Feast of All Saints
“I saw a great multitude which no man could number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and with palms in their hands. And they cried with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation belongs to our God!'” (Revelation 7:9-10)
So intimately is the attainment of heaven bound up with the Redemption that in days of greater faith the Feast of All Saints was celebrated with as much pomp and joy as Easter. “This is the feast of every triumphant human soul, the feast that mirrors the hope of every Christian.
By the fourth century, the persecutions under Diocletian had made it impossible to give every martyr a separate day, and an All Martyr ‘s Day was already observed in the East. In 609 the Pantheon (the majestic pagan temple built by the emperor Hadrian) was transformed by Pope Boniface IV into a church, and dedicated to our Lady and all martyrs. The day of the dedication, November 1, came to be observed as the feast of all martyrs and later that of all saints.
Earth is very near to heaven on this day. The Son of God talks of blessedness: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened” (Matthew 11:28), He says in the Alleluia Verse of the day’s Mass. He opens His arms to all the blessed, to the poor in spirit, the meek, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst after justice, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers, and those who suffer persecution for His sake.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 635-636. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Marcellus of Paris Bishop and Confessor (Fourth Century)
The holiness of a son or daughter brings parents their greatest honor. Marcellus gave this gift to his parents; even from earliest childhood he was noted for his virtue.
As a young man, his progress in sacred learning impressed Prudentius, the bishop of Paris, who made him lector of his church and later archdeacon. It was at this time that Marcellus became known for his gift of miracles. He was ordained a priest and was unanimously chosen bishop of Paris at the death of Prudentius. It is said that by his holiness and authority he once defended his people from an invasion of the Norsemen.
Marcellus died at the end of the fourth century, on November 1, on which day he is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology. He was buried in a cemetery outside the confines of the ancient city and a church was built there in his honor. At the beginning of the Norman invasions his remains were transferred to the church of Notre Dame.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 636. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
All Souls’ Day
Scarcely has the Church given the last salute to the host of saints when she turns to the suffering who are awaiting the joys of heaven. The joy that echoes throughout the day, in the Mass and Divine Office of November 1, gives way the next day to the commemoration of all the faithful departed.
It is reasonable that the Church should move in her liturgy from the Church Triumphant to the Church Suffering. The suffering souls and the blessed have a common bond. They are both captives of love. For the blessed, love has reached its total fulfillment; for the suffering souls, love is the greater part of the pain of purgatory, a pain mingled with happiness in the sure knowledge of their salvation.
The prayer of the Church on All Souls’ Day is not meant to honor these future saints but to petition for their attainment of the vision of God for which they wait. It is a consolation to those left behind that they may assist the suffering in purgatory; and theology assures us that the more or less speedy triumph of these souls lies within our power.
It is the teaching of the Church that we may offer sacrifices, prayers, and alms for the release of souls in purgatory, the Sacrifice of the Mass being most meritorious. Not only can we apply the merits of our own acts, but we can also draw on the vast storehouse of grace earned by Christ, Mother, and the saints.
These graces have been placed in the hands of the Church to dispense at her will. She allows any of her children to draw from this treasury by the use of indulgences. It is as if we were members of a very wealthy family and were allowed to write checks to draw sums from the family fortune. The prayer or act by which we may gain the indulgence is like the check, meriting an amount of grace far superior to merits of the act itself, just as the buying power of money that a check would bring is far superior to the value of the little piece of paper.
We have not merited that grace ourselves. We are permitted to partake of it because we are members of a wealthy family, the mystical body of Christ. As long as we are members in good standing, we have the authority to draw out graces deposited by other members of the family.
We are not bondservants ; we are free sons and daughters, so we are free to distribute these graces as we will. We may apply them either to the temporal punishment due to own sins or to the suffering souls who are no longer able draw on those graces themselves.
The allegory of a bank check can be drawn even further. We even can specify the amount we wish to draw. Certain prayers and devotions have been assigned specific values by the Church. Thus, if we sincerely offer a prayer of three hundred days’ indulgence, we gain as much merit as if had done three hundred days’ penance. Naturally, the degree to which we receive the full three hundred days’ merit depends on the fervor of our prayer and the dispositions of our soul, and many prayers which have not been assigned indulgences, or even prayers in our own words, might receive just as much or more merit. It is a common mistake to think that the assignment of a specific number of days has something to do with the number of “days” by which one’s purgatory is lessened. That is not true, for there is no time in purgatory.
If we would consider who the poor souls are, we would need no urging to pray for them. They are our fellow members in Jesus Christ. Every one of them is that brother whom we are bound to love as ourselves. At present they are away from God and undergoing great pain, but now they can never be separated from His grace. God tenderly loves them and waits to open His glory to them. We know with absolute certitude that our prayer will eventually be answered when we pray with the Church on All Souls’ Day, and every other day of the year:
Eternal rest grant unto them,
O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 637-639. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Blessed Thomas of Walden Confessor (1375-1430)
The king died in his arms. The cry that filled the night was an oft-repeated one in England’s history: “The king is dead! Long live the king!” Thomas of Walden, confessor to King Henry V, must have repeated the words to himself as an urgent prayer. The king was dead, and the education of the infant Henry VI was to be Thomas’ concern. The responsibility of being tutor to a future ruler of England was great but Thomas had the qualities for a life of greatness.
Thomas Netter was an Essex man, born at Saffron Walden about 1375. In his youth he joined the Carmelites in London and studied at Oxford, where he received his doctorate in theology. He was ordained a priest about 1400.
Friar Thomas fought wholeheartedly against the errors of John Wyclif, proving himself the most able clergyman in this controversy. When Thomas was forty years old and prior-provincial of his order in England, he was appointed confessor to Henry V. Soon afterward ( 1415) he attended the Council of Constance, which denounced the teachings of Wyclif. At the conclusion of the council, Thomas was sent as a member of an embassy to Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe on behalf of the pope and the emperor in the matter of the Hussite disorders.
Thomas was with Henry V in France, in 1422, when king died. Later, as tutor to his son, Henry VI, Thomas is thought to have been responsible for much of that king’s piety. He journeyed to France with the boy-king in I430 and became ill, dying at Rouen on November 2. Miracles his tomb have served to confirm his reputation for sanctity.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 639-640. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Hubert Bishop and Confessor (-c 656-727)
The patron of huntsmen, Saint Hubert has long been polular in such countries as Bavaria and Belgium. In the Middle Ages he was invoked against hydrophobia. Two military orders, one in Lorraine and one in Bavaria, were founded under his patronage.
Historical documents attest his life as bishop of Tongres, but provide no information on his birth, his family, or his early life. But he is thought to have been related to Plectrudis, wife of Pepin II, and to have lived at the court of Austrasia, the eastern Frankish kingdom. A legend about Saint Eustace, a second-century martyr, somehow carne to be applied to Saint Hubert about the fifteenth century. According to this he was a young nobleman who spent his time pursuing worldly pleasures, especially hunting.
It is said that he was hunting one Good Friday, while others were at church, when he saw a beautiful stag with a radiant crucifix between its antlers. A voice seemed to tell him that if he did not mend his ways he would go to hell, and it told him to place himself under the guidance of Saint Lambert, bishop of Tongres. Hubert immediately sought out the bishop.
Whatever the real circumstances of his birth, early life, and conversion, Saint Hubert did place himself under the direction of Saint Lambert. At the age of forty he was ordained a priest and, when the bishop was murdered in 705, Hubert was elected to govern the diocese in his place. It was as a bishop that he gained his well-deserved fame.
He penetrated the Forest of Ardennes and other remote parts of his country (what is now eastern Belgium), spreading the teachings of Christ and abolishing the worship of idols. It is said that he had the gift of miracles.
Saint Lambert had had a residence in the village of Liège and had died there. Saint Hubert, who also preferred to live there instead of at Tongres, in 715 brought Saint Lambert’s body, which had been buried at Maastricht, back to the site of his death and built a second church and a shrine there. So numerous were the pilgrimages to his tomb that Liège found itself transformed from a village to a city, and some centuries later the bishopric was transferred from Tongres to Liège.
Hubert was taken ill, and on May 30, 727, the sixth day of his illness, he died quietly, after reciting the Creed and the Our Father.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 640-642. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Charles Borromeo Bishop and Confessor (-c 1538-1584)
In sixteenth-century Italy there was no name more powerful than that of Medici. The family had, for two centuries controlled the Republic of Florence and ruled Tuscany. From their ranks had come sinners and saints, dictators and popes, murderers and lawmakers, queens and conquerors. Charles Borromeo was one of the saints.
His father was Count Giberto Borromeo, of a noble Milanese family, and his mother was Margherita de’Medici. A younger son in a family of six children, Charles, by his own desire, was destined for the Church and given the benefice of a rich Benedictine abbey. Unlike many, he considered this benefice a responsibility rather than a source income, and refused to spend its money for his own needs.
In 1559 his uncle, Cardinal de’ Medici, was elected and took the name Pius IV. The following year he sent for Charles (who was still a student), making him archbishop of Milan and heaping honors and responsibilities upon him. He was made cardinal and, in effect, papal secretary of state, with full charge of the administration of the papal states. It was not uncommon at that time for a layman to have the duties of a cardinal. Before he was twenty-three years old Charles was made legate to Bologna, Romagna, and Ancona. He was protector of Portugal, the Low Countries, the Catholic cantons of Switzerland, the Franciscan and Carmelite orders, the Knights of Malta, and others. Nor were these merely honorary titles. It is not an overstatement to say that much of the success of Pius IV’s pontificate was due to the work of his cardinal-nephew. It is amazing how much work the young man was able to do without ever neglecting anything.
Charles, more than any other man, was the spirit behind the third and last period of the Council of Trent, which reopened in 1562 after a recess of ten years. It was through his energy that it was convened, in spite of many difficulties, and through his efforts that it was kept in session. Many of the most important dogmatic and disciplinary decrees of the great reforming council were passed at this time.
In the midst of the council, Charles’ older brother died, leaving him the only son of the ancient Borromeo family. Many assumed that he would forget his plans for entering the priesthood and marry in order to preserve the family name. Rather than risk being forced into marriage, Charles was ordained by Cardinal Cesa in the Church of Saint Mary Major July 17, I563, and consecrated bishop the following December.
