Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sts. Simon and Jude

Today is the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Brothers, Apostles, and Martyrs.

From Catholic.org

St. Jude Thaddeus

"St. Jude, known as Thaddeus, was a brother of St. James the Less, and a relative of Our Saviour. St. Jude was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus.

Ancient writers tell us that he preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Lybia. According to Eusebius, he returned to Jerusalem in the year 62, and assisted at the election of his brother, St. Simeon, as Bishop of Jerusalem.

He is an author of an epistle (letter) to the Churches of the East, particularly the Jewish converts, directed against the heresies of the Simonians, Nicolaites, and Gnostics. This Apostle is said to have suffered martyrdom in Armenia, which was then subject to Persia. The final conversion of the Armenian nation to Christianity did not take place until the third century of our era.

Jude was the one who asked Jesus at the Last Supper why He would not manifest Himself to the whole world after His resurrection. Little else is known of his life. Legend claims that he visited Beirut and Edessa; possibly martyred with St. Simon in Persia.

Jude is invoked in desperate situations because his New Testament letter stresses that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them. Therefore, he is the patron saint of desperate cases and his feast day is October 28. Saint Jude is not the same person as Judas Iscariot who betrayed Our Lord and despaired because of his great sin and lack of trust in God's mercy."


St. Simon

"Simon was surnamed the Zealot for his rigid adherence to the Jewish law and to the Canaanite law. He was one of the original followers of Christ. Western tradition is that he preached in Egypt and then went to Persia with St. Jude, where both suffered martyrdom. Eastern tradition says Simon died peacefully at Edessa. His feast day is October 28th."

As far as I can tell, not much is known about St. Simon, and their is no popular devotion to him. St. Jude on the other hand, well, prayers, novenas, etc.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Seven New Saints

YESTERDAY, the Holy Father canonized seven new saints: Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha (first Native American!),  Bl. Mother Marianne Cope, Bl. Pedro Calungsod, Bl. Giovanni Battista, Bl. Jacques Berthieu, Bl. Anna Schafer, and Bl. Carmen Salles.



St. Marianne Cope (Another American
Saint, no surprise:))

St. Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Founder
of the Congregation of the Holy Family










St. Kateri Tekakwitha, First Native
American Saint


St. Pedro Calungsod, Philippe Martyr




















St Jacques Berthieu, Jesuit Martyr of
Madagascar







St. Carmen Salles

St. Anna Schafer, laywoman and stigmatic




Thursday, October 18, 2012

St. Luke the Evangelist

St. Luke - Evangelist, Companion of St. Paul.



From Catholic.org:

Luke, the writer of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, has been identified with St. Paul's "Luke, the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14). We know few other facts about Luke's life from Scripture and from early Church historians.

It is believed that Luke was born a Greek and a Gentile. In Colossians 10-14 speaks of those friends who are with him. He first mentions all those "of the circumcision" -- in other words, Jews -- and he does not include Luke in this group. Luke's gospel shows special sensitivity to evangelizing Gentiles. It is only in his gospel that we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, that we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles such as the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian (Lk.4:25-27), and that we hear the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan (Lk.17:11-19). According to the early Church historian Eusebius Luke was born at Antioch in Syria.

In our day, it would be easy to assume that someone who was a doctor was rich, but scholars have argued that Luke might have been born a slave. It was not uncommon for families to educate slaves in medicine so that they would have a resident family physician. Not only do we have Paul's word, but Eusebius, Saint Jerome, Saint Irenaeus and Caius, a second-century writer, all refer to Luke as a physician.

We have to go to Acts to follow the trail of Luke's Christian ministry. We know nothing about his conversion but looking at the language of Acts we can see where he joined Saint Paul. The story of the Acts is written in the third person, as an historian recording facts, up until the sixteenth chapter. In Acts 16:8-9 we hear of Paul's company "So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' " Then suddenly in 16:10 "they" becomes "we": "When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them."

