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 – May 9, 2022

St John of Avila

Born in the Castile region of Spain, John was sent at the age of 14 to the University of Salamanca to study law. He later moved to Alcala, where he studied philosophy and theology before his ordination as a diocesan priest.

After John’s parents died and left him as their sole heir to a considerable fortune, he distributed his money to the poor. In 1527, he traveled to Seville, hoping to become a missionary in Mexico. The archbishop of that city persuaded him to stay and spread the faith in Andalusia. During nine years of work there, he developed a reputation as an engaging preacher, a perceptive spiritual director, and a wise confessor.

Because John was not afraid to denounce vice in high places, he was investigated by the Inquisition but was cleared in 1533. He later worked in Cordoba and then in Granada, where he organized the University of Baeza, the first of several colleges run by diocesan priests who dedicated themselves to teaching and giving spiritual direction to young people.

He was friends with Saints Francis Borgia, Ignatius of Loyola, John of God, John of the Cross, Peter of Alcantara, and Teresa of Avila. John of Avila worked closely with members of the Society of Jesus and helped their growth within Spain and its colonies. John’s mystical writings have been translated into several languages.

He was beatified in 1894, canonized in 1970, and declared a doctor of the Church on October 7, 2012. St. John of Avila’s liturgical feast is celebrated on May 10.

Saint of the Day – May 8, 2022

St. Peter of Tarantaise

Peter was born near Vienne, France in 1102 and died at Bellevaux, France in 1175. He was canonized in 1191.

At the age of 20 he entered the Cistercian Order, and convinced his family to enter along with him.  His two brothers and his father entered the religious community of Bonneveaux with him, and his sister also followed thier example and became a religious.

Ten years after he entered, Peter was sent to found a new house in the Tarantaise mountains near Geneva, Switzerland.  Here he opened a hospital which also served as a guest house for those travelling through the mountains.

He was appointed as Archbishop of Tarantaise in 1142 and wanted to decline the post and remain where he was happiest, as a Cistercian monk. He reluctantly accepted, however, because of the urging of St. Bernard and the other monks in his order, seeing their insistence as the will of God.

On his accession to the episcopacy, he reformed the diocese and set about providing education and distributing food to the poor, a tradition called the “May Bread”, which lasted until the French Revolution in 1789.  He performed many miraculous healings during that time.

It seems he was never able to banish his longing for the monastic life he left behind, and after 13 years as archbishop, he fled to a Cistercian abbey in Switzerland disguised as a lay brother and lived there for a year until he was discovered and forced by his superiors in the order to return to Tarantaise.

During the fractious rife between the anti-pope Victor and the true Pope, Alexander III, St. Peter was one of the only major voices in the Church openly supporting the claim of Pope Alexander, even against the emperor Frederick Barbarossa.

Recognizing his courage, loyalty, and holiness, Pope Alexander III thought him to be the ideal peacemaker between King Louis VII of France and Henry II of England. He died of an illness shortly after meeting and unsuccessfully trying to reconcile the two kings.

saint of the day – Dec 29, 2021

Saint Thomas Becket ​

A strong man who wavered for a moment, but then learned one cannot come to terms with evil, and so became a strong churchman, a martyr, and a saint—that was Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in his cathedral on December 29, 1170. While archdeacon of Canterbury, he was made chancellor of England at the age of 36 by his friend King Henry II. When Henry felt it advantageous to make his chancellor the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas gave him fair warning: he might not accept all of Henry’s intrusions into Church affairs. Nevertheless, in 1162 he was made archbishop, resigned his chancellorship, and reformed his whole way of life! Troubles began when Henry insisted upon usurping Church rights. At one time, supposing some conciliatory action possible, Thomas came close to compromise. He momentarily approved the Constitutions of Clarendon, which would have denied the clergy the right of trial by a Church court and prevented them from making direct appeal to Rome. But Thomas rejected the Constitutions, fled to France for safety, and remained in exile for seven years. When he returned to England he suspected it would mean certain death. Because Thomas refused to remit censures he had placed upon bishops favored by the king, Henry cried out in a rage, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest!” Four knights, taking his words as his wish, slew Thomas in the Canterbury cathedral. Thomas Becket remains a hero-saint down to our own times.

