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Blessed Pope Urban V

9 hours 9 min ago
Detail | Head and torso of the recumbent figure of Pope Urban V | photo by Jean-Marc RosierImage: Detail | Head and torso of the recumbent figure of Pope Urban V | photo by Jean-Marc Rosier Blessed Pope Urban V Saint of the Day for December 19 (1310 – December 19, 1370) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec19.mp3

 

Blessed Pope Urban V’s Story

In 1362, the man elected pope declined the office. When the cardinals could not find another person among them for that important office, they turned to a relative stranger: the holy person we honor today.

The new Pope Urban V proved a wise choice. A Benedictine monk and canon lawyer, he was deeply spiritual and brilliant. He lived simply and modestly, which did not always earn him friends among clergymen who had become used to comfort and privilege. Still, he pressed for reform, and saw to the restoration of churches and monasteries. Except for a brief period he spent most of his eight years as pope living away from Rome at Avignon, seat of the papacy from 1309, until shortly after his death.

Urban came close, but was not able to achieve one of his biggest goals—reuniting the Eastern and Western churches.

As pope, Urban continued to follow the Benedictine Rule. Shortly before his death in 1370, he asked to be moved from the papal palace to the nearby home of his brother, so he could say goodbye to the ordinary people he had so often helped.

Reflection

Simplicity in the midst of power and grandeur seems to define this saint, as he reluctantly accepted the papacy, but remained at heart a Benedictine monk. Surroundings need not negatively influence a person.

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Blessed Anthony Grassi

12/18/2018 - 12:00am
House of Loreto | J L Buchner | photo by unknownImage: House of Loreto | J L Buchner | photo by unknown Blessed Anthony Grassi Saint of the Day for December 18 (November 13, 1592 – December 13, 1671) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec18.mp3

 

Blessed Anthony Grassi’s Story

Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy, he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.

Already a fine student, Anthony soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a “walking dictionary,” who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.

In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When Anthony recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.

More importantly, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.

He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, Anthony listened carefully to penitents, said a few words, and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.

In 1635, Anthony was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.

He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As Anthony grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.

But age brought its challenges as well. Anthony suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally after a fall, Anthony was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him Holy Communion. One of his final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers. The Liturgical Feast of Blessed Anthony Grassi is December 15.

Reflection

Nothing provides a better reason for reassessing a life than a brush with death. Anthony’s life already seemed to be on track when he was struck by lightning; he was a brilliant priest, blessed at last with serenity. But the experience softened him. Anthony became a loving counselor and a wise mediator. The same might be said of us if we put our hearts to it. We needn’t wait to be struck by lightning.

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Saint Hildegard of Bingen

12/17/2018 - 12:00am
<em>Hildegard von Bingen</em> | Line engraving by W. Marshall | Wellcome ImagesImage: Hildegard von Bingen | Line engraving by W. Marshall | Wellcome Images Saint Hildegard of Bingen Saint of the Day for December 17 (September 16, 1098 – September 17, 1179) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec17.mp3

 

Saint Hildegard of Bingen’s Story

Abbess, artist, author, composer, mystic, pharmacist, poet, preacher, theologian—where to begin in describing this remarkable woman?

Born into a noble family, she was instructed for ten years by the holy woman Blessed Jutta. When Hildegard was 18, she became a Benedictine nun at the Monastery of Saint Disibodenberg. Ordered by her confessor to write down the visions that she had received since the age of three, Hildegard took ten years to write her Scivias (Know the Ways). Pope Eugene III read it, and in 1147, encouraged her to continue writing. Her Book of the Merits of Life and Book of Divine Works followed. She wrote over 300 letters to people who sought her advice; she also composed short works on medicine and physiology, and sought advice from contemporaries such as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

Hildegard’s visions caused her to see humans as “living sparks” of God’s love, coming from God as daylight comes from the sun. Sin destroyed the original harmony of creation; Christ’s redeeming death and resurrection opened up new possibilities. Virtuous living reduces the estrangement from God and others that sin causes.

Like all mystics, Hildegard saw the harmony of God’s creation and the place of women and men in that. This unity was not apparent to many of her contemporaries.