Now, he felt, was the time to take up what he considered his true duty. Though archbishop of Milan, he had never resided in that city because he had been so much needed in Rome. He urged the pope to uphold the Council of Trent’s denunciation of absentee bishops and permit him to take up residence at Milan. At last he was given permission to go.
Charles was received with rejoicing in that city, which had been without a resident bishop for eighty years. Reform was badly needed. The priests were ignorant, lazy, and involved in graft. The sacraments were neglected, and monasteries were full of disorder.
Charles began reform in his own household, allotted most of his income to charity, and opposed all luxury for himself. His personal penances were as severe as those of an anchorite, for he felt that reform must start from the top.
By means of numerous synods, endless visits and, pastoral conferences, insistence upon education of an able clergy, and a firmer discipline of the monastic orders, the religious life of the region bloomed. Not content with having parish priests give public catechism lessons on Sundays, he established a society for the teaching of Christian doctrine, which conducted the first “Sunday-schools.” The schools are said to have numbered 740, with 3,000 catechists and 40,000 pupils.
In 1578 he instituted a society of secular priests called Oblates of Saint Ambrose, who voluntarily offered themselves to the bishop to be employed in whatever way he wished. He also received effective help from the “Barnabites,” the first order of clerics regular, who were noted as preachers and catechists.
Not all, however, were so eager to help. Some of the civil authorities, resenting his power with the people, constantly stirred up trouble for him, bringing their battles for jurisdiction to the attention of the pope and King Philip II of Spain. It was not until 1569, when an attempt was made upon Charles’ life by members of a group called the Humiliati, who deeply resented his reforms, that the shocked authorities gave him more support.
His boundless charity and self-sacrifice in times of famine and plague made him the father of his province. The plague of 1576 is still called, somewhat ambiguously, the “plague of Saint Charles.” It is said that food had to be found daily for almost 70,000 persons. Charles exhausted all his resources and incurred large debts on behalf of the sufferers. He personally ministered to the dying, waited on the sick, and helped those in want.
Charles’ diocese with a number of dependent bishoprics was vast, covering great parts of Italy and much of Switzerland. He traveled about continually, teaching, reforming, and combating Protestantism. He was not above discussing points of theology with old Protestant peasant women, and on one occasion refused to leave an ignorant little shepherd until he had taught the boy the Our Father and Hail Mary.
The strain of travel, work, and worry was beginning to affect the saint’s health. He seemed driven to do as much work as possible before his death, giving his attention to a multitude of projects. He foretold his death to several persons and, ill of ague, died quietly on the night of November 3, 1584, after receiving the last anointing. He was only forty-six years old.
To his contemporaries the name of Borromeo spelled reform. As archbishop, he knew only one goal: to let his own self die so as to live more fully in his God-given task. He stands before us as one of the strong souls who abandon all in order to find all, who relinquish the world and gain measureless influence in it. With the possible exception of Saint Ignatius Loyola, probably no one influenced the Catholic Renaissance so deeply and lastingly as did that towering personality, Saint Charles Borromeo.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 642-645. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Blessed Martin de Porres Confessor (1569-1639)
He could have become a thief or a murderer, one of society’s angry, defiant outcasts. In our day he could have been a communist. He was one of those of whom society says sadly, “He never had a chance.”
From the moment of his birth, December 9, 1569, in Lima, Peru, he never had a chance. The illegitimate child of two races, he was deserted by his white father, Don Juan de Porres, and despised by his Negro mother, Anna. He had no childhood. It is a terrible thing not to be loved. It can produce the twisted, tormented, ruthless individual.
Martin became none of those things. Martin was loved. Somewhere in those early years of neglect, abuse, loneliness, and abject poverty, Martin found infinite Love. It was a little hard to grasp at first, and more than a little hard to believe. God loved him. God loved the despised, outcast child as much as He loved the governor or the archbishop. God would never desert him as Don Juan had done, and God’s Mother was his Mother, loving him more tenderly than any other mother ever could.
Martin was apprenticed to a barber-surgeon and learned the art of shaving and hairdressing as well as the elembentary knowledge of medicine that a barber was expected to possess in those days. He had an almost magical success in treating the sick, perhaps because of his intense love of Christ and His suffering children. It was this same zeal that gave him the strength to leave his shop when the day ended and to seek out the suffering people of the city. Lima was soon full of rumors about miraculous cures. There were long-standing headaches cured with a touch, fevers relieved in an instant, deep wounds that healed visibly while the patient watched.
In order that people might know that the miracles came from his Savior and not from himself, he desired to put on the anonymous robes of a religious. He became a tertiary, a servant-in his mind a slave-of the Dominicans. His earthly father did not like it and felt that it was degrading. His heavenly Father, however, seemed to approve heartily, for He multiplied the miracles He performed through this lay man in the black and white robes of the Dominican.
Martin eventually took solemn vows. His labors now increased unbelievably. Maintaining the infirmary and caring for the sick among the three hundred men in the novitiate, he continued to seek out the sick and the outcast. He brought sick slaves and Indians into the infirmary and made himself their slave while he treated them. Welcoming every mortification, he brought in patients suffering from loathsome diseases, placed them in his own bed, and washed and anointed their sores. When night came he extended his heroic charity to harsh asceticism, scourging himself until the blood flowed and then rubbing vinegar into the welts. Then he would retire to the chapel to pray for hours before the tabernacle.
Martin was a most excellent beggar. It is estimated that he collected at least two thousand dollars a week, in the currency of his day, which would be the equivalent of more than twenty thousand dollars today. He had a system for the expenditure of the money. He placed his various needy families on ample budgets. He did not forget anybody, often walking miles out of his way to feed some forgotten soul. He provided dowries for poor girls and built the first school for orphans in the Western Hemisphere.
Fabulous tales are told of Martin. He was mysteriously transported to distant places, answering prayers in India, China, or Africa. Often he seems to have been in more than one place at a time. Fellow religious came to take for granted the light that shone from him when he prayed, and were not surprised to find him floating in mid-air before the tabernacle. But Martin is not overshadowed by the long list of spectacular occurrences. His devotees seldom think of him as suspended in mid-air before a crucifix. They think of him as a smiling old man in a well-worn black and white habit, a rosary around his neck, a pair of shoes held together only by a miracle, and the most disreputable hat in all the world hanging to the back of his neck by a knotted string.
He commanded love, not awe. He commanded the love of the society that had cast him out. When he died on November 3, 1639, the hierarchy of Peru and Mexico served as his pallbearers, and great crowds gathered for his funeral, proclaiming him a saint, following the little mulatto brother who has been affectionately called ”the Pied Piper of Peru.”
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 646-648. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Illtyd Abbot and Confessor (-c 505)
His wife (if he had a wife) was related to King Arthur, and it is possible that this great Welsh saint was for some time a knight of the Round Table. According to one legend, Illtyd was one of the three keepers of the Holy Grail, before he entered the service of a chieftain in Glamorgan. Nonetheless, he was more soldierly than saintly until a group of soldiers he was with were killed in a hunting accident and he alone was spared. Saint Cadoc advised him to reject worldliness, and Illtyd took his wife to live in a reed hut by a river.
Legend further relates that one morning he took leave of his startled wife and went to live alone by a stream in Glamorgan. Disciples gathered around the holy hermit, and Saint Illtyd’s monastery became the first great monastic school in Wales.
After his ordination, his fame and influence became wide spread. His monks were distinguished teachers. The monastery was the center of community life. Children were educated there, farming methods were introduced, the poor were sheltered, and missionaries were trained.
Twice he was driven from his monastery by the local chieftain and took refuge in a cave. Four times the monastery lands were threatened by the collapse of the seawall, which Saint Illtyd made sound by a miracle.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 648-649. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Willibrord Bishop and Confessor (-c 658-739)
Scooping water from the forbidden fountain, Willibrord said aloud, “I baptize thee, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” For the first time, the silence of the pagan stream had been broken. It was a place to the pagans, the island of Heligoland, and Willibrord and his companions had been cast there in a storm. It was considered a sacrilege to kill any living creature on that island, or eat anything that grew on it, or draw water from a spring there without observing silence.
Three persons were baptized that day, and some of the animals were killed. Yet the monks did not go mad or fall down dead as the people imagined they would. If this were in the realm of legend, the entire island should have converted in that one day.
Victory is not so easily won, and this was not a legend. It was the real life of a missionary among a pagan people, persevering day after day, year after year. In twos and threes people were converted, not in hundreds and thousands. For Saint Willibrord, it was a lifetime work, the apostolate to the Frisians, in the Netherlands. It was for the sake of a handful of souls that one of the monks of that group gave life, sacrificed to the insulted gods by a superstitious people.
Willibrord had long had a desire to preach the gospel to the Frisians, having spent twelve years in an Irish monastery whose abbot, Egbert, was dedicated to converting Friesland.
Willibrord had been born in Northumbria in about 658 and had lived in the Abbey of Ripon from the age of seven, for his father, Wilgils, had gone off to found a community of his own. About 678 Willibrord went to Ireland for further study. He remained there twelve years and during this time was ordained a priest. Abbot Egbert had long wanted to send missionaries to the continent and when Pepin II, duke of Austrasia, had conquered Lower Friesland for the Franks a way for the apostolate was opened. In 690 he sent Willibrord and eleven other monks to the court of Pepin.
Pepin encouraged the holy band to work among the pagans of the north and, after being granted ample jurisdiction by the pope, they began their labors. Conditions soon called for a bishop, and Willibrord went to Rome, where he was consecrated by Pope Sergius I in November 695, and appointed archbishop of the Frisians. Willibrord established his diocese at Utrecht. He also established a monastery at Echternach (in the Duchy of Luxembourg) and the vast territory between these two points and surrounding them was his field of action for nearly fifty years. As bishop of the Frisians, Willibrord was almost a shepherd without a flock, but he worked long, hard, and successfully to remedy that. Churches and convents were built, converts were made, children were educated, and slowly the barbaric Frisians began to settle into permanent homes, developing Christian virtues.