So Luke first joined Paul's company at Troas at about the year 51 and accompanied him into Macedonia where they traveled first to Samothrace, Neapolis, and finally Philippi. Luke then switches back to the third person which seems to indicate he was not thrown into prison with Paul and that when Paul left Philippi Luke stayed behind to encourage the Church there. Seven years passed before Paul returned to the area on his third missionary journey. In Acts 20:5, the switch to "we" tells us that Luke has left Philippi to rejoin Paul in Troas in 58 where they first met up. They traveled together through Miletus, Tyre, Caesarea, to Jerusalem.

Luke is the loyal comrade who stays with Paul when he is imprisoned in Rome about the year 61: "Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers" (Philemon 24). And after everyone else deserts Paul in his final imprisonment and sufferings, it is Luke who remains with Paul to the end: "Only Luke is with me" (2 Timothy 4:11).

Luke's inspiration and information for his Gospel and Acts came from his close association with Paul and his companions as he explains in his introduction to the Gospel: "Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus" (Luke 1:1-3).

Luke's unique perspective on Jesus can be seen in the six miracles and eighteen parables not found in the other gospels. Luke's is the gospel of the poor and of social justice. He is the one who tells the story ofLazarus and the Rich Man who ignored him. Luke is the one who uses "Blessed are the poor" instead of "Blessed are the poor in spirit" in the beatitudes. Only in Luke's gospel do we hear Mary 's Magnificat where she proclaims that God "has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty" (Luke 1:52-53).

Luke also has a special connection with the women in Jesus' life, especially Mary. It is only in Luke's gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, Mary's visit to Elizabeth including the Magnificat, the Presentation, and the story of Jesus' disappearance in Jerusalem. It is Luke that we have to thank for the Scriptural parts of the Hail Mary: "Hail Mary full of grace" spoken at the Annunciation and "Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus" spoken by her cousin Elizabeth.

Forgiveness and God's mercy to sinners is also of first importance to Luke. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus' feet with her tears. Throughout Luke's gospel,Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God's mercy.

Reading Luke's gospel gives a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God's kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God's mercy for everyone.

The reports of Luke's life after Paul's death are conflicting. Some early writers claim he was martyred, others say he lived a long life. Some say he preached in Greece, others in Gaul. The earliest tradition we have says that he died at 84 Boeotia after settling in Greece to write his Gospel.

He is often shown with an ox or a calf because these are the symbols of sacrifice -- the sacrifice Jesus made for all the world.

Luke is the patron of physicians and surgeons.

Our Lady of Czestochowa
Tradition also holds it that Luke painted the first painting of the Blessed Mother. This painting is revered as Our Lady of Czestochowa, in Poland. It is also said that she told him the nativity story, which clears up the reason why his nativity story is more detailed than that of Matthew's. 


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

50 Years: Golden Anniversary

October 16, 1962 was a brisk day and very windy (there's a picture to prove it!). Though not ideal, on this day 50 years ago, as the old saying goes, "Two hearts became one." Tom and Maureen, or as to me, Grandpa and Grandma, have been married for 50 years today. Mass was celebrated at St. Paul Church, Wrightstown, WI, with the reception at Van Abel's of Hollandtown. The same happened on Sunday, the only difference being they were surrounded by 3 children and 13 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren. The years have been filled with unimaginable joy and fun; and sometimes unbelievable sorrow, such as the loss of their oldest child just over a year ago. Amid all that has happened, good and bad, Grandma and Grandpa agree that they wouldn't have done it with anyone else.


"That what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder."
-  Mark 10: 9


Monday, October 15, 2012

St. Teresa of Avila

Today we celebrate the earthly life of St. Teresa of Avila, Virgin, Foundress, and Doctor the Church.


From Catholic Online:

Less than twenty years before Teresa was born in 1515, Columbus opened up the Western Hemisphere to European colonization. Two years after she was born, Luther started the Protestant Reformation. Out of all of this change came Teresa pointing the way from outer turmoil to inner peace.

Teresa's father was rigidly honest and pious, but he may have carried his strictness to extremes. Teresa's mother loved romance novels but because her husband objected to these fanciful books, she hid the books from him. This put Teresa in the middle -- especially since she liked the romances too. Her father told her never to lie but her mother told her not to tell her father. Later she said she was always afraid that no matter what she did she was going to do everything wrong.

