St Maria Goretti – July 06

On July 06, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St. Maria Goretti, a young virgin and martyr whose life is an example of purity and mercy for all Christians.

Maria Goretti is best known for her commitment to purity and the courageous defense of her faith at the young age of eleven that made her willing to undergo death rather than participate in a sin against God. She is also remarkable for the forgiveness she willingly granted her attacker as she lay on her deathbed.

Maria was born in Corinaldo, Italy on October 16, 1890. Her father, a farmer, died of malaria when she was young, and her mother had to work to support their six children.

Maria took care of the younger children while her mother worked, and she prayed the Rosary every night for the repose of her father’s soul. She grew in grace and maturity, and her cheerful obedience and piety were noticed by those around her.

On July 5, 1902, a neighbouring farm hand, Alessandro Serenelli, tried to rape Maria. On several prior occasions, Alessandro had harassed Maria with impure advances, all of which she has vehemently rejected. This time, he locked her in a room and tried to force himself upon her. She fought against him, shouting, “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” and warning him that this was the path towards hell. When Maria declared that she would rather die than submit to this sin, Alessandro angrily grabbed her and stabbed her 14 times with a knife.

Maria was found bleeding to death and rushed to the hospital. As she lay dying, she forgave Alessandro for the crime he had committed against her, saying, “Yes, for the love of Jesus I forgive him…and I want him to be with me in Paradise.”

Although the doctors tried to save her, she died two agonizing days later, only eleven years old.

Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He remained unrepentant until one night, eight years into his prison term, when Maria appeared to him, dressed in white, gathering lilies in a garden. She smiled, turned towards Alessandro, and offered him the flowers. Each lily he took transformed into a white flame. Then Maria disappeared.

From that moment, Alessandro converted and found peace. He repented of his crime and changed his life. He was released from prison three years early and begged forgiveness from Maria’s mother, which she duly granted.

Alessandro moved to a Capuchin monastery, working in the garden as a tertiary for the remainder of his life. He was one of the witnesses who testified to Maria’s holiness during her cause of beatification, citing the crime and the vision in prison.

Many miracles were attributed to Maria Goretti after her death. In 1950, she was canonized by Pope Pius XII, becoming the youngest Roman Catholic saint officially recognized by name. Her feast day is celebrated by the Church on July 6, and she is the patron saint of purity, rape victims, young women, and youth in general.

On her feast day in 2003, Pope John Paul II spoke about St. Maria Goretti at his Sunday Angelus, noting that her life provides an exemplary witness of what it means to be “pure of heart.”

“What does this fragile but christianly mature girl say to today’s young people, through her life and above all through her heroic death?” asked the Pope.

“Marietta, as she was lovingly called, reminds the youth of the third millennium that true happiness demands courage and a spirit of sacrifice, refusing every compromise with evil and having the disposition to pay personally, even with death, faithful to God and his commandments.”

“How timely this message is,” the Holy Father continued. “Today, pleasure, selfishness and directly immoral actions are often exalted in the name of the false ideals of liberty and happiness. It is essential to reaffirm clearly that purity of heart and of body go together, because chastity ‘is the custodian’ of authentic love.”

Reflection

The LORD is good to all… Psalm 145:9

Today, as we pleasantly enjoy a summer breeze or tend our gardens, may we experience the grace to remember that all of us share God’s unconditional love. May we make our world a better place by putting one simple act of love in it whether the person seems to be “somebody or nobody.”

SAINT OF THE DAY – St Bridget of Sweden – July 23

St Bridget of Sweden – July 23

Today, July 23, the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Bridget of Sweden.  Bridget received visions of Christ’s suffering many times throughout her life, and went on to found the order of the Most Holy Savior. Daughter of Birger Persson, the governor and provincial judge of Uppland, and of Ingeborg Bengtsdotter, Bridget was born in Sweden in 1303. From the time she was a child, she was greatly devoted to the passion of Jesus.

When she was only ten, it is recorded that she had a vision of Jesus on the cross and heard him say, “Look at me, my daughter.”

“Who has treated you like this?” cried little Bridget.

Jesus answered, “Those who despise me and refuse my love for them.”  From that moment on, Bridget tried to stop people from offending Jesus.

When she was 14, Bridget married an 18-year old man named Ulf. Like Bridget, Ulf had set his heart on serving God. They had eight children, of whom one was St. Catherine of Sweden. Bridget and Ulf also served the Swedish court, Bridget as the queen’s personal maid. Bridget tried to help King Magnus and Queen Blanche lead better lives, however for the most part, they did not listen to her.

All her life, Bridget had marvellous visions and received special messages from God. In obedience to them, she visited many rulers and important people in the Church. She explained humbly what God expected of them.