In 716 the pagan Radbod reconquered Frisia, and Willibrord retired to Echternach. It was at this time that Saint Boniface first came and unsuccessfully attempted to preach among the Frisians. Three years later, when Radbod died, the bishop went patiently back to work. During that time much of his work had been undone. Churches had been burned, Christians had been tortured and killed, schools had been destroyed. Yet Willibrord had the courage to rebuild, to start all over on the long labor for Christ.· Saint Boniface returned and remained for two years, aiding in this work of reconstruction.
Bishop Willibrord was never again separated from his flock until on November 7, 739, at the age of eighty-one, he died. He was buried in the abbey church at Echternach, which he had built. Highly venerated in all the areas where he had worked, Saint Willibrord in 1940 was named by Pope Pius XII patron of the ecclesiastical province of Utrecht.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 649-651. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Willehad Bishop and Confessor (- 789)
Willehad had a great deal to live up to. He was a native of the Kingdom of Northumbria in northern England and after his ordination his head rang with echoes of the deeds of the great English missionaries of the time, of Willibrord in Friesland and Boniface in Germany. He too desired to carry God’s word to those barbaric nations.
He arrived in Friesland about 766, and began work at Dokkum, where Boniface and his companions had been martyred. The blood of the martyrs seemed to have the hearts of the people, and many were baptized. In neighboring territories, however, matters were not going so well. Angered at attempts to destroy their idols, the natives were violent, and several of the missionaries lost their lives.
The monks went, therefore, to the Frankish court of Charlemagne in 780, and he sent them to the Saxons, whom he had recently subdued. Willehad and his companions began their work in the vicinity of the Weser River and the present-day city of Bremen. All went well with the new mission at first, but in 782 the Saxons rose in revolt against the Franks. They persecuted Christians and put to all the missionaries they could find. Saint Willehad escaped to Friesland and then went to Rome to consult Pope Adrian I. On returning he spent two years at Echtemach, at the astery founded by Saint Willibrord.
Willehad was not able to return to Saxon territory until 785, when Charlemagne had put down the rebellion. The cowed people were more in need of comfort than chastisement, and Willehad gave of it fully. His zeal and compassion won many souls. He built many churches and several monasteries, and in 787 was consecrated bishop of the Saxons. He fixed his see at Bremen.
He died peacefully in November 789, just a few days after the consecration of the cathedral church he had built.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 652-653. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Benignus (Benen) Bishop and Confessor (- 467)
Saint Patrick may not have been Irish, but Benen, his closest disciple and future successor, certainly was. He might, in fact, be described as an Irish tenor, for he was a singing saint. Saint Patrick had met him in County Meath, where he had stayed at the home of Benen’s father, an Irish chieftain. Patrick converted the entire family, and the young boy took leave of his family and went off with the apostle of Ireland.
He traveled with Saint Patrick as his dearest disciple and, in 455, became his coadjutor in the see of Armagh. He was the first to evangelize Clare and Kerry, and it is said that for twenty years he had charge of a church in Drumlease.
He was given the name Benen (or Benignus, meaning friendly, in the Latin form) because of his mild, cheerful disposition, and he was famous for his sweet voice. It was God’s gift, and he used it for God’s cause, attracting thousands to an interest in Christianity by his singing. He is called “Patrick’s psalm-singer.”
He is said to have assisted in compiling the great Irish code of laws, or Senchus Mor, and he contributed material the Psalter of Cashel and the Book of Rights. He was associated with Patrick and his companions in decrees concerning the government of the Church in Ireland, and upon Saint Patrick’s death succeeded him as bishop of Armagh.
He worked unceasingly until about the last year of his life. Some say he then resigned his office and retired from world to live as a hermit until his death in 467.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 653-654. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Andrew Avellino Confessor (1521-1608)
In 1521, in the town of Castronuovo in the Kingdom of Naples, a boy was born into the Avellino family. His parents gave him the name of Lancelot. He grew up to be as handsome as his namesake, the Lancelot of Arthurian legend. His early studies were made in Senise, a neighboring city. 1537 he became a cleric and eight years later was ordained.
Having gone to Naples to study law he there met the Jesuit Father Laynez, and under his direction made the Spiritual Exercises. From this time his heart belonged entirely to the Creator and he called the experience his “conversion.”
He began to practice law in the ecclesiastical courts. One day, however, he found himself telling a lie on behalf of a client. Filled with remorse, he realized that his ambition might bring greater temptations with it, Lancelot gave up his practice in order to give himself entirely to the care of souls.
He did this so well that in 1551 he was entrusted with a mission to reform the Benedictine nuns of Saint Arcangelo at Baiano. The convent had an evil reputation, and so firm was Lancelot in attempting to reform it that two different attempts were made on his life by men who were accustomed to visiting the convent. Eventually the convent was suppressed by the archbishop of Naples.
In the meantime, Lancelot had decided to put himself under a rule, and in 1556 he joined the Theatines in Naples. He was now thirty-five years old, and in changing his way of life he also changed his name–to Andrew. He spent fourteen years in the Theatine house at Naples, employed as master of novices, and was then elected superior.
In 1570, Saint Charles Borromeo, archbishop of Milan, who became a close friend, asked Andrew to found a house of his order at Milan. Later he founded another house at Piacenza, where his preaching converted so many and led to so many religious vocations that he was accused of “turning the town upside-down,” and the duke of Parma sent for him in alarm. Andrew was able to satisfy the duke, and so impressed his wife that she asked him to be her spiritual director.
In 1582 he returned to the house in Naples to take up its direction again. From there he established the order in several other Italian dioceses. Because of his prudence in the direction of souls and his eloquence·in preaching, numerous disciples thronged around him, eager to be under his guidance. Untiring in preaching, hearing confessions, and visiting the sick, he still had time to write several spiritual books, seven volumes of which were printed in Milan.
On November 10, 1608, at the age of eighty-seven, he was stricken by a sudden attack of apoplexy; he died on the same day after devoutly receiving Holy Viaticum. He is the patron of Naples and Sicily and is especially invoked against a sudden death.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 654-656. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Martin of Tours Bishop and Confessor (-c 316 -c 397)
Saint Martin of Tours brings to the twentieth-century mind but one picture. We see him through the artists who have depicted him as the man who gave half his cloak to a freezing beggar.
The lyrical beauty of his famous gesture challenges the world’s misleading conception of practicality. Actually, Saint Martin’s gesture was not romantic; he was practical enough to believe in all the implications of the mystical body of Christ. All men were his brothers. That included the undeserving, the shiftless beggars, the drunken derelicts. He would share with them whatever he possessed. If he had no money, he would share his clothing. He simply thought in terms of a brother in need of warm clothing. The saints are the most practical of all people.
It is strange that this bishop of Tours should be thought of primarily as a soldier. Again we are influenced by the paintings of him. He could more accurately be described as a “conscientious objector.”
Born in Upper Pannonia (Hungary) of pagan parents, he was the son of an officer in the army, and the boy was brought into the army against his will at the age of fifteen. Although not yet formally a Christian, he lived more like a monk than a soldier. After a vision in which he saw Christ dressed in the half cloak he had given to the beggar, he hastened to be baptized.
When he was about forty years old, he asked to be released from the army, saying it was not right for him to fight. The emperor taunted him with wishing to escape an impending battle, but Saint Martin declared that he would stand unarmed with only a cross in front of the army and not be afraid. The emperor took him at his word, but before Martin could be put to the test the enemy sent envoys to make peace. This was attributed to divine intervention, and Martin was released from service.
As soon as he was free, he set out for Gaul to enroll himself among the disciples of Saint Hilary, bishop of Poitiers. The wise and pious bishop received him gladly and wanted to ordain him a deacon; Martin would accept only one of the minor orders, that of exorcist.
But Hilary, an ardent champion against Arianism, was in 356 exiled to the East. During his absence, Martin returned home for a visit and converted his mother and others, although his father remained a pagan. He too found himself disturbed by the Arians and went to Milan to stay in a monastery, but an Arian bishop drove him away. Martin therefore retired to an island in the Gulf of Genoa and lived there as a hermit until Saint Hilary was allowed to return to Poitiers in 360.
He hastened to his chosen master and obtained permission to retire to a lonely region called Ligugé, just outside Poitiers, to embrace the solitary life. He was soon joined by a number of other hermits. This community grew into a monastery that continued until the year 1607 and was revived in 1852.
Saint Martin lived there for ten years, directing his disciples and preaching throughout the countryside; many miracles were attributed to him. It would not be an exaggeration to say that no other man had so great an influence on the religious thinking of fourth-century Gaul. As with all the great saints, his sanctity radiated and was reflected in those he influenced.
About 371 the bishop of Tours died and the people begged the holy hermit of Ligugé to replace him. He was unwilling to accept the office, and a ruse was used to call him into the city, where he was forcibly conducted to the church.
As bishop of Tours, Martin lived no differently than h had as the hermit of Ligugé. At first he lived in a cell near the church, but that proved too distracting. He retired to more isolated place, which soon became the famous abbe of Marmoutier, a much larger and more influential monastery than even Ligugé.
Bishops were often chosen out of this monastery, for every city desired a pastor who had been trained under the discipline of Saint Martin. A decline in paganism in Tours and all that part of Gaul was the result of the piety, miracles, and zealous instruction of Saint Martin.
Once a year he visited each of his outlying parishes. Ligugé was traditionally the first monastery founded in Gaul, and he continued to establish monastic life wherever he was able. At the time of his death, about 397, two thousand monk and nuns gathered for his funeral.
The great basilica built to contain his body was, throughout the Middle Ages, the center of national pilgrimages; it was destroyed in 1793, during the French Revolution. Nonetheless, the great number of French churches and monuments dedicated to him and the nearly five hundred villages bearing his name continue to pay homage to Saint Martin of Tours, the glory of Gaul and a light to the Western Church in the fourth century.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 656-659. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Martin I Pope and Martyr (-655)
Silence can be a shield of safety, and compromise a mask. Both these defenses were rejected by Saint Martin I in his long struggle to defend the doctrine of the humanity of Christ against political power and heretical bishops in the seventh century.
In spite of the fact that several popes had condemned it at Rome, a heresy known as monothelism was spreading through the Eastern churches. Its supporters, among them the patriarch of Constantinople and Emperor Constans II, denied that Christ could have both a divine will and a human will. Finally Martin, a priest of Rome born in Tuscany, was sent to Constantinople as the pope’s representative. To effect a peaceful compromise, the new patriarch, Paul, influenced Constans to issue an imperial edict called the Typos, or Rule of Faith, which forbade any mention of the controversy by Catholics or heretics.
