July 1 Venerable Thomas Maxfield Martyr (c 1590-1616)

Tyburn Gallows was, in the space of six hundred years, the scene of more than fifty thousand executions. From Newgate Prison and from the Tower of London the victims came, peers and commoners, priests and murderers, thieves and children.  The gallows is gone.  Today there stands at Tyburn a monument, and not far from there is Tyburn convent.  Tyburn Tree, as the gallows was called, has become a shrine.

Here was the shame of England and in a larger sense the glory of England, the glory of her holy martyrs. Along with common criminals, there suffered at Tyburn 105 men and women, martyred for their faith under the reigns of Henry, James, and Elizabeth.  Among them was Thomas Maxfield.

Thomas was born in the county of Stafford, about the year 1590, of devout Catholic parents. His father, in fact, was sentenced to death for harboring priests.  Thomas studied at Douay, the English college in northern France, and returned to England as a priest in 1615.

Within three months he was arrested in London after saying Mass and was taken to the Gatehouse at Westminster. After an unsuccessful attempt to escape, he was placed in a filthy dungeon and locked for four days in the stocks, unable either to stand or lie down.  Transferred to Newgate jail, he brought two felons to repentance before his trial.  Refusing to recognize King James as the head of the Church, although declaring allegiance to him as a temporal ruler, Thomas was condemned to death.

In spite of the intervention of the Spanish ambassador, he was taken to the scaffold at Tyburn on the morning of July 1, 1616. He was followed by a large crowd, among them many Spaniards who decked the gallows with garlands and covered the ground about it with leaves and sweet-smelling herbs.  In opposition to the orders of the sheriff, the bystanders insisted that he be hanged until dead, thus sparing him the horror of being disembowelled and dismembered alive.

English Catholics, and even non-Catholics, are beginning to realize that the death of men like Thomas Maxfield is not so much to the shame as to the honor of England. These men were patriots who  truly loved England.  They loved her too well to stay away from her shores, as they might have done.  They loved her too well to disavow her glorious past as Protectress of the Church, at the demand of a tyrant king or a tyrant mob.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  369-370.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

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July 2 Saint Otto Bishop and Confessor (1060-1139)

At a time when loyalties were divided between pope and emperor, Saint Otto was trusted by both. At a time when the issue of lay investiture had reached an explosive point, Saint Otto quietly and effectively strove to maintain peace in the Church.

Born in Swabia in 1060, of noble parents, Otto was ordained priest and entered the household of Duke Ladislas of Poland. In 1090 he entered the service of Emperor Henry IV, and in 1101 was made chancellor.

The struggle grew between the Holy See and the emperor over the right to appoint and invest bishops. Finally, Henry went so far as to break with Rome and support an antipope.  Otto sided with his ruler in temporal matters, but refused to approve the schism or to recognize the emperor’s right to invest bishops.

When Henry V, who continued the schism, appointed him bishop of Bamberg, Otto refused to be invested by schismatic prelates. In 1105 he traveled with the emperor’s party to Italy and was consecrated by Pope Paschal II in Anagni.

Amid the tensions of tyrants and wars, he went calmly about his episcopal duties, establishing religious foundations, improving the cathedral school, building churches, and trying to heal the breach between pope and emperor. His main concern was for the monks, and he was responsible for founding over twenty monasteries, thus meriting the title ”Father of Monks.”

In the year 1120, Duke Boleslas III of Poland asked Otto to come to Pomerania to preach among the pagan people who had come under his rule. Obtaining a commission from Pope Honorius II for that purpose, and with permission from the emperor, Otto traveled to Pomerania with several priests and catechists.  Over twenty thousand people are said to have been baptized before he returned to Bamberg a year later, leaving priests behind to continue his work.  Many miracles were reported on this trip.  Returning to Bamberg, Otto took up again with zeal his duties as prince-bishop, and there he died on June 30, 1139.· Saint Otto is invoked against rabies, and in art he is often pictured with a dog.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  370-371.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

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July 3 Blessed Ramón Lull Martyr (c 1235-1316)

Blessed Ramón might be described as a saintly sort of Don Quixote. Armed only with the weapons of determination and boundless enthusiasm, doomed to failure in most of his earthly endeavors, he lived a life that stands as a challenge to complacency.  His is one of the strangest stories in Christendom.

Born in Palma on the island of Majorca about 1235, he was a wealthy, talented, ardent young man, and married very young. Although he had a charming wife and two children, he was an incorrigible amorist, pursuing every pretty face that attracted him.  At the age of thirty, while busily engaged in writing an ode to his latest love, Ramón suddenly saw beside him the figure of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross.  This incident recurred five separate times before he was fully influenced by it.

For Ramón Lull, there could be no half measures. Here was a cause worthy of the fullest sacrifice.  This young courtier at the court of King James of Aragon renounced his rights, provided for his family, gave the rest of his wealth to the poor, and spent the next nine years studying Arabic.  His aim was nothing less than the conversion of Islam.

From the beginning he understood the necessity of establishing Catholic religious centers to train missionaries for the new campaign. He was convinced it was the only way to deal with this alien culture of which the average Western theologian knew next to nothing.  He founded a school in Majorca and, later, taught in Paris.  Little came of his efforts, however, until the last years of his life, when in 1311-1312 the Council of Vienne decreed the establishment of the study of Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, and Chaldean at the universities of Oxford, Paris, Bologna, and Salamanca.

Determined from the time of his conversion to become a missionary to the infidel, he appealed for help in Rome in 1277, in Paris in 1286, in Genoa in 1290, always with the hope of getting to Africa and preaching in Tunis. Rejected by the Dominicans, he was finally accepted by the Franciscans as a tertiary and sailed for Africa.

About 1292 he realized his dream of preaching in the streets of Tunis, but after much ill treatment he was deported to Naples. After another unsuccessful bid for papal support, he went back to preach among the Barbary Moors in 1306, but he was again cruelly imprisoned and deported.  Between these missionary efforts and in fact until the end of his life he wore himself out in endless traveling, meetings, and written appeals for a strong Crusade to regain the Holy Land, and for a concerted effort on the part of the Church to face the challenge of Islam.  He made a third trip to Africa at the age of 80.  He was stoned at Bougie in Algeria, and died on June 30, 1316, of the injuries he received.

Believing emphatically in the conversion of the Moors through logic, he carried on a literary activity that was incredible. Over three hundred works are attributed to him, most of which are written in Latin, but some in Arabic and some in Catalan.  In his eagerness to refute the Moslem errors, he often went to opposite extremes, and many of his philosophic works have been thought deserving of censure.  His inspirational writings on prayer and devotion, however, rank high.  His Life of Contemplation has been called a predecessor to the works of Saint John of the Cross and Teresa, and he has been compared with Saint Bonaventure.  In his Life of Contemplation one reads the reflections of a soul filled with courage and generosity, extravagant qualities that were channeled by grace into sanctity.

In trying to explain Ramón Lull, one is left with a strange feeling of inadequacy. He failed, yet he cannot simply be dismissed as a failure; his aims were too vast for any one man to accomplish.  His canonization was discouraged when his cause was introduced in the seventeenth century, but his popularity does not die.  There is something in his life that stirs the imagination and shatters complacency.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  372-374.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

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July 4 Saint Ulric Bishop and Confessor (890-973)

Saint Ulric’s father was a man of influence. He was Count Hucbald, and his wife, Thietberga, was the daughter of one of the first dukes of Swabia. Their influence undoubtedly had something to do with their son’s being nominated by Henry the Fowler, king of Germany, to the bishopric of Augsberg, the diocese where he had been born, a nomination that was made even before he was ordained.

But if his parents were pleased with this arrangement, Ulric himself might have preferred it otherwise. He had no desire for power. He placed the army, for which he was responsible as a prince of the empire, in the hands of his nephew, Richwin, devoting himself to the spiritual functions of his office.

He gave alms to the poor, visited the sick instructed, preached, and sought to improve the low moral and social standards of the clergy. He was especially active in building churches, making the blessing of religion more accessible to the common people. His piety and charity served to comfort the people of the diocese, which was ravaged by civil war and invasions.

In his last illness he asked to be laid on ashes strewn on the floor in the form of a cross, and died amid the prayers of the clergy on July 4, 973. Thus, Ulric is one of the many Christian examples of the good use of power and authority—an example just as useful today as in the tenth century.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  374-375.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 5 Saint Anthony Mary Zaccaria Confessor (1502-1539)

The early period of the Protestant Revolt, before the Council of Trent had worked out a plan for the reform within the Church and organized for defense against the new enemy outside, was one of the saddest periods of the Church’s history. Northern Italy was in a deplorable condition. Frequent wars had devasted the country. The Lutheran soldiery had ransacked the countryside, leaving plague and famine in the wake. Spiritual life was at a low ebb, and the clergy were often lax, if not immoral.

But, always, when the spirit of the Church seems near to suffocation, revival seems to spring from within her. Saint Anthony was called to be the father of one of those religious families which arose in such numbers during the sixteenth century to repair the ruins of the house of God.

Anthony’s father died while he was very young, and his mother compensated for this loss by inculcating in Anthony a love of God and a special love of the poor. The boy was always allowed to take charge of dispensing his mother’s alms. After graduating with distinction from the school of medicine at the University of Padua, he decided he was meant to heal souls as well as bodies, and in 1528 was ordained a priest.

So successful was Anthony’s ministry to souls and bodies that he was sent to the plague-stricken city of Milan. There he founded an order of priests to minister to the needs of the people and to provide a counterattack against Lutheran propaganda. He also directed the organization of a group of women called the Angelicals, who worked for the protection and rescue of girls who had fallen into evil ways. Anthony’s order of priests was called the Clerks Regular of Saint Paul, but they are better known as the Barnabites, from the name of their motherhouse, the Church of Saint Barnabas.

