wife agreed to separate: she to a Poor Clare monastery and he to a group of hermits following the Third Order Rule. Since his many visitors destroyed his solitude, Conrad went to a remote spot in Sicily where he lived 36 years as a hermit, praying for himself and the world. Conrad died kneeling before a crucifix on 19 February 1351 and was canonized in 1625.

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

Will you call this a fast…? Isaiah 58:5

God’s stinging rebuke of Israel’s false piety redefines the very notion of fasting. “On your fast day, you carry out your own pursuits” (verse 3). Penance itself is repellent: “Is this the manner of fasting” I would choose? (verse 5). Afflicting oneself, bowing your head, sackcloth and ashes? No! For our God, fasting means a feast of freedom for the oppressed, “releasing those bound unjustly” (verse 6). Maybe that is why the liturgy calls Lent “this joyful season.” A big parish fish-fry may seem hardly penitential, but the festivity of it all—welcoming neighbors near and far, any faith, any style, any smile—must be dear to the heart of God, who promised Israel, once they released every unjust or oppressive yoke: “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn” (verse 8).

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SAINT OF THE DAY – FEBRUARY 18

Blessed John of Fiesole

The patron of Christian artists was born around 1400 in a village overlooking Florence. He took up painting as a young boy and studied under the watchful eye of a local painting master. He joined the Dominicans at about age 20, taking the name Fra Giovanni. He eventually came to be known as Fra Angelico, perhaps a tribute to his own angelic qualities or maybe the devotional tone of his works.

He continued to study painting and perfect his own techniques, which included broad-brush strokes, vivid colors and generous, lifelike figures. Michelangelo once said of Fra Angelico: “One has to believe that this good monk has visited paradise and been allowed to choose his models there.” Whatever his subject matter, Fra Angelico sought to generate feelings of religious devotion in response to his paintings. Among his most famous works are the Annunciation and Descent from the Cross as well as frescoes in the monastery of San Marco in Florence.

He also served in leadership positions within the Dominican Order. At one point, Pope Eugenius approached him about serving as archbishop of Florence. Fra Angelico declined, preferring a simpler life. He died in 1455.


Reflection

The work of artists adds a wonderful dimension to life. Without art our lives would be much depleted. Let us pray for artists today, especially those who can lift our hearts and minds to God.


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SAINT OF THE DAY – FEBRUARY 16

Saint Gilbert of Sempringham​

Born 1085 in Sempringham, England, into a wealthy family, Gilbert was sent to France for his higher education. Following his ordination to the priesthood he served as parish priest at Sempringham. Among the congregation were seven young women who had expressed to him their desire to live in religious life. In response, Gilbert had a house built for them adjacent to the Church. There they lived an austere life, but one which attracted ever more numbers; eventually lay sisters and lay brothers were added to work on the land. The religious order formed eventually became known as the Gilbertines, though Gilbert had hoped the Cistercians or some other existing order would take on the responsibility of establishing a rule of life for the new order. The Gilbertines, the only religious order of English origin founded during the middle Ages, continued to thrive. But the order came to an end when King Henry VIII suppressed all Catholic monasteries. Over the years a special custom grew up in the houses of the order called “the plate of the Lord Jesus.” The best portions of the dinner were put on a special plate and shared with the poor, reflecting Gilbert’s lifelong concern for less fortunate people. Throughout his life, Gilbert lived a simple life, consumed little food, and spent a good portion of many nights in prayer. Despite the rigors of such a life he died on 4 February 1189 in Sempringham aged 100. In 1202 Pope Innocent III canonized him.