Hildegard was no stranger to controversy. The monks near her original foundation protested vigorously when she moved her monastery to Bingen, overlooking the Rhine River. She confronted Emperor Frederick Barbarossa for supporting at least three antipopes. Hildegard challenged the Cathars, who rejected the Catholic Church claiming to follow a more pure Christianity.

Between 1152 and 1162, Hildegard often preached in the Rhineland. Her monastery was placed under interdict because she had permitted the burial of a young man who had been excommunicated. She insisted that he had been reconciled with the Church and had received its sacraments before dying. Hildegard protested bitterly when the local bishop forbade the celebration of or reception of the Eucharist at the Bingen monastery, a sanction that was lifted only a few months before her death.

In 2012, Hildegard was canonized and named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI. Her Liturgical Feast Day is September 17.

Reflection

Pope Benedict spoke about Hildegard of Bingen during two of his general audiences in September 2010. He praised the humility with which she received God’s gifts, and the obedience she gave Church authorities. He praised too the “rich theological content” of her mystical visions that sum up the history of salvation from creation to the end of time.

During his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Let us always invoke the Holy Spirit, so that he may inspire in the Church holy and courageous women like Saint Hildegard of Bingen who, developing the gifts they have received from God, make their own special and valuable contribution to the spiritual development of our communities and of the Church in our time.”

Love Saint Hidegard? Click here for a recipe named in her honor!

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Blessed Mary Frances Schervier

12/15/2018 - 12:00am
 Monument for Mary Frances Schervier | Aachen, Germany | photo by Berthold WernerImage: Monument for Mary Frances Schervier | Aachen, Germany | photo by Berthold Werner Blessed Mary Frances Schervier Saint of the Day for December 15 (January 3, 1819 – December 14, 1876) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec15.mp3

 

Blessed Mary Frances Schervier’s Story

This woman who once wanted to become a Trappistine nun was instead led by God to establish a community of sisters who care for the sick and aged in the United States and throughout the world.

Born into a distinguished family in Aachen—then ruled by Prussia, but formerly Aix-la-Chapelle, France—Frances ran the household after her mother’s death, and established a reputation for generosity to the poor. In 1844, she became a Secular Franciscan. The next year she and four companions established a religious community devoted to caring for the poor. In 1851, the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis were approved by the local bishop; the community soon spread. The first U.S. foundation was made in 1858.

Mother Frances visited the United States in 1863 and helped her sisters nurse soldiers wounded in the Civil War. She visited the United States again in 1868. She encouraged Philip Hoever as he was establishing the Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis.

When Mother Frances died, there were 2,500 members of her community worldwide. They are still engaged in operating hospitals and homes for the aged. Mother Mary Frances was beatified in 1974.

Reflection

The sick, the poor, and the aged are constantly in danger of being considered “useless” members of society and therefore ignored—or worse. Women and men motivated by the ideals of Mother Frances are needed if the God-given dignity and destiny of all people are to be respected.

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Saint John of the Cross

12/14/2018 - 12:00am
<em>Saint John of the Cross</em> | Diego de Sanabria | photo by igH09d8z-bGi8g at Google Cultural InstituteImage: Saint John of the Cross | Diego de Sanabria | photo by igH09d8z-bGi8g at Google Cultural Institute Saint John of the Cross Saint of the Day for December 14 (June 24, 1541 – December 14, 1591) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec14.mp3

 

Saint John of the Cross’ Story

John is a saint because his life was a heroic effort to live up to his name: “of the Cross.” The folly of the cross came to full realization in time. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34b) is the story of John’s life. The Paschal Mystery—through death to life—strongly marks John as reformer, mystic-poet, and theologian-priest.

Ordained a Carmelite priest in 1567 at age 25, John met Teresa of Avila and like her, vowed himself to the primitive Rule of the Carmelites. As partner with Teresa and in his own right, John engaged in the work of reform, and came to experience the price of reform: increasing opposition, misunderstanding, persecution, imprisonment. He came to know the cross acutely—to experience the dying of Jesus—as he sat month after month in his dark, damp, narrow cell with only his God.

Yet, the paradox! In this dying of imprisonment John came to life, uttering poetry. In the darkness of the dungeon, John’s spirit came into the Light. There are many mystics, many poets; John is unique as mystic-poet, expressing in his prison-cross the ecstasy of mystical union with God in the Spiritual Canticle.