When she was five years old she convinced her older brother that they should, as she says in her Life, "go off to the land of the Moors and beg them, out of love of God, to cut off our heads there." They got as far as the road from the city before an uncle found them and brought them back. Some people have used this story as an early example of sanctity, but this author think it's better used as an early example of her ability to stir up trouble.

After this incident she led a fairly ordinary life, though she was convinced that she was a horrible sinner. As a teenager, she cared only about boys and clothes and flirting and rebelling -- like other teenagers throughout the ages. When she was 16, her father decided she was out of control and sent her to a convent. At first she hated it but eventually she began to enjoy it -- partly because of her growing love for God, and partly because the convent was a lot less strict than her father.

Still, when the time came for her to choose between marriage and religious life, she had a tough time making the decision. She'd watched a difficult marriage ruin her mother. On the other hand being a nun didn't seem like much fun. When she finally chose religious life, she did so because she though that it was the only safe place for someone as prone to sin as she was.

Once installed at the Carmelite convent permanently, she started to learn and practice mental prayer, in which she "tried as hard as I could to keep Jesus Christ present within me....My imagination is so dull that I had no talent for imagining or coming up with great theological thoughts." Teresa prayed this way off and on for eighteen years without feeling that she was getting results. Part of the reason for her trouble was that the convent was not the safe place she assumed it would be.

Many women who had no place else to go wound up at the convent, whether they had vocations or not. They were encouraged to stay away from the convents for long period of time to cut down on expenses. Nuns would arrange their veils attractively and wear jewelry. Prestige depended not on piety but on money. There was a steady stream of visitors in the parlor and parties that included young men. What spiritual life there was involved hysteria, weeping, exaggerated penance, nosebleeds, and self- induced visions.

Teresa suffered the same problem that Francis of Assisi did -- she was too charming. Everyone liked her and she liked to be liked. She found it too easy to slip into a worldly life and ignore God. The convent encouraged her to have visitors to whom she would teach mental prayer because their gifts helped the community economy. But Teresa got more involved in flattery, vanity and gossip than spiritual guidance. These weren't great sins perhaps but they kept her from God.

Then Teresa fell ill with malaria. When she had a seizure, people were so sure she was dead that after she woke up four days later she learned they had dug a grave for her. Afterwards she was paralyzed for three years and was never completely well. Yet instead of helping her spiritually, her sickness became an excuse to stop her prayer completely: she couldn't be alone enough, she wasn't healthy enough, and so forth. Later she would say, "Prayer is an act of love, words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love."

For years she hardly prayed at all "under the guise of humility." She thought as a wicked sinner she didn't deserve to get favors from God. But turning away from prayer was like "a baby turning from its mother's breasts, what can be expected but death?"

When she was 41, a priest convinced her to go back to her prayer, but she still found it difficult. "I was more anxious for the hour of prayer to be over than I was to remain there. I don't know what heavy penance I would not have gladly undertaken rather than practice prayer." She was distracted often: "This intellect is so wild that it doesn't seem to be anything else than a frantic madman no one can tie down." Teresa sympathizes with those who have a difficult time in prayer: "All the trials we endure cannot be compared to these interior battles."

Yet her experience gives us wonderful descriptions of mental prayer: "For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything."

As she started to pray again, God gave her spiritual delights: the prayer of quiet where God's presence overwhelmed her senses, raptures where God overcame her with glorious foolishness, prayer of union where she felt the sun of God melt her soul away. Sometimes her whole body was raised from the ground. If she felt God was going to levitate her body, she stretched out on the floor and called the nuns to sit on her and hold her down. Far from being excited about these events, she "begged God very much not to give me any more favors in public."

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa
In her books, she analyzed and dissects mystical experiences the way a scientist would. She never saw these gifts as rewards from God but the way he "chastised" her. The more love she felt the harder it was to offend God. She says, "The memory of the favor God has granted does more to bring such a person back to God than all the infernal punishments imaginable."

Her biggest fault was her friendships. Though she wasn't sinning, she was very attached to her friends until God told her "No longer do I want you to converse with human beings but with angels." In an instant he gave her the freedom that she had been unable to achieve through years of effort. After that God always came first in her life.