Elected pope himself in 649, Martin immediately summoned a council of bishops at the Lateran. This council condemned the heresy, excommunicated its teachers, and condemned the Typos, saying, ”The Lord has commanded us to shun evil and do good, but not to reject the good with the evil. We are not to deny at the same time both truth and error.” Martin risked the enmity of Constans even further by publishing the council’s decisions to the entire Church and deposing heretical bishops and patriarchs throughout the East. He clearly stated that this was his right, ”in virtue of the apostolic authority given to us by the Lord through Saint Peter.”
Constans accused Pope Martin of being an “intruder,” “a heretic and rebel, an enemy of God and of the state”; he had the pope captured in 653. Martin had a long and arduous voyage, and at none of the ports of call were the priests and faithful permitted to bring him any relief. It was more than a year before his captors brought him to Constantinople. Then, after months of solitary imprisonment and illness Martin was brought to “trial” before a civil judge. Refusing to accept the Typos, he was found guilty and subjected to more humiliation and cruel treatment by his hostile guards.
When Constans told the dying patriarch Paul of his vengeance on the troublesome Martin, Paul sighed, ”Alas! This will only increase the severity of my judgment.” He had supported the heresy and had refused to submit to the pope’s authority, but Saint Martin’s fate weighed heavily on his, conscience. He asked Constans to spare Martin’s life.
Another pope had been elected at Rome, and it seemed that Martin, for all his generous loyalty to the Church, had been forgotten. Months of lonely imprisonment at Constantinople followed, and then he was exiled to the famine-stricken Sevastopol in the Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea, when he died in 655. Last of the popes to be honored as a martyr he is commemorated on November 12 in the Roman liturgy.
In the Greek liturgy his feast is celebrated on April 13 by Catholics as well as by the churches, now separated from Rome, for whose unity in faith with the See of Peter he gave his life.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 659-661. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Stanislaus Kostka Confessor (1550-1568)
It could hardly be argued that Stanislaus Kostka became a saint by walking three hundred and fifty miles to enter the Society of Jesus, although it certainly took courage and determination to do that. There are no accounts that he ever worked a miracle or accomplished far-reaching reforms in his seventeen years of life. He did not finish school, did not complete his novitiate as a Jesuit; but there were times in his short life when he was favored with visions.
The two sons of John Kostka, a Polish senator and lord, had been sent in 1564 to study at the Jesuit college in Vienna. The irresponsible Paul tormented his amiable younger brother about his devotion to books and prayer, and Stanislaus suffered much in the three years he remained at the college. It is said that at this time the Blessed Virgin appeared to Stanislaus and urged him to devote himself to God in the Society of Jesus. Refused entrance by the Jesuits in Vienna because he did not have his father’s consent, Stanislaus took his long walk up the Danube to Dillingen in southern Germany to ask for admission from Saint Peter Canisius, the provincial. He was sent to Rome, where Saint Francis Borgia, the general admitted him on August 28, 1567.
Stanislaus was, said the novice master, “a model and mirror of religious perfection,” one who did ordinary things extraordinarily well. Like many young men, he had been devoted to the Blessed Virgin, and the Holy Eucharist was the’ center of his life. When he had completed only nine months of his novitiate, he became seriously ill and died the Feast of the Assumption in 1568, victim of a weak and the heat of the Roman summer.
God makes saints wherever and however He wills, and the life out of which this hero grew was that of an ordinary teenager who accepted with serene good humor the misunderstanding–sometimes the ridicule and opposition–of his family. But neither his graces nor his acceptance of was ordinary. The penetrating faith to see and respond to God’s love for him and the courage to be loyal to the graces with which God showered him brought Stanislaus to the ardent love and intense contemplative prayer that is the nearest thing to heaven on earth.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 661-662. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Josaphat Bishop and Martyr (-c 1582-1623)
John Kunsevitch knew, of course, that he was choosing the cross on that day in 1604 when he turned down comfortable family life of a merchant to become a Basilian monk in an abbey in Vilna, Lithuania. He probably never guessed, however, how completely that choice was to transform his life into an image of the Christ who was mistrusted, threatened, and killed by His own people.
Josaphat–he took this name when he became a monk-was one of ten million schismatic Ruthenians who had returned to the Church in 1595 in a compact known as the Union of Brest. After a few years, the schismatics regained their lost strength; the precarious compact had to be sealed by the martyrdom of its apostle.
Union with Rome was the main theme of Josaphat’s preaching, but dear to his heart was Old Slavonic, the dramatic and musical language his people used to praise God. Elected abbot, he inaugurated the reforms which gave the order the name, ”Basilians of Saint Josaphat.”
In 1617 Josaphat became archbishop of Polotsk, an important center of the Ruthenian Church. Because of his support of the Byzantine-Slavonic rites and customs and his strict standards in the education and morals of priests, he met indifference from his own clergy and from the Latin-Rite Polish hierarchy. His loyalty to Rome fed the hatred of schismatics; even loyal Catholics began to doubt his sincerity. In the town of Vitebsk, a hotbed of dissension, he was threatened in the streets; and there, in 1623, a mob of schismatics broke into the house where he was staying, shouting, “Kill the papist.” They beat him until he was at the point of death and then killed him with two shots from a musket. After stripping his body, they dragged it through the streets of the city and threw it into the Dvina River.
Almost immediately he was proclaimed a hero and a saint, and the people enthusiastically supported ·union with Rome. This loyalty of the Ruthenians was to persevere for nearly three hundred years in spite of terrible pressures, especially from the Russians. Josaphat was canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1867, the first saint of the Eastern Church to be canonized after formal process in the Sacred Congregation of Rites. The great cause of Catholic unity for which he died still calls upon Catholics everywhere for prayer and sacrifice. The Catholic Ruthenians have long since been absorbed by the Soviet Union. Like Saint Josaphat, they follow the way of the cross.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 662-664. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Laurence O’Toole Bishop and Confessor (-c 1123 -c 1180)
If ever a man was born to be a “fighting Irishman,” it Lorcan ua Tuathail. Born about 1123, son of an embattled Gaelic prince, he was taken as a hostage by a hostile clan when he was only ten. The life of a warlord held no appeal for the little hostage; he would serve only the Prince of Peace.
As soon as he was set free, young Laurence O’Toole, as his name is anglicized, entered the Augustinian monastery at Glendalough, where he became abbot at twenty-five. Slowly he restored regular discipline among his monks until Glendalough became a center of Christian monastic life and worship. Elected archbishop of Dublin in 1161, Laurence continued his austere life and his program of reform of the clergy. The poor of Dublin looked on him as a father; one way or another he could always find food and lodging for those who had none. Every day he fed fifty strangers and three hundred poor people from his own diocese; he provided hundreds of others with clothing and shelter.
In 1170, the English marched on Dublin under Richard de Clare, and the following year King Henry II led his own expedition. For the remainder of his life, Laurence served as mediator for the Norman-English and the Irish nobles, especially for Roderick O’Connor, king of Connaught. He went to Rome in 1179 for the Third Lateran Council, and was appointed papal legate in Ireland. King Henry’s policy brought great hardships to Ireland, and Laurence had not only to try to relieve the misery of the people but to protect the freedom of the Church. As a result of his efforts the diocese of Dublin ceased to be dependent upon Canterbury, as it had been under the Danish bishops. On one of his diplomatic journeys into Normandy in 1180, Laurence died at a house of the Augustinian canons at Eu. France still shelters the relics of Saint Laurence O’Toole, “poor priest of Dublin” and peacemaker. Both Dublin and Eu honor him as their patron.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 664-665. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Albert the Great Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church (1200-1280)
“This bug is no longer than that bug.” “Some plants have thorns and others have thistles.” He noticed little things, this German lad, when he hunted with his falcon on his parents’ lands. At the turn of the thirteenth century, when almost everyone read books in an effor t to discover the facts of the universe, he learned nature lore by reading nature itself. Painstaking observation and experiment gave him such a knowledge of natural science that in later life he was accused of being a magician. With Roger Bacon, he is recognized as a pioneer in the experimental method in science.
His detailed observations of nature revealed to Albert not only the mystery of creatures but of the Creator. When he was a student at the University of Padua, about 1223, he joined the newly-founded Dominican Order, encouraged by Blessed Jordan of Saxony. Physics, geography, astronomy, mineralogy, chemistry, and biology seemingly came without effort to the versatile friar. To natural sciences he added philosophy and theology. He was soon teaching in various German convents of the order.
In the writings of Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, he found principles and methods that could be used to systematize Christian theology. This gained him his principal fame as one of the founders of what we know as the “scholastic system.” Associates at the University of Paris called him “Universal Doctor,” the man who could teach everything.
In a class at Cologne in 1248 (or perhaps at Paris between 1245 and 1248), he noticed a hulking young student who spoke scarcely a word. Albert told his laughing pupils, “You call this young Sicilian a dumb ox, but one day his bellowing will resound throughout the world!” (The young man was actually a Lombard, but had been born in the south.) Albert appointed him master of students at Cologne when he became regent of the university there. Together they defended the rights of religious students and teachers before the pope at Rome. The young Italian friar proved himself a giant in learning as well as in physique; he surpassed Albert himself, finishing and perfecting the integration of the principles of Aristotle in a Christian system of philosophy that would be at the service of theology. Years later, Albert announced his death to the monks by saying, ”The Light of the Church is extinguished!” As an old man, he made his last public appearance to defend the works of his protégé against those who wanted them condemned by the Church. For the rest of his life, his eyes filled with tears whenever anyone spoke of his dead pupil, co-worker, and friend, Thomas Aquinas.
Lectures and books were not sufficient outlets for Albert’s fertile genius. For a short time he served as personal theologian and canonist for Pope Alexander IV. The pope, recognizing his talent as an administrator (he had been provincial of the Dominicans in Germany), appointed him bishop of Ratisbon (now Regensburg), but the next pope, Urban IV, recognized that Albert was more valuable to the Church as a research scholar and teacher of philosophy and theology, and permitted Albert to resign. Although he preahed a crusade in Germany and Bohemia at the pope’s request, this mission had little success. From 1264 to 1267 he lived at Wurzburg, and from 1267 to 1270 at Strasbourg, engaged in teaching and pastoral work. For the remainder of his life he was in Cologne, teaching but also always active in Church affairs, ordaining priests, consecrating churches and altars, and arbitrating in civil and religious disputes. He died on November 15, 1280.