But as agony leads to ecstasy, so John had his Ascent to Mt. Carmel, as he named it in his prose masterpiece. As man-Christian-Carmelite, he experienced in himself this purifying ascent; as spiritual director, he sensed it in others; as psychologist-theologian, he described and analyzed it in his prose writings. His prose works are outstanding in underscoring the cost of discipleship, the path of union with God: rigorous discipline, abandonment, purification. Uniquely and strongly John underlines the gospel paradox: The cross leads to resurrection, agony to ecstasy, darkness to light, abandonment to possession, denial to self to union with God. If you want to save your life, you must lose it. John is truly “of the Cross.” He died at 49—a life short, but full.

Reflection

In his life and writings, John of the Cross has a crucial word for us today. We tend to be rich, soft, comfortable. We shrink even from words like self-denial, mortification, purification, asceticism, discipline. We run from the cross. John’s message—like the gospel—is loud and clear: Don’t—if you really want to live!

Saint John of the Cross is the Patron Saint of:

Mystics

Click here for Friar Jack’s thoughts on John of the Cross and three other Spanish saints!

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Saint Lucy

12/13/2018 - 12:00am
<em>St Lucy</em> | photo by Lawrence OP | flickrImage: St. Lucy | photo by Lawrence OP | flickr Saint Lucy Saint of the Day for December 13 (283 – 304) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec13.mp3

 

Saint Lucy’s Story

Every little girl named Lucy must bite her tongue in disappointment when she first tries to find out what there is to know about her patron saint. The older books will have a lengthy paragraph detailing a small number of traditions. Newer books will have a lengthy paragraph showing that there is little basis in history for these traditions. The single fact survives that a disappointed suitor accused Lucy of being a Christian, and she was executed in Syracuse, Sicily, in the year 304. But it is also true that her name is mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer, geographical places are named after her, a popular song has her name as its title, and down through the centuries many thousands of little girls have been proud of the name Lucy.

One can easily imagine what a young Christian woman had to contend with in pagan Sicily in the year 300. If you have trouble imagining, just glance at today’s pleasure-at-all-costs world and the barriers it presents against leading a good Christian life.

Her friends must have wondered aloud about this hero of Lucy’s, an obscure itinerant preacher in a far-off captive nation that had been destroyed more than 200 years before. Once a carpenter, he had been crucified by the Romans after his own people turned him over to their authority. Lucy believed with her whole soul that this man had risen from the dead. Heaven had put a stamp on all he said and did. To give witness to her faith she had made a vow of virginity.

What a hubbub this caused among her pagan friends! The kindlier ones just thought her a little strange. To be pure before marriage was an ancient Roman ideal, rarely found, but not to be condemned. To exclude marriage altogether, however, was too much. She must have something sinister to hide, the tongues wagged.

Lucy knew of the heroism of earlier virgin martyrs. She remained faithful to their example and to the example of the carpenter, whom she knew to be the Son of God. She is the patroness of eyesight.

Reflection

If you are a little girl named Lucy, you need not bite your tongue in disappointment. Your patron is a genuine authentic heroine, first class, an abiding inspiration for you and for all Christians. The moral courage of the young Sicilian martyr shines forth as a guiding light, just as bright for today’s youth as it was in A.D. 304.

Saint Lucy is the Patron Saint of:

The Blind
Eye Disorders

Another Saint of the Day for December 13 is Servant of God Berthold of Ratisbon.

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Our Lady of Guadalupe

12/12/2018 - 12:00am
<em>The Virgin of Guadalupe</em> | public domainImage: The Virgin of Guadalupe | public domain Our Lady of Guadalupe Saint of the Day for December 12 https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec12.mp3

 

The Story of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The feast in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe goes back to the 16th century. Chronicles of that period tell us the story.

A poor Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac was baptized and given the name Juan Diego. He was a 57-year-old widower, and lived in a small village near Mexico City. On Saturday morning December 9, 1531, he was on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady.

Juan was walking by a hill called Tepeyac when he heard beautiful music like the warbling of birds. A radiant cloud appeared, and within it stood an Indian maiden dressed like an Aztec princess. The lady spoke to him in his own language and sent him to the bishop of Mexico, a Franciscan named Juan de Zumarraga. The bishop was to build a chapel in the place where the lady appeared.