Some friends, however, did not like what was happening to her and got together to discuss some "remedy" for her. Concluding that she had been deluded by the devil, they sent a Jesuit to analyze her. The Jesuit reassured her that her experiences were from God but soon everyone knew about her and was making fun of her.

One confessor was so sure that the visions were from the devil that he told her to make an obscene gesture called the fig every time she had a vision of Jesus. She cringed but did as she was ordered, all the time apologizing to Jesus. Fortunately, Jesus didn't seem upset but told her that she was right to obey her confessor. In her autobiography she would say, "I am more afraid of those who are terrified of the devil than I am of the devil himself." The devil was not to be feared but fought by talking more about God.

Teresa felt that the best evidence that her delights came from God was that the experiences gave her peace, inspiration, and encouragement. "If these effects are not present I would greatly doubt that the raptures come from God; on the contrary I would fear lest they be caused by rabies."

Sometimes, however, she couldn't avoid complaining to her closest Friend about the hostility and gossip that surrounded her. When Jesus told her, "Teresa, that's how I treat my friends" Teresa responded, "No wonder you have so few friends." But since Christ has so few friends, she felt they should be good ones. And that's why she decided to reform her Carmelite order.

At the age of 43, she became determined to found a new convent that went back to the basics of a contemplative order: a simple life of poverty devoted to prayer. This doesn't sound like a big deal, right? Wrong.

When plans leaked out about her first convent, St. Joseph's, she was denounced from the pulpit, told by her sisters she should raise money for the convent she was already in, and threatened with the Inquisition. The town started legal proceedings against her. All because she wanted to try a simple life of prayer. In the face of this open war, she went ahead calmly, as if nothing was wrong, trusting in God.

St. John of the Cross, co-founder of the Discalced Carmelites
"May God protect me from gloomy saints," Teresa said, and that's how she ran her convent. To her, spiritual life was an attitude of love, not a rule. Although she proclaimed poverty, she believed in work, not in begging. She believed in obedience to God more than penance. If you do something wrong, don't punish yourself -- change. When someone felt depressed, her advice was that she go some place where she could see the sky and take a walk. When someone was shocked that she was going to eat well, she answered, "There's a time for partridge and a time for penance." To her brother's wish to meditate on hell, she answered, "Don't."

Habit of a Discalced Carmelite
Once she had her own convent, she could lead a life of peace, right? Wrong again. Teresa believed that the most powerful and acceptable prayer was that prayer that leads to action. Good effects were better than pious sensations that only make the person praying feel good.

At St. Joseph's, she spent much of her time writing her Life. She wrote this book not for fun but because she was ordered to. Many people questioned her experiences and this book would clear her or condemn her. Because of this, she used a lot of camouflage in the book, following a profound thought with the statement, "But what do I know. I'm just a wretched woman." The Inquisition liked what they read and cleared her.
Shield of the Discalced Carmelites
At 51, she felt it was time to spread her reform movement. She braved burning sun, ice and snow, thieves, and rat-infested inns to found more 
convents. But those obstacles were easy compared to what she face from her brothers and sisters in religious life. She was called "a restless disobedient gadabout who has gone about teaching as though she were a professor" by the papal nuncio. When her former convent voted her in as prioress, the leader of the Carmelite order excommunicated the nuns. A vicar general stationed an officer of the law outside the door to keep her out. The other religious orders opposed her wherever she went. She often had to enter a town secretly in the middle of the night to avoid causing a riot.

And the help they received was sometimes worse than the hostility. A princess ordered Teresa to found a convent and then showed up at the door with luggage and maids. When Teresa refused to order her nuns to wait on the princess on their knees, the princess denounced Teresa to the Inquisition.

In another town, they arrived at their new house in the middle of the night, only to wake up the next morning to find that one wall of the building was missing.

Why was everyone so upset? Teresa said, "Truly it seems that now there are no more of those considered mad for being true lovers of Christ." No one in religious orders or in the world wanted Teresa reminding them of the way God said they should live.

