31 July 2020

St. Alphonsus Liguori


Alphonsus Liguori, born in 1696, was the son of an ancient Neapolitan family. His father was an officer in the Royal Navy. At the age of sixteen, Alphonsus received his doctorate in both canon and civil law and for nearly ten years practiced at the bar. When he found that one of the legal cases he was defending was not based on justice but on political intrigue, he gave up the practice of law and dedicated his life to God.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1726, St. Alphonsus Liguori joined a group of secular priests dedicated to missionary activities. He involved himself in many kinds of pastoral activities, giving missions and organizing workers, and had a part in the founding of an order of contemplative nuns.

In 1732, he founded the Redemptorists, a congregation of priests and brothers, to work especially among the country people of Italy who often lacked the opportunity for missions, religious instruction, and spiritual retreats. Strangely, his first companions deserted him; but Alphonsus stood firm, and soon vocations multiplied and the congregation grew.

The Redemptorists were approved by Pope Benedict XIV in 1749, and Alphonsus was elected superior general. In 1762, he was appointed bishop of Sant' Agata near Naples, and as bishop he corrected abuses, restored churches, reformed seminaries, and promoted missions throughout his diocese. During the famine of 1763-64, his charity and generosity were boundless, and he also carried on a huge campaign of religious writing.

In 1768, he was stricken with a painful illness and resigned his bishopric. During the last years of his life, problems in his congregation caused him much sorrow and when he died on August 1, 1787, at Pagani, near Salerno, the Redemptorists were a divided society. He was beatified in 1816, canonized in 1839, and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1871.

(Excerpted from the The One Year Book of Saints by Rev. Clifford Stevens)


O God, who didst inflame blessed Alphonsus, thy Confessor and Bishop, with zeal for souls, and didst through him enrich thy Church with a new offspring: we beseech thee; that being taught by his wholesome precepts and strengthened by his example, we may be enabled to attain in gladness unto thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

30 July 2020

St. Ignatius of Loyola

The Shrine of St. Ignatius
at the Church of the Gesu in Rome.

St. Ignatius of Loyola was born at Loyola in the mountains of northern Spain in 1491. A member of the minor nobility, Ignatius spent his youth and early adulthood as a courtier and soldier. He occasionally vowed to dedicate himself more fully to God, but never quite followed through. It was only after he read the lives of the saints while convalescing from a leg wound incurred during a battle that he finally began his spiritual pilgrimage with real intent at the age of 30.

Soon after this, St. Ignatius began to experience ecstatic visions, but within a year suffered a period of intense spiritual dryness (what St. John of the Cross termed the “dark night of the soul”), which nearly drove him to despair. He persevered, however, and out of this was born Spiritual Exercises, one the most important Catholic spiritual works of all time. Ignatius was a true mystic. He centered his spiritual life on the essential foundations of the Faith - the Trinity, Christ, the Eucharist. His spirituality is expressed in the Jesuit motto, Ad majorem Dei gloriam - “for the greater glory of God.” 

In spite of his noble origins, St. Ignatius lived an astonishingly humble lifestyle, which others often resented. Yet he attracted several followers (including St. Francis Xavier), and in 1540 received approval from Pope Paul III for his new order, The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. In a very short time, this order would go on to become one of the best known of all Catholic religious orders, taking the Gospel to the four corners of the world.

O God, who for the greater glory of thy Name, didst endue thy Church militant with an increase of strength through the life and labours of blessed Ignatius: grant us, by his help and example, so to wage our earthly warfare; that with him we may be found worthy of a heavenly crown; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Church of the Gesu, Rome.

29 July 2020

St. Peter Chrysologus


In the fifth century it was Ravenna, and not Rome, which was the capital of the Roman Empire in the West, and Ravenna itself became a major metropolitan See. St. Peter Chrysologus was one of the most distinguished archbishops of that See.


Peter was born in Imola about the year 400 and studied under Cornelius, bishop of Imola, who ordained him deacon. In 433, the archbishop of Ravenna died, and when a successor had been chosen by the clergy and people of Ravenna, they asked Bishop Cornelius to obtain confirmation of their choice from Pope Sixtus III. On his trip to Rome, Cornelius took his deacon, Peter, as his companion for the journey to Rome. For some reason known only to God, when the Pope met Peter, he chose him for the See of Ravenna instead of the one who had been selected by the clergy and people of Ravenna.


Peter was consecrated and was accepted somewhat grudgingly at first by both the clergy and the people. Peter, however, soon became the favorite of Emperor Valentinian III, who resided at Ravenna and was also highly regarded by Pope St. Leo the Great, the successor of Pope Sixtus.


There were still traces of paganism in Peter's diocese, and his first effort was to establish the Catholic faith everywhere, rooting out abuses and carrying on a campaign of preaching and special care of the poor. Many of his sermons still survive, and it is on the basis of these that he came to be known as Chrysologus, or "the golden word." In his concern for the unity of the Church, Peter Chrysologus opposed heresy wherever he found it.


When he knew his death was near, Peter returned to his own city of Imola and after urging great care in the choice of his successor he died at Imola about the year 450 and was buried in the church of St. Cassian. In 1729, Pope Benedict XIII declared him a Doctor of the Church.