Eventually the bishop told Juan to have the lady give him a sign. About this same time Juan’s uncle became seriously ill. This led poor Juan to try to avoid the lady. Nevertheless the lady found Juan, assured him that his uncle would recover, and provided roses for Juan to carry to the bishop in his cape or tilma.

On December 12, when Juan Diego opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground, and the bishop sank to his knees. On the tilma where the roses had been appeared an image of Mary exactly as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac.

Reflection

Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego as one of his people is a powerful reminder that Mary—and the God who sent her—accept all peoples. In the context of the sometimes rude and cruel treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards, the apparition was a rebuke to the Spaniards and an event of vast significance for the indigenous population. While a number of them had converted before this incident, they now came in droves. According to a contemporary chronicler, nine million Indians became Catholic in a very short time. In these days when we hear so much about God’s preferential option for the poor, Our Lady of Guadalupe cries out to us that God’s love for and identification with the poor is an age-old truth that stems from the Gospel itself.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patron Saint of:

The Americas
Mexico

Click here for more on Our Lady of Guadalupe.

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Saint Damasus I

12/11/2018 - 12:00am
Lithography of Pope Saint Damasus I | Pedro Augusto GuglielmiImage: Lithography of Pope Saint Damasus I | Pedro Augusto Guglielmi Saint Damasus I Saint of the Day for December 11 (304 – December 11, 384) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec11.mp3

 

Saint Damasus I’s Story

To his secretary Saint Jerome, Damasus was “an incomparable person, learned in the Scriptures, a virgin doctor of the virgin Church, who loved chastity and heard its praises with pleasure.” Damasus seldom heard such unrestrained praise. Internal political struggles, doctrinal heresies, uneasy relations with his fellow bishops and those of the Eastern Church marred the peace of his pontificate.

The son of a Roman priest, possibly of Spanish extraction, Damasus started as a deacon in his father’s church, and served as a priest in what later became the basilica of San Lorenzo in Rome. He served Pope Liberius (352-366) and followed him into exile.

When Liberius died, Damasus was elected bishop of Rome; but a minority elected and consecrated another deacon, Ursinus, as pope. The controversy between Damasus and the antipope resulted in violent battles in two basilicas, scandalizing the bishops of Italy. At the synod that Damasus called on the occasion of his birthday, he asked them to approve his actions. The bishops’ reply was curt: “We assembled for a birthday, not to condemn a man unheard.” Supporters of the antipope even managed to get Damasus accused of a grave crime—probably sexual—as late as A.D. 378. He had to clear himself before both a civil court and a Church synod.

As pope, his lifestyle was simple in contrast to other ecclesiastics of Rome, and he was fierce in his denunciation of Arianism and other heresies. A misunderstanding of the Trinitarian terminology used by Rome threatened amicable relations with the Eastern Church, and Damasus was only moderately successful in dealing with that challenge.

During his pontificate, Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman state, and Latin became the principal liturgical language as part of the pope’s reforms. His encouragement of Saint Jerome’s biblical studies led to the Vulgate, the Latin translation of Scripture which 12 centuries later the Council of Trent declared to be “authentic in public readings, disputations, preaching.”

Reflection

The history of the papacy and the Church is inextricably mixed with the personal biography of Damasus. In a troubled and pivotal period of Church history, he stands forth as a zealous defender of the faith who knew when to be progressive and when to entrench.

Damasus makes us aware of two qualities of good leadership: alertness to the promptings of the Spirit, and service. His struggles are a reminder that Jesus never promised his Rock protection from hurricane winds nor his followers immunity from difficulties. His only guarantee is final victory.

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Blessed Adolph Kolping

12/10/2018 - 12:00am
Adolph Kolping | Den katolske kirkeImage: Adolph Kolping | Den katolske kirke Blessed Adolph Kolping Saint of the Day for December 10 (December 8, 1813 – December 4, 1865) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec10.mp3

 

Blessed Adolph Kolping’s Story

The rise of the factory system in 19th-century Germany brought many single men into cities where they faced new challenges to their faith. Father Adolph Kolping began a ministry to them, hoping that they would not be lost to the Catholic faith, as was happening to workers elsewhere in industrialized Europe.