Teresa looked on these difficulties as good publicity. Soon she had postulants clamoring to get into her reform convents. Many people thought about what she said and wanted to learn about prayer from her. Soon her ideas about prayer swept not only through Spain but all of Europe.

In 1582, she was invited to found a convent by an Archbishop but when she arrived in the middle of the pouring rain, he ordered her to leave. "And the weather so delightful too" was Teresa's comment. Though very ill, she was commanded to attend a noblewoman giving birth. By the time they got there, the baby had already arrived so, as Teresa said, "The saint won't be needed after all." Too ill to leave, she died on October 4 at the age of 67.

She is the founder of the Discalced Carmelites. In 1970 she was declared a Doctor of the Church for her writing and teaching on prayer, one of two women to be honored in this way.

St. Teresa is the patron saint of Headache sufferers. Her symbol is a heart, an arrow, and a book. She was canonized in 1622.

Copyright 1996-2000 by Terry Matz. All Rights Reserved.


Funny Story I remember:  While St. Teresa was traveling, her wagon hit a pot hole in the road, and fell into the mud. She then heard the voice of God saying, "All of my friends must suffer," to which Teresa replied, "Well Lord, that must be why you have so few of them!" I love saints with a sense of humor.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Our Lady of Good Help

Today is the Anniversary of the Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Adele Brise, a Belgian immigrant.


The story of the apparition and pictures of the shrine are on two of my older posts on the shrine.


Apparition Picture

The Catholics of Wisconsin and the rest of the United States are so fortunate to have a shrine site that is in the ranks of Lourdes, Fatima, and Guadalupe!

OUR LADY OF GOOD HELP, PRAY FOR US!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Peshtigo Fire - Miraculous Preservation of Shrine

Today is the anniversary of the Peshtigo Fire - a fire that destroyed much of north east Wisconsin in the year of 1871. It also occurred on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire, except the Peshtigo fire was far bigger.


Panic at the River

From the Shrine website:

Much has been written about the great Peshtigo Fire, which claimed an estimated 2500 lives; 10 times more than the great Chicago Fire, which occurred the same day. Our intent here, however, is to show how this tragedy played an important role in the events which occurred at Robinsonville.

In early October of 1859 Adele Brise received her first vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On the following Sunday, October 9th, when the Blessed Mother appeared to Adele for the third time, she warned:

“If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them.”

We do not propose to pass judgment on the reasons for this catastrophe, but, one day short of 12 years after the Robinsonville apparition, on October 8, 1871, the great calamity fell and a tragedy begat a miracle. The Belgian colony which embraced a large part of the peninsula and included Robinsonville, was visited by the same whirlwind of fire and wind that devastated Peshtigo.



Area destroyed by the fire

When the tornado of fire approached Robinsonville (Champion), Sister Adele and her companions were determined not to abandon the Chapel. Encircled by the inferno, the Sisters, the children, area farmers and their families fled to the Shrine for protection. The statue of Mary was raised reverently and was processed around the sanctuary. When wind and fire threatened suffocation, they turned in another direction to hope and pray, saying the rosary. Hours later, rains came in a downpour, extinguishing the fiery fury outside the Chapel. The Robinsonville area was destroyed and desolate…except for the convent, the school, the Chapel, and the five acres of land consecrated to the Virgin Mary. Though the fire singed the Chapel fence, it had not entered the Chapel grounds. Those assembled at the Chapel, realizing that they had witnessed a miracle, were asked by Sister Adele to retire to the Convent, where they were made as comfortable as possible for the rest of the night.

What’s more, the only livestock to survive the fire were the cattle brought to the Chapel grounds by farmers and their families who came to the Shrine seeking shelter from the firestorm. Though the Chapel well was only a few feet deep, it gave the cattle outside all the water they needed to survive the fire, while many deeper wells in the area went dry. Hence, the Chapel well has been sometimes referred to as the “miraculous well”.


Father Peter Pernin

In the days to follow the great fire, the poor Belgian pioneers needed no more proof that Mary’s visit to Sister Adele was genuine. Father Peter Pernin, known as the “hero of the Peshtigo Fire”, visited Sister Adele shortly after the catastrophe, and wrote…

“I have no intention either of passing judgment on the apparition of the Blessed Virgin and the pious pilgrimages which have resulted from it. Ecclesiastical authority has not yet spoken on the subject; it silently allows the good work to advance, awaiting perhaps some proof more striking and irrefutable before pronouncing its fiat. Far from me be the thought of forestalling ecclesiastical judgment.