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

 The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters…Psalm 29:3

I have long lived near the ocean. Saltwater, crashing waves and changing tides have always brought renewal to my body and soul. Years ago, I trained to be a lifeguard. I understand recklessness and riptides versus respect for the sea’s power. Some of my most meaningful talks with God have been at the beach, where my heart is at home. God has brought poignant lessons of salvation through water. In the opening lines of Genesis, the Spirit of God that brought creation into being moves over the waters. Later in Genesis 6–7 we have Noah’s ark saving God’s chosen family. And who can ever forget how the Lord saved Israel via their exodus through the sea? The psalmist today seemingly harkens back to all of it. The most saving water experience we will likely ever encounter is our own baptism. The same “voice” of the Lord spoke then. And is speaking to us today.

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SAINT OF THE DAY – FEBRUARY 15

Saint Claude de la Colombière’s Story

This is a special day for the Jesuits, who claim today’s saint as one of their own. It’s also a special day for people who have a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus—a devotion Claude de la Colombière promoted, along with his friend and spiritual companion, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. The emphasis on God’s love for all was an antidote to the rigorous moralism of the Jansenists, who were popular at the time.

Claude showed remarkable preaching skills long before his ordination in 1675. Two months later, he was made superior of a small Jesuit residence in Burgundy. It was there he first encountered Margaret Mary Alacoque. For many years after he served as her confessor.

He was next sent to England to serve as confessor to the Duchess of York. He preached by both words and by the example of his holy life, converting a number of Protestants. Tensions arose against Catholics and Claude, rumored to be part of a plot against the king, was imprisoned. He was ultimately banished, but by then his health had been ruined.

He died in 1682. Pope John Paul II canonized Claude de la Colombière in 1992.


Reflection

As a fellow Jesuit and as a promoter of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Saint Claude must be very special to Pope Francis who has so beautifully emphasized the mercy of Jesus. The emphasis on God’s love and mercy are characteristic of both men.


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SAINT OF THE DAY – STS CYRIL AND METHODIUS

Saints Cyril and Methodius’ Story

Because their father was an officer in a part of Greece inhabited by many Slavs, these two Greek brothers ultimately became missionaries, teachers, and patrons of the Slavic peoples.

After a brilliant course of studies, Cyril (called Constantine until he became a monk shortly before his death) refused the governorship of a district such as his brother had accepted among the Slavic-speaking population. Cyril withdrew to a monastery where his brother Methodius had become a monk after some years in a governmental post.

A decisive change in their lives occurred when the Duke of Moravia asked the Eastern Emperor Michael for political independence from German rule and ecclesiastical autonomy (having their own clergy and liturgy). Cyril and Methodius undertook the missionary task.

Cyril’s first work was to invent an alphabet, still used in some Eastern liturgies. His followers probably formed the Cyrillic alphabet. Together they translated the Gospels, the psalter, Paul’s letters and the liturgical books into Slavonic, and composed a Slavonic liturgy, highly irregular then.

That and their free use of the vernacular in preaching led to opposition from the German clergy. The bishop refused to consecrate Slavic bishops and priests, and Cyril was forced to appeal to Rome. On the visit to Rome, he and Methodius had the joy of seeing their new liturgy approved by Pope Adrian II. Cyril, long an invalid, died in Rome 50 days after taking the monastic habit.

Methodius continued mission work for 16 more years. He was papal legate for all the Slavic peoples, consecrated a bishop and then given an ancient see (now in the Czech Republic). When much of their former territory was removed from their jurisdiction, the Bavarian bishops retaliated with a violent storm of accusation against Methodius. As a result, Emperor Louis the German exiled Methodius for three years. Pope John VIII secured his release.

Because the Frankish clergy, still smarting, continued their accusations, Methodius had to go to Rome to defend himself against charges of heresy and uphold his use of the Slavonic liturgy. He was again vindicated.

Legend has it that in a feverish period of activity, Methodius translated the whole Bible into Slavonic in eight months. He died on Tuesday of Holy Week, surrounded by his disciples, in his cathedral church.