Born in the village of Kerpen, Adolph became a shoemaker at an early age because of his family’s economic situation. Ordained in 1845, he ministered to young workers in Cologne, establishing a choir, which by 1849 had grown into the Young Workmen’s Society. A branch of this began in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1856. Nine years later there were over 400 Gesellenvereine—workman’s societiesaround the world. Today this group has over 450,000 members in 54 countries across the globe.

More commonly called the Kolping Society, it emphasizes the sanctification of family life and the dignity of labor. Father Kolping worked to improve conditions for workers and greatly assisted those in need. He and St. John Bosco in Turin had similar interests in working with young men in big cities. He told his followers, “The needs of the times will teach you what to do.” Father Kolping once said, “The first thing that a person finds in life and the last to which he holds out his hand, and the most precious that he possesses, even if he does not realize it, is family life.”

Blessed Adolph Kolping and Blessed John Duns Scotus are buried in Cologne’s Minoritenkirche, originally served by the Conventual Franciscans. The Kolping Society’s international headquarters are located across from this church.

Kolping members journeyed to Rome from Europe, America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania, for Father Kolping’s beatification in 1991, the 100th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s revolutionary encyclical “Rerum Novarum”—“On the Social Order.” Father Kolping’s personal witness and apostolate helped prepare for that encyclical.

Reflection

Some people thought that Father Kolping was wasting his time and talents on young working men in industrialized cities. In some countries, the Catholic Church was seen by many workers as the ally of owners and the enemy of workers. Men like Adolph Kolping showed that was not true.

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The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

12/08/2018 - 12:00am
<em>The Immaculate Conception</em> | Giovanni Battista Tiepolo Image: The Immaculate Conception | Giovanni Battista Tiepolo The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Saint of the Day for December 8 https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec08.mp3

 

The Story of the Immaculate Conception of Mary

A feast called the Conception of Mary arose in the Eastern Church in the seventh century. It came to the West in the eighth century. In the 11th century it received its present name, the Immaculate Conception. In the 18th century it became a feast of the universal Church. It is now recognized as a solemnity.

In 1854, Pius IX solemnly proclaimed: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”

It took a long time for this doctrine to develop. While many Fathers and Doctors of the Church considered Mary the greatest and holiest of the saints, they often had difficulty in seeing Mary as sinless—either at her conception or throughout her life. This is one of the Church teachings that arose more from the piety of the faithful than from the insights of brilliant theologians. Even such champions of Mary as Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Aquinas could not see theological justification for this teaching.

Two Franciscans, William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus, helped develop the theology. They pointed out that Mary’s Immaculate Conception enhances Jesus’ redemptive work. Other members of the human race are cleansed from original sin after birth. In Mary, Jesus’ work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the outset.

Reflection

In Luke 1:28 the angel Gabriel, speaking on God’s behalf, addresses Mary as “full of grace” or “highly favored”. In that context, this phrase means that Mary is receiving all the special divine help necessary for the task ahead. However, the Church grows in understanding with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit led the Church, especially non-theologians, to the insight that Mary had to be the most perfect work of God next to the Incarnation. Or rather, Mary’s intimate association with the Incarnation called for the special involvement of God in Mary’s whole life.

The logic of piety helped God’s people to believe that Mary was full of grace and free of sin from the first moment of her existence. Moreover, this great privilege of Mary is the highlight of all that God has done in Jesus. Rightly understood, the incomparable holiness of Mary shows forth the incomparable goodness of God.

Mary as the Immaculate Conception is the Patron Saint of:

Brazil
United States

Click here for more on the Virgin Mary!

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Saint Ambrose

12/07/2018 - 12:00am
 Statue of Saint Ambrose | Luigi Scorzini | photo by G.dallortoImage: Statue of Saint Ambrose | Luigi Scorzini | photo by G.dallorto Saint Ambrose Saint of the Day for December 7 (337 – April 4, 397) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec07.mp3

 

Saint Ambrose’s Story

One of Ambrose’s biographers observed that at the Last Judgment, people would still be divided between those who admired Ambrose and those who heartily disliked him. He emerges as the man of action who cut a furrow through the lives of his contemporaries. Even royal personages were numbered among those who were to suffer crushing divine punishments for standing in Ambrose’s way.