In addition, to his other duties, Anthony walked about the streets of Milan with a crucifix in his hand, preaching for a return to sanctity. The city, desolate and war-torn, responded eagerly to his words of hope, and there was a religious revival. He especially urged devotion to the Eucharist and it is believed that he may have originated the Forty Hour’s Devotion.

Perhaps the secret of Anthony’s sanctity can be read in one of his own saying: “It belongs to great hears to desire to serve with recompense, to do battle without pay and without assured provisions.” The Lord in whose service he was, was Christ crucified.

In 1539, worn out by his fasting and ministry, he became very ill, and had himself taken to his native city, Cremona, where he died in the arms of this mother at the age of thirty-seven. Twenty-seven years after his death, his body was found to be still incorrupt.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  375-377.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 6 Saint Maria Goretti Virgin and Martyr (1890-1902)

At the dawn of the century stand a child. Before the century is half over, her name appears in the roll of saints. Maria—her name is symbol of purity, her emblem the lily.

Maria Goretti was born in 1890 at Corinaldo, a village in the north of Italy. It was a bright, sunny place, where her parents found joy in their work. Her father, Luigi Goretti, was a farm laborer, and his mother Assunta, an unlearned orphan. They were very poor, but they loved each other deeply and counted their wealth in their six children.

Reluctantly, Luigi took has family to the Pontine Marshes, southeast of Rom, to work as a tenant farmer. Lofe would not be so pleasant there. It was swampy, and they would need to share a house with his partner, Giovanni Serenill, and his son Alessandro. But perhaps there would be more food for the children. Assunta comforted her worried husband, “We will still have each other.”

But there was not more food; the work was backbreaking and unprofitable. And soon they did not even have each other. In 1900, overworked and stricken by the malaria which infested the marshes, Luigi died.

With a heavy hear, Assunta took upon her own shoulders the work which had killed her husband. It was a task she could not have accomplished except for the help of her daughter. Maria took over the work of the house, caring for her brothers and sisters, cooking, washing, and sewing for both families.

The harder Assunta worked, the larger their debts seemed to grow. Maria did not add to her mother’s worries. She did not tell her mother that she was afraid of the son of her father’s partner; the way he looked at her, and the things he said. Maria kept her fears to herself, and Assunta did not suspect that the nineteen-year-old Alessandro regarded her daughter as anything but a twelve-year-old child.

Maria herself could not know how immediate her danger was. She could not know that Alessandro, in his anger at her rebuffs, had fashioned a dagger, sharp and slender, over nine inches long. This would be his final argument.

On a hot afternoon in July 1902, Maria was working quietly at home, mending a shirt, when Alessandro came back alone from the fields and dragged her into the kitchen. There were only two choices, submission to his lustful desires or death. For Maria there was no wavering. Assunta had done her work well. Her child’s fear of the knife was not nearly so intense as her fear for the soul of Alessandro. Half-maddened by her determination, he struck her again and again. Amid her screams, there were not please for herself, only for him. “No, no, you must not! You will go to hell.” She cried it over and over, until she would cry no longer, and Alessandro fled into his bedroom.

Maria was carried quickly to the hospital to Nettuno, but it was evident that could not live. She suffered two deaths really. First there was the terror of the plunging knife and violent struggle, and now there was the slow painful death, continuing over twenty-four hours. She suffered terribly from the thirst and, because she was bleeding internally, it could not be assuaged. She met the regretful refusal of water with gentle resignation, remembering the thirst of the crucified Savior.

She was concerned solely for her sorrowing mother, and the children who would have no one to care for them. There was only one thing more necessary for a perfect death, and she gave it with all of her heart. She answered the priest’s question simply, “Yes, for the love of Jesus, I forgive him . . . and want him to be in paradise with me.” She received the last sacraments with childlike reverence and died after kissing the cross her mother had placed in her hands.

Alessandro, being so young, was spared the death penalty, and was sentenced to thirty years in prison. For eight years he was bitter, sullen, silent, still hating the little girl who had refused him. Then he had a dream. He seemed to see Maria with her arms laden with lilies. At first, he shrank from her, but she smiled and gave him the flowers, which, one by one, seemed to turn to pure white flames and consume themselves. At last he repented. He declared that he hoped for heaven because a saint was praying for him.

After his release Alessandro went to Assunta to be forgiven. The mother and the murderer knelt side by side to receive Communion near the shrine built in Maria’s honor. After testifying, as only he could, to the perfect innocence of Maria, at the inquiry for her beatification, Alessandro became Brother Stephano. He worked as a laybrother in the garden of the Capuchin friar at Ascoli Piceno.

On June 24, 1947, Mria Goretti was solemnly canonized before the largest crowd that had ever gathered at that time to witness such an event. Assunta was the first woman ever to be present at the canonization of her own child, and the great square rang with cries of “Viva la Mamma!” as she passed along.

The proud, sophisticated world kneels humbled and awed at the shrine of a saint who preached no sermon and saw no visions. It was not by accident that this saint of the twentieth century was Maria, dedicated to the Holy Virgin, martyred for the virtue of purity.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  377-380.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 7 Saints Cyril and Methodius Bishops and Confessors (827-869), (826-885)

In 862, an ambassador from Moravia came to Constantinople to ask for missionaries to teach in a Slavic language. The Eastern emperor was delighted at this opportunity to counterbalance Western influence in a land were German missionaries were already active. He had in Constantinople tow men who were ideally suited for the work: Cyril, a priest with missionary experience, and his brother Methodius, a monk.

They belonged to a senatorial family of Thessalonica, but their mother was probably a Slav. Both spoke Slavonic. In preparation for their work, Cyril invented a Slavic alphabet and, with the help of Methodius, translated the Gospels and certain liturgical works into Slavonic.

Since they preached in the language of the people, they were immediately successful. However, they aroused the suspicion and resentment of the Latin bishops. Since they had no one to ordain new priests, they went to Rome, where they were consecrated bishops. There on February 14, 869, Cyril died.

Having been consecrated bishops, Methodius returned to Maravia with a letter from the Holy See authorizing the liturgical and scriptural use of Slavonic. But this did not solve all his problems. Urged on by the Western emperor, the Latin clergy brough Methodius before a synod in 870. He was kept in a monastery for two years before Pope John VIII had him released, and the pope now found it necessary to restrict the use of Slavonic to preaching.

In 878 he was sent to the Holy See, charged with heresy and with celebrating Mass in Slavonic. He was cleared of heresy, the Slav liturgy was again deemed desirable, and he returned to his people. During the last four years of his life, he completed the Slavonic translation of the Bible (except the Books of Machabees). On April 6, 885, he died, worn out by his apostolic labors and by the opposition of those who failed to understand and approve his wise ideals and methods.

These two brothers were inspirational with the vernacular liturgy. To the Slavic peoples, Cyril and Methodius are their most honored apostles. By their intercession at the throne of God they remain powerful patrons. As Catholics of the Eastern Church who worked in close co-operation with Rome, they are regarded as particularly suitable patrons of Church unity and of works to bring about the reunion of the schismatic churches of the East.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  380-381.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 8 Saint Elizabeth of Portugal Queen and Holy Woman (c 1271-1336)

Elizabeth was the daughter of King Pedro III of Aragon, the granddaughter of Emperor Frederick II, and the wife of King Denis of Portugal; but she wore her crown lightly and, like the biblical Esther, found no delight in the wealth and grandeur of her position. She gave her heart to prayer and penance and her energy to the poor.

Her husband may have been a just, brave and generous king, but he was a poor husband. Elizabeth bore his unfaithfulness silently, praying always for his soul, and caring for his illegitimate children as if they were her own In the end, her sweetness and cheerfulness won his repentance, and he had a most edifying death.

One story of his conversion includes a near miracle. Believing a story of an evil-speaking page, King Denis arranged for the murder of his supposed rival for the queen’s affection. By mistake, the accuser was thrown into the limekiln instead of his intended victim, and Elizabeth’s honor was vindicated. This story actually has no basis in fact but does mirror the intrigues with which the queen was continually surrounded. Her good example rankled consciences and won her enemies in the immoral court.

They had two children, Alfonso and Constantia. The son, Alfonso, so resented the favors shown to the king’s illegitimate sons that he rebelled, and war was declared between him and his father. Elizabeth rode in person between the two armies, reconciled the father and son, and thus began to earn her title, “the Peacemaker.”

She continually used her family connections in the cause of peace. She stopped or verted war between Ferdinand IV of Castile and his cousin, who claimed the crown, and between that prince and her own brother, James II of Aragon.

Her husband died in 1325 and, after making a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James of Compostella, she became a tertiary of Saint Francis, living in a house next to a convent of Poor Clares that she had founded. She spent her days of Poor Clares that she had founded. She spent her days supporting and protecting large numbers of poor people.

The last act of her life was again that of a peacemaker. In 1336 her son, now Alfonso IV, marched his army against the king of Castile, who had mistreated his wife, Alfonso’s daughter. Although ill, Elizabeth made the tiring journey to Estremoz to put an end to the conflict. After bringing about a lasting peace between the two, Elizabeth died in peace on July 4, 1336. She was buried at Coimbra, which became the scene of many miracles attributed to her intercession.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  382-383.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 9 Saint Thomas More Martyr (1478-1535)

Sir Thomas More was born to be spoiled. He had all the gift for it—wit, appearance, learning, and a flair for making friends. But he was not rich and had to make his own way.

His success story has a familiar ring to it. It is only the dates that keep him from sounding like a contemporary politician. His father, Sir John More, was a judge on the King’s Bench and sent his son to study the classics at Oxford and then law at New Inn and Lincoln’s Inn. Having become a renowned lawyer, Thomas was elected to Parliament in 1504. In 1510 he was appointed under-sheriff of London, in 1518 sub-treasurer to Henry VIII, and in 1521 he was knighted. He was chosen speaker of the House of Commons in 1523, and in 1529 became lord chancellor of England in succession Cardinal Wolsey. He was also a literary sensation; is book Utopia was a best-seller.