“I have but another word to add. If it lay within the power of any of my readers to proceed to the spot and visit this humble place of pilgrimage, as yet in its infancy, and the only one, I believe, of its nature in the United States, I earnestly counsel them to go. There, they can see and question Adele Brise, who, without having sought it, is the soul and heroine of a good work, progressing with rapid strides from day to day; and I feel assured that, like myself, all those who have gone thither with an upright intention, they will return edified and happy at heart, if not convinced, of the reality of Our Lady’s apparition.”

Pictures of the Candlelight Procession that takes place every year on this date. Included are pictures of the Mass the next day.

A truly fascinating miracle. Our Lady of Good Help, ora pro nobis!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pope, at Marian Shrine, entrusts Year of Faith, synod to Mary

While visiting the Holy House of Loreto, the Holy Father entrusted the Year of Faith to the Blessed Mother. Read the rest of the story here.


Pope Benedict XVI praying in the Holy House


The Holy Father with Our Lady of Loreto

Friday, October 5, 2012

St. Faustina Kowalska

Visionary of the Divine Mercy, Polish sister: St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938).



Saint Faustina was born Helena Kowalska in a small village west of Lodz, Poland on August 25, 1905. She was the third of ten children. When she was almost twenty, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, whose members devote themselves to the care and education of troubled young women. The following year she received her religious habit and was given the name Sister Maria Faustina, to which she added, "of the Most Blessed Sacrament", as was permitted by her congregation's custom. In the 1930's, Sister Faustina received from the Lord a message of mercy that she was told to spread throughout the world. She was asked to become the apostle and secretary of God's mercy, a model of how to be merciful to others, and an instrument for reemphasizing God's plan of mercy for the world. It was not a glamorous prospect.


The Divine Mercy

Her entire life, in imitation of Christ's, was to be a sacrifice - a life lived for others. At the Divine Lord's request, she willingly offered her personal sufferings in union with Him to atone for the sins of others; in her daily life she was to become a doer of mercy, bringing joy and peace to others, and by writing about God's mercy, she was to encourage others to trust in Him and thus prepare the world for His coming again. Her special devotion to Mary Immaculate and to the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation gave her the strength to bear all her sufferings as an offering to God on behalf of the Church and those in special need, especially great sinners and the dying.

She wrote and suffered in secret, with only her spiritual director and some of her superiors aware that anything special was taking place in her life. After her death from tuberculosis in 1938, even her closest associates were amazed as they began to discover what great sufferings and deep mystical experiences had been given to this Sister of theirs, who had always been so cheerful and humble. She had taken deeply into her heart, God's gospel command to "be merciful even as your heavenly Father is merciful" as well as her confessor's directive that she should act in such a way that everyone who came in contact with her would go away joyful. The message of mercy that Sister Faustina received is now being spread throughout the world; her diary, Divine Mercy in my Soul, has become the handbook for devotion to the Divine Mercy.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

St. Francis of Assisi

Today we remember, arguably the most famous saint (besides Our Lady) St. Francis of Assisi 1181/1182 - 1226.



St. Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a sense of self-importance. Volumes could be written about this most holy man and no short biography can truly give justice to the humble and inspiring life that he led.

Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi’s youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: “Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy.”


Cross of San Damiano

From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, “Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down.” Francis became the totally poor and humble workman.

He must have suspected a deeper meaning to “build up my house.” But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor “nothing” man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up all his possessions, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis’ “gifts” to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, “Our Father in heaven.” He was, for a time, considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, evokng sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking.

But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: “Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff” (see Luke 9:1-3).


Francis' habit

Francis’ first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church’s unity.

He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade.


Francis receiving the stigmata

During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44), he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, “Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death.” He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.

Perhaps the most beloved of all saints, St. Francis is the patron of Italy, Animals, Ecology & Environmentalism,, Merchants, against dying alone, against fire, birds, Catholic Action, families, Franciscan Order, peace, zoos, and many cities and diocese around the world.


Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi, Italy


Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.


O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. 

Amen.

Monday, October 1, 2012

St. Therese of Lisieux

Today is the feast day of of the Little Flower of God, St. Therese of Lisieux.


From www.vatican.va 

THÉRÈSE MARTIN was born at Alençon, France on 2 January 1873. Two days later, she was baptized Marie Frances Thérèse at Notre Dame Church. Her parents were Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin. After the death of her mother on 28 August 1877, Thérèse and her family moved to Lisieux.



St. Therese as a child

Towards the end of 1879, she went to confession for the first time. On the Feast of Pentecost 1883, she received the singular grace of being healed from a serious illness through the intercession of Our Lady of Victories. Taught by the Benedictine Nuns of Lisieux and after an intense immediate preparation culminating in a vivid experience of intimate union with Christ, she received First Holy Communion on 8 May 1884. Some weeks later, on 14 June of the same year, she received the Sacrament of Confirmation, fully aware of accepting the gift of the Holy Spirit as a personal participation in the grace of Pentecost.

She wished to embrace the contemplative life, as her sisters Pauline and Marie had done in the Carmel of Lisieux, but was prevented from doing so by her young age. On a visit to Italy, after having visited the House of Loreto and the holy places of the Eternal City, during an audience granted by Pope Leo XIII to the pilgrims from Lisieux on 20 November 1887, she asked the Holy Father with childlike audacity to be able to enter the Carmel at the age of fifteen.

On 9 April 1888 she entered the Carmel of Lisieux. She received the habit on 10 January of the following year, and made her religious profession on 8 September 1890 on the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In Carmel she embraced the way of perfection outlined by the Foundress, Saint Teresa of Jesus, fulfilling with genuine fervour and fidelity the various community responsibilities entrusted to her. Her faith was tested by the sickness of her beloved father, Louis Martin, who died on 29 July 1894. Thérèse nevertheless grew in sanctity, enlightened by the Word of God and inspired by the Gospel to place love at the centre of everything. In her autobiographical manuscripts she left us not only her recollections of childhood and adolescence but also a portrait of her soul, the description of her most intimate experiences. She discovered the little way of spiritual childhood and taught it to the novices entrusted to her care. She considered it a special gift to receive the charge of accompanying two "missionary brothers" with prayer and sacrifice. Seized by the love of Christ, her only Spouse, she penetrated ever more deeply into the mystery of the Church and became increasingly aware of her apostolic and missionary vocation to draw everyone in her path.

On 9 June 1895, on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, she offered herself as a sacrificial victim to the merciful Love of God. At this time, she wrote her first autobiographical manuscript, which she presented to Mother Agnes for her birthday on 21 January 1896.

Several months later, on 3 April, in the night between Holy Thursday and Good Friday, she suffered a haemoptysis, the first sign of the illness which would lead to her death; she welcomed this event as a mysterious visitation of the Divine Spouse. From this point forward, she entered a trial of faith which would last until her death; she gives overwhelming testimony to this in her writings. In September, she completed Manuscript B; this text gives striking evidence of the spiritual maturity which she had attained, particularly the discovery of her vocation in the heart of the Church.



St. Therese as a carmelite

While her health declined and the time of trial continued, she began work in the month of June on Manuscript C, dedicated to Mother Marie de Gonzague. New graces led her to higher perfection and she discovered fresh insights for the diffusion of her message in the Church, for the benefit of souls who would follow her way. She was transferred to the infirmary on 8 July. Her sisters and other religious women collected her sayings. Meanwhile her sufferings and trials intensified. She accepted them with patience up to the moment of her death in the afternoon of 30 September 1897. "I am not dying, I am entering life", she wrote to her missionary spiritual brother, Father M. Bellier. Her final words, "My God..., I love you!", seal a life which was extinguished on earth at the age of twenty-four; thus began, as was her desire, a new phase of apostolic presence on behalf of souls in the Communion of Saints, in order to shower a rain of roses upon the world.