Albert was indeed a great man, and his personal authority was equaled by no other man of his time. To rich natural talents were added the perfections of grace and virtue. His penetrating intellect and remarkable application to work enabled him to produce a torrent of books. To a clear understanding of practical problems was joined forcefulness in applying solutions. Grandeur and magnanimity marked his whole career. As with his student and friend Saint Thomas, Albert’s intellectual mastery went hand in hand with high spirituality. He was a man of prayer, a humble and zealous son of Saint Dominic, and all his works of culture and charity were inspired by a priestly and apostolic ideal. In declaring him a Doctor of the Church, Pope Pius XI called him “exactly the saint whose example should inspire the present age, which so ardently seeks peace and is so full of hope in its scientific discoveries.”
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 665-668. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Gertrude the Great Virgin (c 1256 -c 1302)
“I was a heathen among heathens.” Strange words for a nun who lived in a community known for its sanctity, whose novice-mistress and dearest friend was a saint! Perhaps the statement would not surprise a reader who had experienced the sublime purity and radiant perfection of God, as Gertrude had.
Five-year-old Gertrude was brought to the Benedictine monastery at Helfa, in Saxony, about 1261. She never left it and died there about forty years later. Her life among the nuns had for its chief activity the Opus Dei, the praise of God in the Mass and the Divine Office. It is the prayer of Christ to His Father, the powerful and loving worship of His mystical body, the Church. The Psalms, all of which are recited each week, are said to express every possible relation of the human spirit to God; they were the prayers of Christ Himself when He lived on earth.
Gertrude executed the ceremonies of the splendid Benedictine ritual ”with precision and piety,” but philosophy and liberal arts, which were held in high regard in this convent, absorbed her interest. Nowadays we would call her “lukewarm.” In her own words, until her twentysixth year she bore “only the name and habit of a religious”; then she became dissatisfied and troubled.
One night during the Epiphany season, she had a vision of a young man who spoke to her: “Why are you wasted with sorrow? Have you no counsellor, that you are overcome by grief?” He took her hand: “I will save you and deliver you. Fear not.” The words were from the Advent liturgy. The rest of the passage must have come to her mind immediately: “For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.” This was the promise of the Epiphany, what Saint Bernard, her favorite spiritual writer, called the second coming of Christ, His birth in men’s souls.
From that day she worked to correct her faults, from love rather than from fear of punishment. The nature of that lifelong effort is most clearly stated by Saint Teresa of Avila, who was influenced centuries later by the writings of Saint Gertrude: “Everything we do is great labor, because our struggle is with ourselves.”
Years of illness and the continued effort to be perfectly faithful to her way of life followed, but God always allowed her to fail. She asked, “lf He is truly within me … how is it possible that I lead so evil a life?” She received the answer, “This kindness of my wisdom shines most in my tolerance toward the imperfect.” In her own eyes, Gertrude never won the battle–at least, by her own means of combat. Meditation on Christ’s humanity and on His Sacred Heart gave her the key to victory. She was told: “My Heart will accomplish all that you cannot accomplish yourself . . . always ready, at any moment, to repair your deficiencies and negligences.” The most effective weapon, she discovered–as Saint Thérèse of Lisieux did many centuries later—was confidence, for it obtains all things.
Because Gertrude believed her extraordinary conversations with God were only given to her so that she could help others, she wrote them down. Her book, Revelations, made this woman one of the most influential mystics of the Church, although in our day she is one of the ”neglected saints.” Her most important revelation is really her whole life, a testimonial to the mercy of God who “suspended His judgment . . . treating me as if I had led the life of an angel.” By others’ standards, she did live like one. Saint Gertrude was never officially canonized ; her feast was extended to the Universal Church by Pope Innocent XI, in 1677.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 668-670. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Gregory the Wonder-worker Bishop and Confessor (-c 270)
Faith in the one true God and His Son Jesus Christ was already beginning to conquer the pagan world in the places where the apostles had preached, where bishops were established, and where Christian teachers and writers were active. ”The fields are already white for the harvest,” Christ had told His disciples.
Gregory was the son of wealthy pagans and his home was in Neocaesarea in Pontus, a district south of the Black Sea (now part of Turkey). He first met Christianity when he was about fourteen years old, but when he received baptism is not known. His mother wanted him to be a lawyer and Gregory earnestly applied himself to his studies, and after a while planned to round off·his training at the famous school of Beirut (now the capital of Lebanon). He never reached Beirut. By one of those “accidents” of Divine Providence he was called to work in the harvest field of faith. Gregory had accompanied his sister, who was going to join her husband at Caesarea in Palestine, and there met Origen, a great Christian teacher. He studied under Origen for seven years before returning to Neocaesarea. There is a tradition that he lived in the desert outside the city until he was consecrated its bishop.
“Have faith in God.” Now it was Gregory, converting pagans and their priests by the thousands. A man of action, he organized entertainments in order to reach more people, preached, settled disputes, and wrote a number of works that have come down to us. The area was subject to frequent invasions by the Goths. There was also a plague that ravaged the city. Gregory worked so many cures and other miracles that he was called, even in his lifetime, Thaumaturgos or “Wonder-worker.” Though miracles made him famous, they were simply a help given by God for Gregory’s intense apostolate among pagans who needed “signs and wonders” to be attracted to the faith. When the growing Christian community suffered government persecution in 250, Gregory advised them to hide rather than expose themselves to the danger of losing their faith. He himself went into the desert once more.
“Have faith in God. Amen I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Arise, and hurl thyself into the sea,’ and does not waver in his heart, but believes that whatever he says will be done, it shall be done for him” (Mark 11:22-23). These words that Christ used to describe the quality of Christian faith are uttered by His Church on the Feast of Saint Gregory, who lived that faith so well.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 670-672. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Odo of Cluny Abbot and Confessor (-c 879-942)
A medieval monk is often pictured as a rather chubby individual copying a manuscript, or as a simple man who tills the soil and instructs the people. Readers of the Robin Hood legends may see the mischievous Friar Tuck; perhaps one envisions a gaunt ascetic who leaves his solitude only to chant the haunting melodies of the Divine Office in some dark and stony chapel. Undoubtedly all these types existed, but it is not often realized that among the monks of the Middle Ages there were also dynamic administrators and reformers.
When the vast empire of Charlemagne began to split after his death, the anarchy in government seemed only a shadow of the decay within the Church. Nepotism (appointment of relatives to office) and simony (sale of sacraments, Church offices, and other spiritual goods) were openly practiced. As for the monasteries, it was almost impossible to find one where even a pretense was made of following the Rule of Saint Benedict. Absentee and lay abbots, appointed by local rulers, took the greater portion of the revenue of wealthy monasteries, and the monks who remained in them were disillusioned, if not corrupt.
However barbarous the age was, it still admired a consciously Christian life. In 909 Duke William of Aquitaine made a gift of land near the city of Macon to Berno, abbot of a Benedictine monastery. Here Berno, with a dozen monks, established a new community, the Abbey of Cluny, which was to gain great power throughout Europe and become the chief center of reform.
Among the monks ruled by the holy and competent Berno was Odo. This young man, who had brought to the monastery his one treasure, a hundred books, was the son of a lawyer, born near Tours about 879. He had been brought up in the household of a count of Anjou and afterwards in that of William, duke of Aquitaine. At the age of nineteen he became a cleric and plunged into study and the spiritual life, but after five years of this studious and ascetic life he sought a more perfect state: the monastic life. Under the strict rule of Saint Berno he found it. In 927, Berna was succeeded by Saint Odo, then forty-eight, who was to become the greatest religious personality of his generation.
Strict discipline, simplicity of life, and the sanctity of the monks reached the ears of hopeful people who offered themselves or their wealth to the new community. Other monasteries asked to be united with Cluny or to be reorganized by Abbot Odo. On the other hand, many good Benedictines opposed his alteration of the Rule, especially a provision which made houses dependent upon Cluny rather than autonomous, as Saint Benedict had prescribed. Furthermore, the easy-living monks of the tenth century were no more eager than people today to have their faults exposed and corrected. In some places, Odo was met at the monastery gate with swords and stones.
Abbot Odo visited Rome several times, where he acted as peacemaker between the warring kings of Italy and Rome ; he also founded and reformed monasteries in this country. Thus the spirit of Cluny spread from France into Italy. At Odo’s death in 942, after fifteen years under his government, the Congregation of Cluny numbered sixtyfive houses.
Odo had never intended to reform anyone or anything other than himself; he had become a monk because he happened to read the Benedictine Rule and found how far he was from a truly dedicated life. When he was abbot, the discipline and the innovations he introduced were, after all, matters of conscience–God willed him to be abbot of Cluny, so Odo did the best he could. The Cluniac reform grew to include 82 houses and contributed four popes to the Church, among them Saint Gregory VII.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 672-674. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Blessed Philippine Duchesne Virgin (1769-1852)
No greater saint ever died in Missouri, or perhaps in the whole Union,” wrote a missionary priest when he heard of the death of Mother Philippine Duchesne.
Rose-Philippine was born in Grenoble, France, in 1769. At seventeen she entered a Visitation convent that was later suppressed during the French Revolution. For a time she tried to reestablish a Visitandine house but in 18 04 entered the newly-founded Society of the Sacred Heart. Fourteen years of work under the foundress, Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, followed, until Mother Duchesne was sent to found a house and school at Saint Charles, Missouri, near Saint Louis.
Her enthusiasm, self-sacrifice, and endurance never waned in twenty-two years of traveling through the Mississippi Valley to New Orleans and back, founding convents, a novitiate, and schools, and meeting constant opposition and failure. ”They say everything about us,” she wrote to Mother Barat, “except that we poison the children.” In 1840, when she was seventy-one, Mother Duchesne was granted a long-cherished wish for Indian mission work. She was sent to work with the Potawatomi Indians in Kansas, but failing health caused her to be recalled only a year later. She was called “the Saint Francis of the Society” because of the poverty she practiced. She died at Saint Charles at the age of eighty-three and was beatified in 1940.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 674-675. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Holy Woman (1207-1231)
That mad Hungarian embarrassed me in front of the whole court at Mass today! She took off her crown–your crown, Ludwig–and then . . .” Sophia stopped to emphasize the outrage to her son, “then she put her face to the ground, just like a peasant or a nun!”