There was every reason for him to be caught in the tide of ambition which swirled on every side. He was hardly the sort of man the world would have marked for martyrdom.

It seems incredible that a man in his position could have seen things so clearly. It had always been undersood that “the king is under Goad and the law.” The monarchy, though strong, was limited by the rights of the Magna Carta, the rights of the Church, the nobles, and the Commons. There was a division of power-Caesar’s and God’s. Thomas More saw that Henry VIII was seeking step by step to end that division of power. The king concentrated all power, secular and spiritual, in his own hands. He overrode traditional rights and safeguards, and judicially murdered those who sought to keep his will within limits.

All the native English bishops, save only John Fisher of Rochester, gave way before the demands of the king, hoping vaguely that the storm would pass, the favor of Anne Boleyn would fall, and they would remain to put the Church back in its rightful place. Where did More find the courage and the insight that others, seemingly more saintly, lacked?

There is no secret about it. More was from his youth a man of prayer. While he studied at Lincoln’s Inn he lived a life of complete austerity with the Carthusians. Even after marriage, his prayer and penance continued. He wore a hairshirt all of his life. Such austerity was unusual in Henry’s luxurious court. His wife was so horrified that she tried to have the penance banned by his confessor, and his merry little daughter-in-law, seeing a corner of the shirt sticking out as he sat at dinner without his collar, had an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

Laughter was a plentiful commodity in that house. It was perhaps the merriest household in all of England. In 1505 Thomas had married Miss Jane Colt, and they had four children, Margaret, Elizabeth, Cecilia, and John. In 1511 Jane died, still quite young herself.

Being left with four children, all under five years of age, More almost immediately married Alice Middleton, a widow several years his senior, to provide a mother’s care for his children. She was kind, full of common sense, and about the only fault she can be accused of is that she rarely understood her husband’s jokes. More lived with her as happily as if she had all the charms of youth.

The house at Chelsea was never empty. In time, beside the son and three daughters there were their husbands and wife, and many grandchildren. The Mores were never without guests. The most brilliant figures of the day gathered in their home. Among the most frequent guests was More’s very dear friend, the humanist scholar Erasmus. Even the king enjoyed dropping in on the family unexpectedly, sharing dinner with them, and walking in the garden, arm-in-arm with his chancellor.

There is no doubt that More enjoyed life to the fullest. But from the day he took the chancellorship, he knew that form of life was threatened. He took the position only with the understanding that he would not be asked to involve himself in Henry’s matrimonial difficulties. When it became clear that Henry would break with Rome, More asked to be relieved of his position because of his health. He was well aware that Cromwell was coming into political pwer and that Anne Boleyn was plotting against him.

He had not long to wait. On April 12, 1534, More was asked to present himself the next day at Lambeth Palace to take the Oath of Succession. He was perfectly willing to swear to support the succession of Anne’s children, but when he found that he was also required to repudiate the pope, he refused to answer question; as the law stood, he could not be condemned for silence, only for actual speech against the king.

Suddenly, all of his privileges were denied him. His writing materials, even his books, were taken away. He was questioned more frequently. Bishop Fisher, having been tricked into speaking his opinion, had been executed. It was obviously hoped that the same would happen to More.

At the trial, which followed a few days after Fisher’s execution, More continued to refuse to discuss the matter. He felt that he was a weak person that, if he were presumptuous in forcing his own martyrdom, he might weaken when faced with death.

Only after his condemnation was certain did More state his position for the record. He reminded the court of the right of the Magna Carta, and that the King had, at his coronation, sworn to uphold the rights of the Church. He said, “No more might this realm of England refuse obedience to the See of Rome than might a child refuse obedience to his natural father.”

If More had once been afraid for his constancy, all fears were gone now. His death was in perfect accord with a devout and gay-hearted life. He jested with the lieutenant of the Tower, rallied the nervous executioner, and moved his beard away from the path of the axe, saying that it, at least had committed no treason.

He died on July 6, 1535, declaring for the last time that he was, “The King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  383-387.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 10 Saint Peter Vincioli Abbot and Confessor (1007)

Among the treasures that Perugia offers for the admiration of tourists, art-lovers, and historians is the Church of St. Peter. Most of its art works—pictures, choir-books, and carved chars and stall—date from the Renaissance, but the building itself we owe to Saint Peter Vincioli. In his day an ancient cathedral stood there; it was already four hundred years old and in a dilapidated condition, and had been abandoned because it was outside the walls of the city.

Peter, a priest of the city, begged the bishop for permission to restore it. The marble and granite columns one sees today are the original columns, which Peter preserved and re-used. Providence kept watch over this work, and on one occasion a column stood firm though its supporting ropes gave way, and a mason who fell from the scaffold remained uninjured.

This peaceful work went on in the midst of widespread troubles. Political strife and military expeditions brought misery all around. The holiness of Peter won the people some relief when he was able to persuade the German emperor to withdraw his army, and to save from the cruelty of the civil authorities’ certain criminals who sought refuge with him. To care for the church he had saved, he established a Benedictine community. Peter himself was saved from his enemies by the people of Perugia, for whom he had always been a model of holiness and charity.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  387-388.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 11 Saint Oliver Plunket Bishop and Martyr (1629-1681)

Oliver Plunket was the last of the Tyburn martyrs, the persecution being called to a halt the very day after his death. He was the first Irish priest of this group to be beatified, then canonization occurring in 1975.

In a time of persecutions separated by periods of so-called tolerance, Oliver was able to pursue his duties as archbishop of Armagh in Ireland for several years. There were periods when he could work openly, and there were other times when his home was the field and his work done in secret, while he traveled with a price on his head.

Born at Loughcrew, County Meath, Ireland, in 1629, he was connected by birth with the recently ennobled families, the earls of Roscommon and Fingall, as well as Lords Louth and Dunsany. In 1645 he went to Rome to study for the priesthood and was ordained in 1654. For twelve years he held a chair of theology in the College of Propaganda at Rome. In March of 1669 he was name archbishop of Armagh, primate of all Ireland.

In Ireland he worked untiringly. In three months, he had confirmed 10,000 persons, for the country had been without a bishop for many years. In 1673 he was able to announce that in the past four years he had confirmed no less than 48,566 people. He legislated against abuses among clergy and laity, furthered education, ordained priests, preached to the “tories” of Ulster, who had taken an outlawry as a resort, and worked in hiding for two years when persecutions began anew in 1673.

In 1678 the conspiracy called the Oates Plot, which attempted to prove that a rebellion was brewing in Ireland, caused panic in England. An order of expulsion was made against bishops and priests, and the people were encouraged to “make any further discover of the horrid popish plot.” Several excommunicated priests gave testimony against Blessed Oliver. When the Irish courts discredited the testimony, he was taken to England, where the witnesses were not so well known.

After nine months of imprisonment and two trials, Oliver was finally convicted of levying a tax on his clergy to support seventy thousand men for an armed revolution, and for plotting to bring twenty thousand French soldiers into the country.

Judge Pemberton left no doubt as to the real reason for Plunket’s conviction when, before passing sentence, he declared, “. . . the bottom of your treason was your setting up of your false religion . . . a greater crime cannot be committed against God than for a man to endeavor the propagation of that religion.” The jury returned within fifteen minutes with a guilty verdict and Archbishop Plunkett replied: “Deo Gratias” (Latin for “Thanks be to God”).

Plunket was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on July 1, 1981, after praying for the king and for his own enemies. Only one day later the bubble of the conspiracy broke. Lord Shaftsbury, the chief instigator of the persecution, was consigned to the Tower, and his perjured witness, Titus Oates was thrown into jail.

Blessed Oliver was buried in the churchyard of Saint-Giles-in-the-Fields but the body was moved, two hundred years later, to Downside Abbey, where it has remained as an object of veneration. The martyr’s head is preserved in the Dominican convent in Drogheda.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  388-390.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 12 Saint Veronica Holy Woman (1st Century)

One of the best loved of Christian legends is that of Saint Veronica, who wiped the face of Jesus with her veil during His journey to Calvary. The cloth she used is said to have preserved the imprint of Christ’s features.

Different legends tell us that she was a Roman matron, or the wife of Zacchaeus, or the woman who was cured of an issue of blood, or a princess of Edessa, or even Martha, the sister of Lazarus. We are told that she cured the emperor Tiberius with the precious relic and that she left it to Pope Saint Clement when she died. Noe of the legends, however, seem to go back farther than the fourth or fifth century.

There is, at Saint Peter’s in Rome, a cloth venerated as the original veil of Veronica, but the features of the image on it are very difficult to distinguish, and it is impossible to judge its authenticity.

Her name is not important to us: the incident is. It is quite possible that a compassionate woman wiped the face of our suffering Lord, and Christians do well to ponder her action.

There was so little she could do for Him, but she did it, closing her eyes to the scorn of the crowd. She did it with love and received in return a priceless image of our Lord.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  390-391.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 13 Saint Eugenius of Carthage Bishop and Confessor (-505)

The Roman provinces in Africa were once the noblest of the Empire. They were abandoned to the Vandals in 428, however, and Genseric, king of the Vandals, was their master. The Vandals, who were Arians, laid the countryside waste, plundering churches and monasteries, torturing, exiling, or murdering the bishops. The bishop of Carthage was one of those banished.

In 481 Genseric died, and the new king, Huneric, allowed the Catholics to choose a new bishop. They immediately elected Eugenius. His wise government, charity to the poor, austerity of life, and courage under persecution won the admiration even of the Arians. For this reason, he was spared in the first storm of persecution under Huneric, though the Catholics of his diocese were not.

Nevertheless, Eugenius soon lost the Vandals’ friendship. He had urged his flock to refuse to bend before the Arian heresy. He had, in spite of Vandal orders, accepted Vandal converts into the Church. Worst of all, he won the argument with the Arian theologians whom the king had pitted against the Catholics.