Opposition continued after his death, and the work of the brothers in Moravia was brought to an end and their disciples scattered. But the expulsions had the beneficial effect of spreading the spiritual, liturgical, and cultural work of the brothers to Bulgaria, Bohemia and southern Poland. Patrons of Moravia, and specially venerated by Catholic Czechs, Slovaks, Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Bulgarians, Cyril and Methodius are eminently fitted to guard the long-desired unity of East and West. In 1980, Pope John Paul II named them additional co-patrons of Europe (with Benedict).


Reflection

Holiness means reacting to human life with God’s love: human life as it is, crisscrossed with the political and the cultural, the beautiful and the ugly, the selfish and the saintly. For Cyril and Methodius much of their daily cross had to do with the language of the liturgy. They are not saints because they got the liturgy into Slavonic, but because they did so with the courage and humility of Christ.


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SAINT OF THE DAY – ST GILES MARY

Saint Giles Mary

In the same year that a power-hungry Napoleon Bonaparte led his army into Russia, Giles Mary of Saint Joseph ended a life of humble service to his Franciscan community and to the citizens of Naples.

Francesco was born in Taranto to very poor parents. His father’s death left the 18-year-old Francesco to care for the family. Having secured their future, he entered the Friars Minor at Galatone in 1754. For 53 years, he served at St. Paschal’s Hospice in Naples in various roles, such as cook, porter, or most often as official beggar for that community.

“Love God, love God” was his characteristic phrase as he gathered food for the friars and shared some of his bounty with the poor—all the while consoling the troubled and urging everyone to repent. The charity which he reflected on the streets of Naples was born in prayer and nurtured in the common life of the friars. The people whom Giles met on his begging rounds nicknamed him the “Consoler of Naples.” He was canonized in 1996.

Reflection

People often become arrogant and power hungry when they forget their own sinfulness and ignore the gifts God has given to other people. Giles had a healthy sense of his own sinfulness—not paralyzing but not superficial either. He invited men and women to recognize their own gifts and to live out their dignity as people made in God’s divine image. Knowing someone like Giles can help us on our own spiritual journey.

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Saint of the Day

St. Apollonia was a holy virgin who suffered martyrdom in Alexandria during a local uprising against the Christians in the early 3rd century.

During festivities commemorating the founding of the Roman Empire, a mob began attacking Christians.

The great Dionysius, then Bishop of Alexandria (247-265), related the sufferings of Apollonia:

Men seized her and, by repeated blows, broke all of her teeth. Then they erected a pile of sticks outside the city and threatened to burn her alive if she refused to repeat impious words after them (either a blasphemy against Christ, or an invocation of the heathen gods). When she was given a little freedom, at her own request, she sprang quickly into the fire and was burned to death.

Apollonia belongs to a class of early Christian martyrs who when confronted with the choice between renouncing their faith or suffering death, voluntarily embraced the latter.

She is popularly invoked for toothaches because of the torments she had to endure. She is represented in art with pincers holding a tooth.

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

…people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment… He took him off by himself…put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. Mark 7:32  

This healing story resonates in a new way for me in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The details of Jesus’ method of curing the man have a stark physicality. That stands out for me now when our physical selves are particularly threatened. An amazing outcome in the chaos of this crisis: it is as if Jesus’ “Ephphatha!” has somehow sounded. As the infections and deaths increase worldwide, words of protest against racial injustice everywhere have been spoken plainly, and many ears opened to hear their truth. Dear God who made us all, in this health crisis, help us realize our true equality with one another and respond with respect and warmth.

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FEAST DAY – OUR LADY OF LOURDES

Our Lady of Lourdes​

In 1858 Mary, the Mother of Jesus, appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in a cave at Massabielle, near Lourdes in France. Just four years earlier, in 1854, the Church had declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, so when the “beautiful woman” of Bernadette’s visions identified herself as the Immaculate Conception, there was initial scepticism. Although others accompanied Bernadette to the grotto, no one else could see or hear the visions. It did not take very long for an Episcopal Commission, an official inquiry, to state: “We judge that Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God, did really appear to Bernadette Soubirous on February 11th, 1858, and on certain subsequent days, 18 times in all, in the Grotto of Massabielle, near the town of Lourdes; that this appearance bears every mark of truth and that the belief of the faithful is well-grounded.” A few years later, this date was added to the list of Marian feasts to honour the mysterious beauty of the Immaculate Conception.