Ludwig smiled at his wife, “Well, Elizabeth?”
“Forgive me,” said Elizabeth, “but when I saw Christ on the cross, crowned with thorns, I could not kneel before Him in my poor crown of gold and jewels.” This was not the last time Elizabeth was to refuse to wear a crown.
This incident occurred about 1222, in the great Wartburg castle near Eisenach in Thuringia, a duchy of the German Empire. Elizabeth, daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary, had been sent there at the age of four to be reared as the prospective wife of the duke, cousin of the German emperor. His family and court objected almost as much to Elizabeth’s free, gay ways as they did to her devotion to prayer and her charity to the poor. More than once Ludwig had to prevent their sending her home because she would be an ”unsuitable” princess. At a time when royal couples, betrothed as infants for political reasons, were not expected to love each other, Elizabeth and Ludwig were really an exception. She shocked the stern German court by refusing to eat with the women as custom demanded ; she would not be parted from her husband even for a meal.
On his part, Ludwig knew quite well that his wife was a saint and never interfered with her vigils and fasts or with the almsgiving she practiced. He did not even object when she built a leper hospital which the court considered too near to the castle for safety. When she became a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis, he approved fully. “Nothing on earth,” he had said, “can make me part from my dear Elizabeth.” But his Lord was not “on earth,” and Ludwig left her in tears to fight a crusade. When he died in an epidemic on his way to the Holy Land, Elizabeth sobbed that her world had died.
The twenty-year-old widow was forced to leave Wartburg with her four children and find shelter elsewhere. Her inheritance was for a time withheld by Ludwig’s brother, so she had to place her children with relatives who were willing to provide for them. For some time she was undecided about what she should do. Emperor Frederick II, whose wife had recently died, asked her to marry him-an offer she refused. Elizabeth had begun to realize that God was giving her the chance to live in the absolute poverty she had wanted for such a long time.
Poverty was more than a renunciation of material goods, Elizabeth discovered. Her friends, her children, her way of life, all her affections and desires were ”possessions” to be renounced if she was truly serious in imitating the poverty of the cross. When some of her inheritance was restored, it went to support hospitals and other works of charity. She lived in a small house, wearing the Franciscan habit and carding wool for her living, until she died at the age of twenty-four.
When, a few years later, her incorrupt body was honored at a Mass celebrating her canonization, the emperor rather dramatically laid a gold crown on her shrine, saying, “Because in your lifetime you would not be crowned as my empress, I wish now to crown you as a queen in the Kingdom of God.”
Elizabeth’s dedication to the poor, the abandoned, and the aged was radically different from the well-meaning, comfortable pity that sometimes motivates almsgiving. She loved her Lord and wanted to be like Him, so she became poor in order to share His suffering. She wanted to serve Him, so she served His living image in the neglected ones of her kingdom. Elizabeth’s tremendous capacity for loving God had captured the love of her people.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 675-677. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Edmund King and Martyr (841-870)
Every history student is familiar with the “Angles, Saxons, and Jutes,” Germanic tribes that conquered Britain and settled there in the fifth century. In 854 a boy of fourteen became king of East Anglia, now Norfolk and Suffolk, the eastern coast of England. King Edmund, young as was, showed himself a talented ruler and a virtuous man. He is said to have learned all the Psalms by heart so that he could recite the Divine Office, the common prayer of the Church.
Trouble started when the heathen Danes, or Northmen landed on the coasts of Britain. In 870, when Edmund was twenty-nine, the Northmen reached his kingdom began to demolish its famous abbeys and pillage the home of the East Angles. The brave young king gathered an army, faced the wild Danes in battle, and defeated them first engagement. But his enemies found reinforcements against which his small army could never stand. Rejecting terms of surrender that would harm both the religious temporal well-being of his people, he refused to purchase his life by offending God. Surrounded and captured, he was tied to a tree, pierced with arrows, and finally beheaded. Edmund was buried in a monastery ·that had been founded in 633 at Beodricsworth and was immediately venerated as a martyr. The miracles worked there drew many pilgrims and the fame of the shrine quickly grew. The bishop established a Benedictine community to take it over from the secular priests who had served it, and King Canute granted the new abbey a liberal charter. It came to be known as Bury Saint Edmunds, and through continued royal favor and the pilgrimages became one of the most powerful and influential abbeys of all England. At one time Saint Edmund’s feast was a holy day of obligation in England.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 678-679. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Albert of Louvain Bishop and Martyr (1166-1192)
In the twelfth century, bishoprics were commonly misused as political pawns. The improper use of the extensive see of Liège in Belgium caused the martyrdom of Albert of Louvain.
Albert was born in Louvain in 1166. He was the son of the duke of Brabant (a duchy covering territory that is now central and north Belgium and south Netherlands), and grew up in his father’s castle. Albert was only a schoolboy of twelve when he was made a canon of Liège, but he renounced his benefice when he was twenty-one, supposedly to join a crusade. Actually, Albert never did go crusading, but rejoined the ranks of the clergy and was made archdeacon of Brabant. Other honors followed this, although Albert was still only a subdeacon in orders.
In 1191, Albert was chosen bishop of Liege. His election was opposed by Emperor Henry VI, who privately favored another candidate named Albert of Rethel, a relative of the empress, an enemy of Saint Albert’s brother, and a political cohort of the emperor. Almost all the clergy of supported Saint Albert, and Albert of Rethel’s claim held valid by relatively few canons; but the emperor would not announce publicly his favor of either candidate. Saint Albert appealed to Pope Celestine Ill, who decided in his favor and Albert was ordained and then consecrated at Rheims on September 19 and 20, 1192. He was never able to take possession of his see; the emperor had installed a canon named Lothaire as bishop of Liège.
Two months later, three German knights arrived in Rheims, intent on assassinating Albert. Pretending they were victims of the emperor’s injustice, they gained the trust Albert, who invited them to his house.
On November 24, 1192, when Albert had been at Rheims only ten weeks, he invited the three knights to accompany him on a visit to the Abbey of Saint-Remy. On the way, the knights attacked him with their swords killed him. The entire city of Rheims was horrified at crime, and Saint Albert was buried with honor in the cathedral.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 679-680. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Cecilia Virgin and Martyr (Second or Third Century)
When we discover that the story of Saint Cecilia is almost entirely apocryphal, our reaction is one of disappointment. Actually, there is no need to be disappointed, for such stories often grow up about one whose personality commands respect. Pious legends are evidently not without purpose.
Saint Cecilia as she is known through her legend is one of the most popular saints in Christian art and devotion, but of the real person history gives only a hint. In Rome, before parishes were organized, the churches of the city with their communities and priests and deacons were designated both geographically, according to Roman civil regions, and by “titles.” Among these titles existing in the fifth century was one in Region 14, across the Tiber, designated as “of Caecilia.” This Cecilia was therefore illustrious in some way, perhaps as a member of the prominent family of the Caecilii and donor of a house and property to the Church. Whatever the details of her position and liberality, Cecilia earned a special title of honor in the Christian community and the privilege of being buried beside popes and martyrs. The “title” remains to the present day: the Church of Saint Cecilia in Trastevere (that is, “across the Tiber”). So much for the facts; now for the legend, which was not slowly evolved as some legends are, but is a conscious literary production that appeared about the year 500.
Cecilia was a patrician girl of Rome who was reared as a Christian, although her father appears to have been a pagan. Cecilia fasted, did penance, and was determined to remain a virgin for the love of God. Her father, however, gave her in marriage to Valerian, a young patrician. On her marriage day, while the guests were singing and rejoicing, Cecilia sat apart singing to God in her heart and praying for a solution to her problem. That evening, summoning her courage, Cecilia approached her husband and told him that she had consecrated herself to God and that if he, Valerian, respected this, he too would be loved greatly by God. Cecilia also told him that she had an angel who protected her and her virginity. Valerian replied that if she would show the angel, he would respect her wishes. Cecilia told that if he believed in the one true God and would be baptized, he would see the angel. Valerian agreed to this and was sent to find a bishop called Urban who lived near Appian Way. Urban questioned Valerian on his belief God, and when the young man proved himself to be sincere Urban joyfully baptized him. Valerian returned to Cecilia found an angel standing by her side. The angel crowned both him and Cecilia with chaplets of roses and lilies. At this time Valerian’s brother, Tibertius, came to visit them, and he too was offered a crown if he would accept the one true God; he agreed and was baptized.
Valerian and Tibertius spent their days in good works burying the Christian victims of the persecutions and giving alms to the poor. They were arrested and brought before the prefect, but refused his command to worship Jupiter. They converted an officer of the prefect, a man who was inspired by their good example. The three men died being severely beaten, and were buried in the cemetery of Praetextatus. Cecilia was then arrested. None of the threats or promises of the prefect could move her constancy, and she was sentenced to be suffocated to death in the bath of her own house. But though the soldiers fed the furnace with seven times the amount of fuel normally used to the room, Cecilia remained unharmed for a day and a night. Finally, a soldier was sent to behead her. He struck at her neck three times and then left her still alive. She lived for three days, during which time she instructed and comforted the Christians who came to her side. She was buried in catacombs of Saint Callistus.
The veneration given to Cecilia by musicians is probably the result of the sentence in her story which describes her as singing psalms to herself on her wedding day. In the Middle Ages, it was somehow inferred from this that she played the organ. Whether she did or did not play a musical instrument need not be a necessary condition for this veneration. Cecilia’s whole life, as described by the legend, was a beautiful song offered to the divine source of her inspiration and love.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 680-683. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Clement I Pope and Martyr (First Century)
Saint Clement I has the happy distinction of being the first of the successors of Saint Peter of whom anything definite is known. Saint Irenaeus and Saint Jerome both asserted that Clement was the third successor of Saint Peter and that he was the pontiff during the last ten years of the first century. He is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass.
According to some authorities, Clement was a Jew; according to others, he was of the household of Flavius Clemens, the consul, but most modern scholars agree that both of these suppositions are unlikely. A tradition dating from the fourth century says that he was martyred.