The streets of Carthage were soon filled with spectacles of cruelty. Vandals who had become Catholics were especially badly treated. Priests and laymen were robbed of their possessions and banished to the desert, where they were cruelly treated by their guards.

After having long encouraged others to fortitude, Eugenius was himself suddenly carried into exile. He managed to write a letter to his flock, urging them on to prayer, fasting, and courage, reminding them that, “We are not to fear those who can only kill the body.”

He patiently bore the ill-treatment of his captors, his main concern being for his people, who were now without a bishop. But his example was more valuable to them than his presence, and they did not falter under the most terrible hardships.

As different kings ascended the throne, Eugenius was re-called and re-banished several times, accepting good and bad fortune with equal grace. In a monastery he had built in Visigothic territory about a mile from the present French city of Albi, he died in exile on July 13, 505, faithful to the last.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  391-392.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 14 Saint Bonaventure Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church (1221-1274)

Saint Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor, is spoken of, along with Duns Scotus and Saint Thomas Aquinas, as one of the three greatest theologians of the Middle Ages. He was born at Bagnorea, Italy, in the year 1221; his parents were Giovanni di Fidanza and Maria Ritella, and he was named Giovanni Fidanza for his father. It is not known how he acquired the name Bonaventure (“worthy venture’).

After entering the Franciscan Order, he studied and taught in Paris from 1243 to 1257. In 1257, Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas received their degrees of doctor of theology together. The live of the Seraphic Docate and the Angelic Doctor were often to interview.

In the same year Bonaventure was made general of his order, and worked at the difficult task of finding a middle road between the friars who had become too extremely rigorous and those who had become too lax. In trying to show what their founder really intended, he wrote The Greater Legend, a life of Saint Francis which superseded everything which had been written before. He did much to give a definite rule to the Franciscan Order, encouraged study, and developed devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

Bonaventure was appointed to several bishoprics, which he refused. Finally, in 1273, Pope Gregory X commanded him to accept appointment as bishop and cardinal of Albano. As a cardinal he attended the Council of Lyons (1274), at which the reunion of the Eastern and Western Churches was for a time realized. Since Saint Thomas died en route to the council, the weight of the work fell on Bonaventure. He sent monks to Constantinople to negotiate with the Orthodox, and was the outstanding figure of the assembly.

Eight days after the conclusion of the council, the Seraphic Doctor died at Lyon, on July 14, 1274. The people, the king of Aragon, the cardinal, and the conciliar fathers attended his funeral in the Church of the Franciscans at Lyons. Peter of Tarentaise, afterwards Pope Innocent V, said of Bonaventure: “. . . he was gentle, courteous, humble, pleasing to all, compassionate, prudent, chaste, and adorned with all virtues.”

As a leader, he did much of the Church, but it is as philosopher and theologian that he has been remembered through the centuries. His works fill many volumes, the most important being his Commentary on the Sentences, which deals with almost every important question of theology. Though their ideas sometimes disagree, Bonaventure and Thomas complement each other: Aquinas followed Aristotle, while Bonaventure was a disciple of Plato and Augustine; Thomas was a teach of the schools, Bonaventure enflamed the heart; Thomas had a love of theology, Bonaventure had a theology of love.

In looking at these tow great lights of the Church we can see that their careers were very different. Bonaventure was in positions of authority in his order from the very year he received his degree, while Thomas’ career took him to and fro across Europe to teach, preach, and take part in theological disputations. Thomas was undoubtedly the foremost scholar of the time, perhaps of all time, and his theological and philosophical achievements remain the model and guide of Catholic studies. To Bonaventure, on the other hand, we owe the most complete synthesis of Christian mysticism that has ever been achieved.

These two men, along with Duns Scotus and Saint Albert the Great, earn the thirteenth century its fame as the golden age of philosophy and theology, a time which has not since been equaled.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  393-395.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 15 Saint Henry Emperor and Confessor (972-1024)

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the king of God . . . (but) all things are possible with God” (Marck 10:25-28). Henry the Good, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, became a saint. His sanctification is a living proof that God’s grace extends to both the mighty and the lowly.

The son of Henry, duke of Bavaria, and Gisella of Burgundy, Henry was born in 972. In 995 he succeeded his father in the duchy of Bavaria, and 1002, upon the death of his cousin Otto III, he was chosen emperor. He was, in the same year, crowned King of Germany and two years later King of Italy.

It was not always easy for Henry to live up to his title, “the Good”. He knew that his were the temptations of those having power. He worked continually for the welfare of the Church and the peace and happiness of his people. He refused to support ecclesiastical power in temporal concerns, while always maintaining the Church’s proper authority; nevertheless, at times he made use of the Church for political ends.

Henry worked for the unity of the empire and, since this unity was considered advantageous to the unity of the Church, his work was truly a service to the Church. He had to engage in numerous wars for this unity, but was always able to forgive his enemies, often returning their wealth and title and demanding only that they pledge him their loyalty. In 1014, after having waged several successful wars, Henry went in triumph to Rome, where he was crowned emperor b Pope Benedict VIII.

Henry made frequent journeys through his dominions to promote religion, to relieve the poor, to make strict inquiry into public disorders and abuses, and to prevent unjust oppression. He was the first secular ruler on the continent to consider seriously the question of reform of the secular clergy. More than pope and archbishop, he was the inspiring force in synods he held to revive Church discipline and to forbid, under severe penalties, simony, and clerical marriage and concubinage. In 1006 he founded the see of Bamberg and built a cathedral there in honor of Saint Peter. Until his death on July 13, 1024, he identified himself with the ideas of monastic reform that were spreading from the Abbey of Cluny. In all his good works for his country and the Chruch he had the gentle encouragement of his devote wife Cunegunde, who also has been canonized. Henry fulfilled God’s will be doing well and honestly the tasks required by his state in life. He was a saint because he was a good husband and a good emperor, all for the greater honor and glory of God.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  395-396.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 16 Saint Mary Magdalene Postel Virgin (1756-1846)

Just about two hundred years ago, on November 28, 1756, a little girl was born to Jean Postel and his wife Thérèse Levallois in the little fishing village of Barfleur, France. Her name was Julie. She learned a little reading and arithmetic in her native village and although she was not precocious in her studies, she was in virtue. At the age of nine she vowed herself to God in chastity and for the salvation of souls. Then, thanks to a generous benefactor, she went to study with the Benedictine nuns at Valognes. They would have like to keep here there as a teacher, but that would have been too easy a life of Jule. The abbey was not very poor, and the pupils were not very needy. There were others who needed her more.

At the age of eighteen she went back to Barfleur to open a school for girls of all classes. Mademoiselle Julie went along quietly for fifteen years, sparing the rod (she hated corporal punishment) and assisting her girls in gaining an active appreciation for Christian virtue as well as in mastering the three R’s and knitting and sewing. Then the French Revolution began shattering her quiet world.

Julie had a secret chapel under the stairs in her house, and Mass was said there by Father Lamache, who trusted her to the extent of reserving the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel. She was even allowed to carry the Eurcharist and to administer to the dying when no priest was on hand. At the time of her beatification, Pope Pius X did not hesitate to call her a veritable “maiden-priest.”

For four years after the Concordat of 1801, she worked wherever she was needed, undoing the spiritual ravages of the Revolution. She taught, catechized, prepared children and adults for the sacraments, and organized works of mercy. Then at the age of forty-nine, with no money and no credentials other than her reputation, she went to Cherbourg, to Father Louis Charles Cabart, saying she desired to establish a religious order to teach and inspire the young.

She was just the sort of person he was seeking. Father Cabart found her a house and put her in charge of three hundred orphans. Thus, with three companions, Julie founded the Sisters of the Christian Schools. She took the name of Sister Mary Magdalene.

In the beginning, the little community suffered many hardships and setbacks. There was so much to do and so little money. For mortification, and to have more to give to the poor, Sister Mary Magdalene limited herself to one meal a day. They lost their lease and moved from town to town. Famine broke out. When it was falsely rumored that a certain sister had died of starvation, Father Cabart wished to sever his connection with them and told the foundress to give up. Yet Sister Mary Magdalene never stopped believing that this work was God’s will for her. Her courage and faith and confidence brought the community through every storm.

At last their work began to bear fruit. In 1830 they opened a larger convent and began to receive postulants. In 1837 a formal rule was adopted and their vows were accepted by the bishop. Royal recognition was extended to the new congregation by King Louis Philippe.

The last eight years of the foundress’s life, although there were trials, saw a period of expansion. The congregation grew, the number of pupils increased and the abbey church of Sain-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, which had been in ruins, was completely rebuilt to serve as the motherhouse. Within seventy-five years after her death, which occurred on on July 16, 1846, the congregation had spread from France to England, Italy, and Germany. It had over one thousand religious and more than one hundred and fifty schools. Julie Postel had done her work well, and after her death many miracles were attributed to her intercession. Sister Mary Magdalene Postel was canonized in 1925.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  397-399.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 17 Saint Alexis Confessor (-417)

In the eighteenth-century Benedict Joseph Labre, the wandering saint, was to look back to the fifth century to find a patron and a model—Saint Alexis, “the man of God.”

If Benedict Labre was an enigma, much more so was his forerunner, Alexis. He left no record of his life, no explanation of his strange wanderings. All that is known with certainty is that early in the fifth century there lived at Edessa in Syria a man who, either from choice or necessity, lived as a beggar and was of such virtue that he was revered as a saint.

All the rest is legend. It is said that Alexis was the son of a distinguished Roman named Euphemianus, and that he fled secretly from home on the night of his wedding in order to escape the temptations of a wealthy and luxurious life. It might seem more edifying if he had fled before being married, and he may well have done so. In the realm of legend it is often impossible to separate the facts from dramatic fancies.

He traveled to Syria, where he lived in extreme poverty for seventeen years in a hut adjoining a church dedicated to the Mother of God at Edessa. What food he was given he gave to the poor, reserving only a few morsels for himself.