O God, who madest the Bishop Saint Peter Chrysologus an illustrious preacher of thy incarnate Word: grant, through his intercession; that we may constantly ponder in our hearts the mysteries of thy salvation and faithfully manifest them in our lives; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

28 July 2020

St. Martha of Bethany


Our first thought upon hearing the name of St. Martha is probably the recollection of a woman preparing a meal for the Lord Jesus, upset that her sister Mary is not helping her, and who then is gently rebuked by Christ when He told her that “Mary has chosen the better portion.” What we should more readily recall, however, is her exchange with the Lord when He came to her house after the death of her brother Lazarus.


Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world."


Here is Martha, the woman of great faith; the woman who professes Jesus as the Christ; the woman who professes the power of God in the coming resurrection. Is there any doubt that in her heart, Martha, too, had chosen “the better portion,” as Christ urged her to do?


Almighty and most merciful God, whose Son did vouchsafe to be welcomed in the home of blessed Martha: grant, we beseech thee, by the merits of her who lovingly served him; that we of thy mercy may be received into our heavenly home; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

24 July 2020

St. James the Greater, Apostle


St. James the Greater (meaning the Elder) and his brother John were partners in the fishing business with two other brothers, Peter and Andrew.  They all lived in Bethsaida, a village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. His mother was a sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and he would have known Jesus from childhood. He is one of those that Jesus called Boanerges, "sons of thunder," the brother of St. John the Evangelist and the son of Zebedee the fisherman from Galilee.

Along with Peter and John, James was part of the inner circle of Jesus, the ones who witnessed the Transfiguration, and who were witnesses to certain of His miracles, such as the raising of the daughter of Jairus. Like his brother, James was active in the work of evangelization after the death of Jesus, and there is some evidence that he went to Spain after our Lord's resurrection.  In fact, the great Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela witnesses to that probably

St. James' prominence and his presence in Jerusalem was well known.  Scarcely a dozen years after the Resurrection he was arrested and executed by King Herod Agrippa. This was followed by the arrest of Peter also, so his death must have been part of a purge of Christian leaders by Agrippa, who saw the new Christian movement as a threat.

Jesus had foretold this kind of fate when He prophesied that James and his brother John would "drink of the same chalice" of suffering as Himself. Along with their mother's request, the two brothers had asked to be seated at the right of Jesus and at His left in His kingdom, and Jesus told them that they would be with Him, but it turned out to be in a far different way than they expected.

Grant, O merciful God, that as thine holy Apostle Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had, without delay was obedient unto the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him: so we, forsaking all worldly and carnal affections, may be evermore ready to follow thy holy commandments; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

23 July 2020

St. Sharbel Makhluf


St. Sharbel Makhluf is a Maronite saint, a member of the ancient Eastern Catholic Church of Antioch.  It was in Antioch that Christ's followers were first called Christians, and St. Peter ministered there before going to Rome.  The Maronites have their own liturgy and discipline, and have always been in full communion with the See of Peter.  They take their name from St. Maron, a fifth century monk and patriarch of Antioch.


Although this saint never traveled far from the Lebanese village of Beka-Kafra where he was born, his influence has spread widely.


Joseph Zaroun Makluf was raised by an uncle because his father, a mule driver, died when Joseph was only three. At the age of 23, Joseph joined the Monastery of St. Maron at Annaya, Lebanon, and took the name Sharbel in honor of a second-century martyr. He professed his final vows in 1853, and was ordained six years later.


Following the example of the fifth-century Saint Maron, Sharbel lived as a hermit from 1875, until his death. His reputation for holiness prompted people to seek him to receive a blessing and to be remembered in his prayers. He followed a strict fast and was very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. When his superiors occasionally asked him to administer the sacraments to nearby villages, Sharbel did so gladly.


He died in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Christians and non-Christians soon made his tomb a place of pilgrimage and of cures. He was beatified in 1965, and canonized 12 years later.


O God, who didst call the Priest Saint Sharbel Makhluf to the solitary combat of the desert and imbued him with all manner of devotion: grant us, we pray thee; that, being made imitators of the Lord’s Passion, we may merit to be coheirs of his kingdom; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

22 July 2020

St. Bridget of Sweden


On July 23rd the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Bridget of Sweden. Bridget was a mystic and a visionary, and she received visions of Christ’s suffering many times throughout her life. She was born in 1303 and her parents were highly respected people, her father being a local governor and provincial judge.


When Bridget 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,” to which she responded, "Who has treated you like this?" The answer she heard from Jesus was, "Those who despise me and refuse my love for them.” From that moment on, Bridget perceived it as her mission to try and 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, and their marriage of twenty-eight years was a very happy one. Bridget and Ulf also served the Swedish court, Bridget as the queen's personal maid.


All her life, Bridget had marvelous 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.


Shortly before she died, Bridget 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, and all of her revelations on the suffering of Christ were published after her death.


St. Bridget died in Rome on July 23, 1373, and was proclaimed a saint by Pope Boniface IX just eighteen years later in 1391.