REFLECTION

Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word. Luke 2:29

Another calendar year is drawing to an end. When I look back, what do I see? What emotions do the events of this year’s journey around the sun bring?  Perhaps the year has been dominated by sadness or discord, and we won’t be sorry at all to see it go. Perhaps 2020 will stand out in our memories for unexpected and surprising moments of joy. Maybe we’ll be glad for what we learned, even if that schooling was difficult and unwelcome. In that moment in the Temple, Simeon knew he was in the presence of someone special. He knew God was at work. My challenge, as I reflect back and look forward, is to remember that this child who Simeon welcomed was with me every moment of this past year. And because of that, no matter what, because of him, I can move on the journey—in peace. Loving God, thank you for another year of life and your faithful, loving presence.

saint of the day – Dec 26, 2021

Saint Stephen ​

Martyred circa 36 AD, Stephen has become the proto-martyr or the first martyr of Christianity. We find allusions to him in the Acts of the Apostles and his feast day is celebrated on the next day of Christmas. “As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Greek-speaking Christians complained about the Hebrew-speaking Christians, saying that their widows were being neglect-ed in the daily distribution. A proposal to appoint Stephen for the task was accepted. Certain Jews, members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen, debated with Stephen, but proved no match for the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke. They persuaded others to make the charge of blasphemy against him. He was seized and carried before the Sanhedrin. In his speech, Stephen recalled God’s guidance through Israel’s history, as well as Israel’s idolatry and disobedience.

REFLECTION

While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Acts 7:59

The life of St. Stephen is given to us as a true model of Jesus. They both died forgiving those who killed them. True Christian martyrdom is an act of love. If we completely spend ourselves for the faith, but do so with bitterness and hatred, is it really a Christian act? Whether we find ourselves sweeping the streets or preaching in missionary lands, it is the love inspiring the act that makes it truly Christian. God is love. We, too, must become love. Today, search your heart and see if there is any bitterness or harsh judgment therein. Offer it up to Jesus for him to cleanse it. Then, make every act of this day an act of love.

SAINT OF THE DAY – NOV 28, 2021

ST JAMES OF MARCHES

St. James of the Marches was a Franciscan priest in the 15th century. He was born into a poor family in Monteprandone, Italy in 1391 and was educated by his uncle who was a priest. He continued his education, eventually achieving the degree of Doctor in Canon and Civil Law from the University of Perugia. He worked for some time as a tutor in a noble family, but on July 26, 1416, he was received into the order of Friars Minor in the Chapel of the Portiuncula in Assisi.

After completing his novitiate, he studied theology under St. Bernardine of Siena. On June 13, 1420, St. James was ordained a priest, and soon began to preach in Tuscany, in the Marches, and in Umbria. For half a century, he continued as a missionary and preacher. St James of the Marches preached penance, combated heretics, and was on legations in Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Bohemia, Poland, Hungary, and Bosnia. He was also appointed inquisitor against the Fratelli, a heretic sect that dissented from the Franciscans on the vow of poverty, among other things. He was offered the See of Milan in 1460, but he refused it.

Inspired by St. Jame’s apostolic example, more than 200 young men of Germany were impelled to enter the Franciscan Order. The crowds who came to hear him were so great that the churches were not large enough to accommodate them, and it became imperative for him to preach in the public squares. At Milan he was instrumental in converting 36 women of bad repute by a single sermon on St. Mary Magdalen. It is said that he brought 50,000 heretics into the Church and led 200,000 nonbelievers to baptism. In addition, God granted St James such wisdom that popes and princes sought counsel from him. He possessed the gifts or miracles and of prophesy in great measure, yet his humility surpassed all those distinctions. On Easter Monday, 1462, St. James, while preaching at Brescia, repeated the ideas of some theologians that the Precious Blood shed during the Passion was not united with the Divinity of Christ during the three days of His burial. He was accused of heresy for saying that, but no discussion or resolution was ever granted to his case, and the matter was ignored or forgotten. James spent the last three years of his life at Naples, and was buried there in the Franciscan church of St. Maria la Nuova, where his body can be seen today.