When he began to be called “the Man of God,” he felt that this was a threat to his humility and fled back to his father’s home. His father did not recognize him, and he lived as a beggar under the staircase of his parents’ palace. There he remained for seventeen years, scorned by the servants, gladly accepting all humiliations. After his death, a paper was found on his person containing his name and history, and he was buried with much ceremony on the Aventine Hill about 417.

It may seem strange that a saint who is more than half legendary should have provided inspiration for future saints, have churches dedicated to him, have famous paintings depict his life and even have been chosen as patron of a religious congregation (the Alexian Brothers). But it is fitting that his curious life be remembered so that later Christians could imitate, not his way of living, perhaps, but his aim in living. The entire point and purpose of Alexis’ chosen existence was the practice of Christian virtues, especially the perfection of that most desirable and difficult virtue of humility. Self-abandonment for the sake of God is the heritage that has kept the name of Saint Alexis alive through the centuries.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  399-400.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 18 Saint Camillus de Lillis Confessor (1550-1614)

God can make a saint out of any kind of raw material. Out of the sort of life that breeds criminals came Saint Camillus. His mother had died when he was a child, and he grew up absolutely neglected. An illiterate giant, over six-and-a-half feet tall, he became a soldier in the service of Naples and later of Venice. From the beginning, his career as a soldier was handicapped by an overpowering addiction to gambling, which kept him penniless. When he was reduced to taking a job as a servant at the Hospital of San Giacomo at Rome, he was dismissed for unruliness.

God thus allowed Camillus to reach the depths of poverty and shame, so that having nothing of this earth to cling to, he would turn entirely to his Creator. While working as a laborer on the new Capuchin buildings at Manfredonia, he was so moved by the preaching of one of the friars that he fell on his knees in tears, deploring his past life. From the time of his conversion at the age of twenty-five, never ceased to do penance.

Camillus was not permitted to make his vows after being to the novitiate of the Capuchins because of an unhealed wound, a souvenir of the Battle of Lepanto, which had formed painful abscesses on one leg.

He therefore returned to the Hospital of San Giacomo to work among the sick and especially the dying. So intense was his zeal that he was appointed superintendent of the hospital.

It was clear to Camillus that the laymen working in the hospitals were very slack, and he determined to found an order of men who would tend the sick out of charity. To further this end, he received holy orders and, 1584, left the hospital found the Fathers of a Good Death, later called the Ministers of the Sick.

The members of this order vowed to devote themselves to the plague-stricken, both in hospitals and in homes. Pope Sixtus V approved the congregation in 1586, and Pope Gregory XIV erected it as a mendicant religious order in 1591. As the congregation spread, Camillus founded many hospitals. In 1595 and 1601, he sent some of his religious with the papal troops into Hungary and Croatia; these men clad in black habits marked with a red cross, staffed the first field hospital of modern times, the forerunner of the Red Cross.

A man’s last moments are the most precious in his life. On them depends on his eternal destiny. Camillus condemned the careless lack of attention to the spiritual needs of patients, and dedicated himself to the dying. He disposed them to receive the last sacraments with the most perfect fervor and to make their death a voluntary sacrifice to God. Afflicted with many physical sufferings himself, Camillus would leave his own bed to serve the dying.

He resigned the generalship of his order in 1607, so that he might have more leisure to serve the poor. He founded religious houses through Italy and sent his subject to all places afflicted with the plague.

In Genoa, on July 14, 1614, at the age of sixty-four, he died. Just before his death, when he knew the end was near, Camillus spoke: “I rejoiced because they said to me, ‘We will go up to the house of the Lord’” (Ps 121:1). “O Lord, I confess I am the most wretched of sinners, most underserving of Thy favor; but save me by Thy infinite goodness.” He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIV in 1746 and was declared patron of the sick (along with Saint John of God) by Pope Leo XIII. He was name patron of nurses and nursing associations by Pope Pius XI. In every suffering man Camillus had seen Christ and served Him.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  401-403.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 19 Saint Vincent de Paul Confessor (1581-1660)

Saint, social worker, reformer, he was a man who changed the face of France and, in large measure, the thinking of the world. This is the picture the world paints of Monsieur Vincent. If anything, this picture is an understatement. It is incredible that one man’s life should have had such scope.

This is not to say that all legends concerning him are true. It is true that he established a home for orphans, for example, but this happened late in his life, and it is only one of the many results of his virtue and generosity. Monsieur Vincent was a man who spread his nobility of character in several directions.

Vincent was born at Pouy in France in 1581, of a peasant family, and through the sacrifices of father, Jean de Paul, he was educated at the University of Toulouse. He was not without ambition and, after his ordination in 1600, he obtained a patron, tried for good ecclesiastical benefice, and went as far as Marseilles to prosecute a debtor. They were perfectly legal acts, but nothing about them indicated his future sanctity.

The only interruption to his climb to power

The only interruption to his climb to power was his capture—on returning from his trip to Marseilles—by Barbary pirates who sold him as a slave in Tunis. After his escape, he continued to use his extraordinary charm and appeal to further his career. In 1610 Vincent was in Paris, almoner to Queen Marguerite, first wife of Henry IV. He as made pastor of Clichy in 1611, and became tutor to the children of Phillippe de Gondi, county of Joigny, in 1613.

It was while working among the serfs of the Gondi estate that the ambitious young priest turned toward sanctity. He had. Perhaps for the first time, become aware of the true state of the common people of war-torn France, their spiritual and economic destitution. His personal solution to the problem was the gift of himself. From that time forward, Vincent belonged entirely to the poor.

The ignorance of the people stemmed from the ignorance of the clergy. It was required of a village priest only that he know enough Latin to say Mass. The knowledge of doctrine was almost nonexistent, and the administration of the sacraments was, to say the least, eccentric. The Council of Trant had ordered the establishment of seminaries, but the country was torn by war. Of the twenty that had been founded, ten had not even survived until 1625.

With the help of Madame de Gondi and other influential friends, Vincent founded a congregation of secular priests who devoted themselves to the conversion of sinners and training of the clergy. The rules of the Congregation of the Mission were approved by Pope Urban VII in 1632, and its members were given the priory of Saint Lazarus, thus gaining their popular name “Lazarists.” They were employed in missions, teaching catechism, preaching hearing confessions and performing all other works of charity. They undertook the direction of seminaries, gave retreats and courses to the seminarians. Saint Vincent lived to see twenty-five houses of the order founded, and today his order has spread throughout the world.

The influence he had previously gained among the wealthy he now put to good use. He asked for and received incredible sums of money for his poor, and when that was gone, he asked for more. He procured and directed the foundation of several hospitals for this, for foundlings, and for the aged. He cared for more than four thousand children a year, and as many old people. At Marseilles he established a hospital for galley-slaves.

During the wars in Lorraine, he collected alms among the pious persons of Pris, to be sent to aid of the suffering. He founded societies to bury the dead and distributed seed among the farmers. At the same time, in order to remove them from the brutality of the soldiers, he brought to Paris two hundred young women for whom he found shelter.

Vincent never forgot that he had been a slave, during his lifetime he was able to raise the money to ransom twelve hundred Christian slaves in North Africa. He created an asylum where forty thousand poor were given useful work.

Not only did Vincent expect large sums of money from his friends, but also their time and effort. His influence among the ladies of society led to the organization of the Ladies of Charity to help in the distribution of alms. But these women had never in their lives soiled their fingers with real work. Monsieur Vincent was a realist; he knew that he could not make draft horses out of butterflies. If they were suddenly asked to scrub floors, he would soon be left with no ladies at all.

The difficulty was solved when he met Louise de Marillac, now canonized herself. Louise organized an auxiliary force of another type, one used to any amount of hard work and with no social position to lose. From these beginnings rose the order of Daughters of Charity, which is now spread throughout the world.

The humble peasant, concerned only with the poor, made his influence felt in the highest circles. Vincent had some influence with Cardinal Richelieu and Cardinal de Retz, and was sent for by King Louis XIII as he lay dying. He was in high favor with the queen regent, Anne of Austria, who nominated him to the young king’s Council of Conscience. Anne consulted Vincent in ecclesiastical affairs.

Vincent was so indifferent about personal appearance that he usually appeared at court dressed in old clothes. This was no eccentricity, not even absent-mindedness: Saint Vincent could not see why he should be extravagantly dressed to enter the royal presence when millions were hungry and in rags.

Vincent was able to do many things to many men because, first of all, he was a man of prayer. In the midst of so much activity, the awareness of God was always present, and his was the secret of his power.

On September 17, 1660, having received the last sacraments and having given his last advice, Vincent died quietly in his chair. Because of him, it is no longer so easy for a man to pass as a Christian without extending his charity, his love, and his help to the unfortunate. Never had a man more deserved to hear the word: “Come, blessed of my Father . . . for I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; naked and you covered me; sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me” (Matt 25:35-37).

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  403-406.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 19 Saint Macrina the Younger Virgin (c 327-379)

Eldest of the ten children of Saint Basil the Elder and Saint Emmelia, Marcina was born at Caesarea in Cappadocia (modern Turney) about 327 and was promised in marriage at the tender age of twelve. When both her father and her fiancé died, Marcrina determined to live solely for God and to help her mother rear the younger children. She was a remarkable teacher of Christian living. Of her brothers three are saint: the youngest, Peter Sebaste, Gregory of Nyssa; and the eldest, Basil the Great.

In 358 Basil returned from his studies and rejoined his mother and sister, who had left Caesarea and gone to the old family home in the territory of Pontus, a beautiful spot near the Black Sea. Here he established two communities. On one side of the river Iris was a monastery for men, governed by Basil, later by Peter; on the other was women’s monastery, whose rules were drawn up by Macrina, the superior after her mother’s death.