O God Most High, the Creator of all mankind: we bless thy holy Name for the virtue and grace which thou hast given unto holy women in all ages, especially Saint Bridget; and we pray that her intercession and the example of her faith and purity may inspire many souls in this generation to look unto thee, and to follow thy blessed Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 July 2020

St. Mary Magdalene


Mystery surrounds St. Mary Magdalene. Was she one and the same as Mary of Bethany? Had she been an immoral woman in her past life, or simply a woman from Magdala who was delivered from evil spirits? Whatever the case, we know she stood with the Blessed Mother and St. John at the foot of the cross; we know she was the first witness of the risen Lord Jesus Christ; and it was St. Mary Magdalene who ran to tell the apostles this Good News.


When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so she told the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: The disciples went back home, and it adds: but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.


We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ.  Even though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and as she looked, she wept.  Burning with the fire of love, she longed for him whom she thought had been taken away. The woman who stayed behind, was the only one to see him. Perseverance is essential to any good act, as the Scriptures tell us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.


At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. Even in our own lives, when our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger those feelings make us try even harder. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has had to burn with such a great love for the truth.


O Almighty God, whose blessed Son did call and sanctify Mary Magdalene to be a witness to his Resurrection: mercifully grant that by thy grace, and assisted by her prayers, we may be healed of all our infirmities, and always serve thee in the power of his endless life; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

-----------------------------------

 Painting: “The Sorrows of Mary Magdalene” by Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836-1911)

20 July 2020

St. Lawrence of Brindisi


Born on 22 July 1559, and dying on 22 July 1619, St. Lawrence of Brindisi lived exactly sixty years. In that time he became a brilliant scholar, a devout and holy priest, a renowned linguist, an outstanding diplomat – and for many of those years he served as the Minister General of the Franciscan Order of Capuchins.


His writings fill fifteen volumes, and his knowledge of Hebrew allowed him to preach so effectively to the Jewish people in Italy that the rabbis were certain that Lawrence must have been a Jew who had become a Christian. His skills in dealing with people meant that he served as a papal emissary to many countries, but he never forgot that he was first and foremost a priest.


There is a very special title accorded by the Church to certain saints, who are named “Doctor of the Church,” and this title indicates that the writings and preaching of such a person are useful to Christians "in any age of the Church." Such men and women are also particularly known for the depth of understanding and the orthodoxy of their theological teachings. St. Lawrence of Brindisi was given this title, and he is one of the thirty-six saints to be named “Doctor.”


For some reason, his father insisted that his baptismal name was to be Julius Caesar, and that was done shortly after his birth at Brindisi in the kingdom of Naples in 1559. Educated in Venice at the College of St. Mark, he entered the Capuchins, and it was upon entering the monastery that he was given the name Lawrence. During his studies at the University of Padua, he showed an aptitude for languages, mastering Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, and French, and he also showed an extraordinary knowledge of the text of the Bible.


While still a deacon, St. Lawrence of Brindisi became known as an excellent preacher and after his ordination captured the whole of northern Italy with his amazing sermons. He was sent into Germany by the pope to establish Capuchin houses. While there, he became chaplain to Emperor Rudolf II and had a remarkable influence on the Christian soldiers fighting the Muslims who were threatening Hungary in 1601. Through his efforts, the Catholic League was formed to unify Catholics for the purpose of strengthening the Catholic cause in Europe. Sent by the emperor to persuade Philip III of Spain to join the League, he established a Capuchin friary in Madrid. He also brought peace between Spain and the kingdom of Savoy.


His compassion for the poor, the needy, and the sick was legendary. Elected minister-general of his order in 1602, he made the Capuchins a major force in the Catholic Restoration, visiting every friary in the thirty-four provinces of the order and directing the work of nine thousand friars. He himself was a dominant figure in carrying out the work of the Council of Trent and was described by Pope Benedict XV as having earned "a truly distinguished place among the most outstanding men ever raised up by Divine Providence to assist the Church in time of distress."


Lawrence was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1881 and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.


O God, who didst bestow on blessed Lawrence of Brindisi, thy Confessor and Doctor, the spirit of wisdom and fortitude to endure every labour for the glory of thy Name and the salvation of souls: grant us, in the same spirit, both to perceive what we ought to do, and by his intercession to perform the same; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

St. Margaret of Antioch


Over the years I have collected a number of icons, and among them are some which depict particularly interesting saints. The one pictured here shows a young virgin-martyr known as St. Margaret of Antioch-in-Pisidia in the West, and as St. Marina the Great-Martyr in the East. 


She is commemorated on July 20th in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Although she is an actual martyr, almost all the stories about her are apocryphal. In fact, in the year 494 Pope Gelasius I cautioned the Faithful about some of the fantastic stories which had grown up around her.


What is historical is that she was a native of Antioch-in-Pisidia, and was the daughter of a pagan priest. Her mother died soon after giving her birth, and she was then nursed by a pious Christian woman. Margaret embraced the Christian faith and was disowned by her father, after which her Christian nurse adopted her. She was asked by a local official to marry him, but she would have to renounce her Christian faith. Refusing to do so, she was tortured and eventually beheaded in 304.


Although many of the stories which grew up around the accounts of her torture were fanciful, (including a story of her being swallowed by Satan in the shape of a dragon, from which she escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon's innards), nonetheless there is still spiritual truth to be gained from these wondrous accounts.