He was beatified by Urban VIII in 1624 and was canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726. Naples venerates him as one of its patron saints.

Saint of the Day – Nov 7, 2021

ST DIDACUS

Didacus is living proof that God “chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”

As a young man in Spain, Didacus joined the Secular Franciscan Order and lived for some time as a hermit. After Didacus became a Franciscan brother, he developed a reputation for great insight into God’s ways. His penances were heroic. He was so generous with the poor that the friars sometimes grew uneasy about his charity.

Didacus volunteered for the missions in the Canary Islands and labored there energetically and profitably. He was also the superior of a friary there.

In 1450, he was sent to Rome to attend the canonization of Saint Bernardine of Siena. When many of the friars gathered for that celebration fell ill, Didacus stayed in Rome for three months to nurse them. After he returned to Spain, he pursued a life of contemplation full-time. He showed the friars the wisdom of God’s ways.

As he was dying, Didacus looked at a crucifix and said: “O faithful wood, O precious nails! You have borne an exceedingly sweet burden, for you have been judged worthy to bear the Lord and King of heaven” (Marion A. Habig, OFM, The Franciscan Book of Saints, p. 834).

San Diego, California, is named for this Franciscan, who was canonized in 1588.


Saint of the Day – Nov 6, 2021

Saint Nicholas Tavelic and Companions

Nicholas and his three companions are among the 158 Franciscans who have been martyred in the Holy Land since the friars became custodians of the shrines in 1335.

Nicholas was born in 1340 to a wealthy and noble family in Croatia. He joined the Franciscans, and was sent with Deodat of Rodez to preach in Bosnia. In 1384, they volunteered for the Holy Land missions and were sent there. They looked after the holy places, cared for the Christian pilgrims, and studied Arabic.

In 1391, Nicholas, Deodat, Peter of Narbonne, and Stephen of Cuneo decided to take a direct approach to converting the Muslims. On November 11, they went to the huge Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem and asked to see the Qadix—Muslim official. Reading from a prepared statement, they said that all people must accept the gospel of Jesus. When they were ordered to retract their statement, they refused. After beatings and imprisonment, they were beheaded before a large crowd.

Nicholas and his companions were canonized in 1970. They are the only Franciscans martyred in the Holy Land to be canonized. Their liturgical feast is celebrated on November 14.

Saint of the Day – Nov 5, 2021

St. Peter Chrysologus

The Catholic Church celebrates Saint Peter Chrysologus, a fifth-century Italian bishop known for testifying courageously to Christ’s full humanity and divinity during a period of doctrinal confusion in the Church.

The saint’s title, Chrysologus, signifies “golden speech” in Greek. Named as a Doctor of the Church in 1729, he is distinguished as the “Doctor of Homilies” for the concise but theologically rich reflections he delivered during his time as the Bishop of Ravenna.

His surviving works offer eloquent testimony to the Church’s traditional beliefs about Mary’s perpetual virginity, the penitential value of Lent, Christ’s Eucharistic presence, and the primacy of St. Peter and his successors in the Church.

Few details of St. Peter Chrysologus’ biography are known. He was born in the Italian town of Imola in either the late fourth or early fifth century, but sources differ as to whether this occurred around 380 or as late as 406.

Following his study of theology, Peter was ordained to the diaconate by Imola’s local bishop Cornelius, whom he greatly admired and regarded as his spiritual father. Cornelius not only ordained Peter, but taught him the value of humility and self-denial.

The lessons of his mentor inspired Peter to live as a monk for many years, embracing a lifestyle of asceticism, simplicity, and prayer. His simple monastic life came to an end, however, after the death of Archbishop John of Ravenna in 430.

After John’s death, the clergy and people of Ravenna chose a successor and asked Cornelius, still the Bishop of Imola, to journey to Rome and obtain papal approval for the candidate. Cornelius brought Peter, then still a deacon, along with him on the visit to Pope Sixtus III.