Though the family was close, Gregory, who had become bishop of Nyssa, had not seen his sister in eight years when he came to Pontus in 79 and found her critically ill. One of those wonderful conversations between saints occurred, reminiscent of John and Teresa, or the last appealing talk between Benedict and Scholastica. They spoke of Macrina’s approaching death; his wisdom inspired Gregory’s dialogue On the Soul and Resurrection, which he dedicated to her. Macrina died soon after, as the old books relate, “at the hour of the lighting of lamps,” so poor that her brother had to provide her burial robe.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  407-408.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 20 Saint Margaret (Marina) Virgin and Martyr (date uncertain)

The Roman Martyrology celebrates “the passion of Antioch of the holy Margaret, virgin and martyr,” and that is actually all we know about the saint. The mixture of fact and legend concerning her had led to many versions of her life, and all that is known with certainty is that she was an early martyr, perhaps in the reign of Diocletian (284-305). The Western form of her name is Margaret; she is the Margaret who was one of the “voices” that directed Saint Joan of Arc.

The legend of the saint is briefly this. Margaret’s father was a pagan priest. Her mother had died when she was very young, and Margaret was reared by a nurse, who converted her to Christianity. Sincer her father occupied a very high place among the pagan priests, he disowned his daughter, and Margaret went to live with her nurse, taking a vow of virginity.

Margaret became a shepherdess, and one day, while tending her sheep, she was seen by the prefect Olybrius. He was struck with her beauty and sent a servant to her saying, “If she is free, I will marry her; if she is slave, I will take her as concubine.” When he learned of her noble birth, name, and religion, he declared that the first two suited her perfectly, and third not al all, for it was unworthy of her to adore a crucified God.

Margaret’s defiant reply and rejection of the perfect so infuriated him that he had her thrown into prison and then beheaded.

She was especially popular in the Middle Ages, and it was then that legendary accounts were added to the meager facts that were known about her. Whatever the details of her actual life and death, she deserves her place among the saints—for she met the greatest challenge with heroic courage and preferred to die rather than deny Christ.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  408-409.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 20 Saint Jerome Emiliani Confessor (1486-1537)

Jerome Emiliani was a soldier, a very successful one. The son of Angelo Emiliani and Eleanor Mauroceni, he was born in Venice, reached manhood in the troubled times of the early sixteenth century, and served in the army of the Venetian Republic. When the League of Cambrai was formed against Venice by the Western powers, he was appointed to the command of Castelnuovo, the fortress near Treviso.

Castelnuovo fell to the imperial forces and Jerome was taken prisoner and chained in a dungeon. He saw his earlier careless life for what it was and turned in prayer to God. After his escape, under seemingly miraculous conditions, he went at once to a church in Treviso and vowed himself to service of our Lady. In 1518 he was ordained in Venice, where he had gone to take charge of the education of his nephews. The soldier became the priest, the protector of children.

He hired a house for the orphans he had gathered together, fed and clothed them at his own expense, and instructed them in Christian doctrine. In 1532 the bishop of Verona sent for him, and he established an orphanage and a hospital there. Jerome continued to found orphanages—at Brescia, Bergamo, and Como. At Bergamo he established the first home for penitent women.

About 1533, with two other priests, Jerome organized a congregation of men who wished to join his work. The first house was at Somascha, on the Venetian frontier, and from it came the name of the order, the Somaschi. Their principal work was, and still is, the care of orphans and the instruction of youth.

A martyr to his own zealous charity, Jerome contracted a contagious disease in 1537, while tending the sick and died on February 8, at Somascha. A happy combination of cheerful and optimistic temperament with ardent faith and love of God made Jerome a potent factor in the Catholic reform of those fateful times. He was canonized by Pope Clement XIII in 1767 and is the patron saint of orphans and abandoned children.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  409-410.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 21 Saint Victor and Marseilles and Companions Martyrs (-c 290)

In the year 285 the emperor Diocletian assigned the administration of the West Maximian Hercules. At this time Christians had enjoyed some twenty years of relative peace, but in the long-lasting struggle of the Empire to preserve the state of paganism a new persecution could easily flare up, either general or limited. Christians in the imperial armies were more than once a disturbing factor. Shouldn’t soldiers, men in the service of the Empire, be required to show their fidelity to the state and its official cult?

In one of Maximian’s visits to Marseilles, the commercial metropolis of Gaul since Phoenician times, a Christian soldier named Victor was brough to his attention for his active support and aid to Christians of the community. It wasn’t out of vengeance or eagerness to make a martyr out of Victor that Maximian summed him to appear. The young man was of good background, of strong and intelligent character, the sort that the Roman world admired. Persuade him to apostatize, offer him advantages and if he will just signify his fidelity by offering the usual sacrifice, even nominate him for the special title “friend of Caesar.”

The administrative process to achieve this is put in order. What happened? Victor was defiant. “I despise your deities,” he said. First, he suffered only degradation from his military position, and public exposition. But he allowed himself to be reviled by the populace without flinching. Then he was imprisoned and tortured. Victor not only remained true to his faith in Christ but managed to convert three guards.

In the morning the new Christians, Longinus, Alexander and Felician, boldly declared their new faith and were beheaded. Twice more Victor was brought before the tribunal offered freedom and glory in exchange for his faith. But no amount of persuasion could move him, and he was condemned to be put under the grindstone of a mill and crushed to death. Before he was completely mutilated, the mill broke down, and he was beheaded. His body was thrown into the sea, but when it was cast ashore by the tide the Christians buried it in a cave. His memory lives on in the city of Marseilles and in the City of God, which is the kingdom of Christ.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  411-412.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 22 Saint Mary Magdalene Holy Woman (New Testament)

“Three saints,” said our Lord to Saint Brigid of Sweden in a vision, “have been more pleasing to me than all of others: Mary my mother, John the Baptist, and Mary Magdalene.” These two women had stood at the cross: Mary who through Christ’s merits never sinned, and Mary Magdalene who through His merits repented.

In popular Western tradition various episodes in the New Testament have been referred to Mary Magdalene: that of the sinner who anointed the feet of Jesus while He sat at dinner with Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50); that of Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus; and that of the woman from whom seven devils had been driven out and who thereafter followed Christ and was present at His crucifixion, and who is the first person mentioned in the Gospel to whom the risen Christ appeared. This identification, however has never been held by Eastern Catholics, nor is it agreed upon by Western biblical scholars. We need not be concerned wit this controversy; the important facts of Mary Magdalene’s life are her conversion and her closeness to Christ; on these there is no dispute.

Saint Luke mentions the women from Galilee who followed Christ and provided for Him and the apostles (Luke 8:2). Among them was a certain Mary, called Magdalene. Magdala was a city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Whatever may have been the early life of this woman, it was in the first months of His public life that she passed from darkness of sin and ignorance into the light of Christ. He had found her possessed of seven devils-seven standing for completion-a victim wholly delivered to the powers of darkness.

The compassionate Savior set her free. It was for fallen man that He had com. From the moment of her release she belonged to Him, and with deep and courageous love and devotion followed Him to the bitter agony of Calvary and after. It is easy to see why Christians have been inclined to think she was the repentant sinner of whom Saint Luke (Luke 7:36-52), who poured out her precious ointment to anoint the feet of Jesus and her abundant tears to wash them (Luke 7:36-50), but Luke does not so identify her. This is certainly an unforgettable scene. It stand forever as a symbol for the penitent love of all those who having been touched by the sinless Son of God abandon themselves wholehearted to His service.

Mary Magdalene’s service is faithful and heroic. She follows Christ during the hopeful days of His early preaching, and in the terrifying time when the Pharisees and the other rulers of the nation plot His destruction, and is there on Calvary with His Mother when the earth itself rocks with the heinous crime of the crucifixion of the Just One.

She stood by as the sacred body of her Beloved was laid in the tomb, and then before dawn was back with the women, bringing spices. It is upon Mary Magdalene that the most vivid impression is made; when she sees the empty tomb she rushes away to tell Peter and John, distraught at the thought that the body of the Lord has been stolen. Peter and John come and go, but Mary lingers there weeping. Her mind and heart filled with this latest sorrow, and here eyes dimmed with tears, she is not comforted by the angel but turns away to put her anguished question to the first person she sees-she things he is a gardener. “Woman, why art thou weeping? Whom do you seek?” She doesn’t even name Him-doesn’t all of Jerusalem know who was laid in this tomb? “sir, if you have removed him, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” “Mary,” He says quietly; and the voice of the Good Shepherd who knows His own is enough to lift her from tragic sorrow to wild joy. She falls on her knees and clings to His feet, but He assures her He will not disappear. Jesus knows she is her old faithful and reliable self again, and sends her away to bear the great news of His resurrection to the apostles. What awe and joy is in her voice as she ruses in to the disconsolate group-“I have seen the Lord!” So Mary Magdalene became the announcer of our joy, telling the good news of Christ’s victory over sin and death.

After Pentecost, according to Eastern tradition, Mary went with the Blessed Virgin and Saint John to Ephesus, where she died and was buried. It is said that in the middle of the eighth century Saint Willibald visited her shrine there, and that in 899 her relics were removed by the emperor Leo VI to Constantinople. According to tradition of France, however, which identifies Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany, the Magdalen with Lazarus, Martha, and others, preached throughout Provence. It is said that she spent the last thirty years of her life in a cave high up in the Maritime Alps, and was transported miraculously to the chapel of Saint Maximin, where she received the last sacraments from that saint and was buried by him.

Whatever her later history may be, the story of Mary Magdalene as told in the Gospels is an impressive one. It is one of the greatest divine love stories of all time, following perfectly the definition of love, human or divine, given by Saint Thomas Aquinas: “Love is wanting the best for the beloved.” This did Mary desire for her Lord, and for this she received Himself, the greatest gift as will all who offer themselves to Him in Faith and love.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  412-415.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 23 Saint Apollinaris Bishop and Martyr (date unknown)

Saint Apollinaris, born probably in Antioch, was the first bishop of Ravenna. The citizens of that city insist that he was a disciple of Christ, and was assigned to that see by Saint Peter. This legend dates back no father than the seventh century and probably sprang more from civic pride than from fact.