The icon pictured here illustrates the story of a demon approaching her in her prison cell, attempting to convince her to renounce her faith. According to the story, a hammer was at hand, which she picked up and beat the demon senseless.  I like this picture, and I think it serves as an icon of where we are now.  Demons are nipping at us, and we can either give in or we can take the revealed Truth which has been given to us and we can use it to beat the stuffing out of satan and his demonic little friends.


Devotion to St. Margaret of Antioch was greatly strengthened during the crusades, when soldiers would hear stories of local saints and then bring them back to their homelands. Devotion to her became widespread in England, where more than 250 churches are dedicated to her, most famously St. Margaret's, Westminster, the church of the British Houses of Parliament in London. St. Margaret is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and is one of the saints who spoke to Joan of Arc.


Even though this remarkable young woman is no longer commemorated in the general liturgical calendar, we can still look to her as a marvelous example and as an intercessor for us in these difficult days.


Grant, O Lord, that, like as blessed Margaret, thy Virgin and Martyr, by the merits of her chastity and the godliness of her conduct, did ever walk acceptably in thy sight: so she may at all times effectually intercede for our forgiveness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


St. Margaret's Church, Westminster,

dedicated to St. Margaret of Antioch

19 July 2020

St. Apollinaris of Ravenna


St. Apollinaris was one of the great martyrs in the early years of the Church. He was made Bishop of Ravenna by St. Peter. The miracles he conducted in Ravenna soon attracted official attention, for they and his preaching won many converts to the faith. However, at the same time, his words and works brought upon him the fury of the pagan people, who beat Apollinaris viciously on several occasions.


During one beating, Apollinaris was cut with knives, and scalding hot water poured over his wounds.  In this state of suffering he was then put on a ship to be sent to Greece.


In Greece St. Apollinaris carried on the same course of preaching, and miracles, and sufferings. In fact, after a cruel beating by Greek pagans, he was sent back to Italy.


When Emperor Vespasian issued a decree of banishment against the Christians, Apollinaris was kept hidden for some time, but as he was leaving, passing through the gates of the city, he was attacked and savagely beaten. He lived for seven days, foretelling that the persecutions would increase, but that the Church would ultimately triumph.


Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyr St. Apollinaris triumphed over suffering and was faithful even unto death: Grant to us, who now remember him with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Basilica of St. Apollinaris in Ravenna, 6th century.

18 July 2020

Wheat and Weeds

Jesus put another parable before the crowds, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?' He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

- St. Matthew 13:24-30


God is the King of the whole universe, although at times such as these it seems that His kingship isn't all that evident. It's not the first time things have been at a low ebb, and it won’t be the last. In fact, our Lord Jesus Christ is referring to these very times when He speaks about weeds which grow up, seeming to choke the good seed.

In the Gospel parable the servants couldn’t understand where the weeds had come from, and we ask the same question: How can it be that there seems to be so much evil in the world? How is it that God can be pushed out of public life? How can wickedness bare its teeth, gnawing on what is good and spitting it out before trampling on it?

As we ask those things, our immediate desire is like that of the servants.  We want to rip up the weeds immediately. We want to rush in and condemn and get even and make everyone and everything be the way we know it should be, and we want it now. But then, there are the words Jesus puts into the mouth of the householder in the parable: “Let both grow together until the harvest.”

One of the hardest things for us in this life is to have patience, particularly when we think God should be doing things according to our plan, rather than us attempting to conform ourselves to His plan. “Let both grow together until the harvest...” and Jesus explains that the harvest is “the close of the age” – the end of the world. It’s then that God will do the judging and the sorting. It’s His task, not ours. Until then, we’re called to use His grace for the transformation of our own lives, knowing that if others have fallen short of God’s requirements, so have we.

We get impatient and discouraged. And yet, those feelings come to us mainly when we forget that it’s God’s Kingdom that we’re supposed to be building, and not our own. It’s our task to take care of our own little corner of the garden, and we need to let the God of the Universe see to the whole field.

So what’s the message to us for today? Be faithful. Be vigilant. Be holy. And know that, in the end, God’s Kingdom will triumph.

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Painting: "Buckwheat Harvest: Summer" by Jean-François Millet (1814-1875)

17 July 2020

St. Camillus de Lellis


By almost any standard, Camillus de Lellis wasn’t a very likely candidate for sainthood. His mother died when he was a child, his father neglected him, and he grew up with an excessive love for gambling. At 17, he was afflicted with a disease of his leg that remained with him for life. In Rome he entered the San Giacomo Hospital for Incurables as both patient and servant, but after nine months he was dismissed for his constant fighting. With no other alternative he served in the Venetian army for three years.


Then in the winter of 1574, when he was 24, Camillus gambled away everything he had – his savings, his weapons, literally down to his shirt. He accepted work at a Capuchin friary. One day he was so moved by a sermon of the superior that he began a conversion that changed his life. He entered the Capuchin novitiate, but was dismissed because of the apparently incurable sore on his leg. He went back to the San Giacomo hospital, and he gave himself completely to the care of the sick. He was so dedicated to the work that he was eventually made superintendent of the hospital.