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

Thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. Psalm 128:4

A number of years ago, a priest friend and I took a woman suffering from terminal cancer to Lourdes. She was not Catholic but willingly came along. When we arrived, she plunged into the waters and joined us in prayer. Sometime later, she died. Before she passed, she said to me, “I am glad I went to Lourdes.” It was clear that she received a special grace, although not a physical healing as we had hoped. So many people become angry when they do not get what they want from God. I think it best to repeat the phrase, “God gives us what we need, not what we want.” I believe this woman died in gratitude and hope. God answered her prayers. God answers our prayers. We, too, should be grateful and live, and die, in hope.

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SAINT OF THE DAY – ST SCHOLASTICA

Saint Scholastica​

Scholastica was the twin sister of Saint Benedict, the founder of Western monasticism, and she was the leader of a women’s community likely located near Benedict’s monastery at Monte Cassino. She was dedicated to God from a young age and made her intentions clear. What little is known about her life is found in Saint Gregory the Great’s book, the second Dialogue, which is an account of her brother’s miracles. She died about 543 and was buried in Benedict’s tomb, where he joined her in death soon after. She is the patron of nuns — especially Benedictines — and children with convulsive disorders.

REFLECTION

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Genesis 2:8

In the second chapter of Genesis, the creation account describes how the man was, at first, alone. It is almost hard to fathom – just one person in all of creation. Today, for many of us, the importance of community became evident during the pandemic when social distancing was enforced. In some cases, this meant no hugs, no helping hand, no pats on the back, no shoulder to cry on. Early research has shown that social distancing has a significant impact on our mental health and emotional well-being. We humans are meant to live in community to support one another and to share. As a line in the first Rocky movie put it, “She’s got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps.” Therein lies the power of relationships – to bring one another to wholeness. How often it is that we don’t realize how important something is until it is taken away.

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SAINT OF THE DAY – ST JEROME EMILIANI

ST. JEROME EMILIANI was a member of one of the patrician families of Venice, and, like many other Saints, in early life a soldier. He was appointed governor of a fortress among the mountains of Treviso, and whilst bravely defending his post, was made prisoner by the enemy. In the misery of his dungeon he invoked the great Mother of God, and promised, if she would set him free, to lead a new and a better life. Our Lady appeared, broke his fetters, and led him forth through the midst of his enemies. At Treviso he hung up his chains at her altar, dedicated himself to her service, and on reaching his home at Venice devoted himself to a life of active charity. His special love was for the deserted orphan children whom, in the times of the plague and famine, he found wandering in the streets. He took them home, clothed and fed them, and taught them the Christian truths. From Venice he passed to Padua and Verona, and in a few years had founded orphanages through Northern Italy. Some pious clerics and laymen, who had been his fellow-workers, fixed their abode in one of these establishments, and devoted themselves to the cause of education. The Saint drew up for them a rule of life and thus was founded the Congregation, which still exists, of the Clerks Regular of Somascha. St. Jerome died February 8, 1537, of an illness which he had caught in visiting the sick.

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures.” Genesis 1: 20

When God created the swarms of living creatures in the waters, He did not do it out of His playfulness or for the tourists to watch and enjoy but He had a definite purpose: they are there to enrich and enhance the life of human beings whom He will create later. But the same human beings forgot that it was their duty to keep the waters clean and habitable for the creatures God created and the humans started polluting the waters in the name of industrial development in order to amass wealth. Market and profit became their only goal and in the process they destroyed the livelihood of millions of fishermen who lived on the swarm of creatures in the waters.  This is what Pope Francis laments in Laudatowhen he says “the depletion of fishing reserves especially hurts small fishing communities without the means to replace those resources”. When man thwarts God’s purpose the reverse too happens – man’s purpose is also thwarted.