Whatever the actual date, Apollinaris was undoubtedly the first bishop of the city, and the veneration that has always been paid him gives testimony to his sanctity. He desired martyrdom, but the Church needed his services, and he served twenty-six years as bishop before he won that crown.

The miracles Apollinaris wrought to Ravenna won many converts, but they arouse the fury of the pagans, who beat him cruelly and banished him. He preached in Bologna and converted the household of a patrician whose daughter he raised from the dead. He was banished from Bologna and shipwrecked on the Dalmatian coast, where he was badly treated because of the success of his preaching.

Three times he returned to his see, and each time he was captured, tortured, and driven out again. The fourth time the emperor issued a decree of banishment against all Christians, and Apollinaris was recognized and beaten to death by a mob at Classis, an adjoining naval station. Ravenna has every reason to be proud of this first of a long line of holy bishops.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  415-416.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 24 Saint Francis Solano Confessor (1549-1610)

Two armies came to South America from Spain–an army to plunder and an army to save, men who sought gold and men who sought souls. Francis Solano was among those men who gave of themselves.

Francis had been born in Andalusia in 1549, and from the time of his ordination in the Franciscan Order in 1576, he worked among the plague-stricken of Spain. His greatest desire, however, was to serve as a missionary.

Francis was refused his request to serve in Africa, but in 1589 was selected to go to the New World. On the way to Peru, when his ship foundered, he remained aboard with the Negro slaves he had converted and for whom there was no room on the lifeboats. Many of these newly baptized souls were drowned before help arrived three days later but all found courage in the example of the priest.

Thus Francis began his ministry among the Indians, Negro slaves, and Spanish settlers. His missionary labors extended over a period of twenty years, and took him on many long and arduous journeys through mountainous territory. He allowed no trial or fear of danger to stand in the way of evangelizing the vast and savage regions of Tucuman (now a province of Argentina) and Paraguay.

So successful was Francis’ apostolate that he has been called the “Wonder-Worker of the New World.” In spite of the number and difficulty of the different Indian dialects, he learned them all in a short time. It is said that he had the gift of tongues, often addressing tribes of different tongues in one language and being understood by all.

His death in Lima on July 14, 1610, which he himself foretold, was the cause of much sorrow in Peru. At his funeral service, Father Sebastiani, S.J., said, “Divine Providence had chosen Father Francis Solano to be the hope of all Peru, the example and glory of Lim, and the splendor of the Seraphic Order.” Saint Francis was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  416-417.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 25 Saint James the Greater Apostle (New Testament)

“Son of thunder” was the name of Lord gave the brothers James and John. They were Galileans, typical of those energetic, religious, quick-tempered people. When the people of a Samaritan village refused to allow Jesus and His disciples to pass through, the brothers did not hesitate to suggest calling down fire from heaven to consume the town.

Their ideals were not always purely spiritual. Their mother, Salome, very seriously asked our Lord to give her sons the first places in His kingdom. If they had faults, however, they were those of impetuosity, never mediocrity. They had a tremendous capacity for love, and their gentle Master was patient in teaching them the road to humility.

Even when they joined their mother in expressing a desire to sig at His right and left side, our Lord turned their desire for glory into proper paths. He told them that they did not understand what they requested, and asked if they were able to drink of His cup of suffering. They answered typically, without hesitation, “We can,” and did not dream that their hopes for a glorious Messias would be dashed away in the terrible tragedy to come, and that their own destiny was to be one of pain and struggle. Nor did Christ forget His promise. James the Greater was the first of the apostles to suffer martyrdom when Herod Agrippa killed him about the year 44, and John, though he did not die a martyr, was tormented by the pagans for his faith.

There were the sons of Zebedee and Salome. Along with Peter and his brother Andrew, they worked as fishermen for their father. It was a prosperous business, but once they fished all night and caught nothing. They had met Christ before, had been present at His baptism by Saint John the Baptist. They believed in Him and traveled with Him from time to time.

Thus they were not surprised that morning when He cam asked about their fishing. Nor did they hesitate when Christ told them to put the nets down once more. Peter and Andrew pulled up so many fish that the nets were breaking, and they called James and John to help them. From that day forward, they left boats and nets, family and friends, and followed Jesus.

The three apostles Peter, James, and John were always mentioned first among the apostles. If they needed to be rebuked most often, they were also the closest to Christ. They alone were admitted to be witnesses of His glorious Transfiguration, and they alone were taken to the innermost recesses of Gethsemani on the night of agony at the beginning of His Passion.

Saint James is called “the Greater” to distinguish him from another apostle, James the Less, who was much younger than he, or perhaps smaller in stature. James and his younger brother, the beloved apostle John, had been chosen by Christ at the beginning of His public life, had traveled up and down Palestine with Him. With the other apostles they received the command to teach all nations and at Pentecost received the Spirit, whom Christ had promised to send. To John was entrusted the care of Mary, and with Peter he was a leader of the little Christian community. Of James nothing is recorded after Pentecost, but with the other apostles he undoubtedly preached throughout Palestine. He was prominent enough to serve Herod Agrippa as the means of showing his favor to the Jews; he condemned James to death for openly proclaiming Jesus Christ to be God, hoping to appease the fanatical Jews who were plotting insurrection.

Though his voice was head by but but a handful of disciples before his death, James fully earned the name of Son of Thunder. In his martyrdom his voice became a thunderclap. His shrine at Compostella, Spain, attracted pilgrims from all of Western Europe, The body of this patron of Spain is said to have been transferred to Compostella in the Middle Ages, and this belief is supported by a Bull of Pope Leo XIII (1884).

It may have taken James some time to understand the cup which his Master offered him, but one he understood, he accepted and drank of it deeply.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  418-420.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 25 Saint Christopher Martyr (3rd Century)

There was a martyr named Christopher who was beheaded in Lycia, in the time of the emperor Decius (249-251). This is all we know of him. His name, however, has been invoked by Christian everywhere as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, whose intercession is especially powerful.

The legend that has grown up about the name is familiar. A giant of a man he was, originally called Reprobus, and determined to serve the mightiest king on earth. When the king he chose to serve showed fear of the devil, he left him and sought out Satan. Satan showed fear at the sign of the cross, however, and leaving him, Reprobus sought Christ.

He vowed for the love of Christ to carry travelers on his strong shoulders across a dangerous river. One night, being awakened by a child’s voice calling his name, Reprobus hastened to his task. Suddenly, in the midst of the surging waters, the giant who had never stooped beneath the heaviest weight, was bent down under the burden of this child, grown heavier than the world itself. “Be not astonished.” said the mysterious child, “you bear Him who bears the world.” Hen then disappeared, blessing His carrier and naming him Christopher, “Christ-bearer.”

Christopher is the patron of travelers and is invoked against perils from water, tempests, and plagues.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  420-421.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 26 Saint Anne Mother of Our Lady (1st Century before Christ)

Anne and her husband Joachim had no child. Great was their sorrow, and they were publicly reproached for childlessness was considered among the Jew a sign of God’s disfavor. According to legend, Joachim went into the desert to fast, and Anne, sitting beneath a laurel tree, poured out her prayer. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by, and said to her, “Anne, God has heard thy prayer; thou shat conceive and bear a child, and thy fruit shall be honored throughout the whole inhabited earth.”

In due time, Anne brought forth a daughter and called the child Mary. In this conception was wrought they mystery that brings joy to heaven, rage to Satan, and triumph to the world. Within Anne’s body was hidden the one whom God had chosen to be His Mother. Yet she did more than give Mary life. Into the hands of Saint Anne were placed the education, the training, and direction of this child.

Anne was the starting point of the Redemption; through her the dawn began to break; in her the morning star was conceived, free from Adam’s sin. Through our relation to Christ and His Mother, we become her grandchildren. She was barren, and now her descendants cover the face of the earth. Gone is the Synagogue that reproached her barrenness. Through her, not through the leaders of the nation, the rod of Jesse flowered.

There was little written about Saint Anne in the first two centuries of the Church. The details of her life, even her name, come to us through unreliable sources in which fact and fiction are intermingled. By the fourth century, devotion of Anne was widespread in the East, and several of the early Fathers of the Church sang her praises. Her fame expanded throughout the West after the Crusades and grew to the heights, especially in France. Her best-known shrines are still Saint Anne d’Auray in Brittany and Saint Anne de Beaupré in Canada.

By many miracles at these and other places, God has been pleased to testify how highly He regards devotion to this saint, the model of all women in the married state and charged with rearing of children.

Anne is honored with the official title “Mother of the most holy Mother of God.”

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  421-422.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 27 Saints Aurelius, Natalia and Companions Martyrs (-c 852)

CHRISTIANITY in Spain had a long and painful history in the first fourteen hundred years of our era. It was established there in Roman settlements very early, and suffered in succession the Roman persecutions and the depredations of the Vandals, the Visigoths, and lastly the Moslems.  It was in the eighth century that Moslem domination began, and although Christians were at first tolerated, an independent emirate set up at Cordova inaugurated a persecution about the middle of the next century.  It was in this persecution that Aurelius and his wife Natalia, and many others, won the crown of martyrdom.

Aurelius, son of a Moorish father and a Spanish mother, was orphaned at an early age and was brought up by his Christian aunt. As he grew up he considered it prudent to conform outwardly to Moslem practices, although he was a Christian in secret and had won his half-Moorish wife over to Christianity.  This he soon saw was hypocrisy, when other Christians were suffering for their faith.  But what to do about his children; could he risk leaving them unprovided for both materially and spiritually?

Aurelius and Natalia consulted their bishop, a holy man who was to be martyred himself seven years later. It was he who wrote the account of this courageous couple.  He agreed that they should make open avowal of their faith, but said they must first make provision for the Christian training of their children.  The children were commended to the care of Bishop Eulogius himself, and Aurelius and his wife began visiting Christian captives and in every way supporting and encouraging others.  They thus met other heroic men and women – and inevitably were denounced to the Emirand charged with apostasy from Islam, and were beheaded before his palace.