Tradition relates that the Pope had experienced a vision from God on the night before the meeting, commanding him to overrule Ravenna’s choice of a new archbishop. The Pope declared that Peter, instead, was to be ordained as John’s successor.

In Ravenna, Peter was received warmly by the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III, and his mother Galla Placidia. She is said to have given him the title of “Chrysologus” because of his preaching skills.

Throughout the archdiocese, however, he encountered the surviving remnants of paganism along with various abuses and distortions of the Catholic faith. Peter exercised zeal and pastoral care in curbing abuses and evangelizing non-Christians during his leadership of the Church in Ravenna.

One of the major heresies of his age, monophysitism, held that Christ did not possess a distinct human nature in union with his eternal divine nature. Peter laboured to prevent the westward spread of this error, promoted from Constantinople by the monk Eutyches.

The Archbishop of Ravenna also made improvements to the city’s cathedral and built several new churches. Near the end of his life he addressed a significant letter to Eutyches, stressing the Pope’s authority in the monophysite controversy.

Having returned to Imola in anticipation of his death, St. Peter Chrysologus died in 450, one year before the Church’s official condemnation of monophysitism. He is credited as the author of around 176 surviving homilies, which contributed to his later proclamation as a Doctor of the Church.

Saint of the Day – Nov 4 , 2021

St Charles Borromeo

No age of the Catholic Church’s history is without its share of confusion and corruption. Still, even in moments when disorder may seem overwhelming, individuals and movements eventually arise to propose the faith with clarity and demonstrate it in action. St. Charles Borromeo, a central figure in the Council of Trent, is remembered on November 4, as a model of such leadership in difficult times.

The circumstances of Charles’ birth, in 1538, could have easily allowed him to join the ranks of corrupt Renaissance-era clergy. He was born into luxury, the son of noble parents, with a guaranteed income comparable to modern “trust funds.” Early on, however, the young man signaled his intention to go against the cultural grain. He announced his desire to serve the Church with sincerity, asking his father to give away the majority of the fund’s money to the poor.

Charles could not escape a certain degree of wealth and prestige, which were expected due to his social class, but he insisted on using these forms of leverage to benefit the Church, rather than himself. When he was 22, his opportunity came: the young lawyer and canonist’s uncle was elected as Pope Pius IV. Charles soon assumed staggering responsibilities, serving as a papal diplomat and supervisor of major religious orders.

The young man relaxed from these tasks through literature and music, taking no interest in the temptations abounding in Rome during the late Renaissance. He considered renouncing even this temperate lifestyle, for the strict observance of a monastery– but found himself more urgently needed in the work of concluding the Council of Trent.

The Church’s nineteenth Ecumenical Council had begun in late 1545, but experienced many delays. Its twofold mission was to clarify Catholic doctrine against Protestant objections, and reform the Church internally against many longstanding problems. As a papal representative, Charles participated in the council’s conclusion in 1563, when he was only 25. He also played a leading role in assembling its comprehensive summary, the Roman Catechism (or Catechism of the Council of Trent).

In reward for his labors, Charles received even greater responsibilities. Ordained a priest during the Council, he was named as archbishop and cardinal only months later. He found his diocese of Milan in a state of disintegration, after two generations of virtually no local administration or leadership. The new bishop got straight to work establishing schools, seminaries, and centers for religious life.

His reforms of the diocese, in accordance with the decrees of the council, were dramatic and effective, so much so that a group of disgruntled monks attempted to kill him. His survival was called miraculous.

The new archbishop’s efforts for catechesis and the instruction of youth were especially fruitful, initiating the work of the Confraternity for Christian Doctrine and the first “Sunday School” classes. He also gave important pastoral attention to English Catholics who fled to Italy to escape new laws against the Catholic faith.

St. Charles Borromeo’s amazing diligence, frequent travel and ascetic living eventually took their toll. The once young prodigy of the Papal Court also died young at the age of 46 on November 3, 1584. He was canonized 26 years later, in 1610.

He is the patron of catechists and catechumens.