Camillus devoted the rest of his life to the care of the sick. Along with Saint John of God he has been named patron of hospitals, nurses, and the sick. With the advice of his friend Saint Philip Neri, he studied for the priesthood and was ordained at the age of 34. He founded a congregation of his own, dedicated to the care of the sick. Unlike many hospitals of the day, St. Camillus insisted on cleanliness and that those who served the sick were trained in the basics of medical care.


Camillus himself suffered the disease of his leg through his life. In his last illness, he left his own bed to see if other patients in the hospital needed help. And so this unlikely saint was made holy by the grace of God, and he was able to bring that divine grace into the lives of countless people.


O God, who for the comfort of souls striving in their last agony, didst adorn Saint Camillus with singular gifts of charity: we beseech thee, by his merits, to pour upon us the spirit of thy love; that in the hour of our death, we may be worthy to overcome the enemy and to attain to the heavenly crown; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

15 July 2020

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

"The Virgin of Carmel" by Alessandro Bonvicino ( c. 1498 –1554)

Mount Carmel is closely associated with the Prophet Elijah. Located in northern Israel, it was and remains a place of great beauty. There is still a chapel called the Grotto of St. Elijah, which is most likely where he sheltered

Hermits lived on Mount Carmel near the Fountain of Elijah in the 12th century. They had a chapel dedicated to Our Lady. By the 13th century they became known as “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” They soon celebrated a special Mass and Office in honor of Mary. In 1726 it became a celebration of the universal Church under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For centuries the Carmelites have seen themselves as specially related to Mary. Their great saints and theologians have promoted devotion to her and have often been at the forefront of explaining and defending the mystery of her Immaculate Conception.

St. Teresa of Avila called Carmel “the Order of the Virgin.” St. John of the Cross credited Mary with saving him from drowning as a child, leading him to Carmel, and helping him escape from prison. St. Therese of the Child Jesus dedicated her life to Mary under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and during the last days of her life she frequently spoke of her.

There is a strong tradition that Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, a leader of the Carmelites, and gave him a scapular, telling him to promote devotion to it. The scapular is a modified version of Mary’s own garment. It symbolizes her special protection and calls the wearers to consecrate themselves to her in a special way. The scapular reminds us of the gospel call to prayer and penance—a call that Mary models in a splendid way.

O God, who didst adorn the Order of Mount Carmel with the especial title of thy most blessed Mother the Ever-Virgin Mary: mercifully grant; that as we do this day remember her in our solemn observance, so by the help of her succor we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Flower of Carmel, vine blossom laden,
Joy of heaven, who yet a maiden,
Bore God's Holy One.
Gentlest Mother, who never man did know,
On Carmel's children your privilege bestow,
Star of Ocean.

Root of Jesse, flower in the cradling bud,
Take us to you, keep us with you in God,
His together.
All chaste lily, rising despite the thorn,
Strengthen, help us, so feeble and forlorn,
Great Protectress!

Be our armor, valiant for Christ when war
Rages round us, hold high the Scapular,
Strong and saving.
In our stumbling, guide us on God's wise way,
In our sorrow, comfort us when we pray;
Rich your mercy.

Holy Lady, Carmel's great Friend and Queen,
Feast your people from your own bliss, the unseen
Grace, God's goodness.
Key and Gateway, opening on Paradise,
Mother, win us a place with you in Christ
Crowned in glory.


Elijah's Cave atop Mt. Carmel, where I have offered Mass while on pilgrimage.

14 July 2020

St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor


St. Bonaventure is known as "the seraphic doctor," was born in the Lazio region of central Italy in 1221. His baptismal name was John. He received the name of Bonaventure because of an exclamation which was made by St. Francis of Assisi, when little John’s mother took him to Francis, begging him to pray for her little boy who was very ill. Francis prayed, and little John recovered. When Francis foresaw the future greatness of the boy, he cried out "O buona ventura" - O good fortune! – and that was the name given to John when he entered the Franciscan order.

He was twenty-two when St. Bonaventure joined the Franciscans. Having made his vows, he was then sent to Paris to complete his studies. His main tutor was the celebrated doctor Alexander of Hales, who was an Englishman and a Franciscan. While he was in Paris, St. Bonaventure became a close friend of the great St. Thomas Aquinas. They received their doctoral degrees together, but St. Bonaventure – always a very humble man, insisted that at the ceremony Thomas Aquinas should have the honour of receiving it first. Both St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure became well known throughout the Church for their great scholarship and brilliance, and both even became quite close to the holy king of France, St. Louis.

At the age of thirty-five St. Bonaventure was chosen to be the General of the Franciscan Order. It was a difficult time for the Franciscans, because of internal dissension. The friars had argued about the meaning and practice of poverty – already they were straying from the vision and teaching of their Founder – but St. Bonaventure restored peace to the Order. He worked tirelessly for the Franciscan Order, and composed an important work, The Life of St. Francis. He was nominated Archbishop of York in England by Pope Clement IV, but he begged the pope not to force him to accept. The next pope, Gregory X, obliged Bonaventure to take upon himself an even more difficult position, that of the Cardinal Archbishop of Albano, one of the six suffragan Sees of Rome, while still being General of his Order. However, before his death he resigned his office of General of the Franciscan Order. He died while he was at the Second Council of Lyons, on July 15, 1274, working for the good of the Church until his very last breath. How right St. Francis was when he exclaimed “O buona ventura” – “O good fortune!” It was certainly good fortune for the Church when St. Bonaventure gave his life in service to Christ.