Saints Natalia, Aurelius, Liliosa, Felix, and George, Martyrs

Saint Pantaleon – Catholic Online (305), Martyr; invoked against lung disease, for doctors and the medical profession  Physicians, midwives, livestock, invoked against headaches, consumption, locusts, witchcraft, accidents and loneliness, helper for crying children:  Saint Pantaleon – New Advent Information

Saint Celestine I – Catholic Online (432)  |  Pope Saint Celestine I – New Advent  |  Pope Saint Celestine I – Regina  |  Saint Celestine I – Magnificat  – Feast day is celebrated either April 6 or July 27

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  423-424.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 28 Saint Innocent I Pope and Confessor (-417)

AFTER the death of Pope Anastasius I in 401, Innocent was unanimously chosen bishop of Rome. Little is known of his life before he ascended the papal chair, except that he was a native of Albano.  As pope, Innocent gave all his strength to the things demanded of him.  It was a time when the entire world looked to Rome.  During his pontificate, Alaric the Goth with his army of barbarians overran Italy.  Innocent was not able to stop the sacking of Rome, but through his example and encouragement, the people of that city so humbly and piously accepted their lot that the conversion of the Goths began on a large scale.

In his papal letters, Innocent reiterated the doctrine of Church unity, making it clear that his authority extended to the Eastern, as well as the Western, Church. He succeeded

in healing the schism with the Church of Antioch and obtained from the emperor Honorius a decree against the Montanists of Africa.

Innocent’s authority was recognized by bishops throughout the world, and he commended them for following the ancient rule that ”All ecclesiastical matters throughout the world are, by divine right, to be referred to the Apostolic See, that is, to Saint Peter, the author of its name and honor.” It is from his pontificate that we have the adage spoken first by Saint Augustine, “Rome has spoken, the case is settled.”  He died on March 12, 417, after fifteen years of fruitful service.

A short clip of the end of the Magnificat falsobordone composed by Xavier Piat for the second Vespers of Sts. Nazarius & Celus, St. Victor I and St. Innocent I.

Saint Innocent I – Regina  |  Saint Innocent I – Catholic Online  |  Saint Innocent I – Tradition in Action

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  424-425.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 29 Saint Martha Virgin (New Testament)

After Jesus left His Mother’s home and went out to preach the good tidings of salvation, He was dependent upon the hospitality of others and the Gospels tell us that a group of women from Galilee soon began to provide for Him and for the little group of His disciples. Although ”the foxes have dens, and the birds of the air have nests. .  . the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).

During the last year of His public mission, Christ was welcomed into a home that from that time on was a haven for Himself and His disciples, and into the hearts of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. It was in the town of Bethany, on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho.  Martha, being the eldest sister, was the mistress of this household.  On one occasion when she was preparing a meal for Jesus and His companions–perhaps there were more guests than usual­-Martha became a little flustered and looked about for her sister Mary to lend a hand.  But where is Mary?  In a secluded corner, sitting at the feet of the Master, and absorbed in His words.  Jesus is their friend and has been a frequent guest; Martha does not hesitate to approach Him and ask if He doesn’t see that Mary is leaving her all the work of serving, begging Him to send her along to help.  What she receives is a gentle rebuke for her anxiety and troubled mood, perhaps also for her elaborate preparations, for Jesus and His companions are satisfied with simple fare and would be embarrassed at putting their hostess to so much trouble.  There are three visits mentioned:  Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-53, and John 12:1-9

Martha is His faithful and loving friend; she must learn to serve without being immersed in a multiplicity of details, to keep her soul in peace and tranquility. When Simon the Leper entertains Jesus at a banquet in the town she is there again, helping to serve.  And no doubt her home is the refuge at Bethany to which Jesus returns after He rides into Jerusalem amid the shouts of Hosanna on Palm Sunday, and again after He drives the money-sellers out of the Temple.

After Lazarus had died, it was Martha who cried out that fervent profession of faith, worthy of Saint Peter, “Yes, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, who hast come into the world” (John 11:27).

Martha does not appear in the accounts of the Passion and Resurrection; this can perhaps be explained by the fact that her brother Lazarus is in danger, for the priests and the Pharisees have been plotting his death. In her motherly way she would have watched over him at home.  Surely in the next few years she would have often gone down to Jerusalem to meet with the little Christian community, and must often have recalled the beloved memories of Christ’s visits with all those who had known Him.  Of her last years nothing is known, but in later generations her home and the tomb of Lazarus at Bethany were pointed out to pilgrims.

Saint Martha – Catholic Online  |  Saint Martha – New Advent  |  Saint Martha – Franciscan Media  |  Saint Martha Regina

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  425-427.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 30 Saints Abdon and Sennen Martyrs (-c 250)

Of Abdon and Sennen the only reliable facts are that they were Persian Christians and were commemorated as martyrs on a Roman tomb. All the rest is legend without historical foundation.  It is said that throughout the persecution of Decius they ministered to their fellows in Rome and buried the bodies of the martyrs.  Finally, they themselves were martyred in the Colosseum.  Neither lions nor bears would touch them, and they were slaughtered by the gladiators.

Tertullian, an ecclesiastical writer of the third century, expresses the spirit of all such martyrs: “We say we are Christians, we proclaim it to the whole world even under the hands of the executioner and in the midst of all the tortures .  .  . weltering in our blood.  .  . as loud as we are able to cry.  .  . we are worshipers of God through Christ.”

Their Christian brethren in Rome carefully removed the bodies of Abdon and Sennen to a place of burial. These holy relics were moved many times through the centuries, and today several different cities claim possession of them, notably Florence, Soissons, and Rome.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  427.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

July 31 Saint Ignatius Loyola Confessor (1491-1556)

The ex-soldier could not have known, as he knelt with his six companions, that his newly formed company would one day become an army. Today, thirty thousand of his followers are dispersed throughout the world.  They are in the jungles, on remote islands, in cities, and in distant villages.  They work in laboratories, observatories, libraries.  They control a hundred institutions of higher learning and are proprietors of academies, seminaries, and missions.

There is nothing in the early life of Ignatius Loyola to indicate either his future influence or his great sanctity. He was born in the castle of Loyola in Spain in 1491, of the noble and ancient Basque family of Don Beltran Yanez.  One of the youngest of a dozen children, Ignatius had a choice between religious or military life.  Although he received the tonsure he had no doubt that it was to be a life of adventure and chivalry for him.

At the age of twenty-four he was a full-fledged soldier, dressed extravagantly, dreaming of romance, fighting and dueling, ever jealous of his honor. In 1521 Ignatius’ dreams of military glory came to an abrupt end.  At the defense of the Spanish citadel of Pamplona, a cannon ball broke his leg, which was never to heal properly.

There were no romantic novels available at Loyola, where he spent his convalescence. Ignatius turned, out of boredom, to spiritual reading:  a fourteenth-century life of Christ and a Spanish version of the pious tales of the Golden Legend.  This was the beginning of his conversion.  His mind wavered between the world and the spirit.  Then he had a vision of our Lady and the Infant Christ.  He made his decision.

As soon as he was able to leave, Ignatius went to the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat. There he made a general confession, left his sword and dagger before our Lady’s altar, and gave away his earthly goods.

He spent a year living on alms in the town of Manresa, during which time he received many divine illuminations on matters of doctrine. Then he made a trip to the Holy Land.  Ignatius soon realized that without education he would have little success in winning souls to Christ, which was now the aim of his life.  He entered school, a man thirty-one years old, in the lowest class and among the youngest students.  For eleven years he studied, living in the utmost poverty and begging his food at Barcelona, Alcala, Salamanca, and Paris, being helped and cared for by many generous people.

While Ignatius studied, he preached, and a handful of men, including Francis Xavier, became disciples. In 1534, after receiving the degree of master of arts from the University of Paris, he met with six men at the chapel on Montmartre, where they received Holy Communion from the one priest of the group, Peter Faber.  They vowed a trip to the Holy Land and took vows of chastity and poverty.

The proposed trip proved impossible because of war, and in the spring of 1537, after an interview with Pope Paul III, Ignatius’ group was given permission to be ordained. It was not until 1538 that the companions, who had been preaching in Pairs, met again in Rome.  There, after much prayer, they decided that if their plan was approved they would form themselves into a religious body.

In 1540 the Society of Jesus became a reality, and Ignatius was chosen the first general. The rule he established seem, at the time, revolutionary.  His disciples were to be ascetics in the world, not in the cloister.  They were to be teachers and preachers, trained scholars able to meet argument with better argument.  There were to renounce all rank, temporal or ecclesiastical.  There were to live under the intense discipline and perfect obedience which has always been their distinctive characteristic.  Special obedience was vowed to the Holy Father in the matter of missions.

After the foundation of the society, Ignatius never left Rome, His administrative genius was given tremendous scope, and a thousand projects occupied his agile mind. He live to see his followers penetrate the corners of the known world.

One of his most fruitful works was the book of Spiritual Exercises, begun at Manresa, where he had spent a year of prayer and penance.  So clear and universal were the principles of prayer he laid down that some adaptation of his exercise is very often used at retreats today.

The recruits multiplied so rapidly that when Ignatius does on July 13, 1556, there were sixty-seven Jesuit houses, and the grace that was given at Manresa did more than make one man a saint. There made a society of men, all with the same goal of service and sanctity.  Many miracles were recorded at the canonization of Saint Ignatius Loyola.  His most impressive accomplishment in the annals of history and the Church was the establishment of the Society of Jesus, the influence of which throughout four hundred years is altogether incalculable.  But even without this, Ignatius would take his place among the great saints, for his heroic virtue, his absolute dedication of his life and energies to Christ, his mystic graces, and his spiritual guidance.

Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959.  428-430.   © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958.  Print.

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