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SAINT OF DAY – ST JOSEPHINE BAKHITA

Saint Josephine Bakhita​

Slave traders kidnapped Josephine when she was only 9 and gave her the name Bakhita, which means ‘fortunate.’ While it may seem a cruel choice, in time Josephine came to see beauty in it, stating, “if I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and Religious today.” Josephine was born in 1869 in the Darfur region of western Sudan. She was sold as a slave to the Italian consul, who treated her with kindness and warmth. When he returned to Italy with his family, she accompanied them, and in 1888 she went to live at the Catechumenate of the Canossian Sisters in Venice. She was baptized in 1890, taking the name Josephine. According to Italian law, since she had reached the age of majority, she was now free. She joined the Canossian Daughters of Charity and lived 50 of years of religious life showing compassion for the poor and suffering in Schio where she is still known as “our Black Mother.” She died in 1947, after a long illness, and was canonized in 2000. The first saint from Sudan, Josephine Bakhita is the patron of that country.

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

In the beginning… a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2

The creation story in Genesis was written thousands of years ago. Does the Declaration of Independence seem ancient? Genesis is many times older. Its writers didn’t know what science has since learned about the earth, water, sky, sun and stars. But oh, they knew the creative presence of God, the feel of the mighty wind stirring the depths, the tender force of the hand that forms and orders all things. They saw the poetic harmony among all the different parts of the world we know, and the beyond we are aware of but don’t yet know.   The Spirit of “the beginning” is the Spirit of now. There is no other. And the gospel shows us that all this radiates in the person of Jesus—who brings the same wind, force, power, tenderness and healing presence by which God breathed life into us and our world.  Lord, as you share with us your divine presence, may we, too, become radiant for others.

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SAINT OF THE DAY – ST COLETTE

Saint Colette

Colette did not seek the limelight, but in doing God’s will she certainly attracted a lot of attention. Colette was born in Corbie, France. At 21, she began to follow the Third Order Rule and became an anchoress, a woman walled into a room whose only opening was a window into a church.

After four years of prayer and penance in this cell, she left it. With the approval and encouragement of the pope, she joined the Poor Clares and reintroduced the primitive Rule of St. Clare in the 17 monasteries she established. Her sisters were known for their poverty—they rejected any fixed income—and for their perpetual fast. Colette’s reform movement spread to other countries and is still thriving today. Colette was canonized in 1807.

Reflection

Colette began her reform during the time of the Great Western Schism (1378-1417) when three men claimed to be pope and thus divided Western Christianity. The 15th century in general was a very difficult one for the Western Church. Abuses long neglected cost the Church dearly in the following century. Colette’s reform indicated the entire Church’s need to follow Christ more closely.

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FEAST DAY – PAUL MIKI

Paul Miki​

Jesuit seminarian Paul Miki went to his martyrdom proclaiming his faith. On February 6, 1597, he and 25 companions, clergy and lay, were killed for their faith in Nagasaki, Japan. They were suspended on crosses and killed by spears thrust through the heart. Before his death, Paul affirmed his faith in Christ and offered forgiveness to those responsible for his death. This persecution was triggered by a nationalist fear of foreigners: for almost the next 200 years, Japan would be closed to the rest of the world. Despite this isolation, the faith survived without any priests and with only the sacrament of baptism. Paul Miki and his companions were canonized in 1862. Paul Miki is the patron saint of Japan.