Many writings have been attributed to him; the only authentic one is his Letter to the Corinthians. This was sent, about the year 96, to the Christians of Corinth, where sedition was occurring. The letter is admirable for its eloquence, dignity, and simplicity. Moreover, one can conclude from it that Clement was a Roman gentile, formed in the apostolic traditions, well-versed in the Old Testament but familiar also with Hellenistic culture and literature. He loved his fatherland and admired the order and discipline of the Roman way. A spirit of tranquility and gentleness seems to be the dominant trait of his character, but his letter also portrays a significant sense of authority. He writes as one conscious of his right and duty to warn, guide, and require submission. So great was the respect for Saint Clement’s letter that it was preserved, copied, translated into several languages, and sometimes bound with the apostolic letters of the New Testament.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 683-684. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Columban Abbot and Confessor (c 540 -c 615)
Columban an obstinate Irishman. His passionate devotion to Christ made him so. He was heroic in living the faith he believed in, and he had tremendous love for the customs of his country.
Columban was born in Ireland about 540, and as a young man entered the monastery of Bangor under the direction of Saint Comgall, an austere man who strongly believed in mortification and who exerted great influence on Columban. But along with the austere ideals, Saint Comgall inculcated principles of spirituality and missionary work, and from Bangor came in time a whole army of “exiles for God” to preach the gospel among the barbarian nations on the continent. Saint Columban became the initiator of these monastic and apostolic migrations.
With twelve companions he set out, about 590, across the Irish Sea to Great Britain, then across the Channel to Gaul. Following Saint Patrick’s policy, Columban appealed to the king of Burgundy, for his good will and protection. Having gained this he could more successfully evangelize the people. He established monasteries in Burgundy modeled after those in Ireland. The first of these were the monasteries of Annegray, Fontaines-en-Vosges, and Luxeuil. Others were built later at Coutances, Faremoutiers, Jouarre, Saint-Gall, and elsewhere. The strict rule he imposed on these monasteries was observed in Gaul until the rule of Saint Benedict replaced it.
From the monastery at Luxeuil came bishops and many missionaries. Columban himself was abbot there for years. In his stubborn, determined way, he attempted to impose virtuous living on the decadent Frankish courts and did not hesitate to reproach the bishops for not celebrating Easter on the same date as the Irish did. He also wrote the pope vehement letters when he felt it was necessary, describing himself in these as “the most timid of men” and signing himself “Columban the sinner.”
Columban was loved by many, although his extraordinary zeal and superhuman energy shocked·a few. The vindictive and domineering Queen Brunhild hated him and forced him to leave Burgundy about 610. Columban remained for some time in other parts of Gaul, then traveled eastward to Switzerland with a few companions, always preaching as he went. The king of the Lombards gave Colum ban the territory of Bobbio in Italy, where the monk built his last monastery in 614. There he lived as a hermit, but without forgetting his friends; he wrote his farewells to them in elegant verses. This exile for God, a great man both by nature and by grace, left this last solitude within a year to go home to God and his heavenly fatherland.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 684-686. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint John of the Cross Confessor and Doctor of the Church (1542-1591)
John was in love. So much in love that his passion moved the world and is still moving it. John of the Cross was a mystic. If we think of John as a lover, perhaps his mystical life will become less mysterious to our powers of understanding. John loved God. There is nothing unusual in this; God is easy to love. But John sought to know his Beloved, for love always wants to know. John used all his powers to win his Loved One; he left no act of heroism or courtesy undone, no gift or token ungiven. And God returned John’s love with the greatest gift that beloved can give to lover. He gave Himself. To John were given such graces that he tasted the joys of heaven while still on earth, and then ran never stopping for breath, all the way to heaven.
John was born in Fontiveros, near Avila, in Spain, in 1542. He was the son of a silk weaver. When he was twenty-one he became a Carmelite at Medina del Campo, receiving the name of John of Saint Matthias. He wished to be a lay brother but showed such brilliance in his theological studies that he was ordained a priest in 1567.
At this time Saint Teresa of Avila was in the process of reforming the Carmelites and, hearing of John’s holiness, visited him and urged him to found at Duruelo a house of Carmelite friars who would return to the original rule of 1209. John renewed his profession in 1568 and took the name of John of the Cross.
John inspired his fellow religious with his virtue of humility and his spirit of mortification. On the surface his austere penances must have looked frightening. In reality John was filled with joy, suffering for the One he so loved. But it was at this time that a state which is peculiar to great souls occurred. It would seem that God sent interior trials to John as a kind of purification for the magnificent time that was coming. God knew how much John could love, and He wanted all of it. John was filled with a spiritual dryness that included a distaste for spiritual exercises and a plague of scrupulosity. The devil attacked him with great temptations. These trials are described by John in one of his works, The Dark Night of the Soul. It was a trial followed by a period of light.
In 1572, John became the confessor of Saint Teresa, and was able to guide and counsel her because of his own mystical experiences.
Troubles arose between the reformed or discalced (“barefoot”) and the calced (shoe-wearing) Carmelites. Some of the older friars felt that the reform was a revolt against their approved traditions; and some of the friars of the reform were tactless and tended to overemphasize their powers. Contradictory orders began to be issued by the prior general and the papal nuncio. In 1577 John was ordered by the provincial of Castile to return to Medina del Campo. John refused, saying that he held his office from the papal nuncio and not from the order. He was seized, taken to Toledo, and imprisoned in a small cell. It was here that he wrote many of his poems. It was here also, in a small, dark cell, that the paradox of sanctity was again revealed; for John, forsaken by the world, gained everything a man can gain in the world. His mystical life reached a new peak, and his love of God brimmed over into the burning words of his poetry. His knowledge of divine love increased until he reached the where, in comparing divine with all earthly love, he could write: “The knowledge of the world is pure ignorance.” A similar experience of the supreme beauty and holiness God once made no less a person than Thomas Aquinas exclaim that all he himself had written was but straw!
After nine months at Toledo, John escaped. Soon after this he was made prior at Calvaria, then rector at the college of Baeza, and prior at Granada and Segovia.
Once more, however, differences of opinion in fundamental questions of the Carmelite reform brought John sufferings. He was literally forsaken by all his friends and completely misunderstood. He became ill and was ordered to go to the convent of Ubeda. The suffering was inevitable, and John embraced it joyfully. He had asked for it. He wished to share the mystery of the crucifixion; he was more in love than ever. He had not long to wait, however; his Beloved was soon satisfied. It was at Ubeda that John died less than three months later, on December 13, 1591. Typically enough, immediately after his death he was recognized as a saint and was honored by the clergy and laity who flocked to his funeral. His body was taken to Segovia where he had last been prior.
In 1926 John of the Cross was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church for his mystical writings. These include The Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Living Flame of Love, and The Spiritual Canticle.
John had asked to suffer. The explanation of this to a modern world is not so difficult as it may seem. In his own words John said he wished to be free–“free as the spirit of God is free.” He wanted to be full of freedom, this man, and so he sought to be filled with God, the source of all freedom. But the secret of Saint John’s life, as of Christianity itself, is love. ”Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8 ). “So by this mystical theology and this secret love, the soul goes forward, leaving all things and itself, and mounts to God. For love is like a fire of which the flame always mounts higher.” And he reminds us further that in the evening of life we will be judged on love.
Near the end of his life, when through love John of the Cross had reached the forecourt of heaven, he wrote these words: “For now my exercise is in loving alone. For even as in the consummation of marriage according to the flesh the two become one flesh, so when this spiritual marriage between God and the soul is consummated, there are two natures and one spirit and love of God.”
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 686-689. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria Virgin and Martyr (date unknown)
Saint Catherine’s popularity was at one time so great that her feast was kept as a holy day of obligation in some countries. She is honored as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and was said to have appeared with our Lady in a vision to Saint Dominic. Part of the great veneration paid her in France is due to the fact that she was one of the heavenly voices that Saint Joan of Arc heard.
Actually, nothing was written of Saint Catherine before the tenth century, and there is not, ·at the present time, single historical fact to support her story. It is in a fictional story, originally written in Greek and later expanded and embellished, that the widespread devotion finds its origin. It is said in this story that she belonged to a patrician family of Alexandria and was a very beautiful and studious girl. It was in the course of her studies that Catherine first learned of Christianity, and she was later converted by a vision our Lady and the Christ Child.
During the persecutions of Maxentius, the eighteen-year-old Catherine rebuked him publicly for his cruelty. Maxentius attempted to argue with Catherine, but her knowledge of philosophy was such that the embarrassed emperor sent for fifty philosophers to oppose the girl. These men were converted by Catherine–an unexpected development that infuriated the emperor and caused him to order all fifty to be burned to death. Maxentius then attempted to win Catherine by bribe; but to no avail. The emperor had the girl thrown into prison and then left on an inspection tour of his camps. On his return he discovered that his wife and an officer of the guard, together with two hundred of his soldiers, had visited Catherine out of curiosity and had been converted Christianity. Maxentitls had the entire group of converts slain and then ordered that Catherine be killed on a spiked wheel. When the saint was tied to this instrument of torture, her bonds were loosened miraculously and the wheel broke down, its spikes flying off and killing some of the spectators. In terror and fury, Maxentius had Catherine beheaded.
The story goes on to describe the burial of Saint Catherine by angels who carried her body to Mount Sinai. A church and a monastery were built on the site, and the alleged relics of the saint are still venerated there.
Scholars in general hold that the legend is completely unreliable. The ideal of Saint Catherine, however, has a positive effect and is in itself laudable.
Catherine is honored as the patroness of women students, philosophers, and wheelwrights. She is also the patron of young girls, and in France her feast is regarded as a propitious day for seeking a husband.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 689-691. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Leonard of Port Maurice Confessor (1676-1751)
Saint Leonard spent his life demonstrating to men the love of God. He is one of the most notable missionaries in the history of the Church.