It was said of St. Bonaventure (1221-1274) that he was "...a unique personality. He was unsurpassed in sanctity, wisdom, eloquence, and gifted with a remarkable skill of accomplishing things, a heart full of love, a winning disposition, benevolent, affable, pious, charitable, rich in virtue, beloved by God and man. . . . The Lord endowed him with such a charming disposition that everyone who saw him was immediately attracted to him."

Considered to be a "second founder" of the Franciscans, he was an outstanding teacher and a spell-binding preacher.  He was known for his virtue and wisdom.  He is known as the "Seraphic Teacher" because of his deeply mystical understanding of the Faith.

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O God, by whose providence blessed Bonaventure was sent to guide thy people in the way of everlasting salvation: grant, we beseech thee; that as we have learned of him the doctrine of life on earth, so we may be found worthy to have him for our advocate in heaven; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Prayer of St. Bonaventure.

Pierce, O most sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the most joyous and healthful wound of Thy love, and with true, calm and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with entire love and longing for Thee, may yearn for Thee and for thy courts, may long to be dissolved and to be with Thee.

Grant that my soul may hunger after Thee, the Bread of Angels, the refreshment of holy souls, our daily and super substantial bread, having all sweetness and savor and every delightful taste.

May my heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, Whom the angels desire to look upon, and may my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of Thy savor; may it ever thirst for Thee, the fountain of life, the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the fullness of the house of God; may it ever compass Thee, seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, come up to Thee, meditate on Thee, speak of Thee, and do all for the praise and glory of Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, with perseverance to the end; and be Thou alone ever my hope, my entire confidence, my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession, my treasure; in Whom may my mind and my heart be ever fixed and firm and rooted immovably. Amen. 

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Painting: "St. Bonaventure holding the Tree of the Redemption"
by Vittorio Crivelli, born ca. 1440, died ca. 1502

13 July 2020

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Portrait from life of Catherine Tekakwitha, c. 1690,
by Father Chauchetière

It has been said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. Nine years after the Jesuits Isaac Jogues and John de Brébeuf were tomahawked by Iroquois warriors, a baby girl was born near the place of their martyrdom, Auriesville, New York.

Her mother was a Christian Algonquin, taken captive by the Iroquois and given as wife to the chief of the Mohawk clan, the boldest and fiercest of the Five Nations. When she was four, Kateri lost her parents and little brother in a smallpox epidemic that left her disfigured and half blind. She was adopted by an uncle, who succeeded her father as chief. He hated the coming of the Jesuit missionaries,  but could do nothing to them because a peace treaty with the French required their presence in villages with Christian captives. She was moved by the words of three Jesuits who lodged with her uncle, but fear of him kept her from seeking instruction. She refused to marry a Mohawk brave and at the age of nineteen she finally got the courage to take the step of converting. She was baptized with the name Kateri (Catherine) on Easter Sunday. Now she would be treated as a slave. Because she would not work on Sunday, she received no food that day. Her life in grace grew rapidly. She told a missionary that she often meditated on the great dignity of being baptized. She was powerfully moved by God’s love for human beings and saw the dignity of each of her people.

She was always in danger, for her conversion and holy life created great opposition. On the advice of a priest, she stole away one night and began a 200-mile walking journey to a Christian Indian village at Sault St. Louis, near Montreal. For three years she grew in holiness under the direction of a priest and an older Iroquois woman, giving herself totally to God in long hours of prayer, in charity and in strenuous penance. At 23 she took a vow of virginity, an unprecedented act for an Indian woman, whose future depended on being married.

Her dedication to virginity was instinctive. She did not know about religious life for women until she visited Montreal. Inspired by this, she and two friends wanted to start a community, but the local priest dissuaded her. She humbly accepted an “ordinary” life. She practiced extremely severe fasting as penance for the conversion of her nation. She died the afternoon before Holy Thursday. Witnesses said that her emaciated face changed color and became like that of a healthy child. The lines of suffering, even the pockmarks, disappeared and the touch of a smile came upon her lips. She was beatified in 1980 and canonized in 2012.

O God, who didst desire the Virgin Saint Kateri Tekakwitha to flower among Native Americans in a life of innocence: grant, through her intercession; that when all are gathered into thy Church from every nation, tribe, and tongue, they may magnify thee in a single canticle of praise; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

12 July 2020

St. Henry, King and Confessor


St. Henry had great power in this world, but he used that power for the good of his people and for the spread of the Catholic Faith. Henry, surnamed the Pious, Duke of Bavaria, became successively King of Germany and Emperor of the Romans; but he realized that his temporal power was a gift from God, and he strove to gain an immortal crown, by putting himself always at the service of his eternal King, Jesus Christ.