She was canonized by Pope Pius XI on 17 May 1925. The same Pope proclaimed her Universal Patron of the Missions, alongside Saint Francis Xavier, on 14 December 1927.

Her teaching and example of holiness has been received with great enthusiasm by all sectors of the faithful during this century, as well as by people outside the Catholic Church and outside Christianity.

On the occasion of the centenary of her death, many Episcopal Conferences have asked the Pope to declare her a Doctor of the Church, in view of the soundness of her spiritual wisdom inspired by the Gospel, the originality of her theological intuitions filled with sublime teaching, and the universal acceptance of her spiritual message, which has been welcomed throughout the world and spread by the translation of her works into over fifty languages.

Mindful of these requests, His Holiness Pope John Paul II asked the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which has competence in this area, in consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with regard to her exalted teaching, to study the suitability of proclaiming her a Doctor of the Church.

On 24 August, at the close of the Eucharistic Celebration at the Twelfth World Youth Day in Paris, in the presence of hundreds of bishops and before an immense crowd of young people from the whole world, Pope John Paul II announced his intention to proclaim Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face a Doctor of the Universal Church on World Mission Sunday, 19 October 1997.




"The Little Way"
From Wikipedia 

In her quest for sanctity, she believed that it was not necessary to accomplish heroic acts, or "great deeds", in order to attain holiness and to express her love of God. She wrote,

"Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love."

This little way of Therese is the foundation of her spirituality: Within the Catholic Church Thérèse's way was known for some time as "the little way of spiritual childhood," but Thérèse actually wrote "little way" only once, and she never wrote the phrase "spiritual childhood." It was her sister Pauline who, after Thérèse's death, adopted the phrase "the little way of spiritual childhood" to interpret Thérèse's path. Years after Thérèse's death, a Carmelite of Lisieux asked Pauline about this phrase and Pauline answered spontaneously "But you know well that Thérèse never used it! It is mine." In May 1897, Thérèse wrote to Father Adolphe Roulland, "My way is all confidence and love." To Maurice Bellière she wrote "and I, with my way, will do more than you, so I hope that one day Jesus will make you walk by the same way as me."

"Sometimes, when I read spiritual treatises in which perfection is shown with a thousand obstacles, surrounded by a crowd of illusions, my poor little mind quickly tires. I close the learned book which is breaking my head and drying up my heart, and I take up Holy Scripture. Then all seems luminous to me; a single word uncovers for my soul infinite horizons; perfection seems simple; I see that it is enough to recognize one's nothingness and to abandon oneself, like a child, into God's arms. Leaving to great souls, to great minds, the beautiful books I cannot understand, I rejoice to be little because 'only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.' "
Passages like this have left Thérèse open to the charge that her spirituality is sentimental, immature, and unexamined. Her proponents counter that she developed an approach to the spiritual life that people of every background can understand and adopt.

This is evident in her approach to prayer:

"For me, prayer is a movement of the heart; it is a simple glance toward Heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and love in times of trial as well as in times of joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus. . . . I have not the courage to look through books for beautiful prayers.... I do like a child who does not know how to read; I say very simply to God what I want to say, and He always understands me."


Shower of Roses: Novena to St. Therese

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, during your short life on earth you became a mirror of angelic purity, of love strong as death, and of wholehearted abandonment to God. Now that you rejoice in the reward of your virtues, turn your eyes of mercy upon me, for I put my confidence in you. 

Obtain for me the need to keep my heart and mind pure and clean like your own, and to abhor sincerely whatever may in any way tarnish the glorious virtue of purity, so dear to our Lord. 

Most gracious Little Rose Queen, remember your promises of never letting any request made to you go unanswered, of sending down a shower of roses, and of coming down to earth to do good. Full of confidence in your power with the Sacred Heart, I implore your intercession in my behalf and beg of you to obtain the request I so ardently desire.

(Mention your request.)

Holy little Theresa, remember your promise to do good upon the earth and shower down your roses on those who invoke you. Obtain for me from God the graces I hope for from his infinite goodness. Let me feel the powers of your prayers in every need. Give me consolation in all the bitterness of this life, and especially at the hour of death, that I may be worthy to share eternal happiness with you in heaven. 
Amen.