Leonard Casanova was born in 1676 at Porto Maurizio on the Italian Riviera. As a young man he studied at the Roman College and then became a Franciscan at the friary of Saint Bonaventure on the Palatine Hill in Rome. Very soon after he was ordained in 1703, Leonard began his career as a missionary, spreading devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Conception. He particularly desired to have our Lady’s Immaculate Conception proclaimed an article of faith by the Holy See. Leonard propagated the devotion of the Stations of the Cross; he is said to have established the Stations in over five hundred places. He also restored the Colosseum as a place of devotion, erecting the stations within it. Everywhere he traveled, the saint made numerous conversions through his power of preaching and through the example of his own holiness. In spite of all activities, Saint Leonard was a prolific writer; his works on ascetical theology fill thirteen volumes.
In 1744, Leonard was sent to preach in Corsica , where, it was hoped, he could repeat his success by restoring the spirit of that island, which had been torn by political strife. The arduous journey, and the years spent in preaching to those who did not wish to hear, coupled with Leonard’s self-imposed, severe mortifications, damaged his health. In 1749 he was recalled to Rome by Pope Benedict XIV, to preach in preparation for the jubilee year of 1750. After this he again took up his travels, and preached at Lucca, Florence, Bologna, and other cities in the north. Returning to Rome in November 1751 he fell ill and died on the night after arrival at the friary of Saint Bonaventure, at the age of seventy-five.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 691-692. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint John Berchmans Confessor (1599-1621)
If I do not become a saint while I am young,” John Berchmans once wrote, “I shall never be one.” John was hurry, but the sanctity he attained was worth the rush.
John was born in the small Belgian town of Diest in 1599. His parents were very poor, and his father, a shoemaker and leather tanner, depended on John to help his mother in the household tasks. John’s responsibility as the eldest child increased as four other children were born into the Berchmans family. Inclined to prayer form the time he was a very small boy, John, when he was but seven years old, would sometimes serve three Masses in the morning before going to school. His devotion to our Lady, which was to remain with all his life, began in childhood.
John did so well in his studies that his father wanted him to attend the Latin school in the town. But the boy kept so busy caring for his younger brothers and sisters at home, and helping his mother, who had become a chronic invalid, that he could not devote enough time to the preparation of his studies.
Father Peter van Emmerich, a Premonstratensian priest, offered to take John into his house as a servant. In this way the boy could earn his board and lodging and be supervised in his studies. John remained as a student-servant for three years, applying himself to his studies with perseverance. His enthusiasm and happy disposition make him beloved by all who knew him.
When John was thirteen his father suffered a serious financial setback. He told his son that he would have to leave his studies and learn a trade, but John begged to be allowed to go on with his work, for he wanted to be a priest. Finally, his father permitted him to live as a servant in the house of John Froymont, a cathedral canon at Mechlin. Here, John attended classes at the archepiscopal seminary and worked with his usual application. He was one of the first students to enter the Jesuit college at Mechlin when it was founded in 1615. One year later he entered the Jesuit novitiate. In 16I7, shortly after taking his first vows, he journeyed to Rome on foot, to study at the Roman College.
As a novice, John’s joyful extravagance in devotion to our Lady was apparent to his superiors. In his spiritual journal he once wrote: “If I love our Lady, my salvation and my perseverance in my vocation are assured. Then I shall be able to obtain from God whatever I wish to ask for, I shall be well-nigh all powerful.”
There was nothing extraordinary in his life as the world might view it. Like another saint who was to live after him, he chose the “little way” to sanctity. He made it a point to “set great store by little things.” His motto was: “Do what you do wholeheartedly.” Like Saint Thérése of Lisieux, John sought spiritual childhood.
His influence on his brother novices was so enormous that they often vied with one another for places near him in the chapel. Great things were happening in the young man’s soul as he fell deeper and deeper in love with God. At the same time he was so cheerful and gay that the others called him Brother Hilary (from the Latin word hilarius, merry or gay). His disposition led people to take advantage of his cheerful willingness, and this led to a fatal illness.
During the first week of August in 1621, Rome was suffering the hottest period of the summer. John was asked to show the churches of Rome to a visiting priest, to defend in public some theses on natural philosophy, and to accompany a brother on a pilgrimage to one of the shrines. These assignments he performed with his usual cheerfulness; but on August 7, John Berchmans collapsed; six days later he died.
He died with his eyes fixed on his crucifix, with his rosary and the book of rules in his hands. Two days before, he had declared: “These are my three dearest treasures, and with them I would gladly die.” He was twenty-two years old.
John Berchmans was beatified in 1865 and canonized in 1886, and is held up as a worthy model and patron of Catholic youth.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 692-695. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Blessed Leonard Kimura and Companions Martyrs (-1619)
Twenty thousand people watched them die. The five victims were burned to death at five stakes on a raised platform overlooking the sea. That day in 1619, in Nagasaki, Japan, the martyrs amazed the crowd with their constancy and courage under torture. Three of them were native Japanese, one a Korean, the other a Portuguese. All but one of them were laymen.
One of the Japanese was Leonard Kimura, a Jesuit lay brother who, because of his humility, had not wished to be ordained. Leonard had been brought up by the Jesuit Fathers and had entered the Society when he was seventeen. He was forty-five years old at the time of his death and had spent most. of his life instructing his countrymen in Christianity. He continued this work during his two-and-a-half years in prison, managing to find means to baptize ninety-six of his fellow prisoners. The other four men had been arrested for aiding and harboring Catholic priests.
After their deaths, the charred remains of the martyrs were thrown into the sea, but some of the Christians were able to secure some fragments which they could venerate as relics. These men are among the 205 Japanese martyrs beatified in 1867 by Pope Pius IX.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 695-696. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Blessed James Thompson Martyr (-1582)
I have forgotten one thing. I pray you all to bear witness that I die in the Catholic faith.” The executioner’s cart was drawn away and the body of the condemned man swung from the gibbet. But spectators observed that in his last agony he was able to make the sign of the cross.
James Thompson was a native of York, England. In 1580, he journeyed to Rheims to study for the priesthood. While he was in France his health broke down, and he was quickly ordained through a special dispensation. Within the same year he returned to England. Using the alias of ”Hudson,” he worked for only a year before he was arrested and brought before the queen’s Council of the North, the royal tribunal at York.
James admitted at once that he was a priest, so he was tried as a papist suspected of plotting against Her Majesty’s government. James was found guilty and condemned to death. He spent three months in prison, then on November 28, 1582, was hanged after having made his declaration of faith. The martyr was buried beneath the gallows.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 696. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Blessed Cuthbert Mayne Martyr (-1544-1577)
He was offered his liberty the day before his execution; if he would swear to the queen’s ecclesiastical supremacy he would be free. Cuthbert Mayne asked for a Bible, kissed it, and said: ”The queen neither ever was nor is nor ever shall be the head of the Church of England.”
Cuthbert Mayne was the first martyr who had been trained in an English seminary on the continent, the fifteenth priest sent out from there. He was born in 1544 near Barnstaple, Devonshire, of Protestant parents. He studied at Oxford University and was ordained a Protestant minister although he had neither the inclination nor the preparation for this role. It is said that he was influenced by his uncle, who was an apostate priest. One of his companions at Oxford was Edmund Campion who, after his own conversion to Catholicism, left England for a seminary in France and then, through his letters, persuaded Cuthbert to join him.
Cuthbert was received into the Church at Douai and, after studying for three years, was ordained a priest. He was then sent to Cornwall, England, in 1576, but was arrested at Golden, near Truro, and tried for treason. He was declared guilty and sentenced to death. Cuthbert was hanged at Launceston, Cornwall, on November 29, 1577. His beatification was declared by Pope Leo XIII.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 697. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.
Saint Andrew Apostle (New Testament)
Andrew hurried to tell his brother the news. He had met and talked with Christ, had heard John the Baptist say, “Behold the Lamb of God!” and had been enlightened enough to comprehend the preeminence of our Lord. These were the things he wished to share with his brother, Simon Peter. With what enthusiasm he must have said, “We have found the Messiah!”
Andrew was a native of Bethsaida, Galilee, on the banks of Lake Genesareth. Like his father, Jona, he was a fisherman. After he had heard Saint John the Baptist preaching penance, Andrew became his disciple. It is because of this fact that we are able to know something of Andrew’s personality; for in order to become a disciple of John, he must have had in some degree the qualities that were the Baptist’s. Saint John was an acknowledged leader of men, a zealous lover of God, and a man of deep humility. These qualities must have been mirrored in Andrew.
After Andrew’s first meeting with the Savior, he and Peter became disciples of Christ even though they did not follow Him constantly. They went to hear Him speak as often as they could, when they were not occupied with their fishing. But one day Christ called them permanently to His side. Finding them at work pulling their nets from the waters of the lake, Christ bade them leave all this and come follow Him. And so they did. They became fishers of men, casting their nets of grace into a sea of sinners and offering the fruit of their toil to the Son of God.
In the New Testament we find Andrew faithful to Christ and leading others to Him. There is the incident of the gentile strangers in Jerusalem who, longing to meet Christ, were timidly holding back, fearing the rebuff that was common when gentile met Jew. They first spoke to Philip, Andrew’s friend, but it was Andrew who brought them to the Master. And it was Andrew who, at the time of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, pointed out to Christ the boy with the small basket of food.
After the death and resurrection of Christ, Andrew waited with the other apostles the coming of the Holy Spirit. The New Testament has nothing further to say about Andrew, but some early historians state that he preached the gospel in Scythia and Greece.
On the strength of this tradition, Saint Andrew is the patron of Russia, for Scythia was the territory of a savage nomadic tribe that occupied sections of Europe and Asia that are now included in Russia. He is honored also as patron of Scotland. It is not said that the saint preached in Scotland, but legend does tell the story of a Saint Regulus, a native of Patras in Greece, who had in his care the relics of Saint Andrew and who had been told by an angel to convey them to a place “toward the end of the earth” in a northwesterly direction. Regulus did so, stopping at a place in Scotland at a sign given by the angel. The spot was thereafter called Saint Andrew’s, and a church was built to shelter the relics.
The apocryphal account of Andrew’s death says that he was crucified at Patras in Achaea (a province of the peninsula that forms part of the mainland of Greece). He was nailed to the cross but bound to it by ropes. From this he preached to the people for two days before he died. traditional belief that the cross was X-shaped did not popular until the fourteenth century.
Saint Andrew is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass in the Liberanos, the prayer which follows the Pater The latter commemoration is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great’s devotion to the apostle.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 698-700. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.