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

Now many saw them going and recognized them and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. Mark 6:33

What impels the people to pursue Jesus with such determination? I suggest two things: his teachings and his person. His teachings on love, faith, forgiveness, prayer and justice touched the people to their core. They wanted more. And his very being embodied all the things he taught.  What prompts us to pursue Jesus? Isn’t it the same things? His message resonates in our hearts; his person draws us to become ever more like him. Following Jesus—to embody his teachings—is the work of a lifetime. But what, after all, is a lifetime? It is merely a stringing together of a bunch of todays. Jesus, help me to pursue you with determination and follow you with great love – just for today.

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FEAST DAY – ST AGATHA

Saint Agatha​

Agatha is known mainly through legends. She died during the time of the Decian persecution (249-251). It is alleged that she was sent to a brothel to force her to give up her faith. After she was tortured, the apostle Peter is said to have appeared and cured her. The following day she died in prison of new cruelties. Her intervention was credited with stilling the eruption of Mount Etna the year after her burial. In the middle Ages, especially in southern Germany, bread, candles, fruit and letters were blessed in her name to ward off destruction by fire. She is considered a patron of miners, alpine guides and nurses. She is mentioned in Eucharistic Prayer I.

REFLECTION

Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

In its proper place, money can offer comfort, freedom, generosity, service and fun. It’s when money is out of proper priority—when we love the blessings more than the One who blesses, when we love stuff more than the Source – that trouble ensues. This verse contains an important clue for keeping a proper perspective on prosperity: “Be content with what you have.” Make it a point to practice gratitude. It is a powerful catalyst for alignment and well-being. When we are thankful for what we have, we create an abundance mindset that gives God the credit. Gratitude cannot coexist with fear or lack. A regular part of my daily devotion is my gratitude practice: I make a list in my journal of things I am thankful for. This small, consistent action has changed my life. We tend to find what we are looking for; why not start the day looking for reasons to be happy.

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FEAST DAY – ST JOSEPH LEONISSA

Joseph was born at Leonissa in the Kingdom of Naples. As a boy and as a student in early adulthood, Joseph drew attention for his energy and virtue. Offered a nobleman’s daughter in marriage, Joseph refused and joined the Capuchins in his hometown in 1573 instead. Avoiding the safe compromises by which people sometimes undercut the gospel, Joseph denied himself hearty meals and comfortable quarters as he prepared for ordination and a life of preaching.

In 1587, he went to Constantinople to take care of the Christian galley slaves working under Turkish masters. Imprisoned for this work, he was warned not to resume it on his release. He did and was again imprisoned and then condemned to death. Miraculously freed, he returned to Italy where he preached to the poor and reconciled feuding families as well as warring cities which had been at odds for years. He was canonized in 1745.

Reflection

Saints often jar us because they challenge our ideas about what we need for “the good life.” “I’ll be happy when. . . ,” we may say, wasting an incredible amount of time on the periphery of life. People like Joseph of Leonissa challenge us to face life courageously and get to the heart of it: life with God. Joseph was a compelling preacher because his life was as convincing as his words.

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SAINT OF DAY – ST BLAISE

Saint Blaise

Blaise is best known for the tradition of blessing throats linked to him. An Armenian bishop, Blaise suffered martyrdom during the persecution of Licinius, in the early 4th century.  Religious oppression forced him to live as a hermit in a cave. According to legend, Blaise performed a miraculous cure on a boy who was choking to death. Blaise has long been associated with cures for afflictions of the throat, and the blessing of throats may take place on this day in memory of him. He is a patron of wool-combers and of all who suffer from afflictions of the throat. He is also a patron of wild beasts, as legend suggests he had a remarkable calming influence on animals.

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

 He was amazed at their unbelief. Mark 6:6

Jesus was visiting his relatives and neighbors, and you would think this would have been an ideal time for him to offer his gift of healing. But there was a serious problem! Many did not believe that Jesus could do anything for them, and so he could help only a few. He was amazed at their lack of faith. This story shows us that there is no healing without faith. There has to be openness and a desire for the healing power of Jesus. I think faith includes the trust that God will answer our prayers for healing in the way that is best for us, but that might not eliminate all of our sorrows. Jesus lived a life of love that had both joys and sorrows, and his final suffering gave way to resurrection. Jesus said to us, “Follow me.” If we follow, then his pathway will be ours. May this hope bring us peace.