As emperor, he devoted himself earnestly to spreading the Catholic faith, and rebuilt the churches which had been destroyed by Muslim invaders, endowing them generously both with money and lands. He built monasteries and was himself a Benedictine Oblate. When Pope Benedict VIII, who had crowned him emperor, was in danger from enemies of the Church, St. Henry received him and ultimately restored him to the Holy See.


It was Henry’s practice never to undertake anything without first praying. There were times that he saw the angel of the Lord, or the holy martyrs, his patrons, fighting for him at the head of his army. Aided in this way by God’s divine protection, he conquered barbarous nations as much by prayer as by weapons.


He was married to a devoted wife, also a saint, St. Cunigund, although they remained childless. In fact, together they are patron saints of childless couples.


When Henry’s life's work was accomplished, he was called by God in 1024. His body was buried in the church of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul at Bamberg and immediately there were many miracles reported by those who prayed at his tomb. St. Henry was a man who had managed to lead his earthly kingdom with such responsibility that he never lost sight of the Kingdom of God.


We live in this world, but we are not to be of this world. In fact, we’re called to sanctify this world.


O God, whose abundant grace prepared Saint Henry to be raised by thee in a wonderful way from the cares of earthly rule to heavenly realms: grant, we pray, through his intercession; that amid the uncertainties of this world, we may hasten towards thee in perfect purity of heart; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

10 July 2020

St. Benedict, Abbot


St. Benedict was born about the year 480 in Nursia, Italy. His family was most likely of noble lineage, which afforded him the opportunity go to Rome, where he received his education. By the time of Benedict’s arrival there, Rome had entered into serious moral and political decay. Because the corruption around him so disturbed him, Benedict broke off his studies and withdrew from Rome to enter into a solitary life of prayer.


For three years Benedict remained by himself, living in a cave, seeking to grow closer to God through a life of prayer and fasting. His reputation as being a holy person grew, leading people to seek him out for spiritual guidance.


In the year 529, after having lived for many years as a monk, Benedict established a monastic foundation where men, who wanted to live the Christian life in common, could come together to draw closer to God. This new community found its home on a hill near Cassino in Italy, and so came to be known as Monte Cassino. After Benedict established his community, he wrote a Rule which was to be followed by the monks in their daily lives. Benedict guided the community as its spiritual father (abba), or “abbot,” until his death around the year 547. His feast day is kept on July 11.


O Eternal God, who didst make thine Abbot Saint Benedict a wise master in the school of thy service, and a guide for many called into the common life to follow the rule of Christ: grant that we may put thy love above all things, and seek with joy the way of thy commandments; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


 

Offering Mass at the tombs of St. Benedict & St. Scholastica, Montecassino.

08 July 2020

Our Lady of the Atonement


The Blessed Mother's title of Our Lady of the Atonement, commemorated each year on July 9th, embraces two mysteries of our faith: first, the atonement itself – the complete and perfect at-one-ment which was achieved by our Lord Jesus Christ as He shed His Most Precious Blood upon the Cross at Calvary, through which came the reconciliation of man with God, and of man with man, making us "at one" in His Sacred Heart; and second, the role of the Virgin Mary in the perfect atonement given by God – her coöperation with the Divine Will at the annunciation, and her participation in her Son's sufferings and death as she stood at the foot of the Cross. The words which Simeon spoke to her came to pass: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

The crowning act of redeeming love, Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, is for all of us the means whereby mankind finds salvation, peace, and unity. There upon the Cross Jesus gave us the greatest gift: His precious life. There He gave us His Blessed Mother. There Mary stood, and there we stand next to her as her children, at the foot of the Cross.

O God, who dost gather together those that have been scattered, and who dost preserve those that have been gathered: we beseech thee, through the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Atonement; that thou wouldest pour out upon thy Church the grace of unity and send thy Holy Spirit upon all mankind, that they may be one; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

05 July 2020

St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr


Maria Goretti was born in 1890 in Corinaldo, in the Ancona Province in Italy to a farming family. Her father died when she was still a girl, which left her mother along with her and her brothers and sisters to keep the farm going. Maria’s responsibility included cooking and keeping house along with preparing meals for everyone.


It was on July 5, 1902, that Maria was sitting outside the steps of her home mending a shirt while one of the neighboring young men named Alessandro was working in the barnyard. Everyone else was working in the fields. As she concentrated on her sewing, Alessandro surprised her and grabbed her from her steps. When he tried to rape her, Maria cried that it was a mortal sin and warned he would go to hell.


When Alessandro persisted, she fought him and begged him to stop, telling him over and over again that he was committing a sin. Alessandro began to choke her and pulled out a knife and stabbed her eleven times. When she attempted to reach the door, he stabbed her three more times then fled.


Maria's family returned home and found her bleeding on the floor. They quickly took her to the nearest hospital but it was too late to save her.


As she lay dying, Maria forgave Alessandro and said she wanted to see him in heaven with her. She died that day while looking upon an image of the Virgin Mary and holding a cross to her chest.


Alessandro remained unrepentant for his actions until he had a dream that he was in a garden. Maria was there and gave him lilies, which immediately burned in his hands. When he woke, he was a changed man. He repented his crime and living a reformed life. When he was released 27 years later, he went directly to Maria's mother and begged her forgiveness, which she gave.