After her husband died, Bridget put away her rich clothes and lived as a poor nun. Later, in 1346, she began the order of the Most Holy Saviour, also known as Bridgettines. She still kept up her own busy life, traveling about doing good everywhere she went. And through all this activity, Jesus continued to reveal many secrets to her, which she received without the least bit of pride.

Shortly before she died, the saint went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. At the shrines there, she had visions of what Jesus had said and done in each place.

All St. Bridget’s revelations on the sufferings of Jesus were published after her death.

St. Bridget died in Rome on July 23, 1373. She was proclaimed a saint by Pope Boniface IX in 1391.

“True wisdom, then, consists in works, not in great talents, which the world admires; for the wise in the world’s estimation . . . are the foolish who set at naught the will of God, and know not how to control their passions.” –Saint Bridget of Sweden.

St Anthony Mary Zaccaria – July 05

On July 5, the Catholic Church remembers Saint Anthony Mary Zaccaria. A renowned preacher and promoter of Eucharistic adoration, he founded the order of priests now known as the Barnabites.

In 2001, the future Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, wrote the preface for a book on St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria, praising the saint as “one of the great figures of Catholic reform in the 1500s,” who was involved “in the renewal of Christian life in an era of profound crisis.”

The Italian saint, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, “deserves to be rediscovered” as “an authentic man of God and of the Church, a man burning with zeal, a demanding forger of consciences, a true leader able to convert and lead others to good.”

Anthony Mary Zaccaria was born into an Italian family of nobility in Cremona during 1502. His father Lazzaro died shortly after Anthony’s birth, and his mother Antonietta – though only 18 years old – chose not to marry again, preferring to devote herself to charitable works and her son’s education.

Antonietta’s son took after her in devotion to God and generosity toward the poor. He studied Latin and Greek with tutors in his youth, and was afterward sent to Pavia to study philosophy. He went on to study medicine at the University of Padua, earning his degree at age 22 and returning to Cremona.

Despite his noble background and secular profession, the young doctor had no intention of either marrying or accumulating wealth. While caring for the physical conditions of his patients, he also encouraged them to find spiritual healing through repentance and the sacraments.

Anthony also taught catechism to children, and went on to participate in the religious formation of young adults. He eventually decided to withdraw from the practice of medicine, and with the encouragement of his spiritual director he began to study for the priesthood.

Ordained a priest at age 26, Anthony is said to have experienced a miraculous occurrence during his first Mass, being surrounded by a supernatural light and a multitude of angels during the consecration of the Eucharist. Contemporary witnesses marveled at the event, and testified to it after his death.

Church life in Cremona had suffered decline in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The new priest encountered widespread ignorance and religious indifference among laypersons, while many of the clergy were either weak or corrupt.

In these dire circumstances, Anthony Mary Zaccaria devoted his life to proclaiming the truths of the Gospel both clearly and charitably. Within two years, his eloquent preaching and tireless pastoral care is said to have changed the moral character of the city dramatically.

In 1530, Anthony moved to Milan, where a similar spirit of corruption and religious neglect prevailed. There, he decided to form a priestly society, the Clerics Regular of St. Paul.

Inspired by the apostle’s life and writings, the order was founded on a vision of humility, asceticism, poverty, and preaching. After the founder’s death, they were entrusted with a prominent church named for St. Barnabas, and became commonly known as the “Barnabites.”

The priest also founded a women’s religious order, the Angelic Sisters of St. Paul; and an organization, the Laity of St. Paul, geared toward the sanctification of those outside the priesthood and religious life. He pioneered the “40 Hours” devotion, involving continuous prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

In 1539, Anthony became seriously ill and returned to his mother’s house in Cremona. The founder of the Clerics Regular of St. Paul died on July 5, during the liturgical octave of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, at the age of only 36.

Nearly three decades after his death, St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria’s body was found to be incorrupt. He was beatified by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1849, and declared a saint by Pope Leo XIII in 1897.

Reflection

Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. Psalm 85:11

Kindness and truth, justice and peace—all find their provenance in God—and yet so often we associate justice with conflict, and we forget kindness when we attempt to speak the truth. God promises that these virtues will find a new way of working together. They shall kiss in the new life, the new way of being that we find in Christ. No longer will we be stingy with God’s blessings. We’re not going to use poor cloth to repair our cloaks, or reuse the old wineskins with our fresh wine. God calls us to expand our ways of thinking, to replace self-serving concepts of truth and justice with the mysterious peace of God’s truth and God’s justice. As we celebrate Independence Day, let’s dwell in this peaceful mystery of being in relationship with God, our families and our communities.

Saint of the Day

On June 6 the Catholic Church honours Saint Norbert of Xanten – who started out as a frivolous and worldly cleric, but was changed by God’s grace into a powerful preacher and an important reformer of the Church during the early 12th century. He is the founder of the Norbertine order.

St Norbert pray for us.