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FEAST DAY – PRESENTATION OF THE LORD

Presentation of the Lord

According to Mosaic Law, a new mother was considered unclean for 40 days after she had given birth. At the end of that period, she would enter the temple with her child, bringing an offering of either a lamb and a dove or pigeon, or two doves or pigeons, to be cleansed by prayers. Today’s feast commemorates Mary’s symbolic submission to that process, and also to the presentation of Jesus in the temple. The presentation stands as the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. The observance of this feast began in 4th-century Jerusalem, and was celebrated in Rome by the 5th century. It is a feast of both Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin. In the Eastern Church, it was called the Meeting of Jesus and Mary with Simeon and Anna, representatives of the Old Covenant. In the middle Ages, a tradition began of blessing candles and holding a procession of light on this day. As a result, this feast is also known as Candlemas: Christ our light has come to us.

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

For he is like a refiner’s fire… Malachi 3:2

To refine is to make fine again, to purify. Refining processes may involve fire, certain chemicals or a machinery using centrifugal force to strain out impurities. Human refinement usually means discomfort, even pain! Much of our collective anxiety with the COVID-19 pandemic concerned the unknown. Would our lives ever look like they had before the virus? Many surmised there was no going back to the past. The civil unrest that erupted marked the need for fundamental changes in the way we live together.  The medieval years of plague were followed by the Italian Renaissance that spread through Europe – a flowering of culture and a yearning to return to ancient wisdom. Individuals strove to be widely educated, to reach the pinnacle of what it meant to be human. How have the challenges and hardships of the pandemic and its resulting changes caused you to be “refined”.

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FEAST DAY – ST HENRY MORSE

Saint Henry Morse

Born in Brome, Suffolk, England, in 1595, he was raised a Protestant. Crossing the English Channel, he went to Douai, France, which was then an English Catholic centre. He decided to study for the priesthood. Father Morse had scarcely landed in Britain and been accepted as a Jesuit candidate when he was arrested and imprisoned in York Castle. He had not yet had time to make the novitiate required of those who aspired to Jesuit vows. Providentially, however, he found another Jesuit imprisoned in York Castle. This Father Robinson supervised his novitiate in prison! Therefore, when his three-year term was up, he emerged a full-fledged junior member of the Society. Banished to the Continent on his release, Father Morse spent some time as a chaplain to English soldiers who served the King of Spain in the Low Countries. Then in 1633 he returned to England secretly, using the name “Cuthbert Claxton,” and he spent the next four years ministering in London. Tried once more, he was sentenced to death in accord with the law that forbade exiled priests to return to Britain. On the day of his execution, February 1, 1645, Father Morse was able to celebrate Mass. Only after he was dead was Father Morse’s body disembowelled and cut into four parts. Egmont and the French ambassador had their retainers dip handkerchiefs in the martyr’s blood. Later on, these relics were the occasion of cures. Father Henry Morse of the Society of Jesus was canonized on 25 October 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

Reflection

Let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. Psalm 31:24 

One of my uncles was fond of mumbling, “Give me strength!” under his breath when he was challenged by something or someone. There are times when I find myself saying it before I can face leaving the house to start the day. Sometimes it takes strength to face the physical challenge of a storm, exhaustion from a bad night or some malady. Mostly, though, I find it’s the interpersonal challenges of family, colleagues, students or the news that make me pray for strength. The only source that can give me the strength is, indeed, hope in the Lord. The words of St. Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well,” boost my hope at such times. To face the day, I sometimes hold these words in my heart as though clasping a medallion. With them, I do find the strength and courage to take heart and actually step out of my door.

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Nicholas C. Rossis

Award-winning, dream-protecting author

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