Maria Goretti was beatified in 1947.  Three years later Maria was declared a saint and Alessandro was present at her canonization. He later became a lay brother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, where he lived in a monastery and worked as its receptionist and gardener until his death.


Saint Maria is called a martyr because she fought against Alessandro's attempts at sexual sin; however, the most important aspects of her story are how she forgave her attacker – and her forgiveness brought about his conversion.


These words are from the homily of Venerable Pope Pius XII at her canonization:

"It is well known how this young girl had to face a bitter struggle with no way to defend herself. Without warning a vicious stranger burst upon her, bent on raping her and destroying her childlike purity. In that moment of crisis she could have spoken to her Redeemer in the words of that classic, The Imitation of Christ: “Though tested and plagued by a host of misfortunes, I have no fear so long as your grace is with me. It is my strength, stronger than any adversary; it helps me and give me guidance.” With splendid courage she surrendered herself to God and his grace and so gave her life to protect her virginity. The life of a simple girl - I shall concern myself only with highlights - we can see as worthy of heaven. Even today people can look upon it with admiration and respect. Parents can learn from her story how to raise their God-given children in virtue, courage, and holiness; they can learn to train them in the Catholic faith so that, when put to the test, God’s grace will support them and they will come through undefeated, unscathed, and untarnished. From Maria’s story carefree children and young people with their zest for life can learn not to be led astray by attractive pleasures which are not only ephemeral and empty but also sinful. Instead they can fix their sights on achieving Christian moral perfection, however difficult that course may prove. With determination and God’s help all of us can attain that goal by persistent effort and prayer. Not all of us are expected to die a martyr’s death, but we are all called to the pursuit of Christian virtue. So let us all, with God’s grace, strive to reach the goal that the example of the virgin martyr, Saint Maria Goretti, sets before us. Through her prayers to the Redeemer may all of us, each in his own way, joyfully try to follow the inspiring example of Maria Goretti who now enjoys eternal happiness in heaven."


O God, the author of innocence and lover of chastity, who didst bestow the grace of martyrdom on thy handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth: grant, we pray, through her intercession; that, as thou gavest her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying thy commandments; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

03 July 2020

A Prayer for Independence Day


LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: grant, we beseech thee; that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The Fourth of July


Like most Americans, I have wonderful memories of family picnics on the Fourth of July. When grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and various other relatives got together we’d have anywhere from seventy-five to a hundred people. Picnics on the farm meant setting up big plank tables under the large trees on the front lawn. It was a beautiful setting. Lots of lilacs, peonies and roses were on either side down to the road. It was a country road and if someone drove by we always knew who it was, and the chances were that they’d stop by and join the crowd. And the food! The platters and bowls of things seemed to go on forever.  There would be dishes of blueberries and strawberries along with freshly whipped cream, because we had to have “red, white and blue.” We weren’t allowed to talk too much about the whipped cream in front of my grandfather, because that was a sore point for him. We lived on a dairy farm and when the milk was sold to the Cooperative, the price was determined by the level of butterfat content. My grandfather didn’t want us to take any of the cream from the milk, because he was convinced that even a little bit of missing cream would lower the price we could get. My mother or my grandmother would send me out to the milk house where the large cans of milk were kept in icewater, and I was supposed to skim some cream out of one of the cans, “but don’t let your grandfather see you.”

The Fourth was also a day when the family stories would come out, and we’d be reminded by the elders about our own American history. On my father’s side they were fairly recent immigrants from England. Around 1900 they began coming from Norwich where they had been owners of a mustard-grinding mill. Also, a great-grandfather on that side had moved from Wales to London, and then to Canada before coming to America. There were accounts of tough times and the willingness to work at most anything to make a living in their new country. On my mother’s side there were stories which captured my young imagination. It seemed to me they were almost royalty, because we would hear about our Revolutionary War ancestors. My grandmother’s maiden name was Adams, and she was descended from the famous family which produced John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Samuel Adams, and so many other great patriots.

When I was a child I had a copy of the Declaration of Independence on my bedroom wall. It was one of those that looked like the original document, printed on parchment. I convinced my mother that she should wallpaper my room with a pattern which I thought was wonderful. It had small pictures, including George Washington crossing the Delaware, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and other historical scenes. So I grew up with these important reminders around me, along with family links to the Revolution. We were unashamedly patriotic, as were most people in those days. It didn’t take a 9/11 to make the patriotism rise up. And we’ve seen how quickly it fell away afterwards for all too many. No, the patriotism I experienced was simply part of life. We knew we were living in a marvelous country, and whether we were in peacetime or war, whether there was abundance or if things weren’t so good, no matter who was president and no matter what the inflation rate happened to be, we were proud to be part of our nation.  We were devoted to it.  And I still am.

ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

02 July 2020

St. Thomas, Apostle

Incredulity of St Thomas, by Giorgio Vasari

1572, Santa Croce, Florence


"At that time: Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."

- St John 20:24-31


Almighty and everliving God, who for the greater confirmation of the faith didst suffer thy holy Apostle Thomas to be doubtful in thy Son’s Resurrection: grant us so perfectly, and without all doubt, to believe in thy Son Jesus Christ; that our faith in thy sight may never be reproved; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.