When the Empress Justina attempted to wrest two basilicas from Ambrose’s Catholics and give them to the Arians, he dared the eunuchs of the court to execute him. His own people rallied behind him in the face of imperial troops. In the midst of riots, he both spurred and calmed his people with bewitching new hymns set to exciting Eastern melodies.

In his disputes with the Emperor Auxentius, he coined the principle: “The emperor is in the Church, not above the Church.” He publicly admonished Emperor Theodosius for the massacre of 7,000 innocent people. The emperor did public penance for his crime. This was Ambrose, the fighter sent to Milan as Roman governor, and chosen while yet a catechumen to be the people’s bishop.

There is yet another side of Ambrose—one which influenced Augustine of Hippo, whom Ambrose converted. Ambrose was a passionate little man with a high forehead, a long melancholy face, and great eyes. We can picture him as a frail figure clasping the codex of sacred Scripture. This was the Ambrose of aristocratic heritage and learning.

Augustine found the oratory of Ambrose less soothing and entertaining but far more learned than that of other contemporaries. Ambrose’s sermons were often modeled on Cicero, and his ideas betrayed the influence of contemporary thinkers and philosophers. He had no scruples in borrowing at length from pagan authors. He gloried in the pulpit in his ability to parade his spoils—“gold of the Egyptians”—taken over from the pagan philosophers.

His sermons, his writings, and his personal life reveal him as an otherworldly man involved in the great issues of his day. Humanity for Ambrose was, above all, spirit. In order to think rightly of God and the human soul, the closest thing to God, no material reality at all was to be dwelt upon. He was an enthusiastic champion of consecrated virginity.

The influence of Ambrose on Augustine will always be open for discussion. The Confessions reveal some manly, brusque encounters between Ambrose and Augustine, but there can be no doubt of Augustine’s profound esteem for the learned bishop.

Neither is there any doubt that Saint Monica loved Ambrose as an angel of God who uprooted her son from his former ways and led him to his convictions about Christ. It was Ambrose, after all, who placed his hands on the shoulders of the naked Augustine as he descended into the baptismal fountain to put on Christ.

Reflection

Ambrose exemplifies for us the truly catholic character of Christianity. He is a man steeped in the learning, law, and culture of the ancients and of his contemporaries. Yet, in the midst of active involvement in this world, this thought runs through Ambrose’s life and preaching: The hidden meaning of the Scriptures calls our spirit to rise to another world.

Saint Ambrose is the Patron Saint of:

Bee keepers
Beggars
Learning
Milan

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Saint Nicholas

12/06/2018 - 12:00am
<em>Patron of Sailors</em> | photo by Lawrence OP | flickrImage: Patron of Sailors | photo by Lawrence OP | flickr Saint Nicholas Saint of the Day for December 6 (March 15, 270 – December 6, 343) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec06.mp3

 

Saint Nicholas’ Story

The absence of the “hard facts” of history is not necessarily an obstacle to the popularity of saints, as the devotion to Saint Nicholas shows. Both the Eastern and Western Churches honor him, and it is claimed that after the Blessed Virgin, he is the saint most pictured by Christian artists. And yet historically, we can pinpoint only the fact that Nicholas was the fourth-century bishop of Myra, a city in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor.

As with many of the saints, however, we are able to capture the relationship which Nicholas had with God through the admiration which Christians have had for him—an admiration expressed in the colorful stories which have been told and retold through the centuries.

Perhaps the best-known story about Nicholas concerns his charity toward a poor man who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters of marriageable age. Rather than see them forced into prostitution, Nicholas secretly tossed a bag of gold through the poor man’s window on three separate occasions, thus enabling the daughters to be married. Over the centuries, this particular legend evolved into the custom of gift-giving on the saint’s feast. In the English-speaking countries, Saint Nicholas became, by a twist of the tongue, Santa Claus—further expanding the example of generosity portrayed by this holy bishop.

Reflection

The critical eye of modern history makes us take a deeper look at the legends surrounding Saint Nicholas. But perhaps we can utilize the lesson taught by his legendary charity, look deeper at our approach to material goods in the Christmas season, and seek ways to extend our sharing to those in real need.

Saint Nicholas is the Patron Saint of:

Bakers
Brides
Grooms
Children
Greece
Pawnbrokers
Travelers

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Saint Sabas

12/05/2018 - 12:00am
Relics of St. Sabbas the Sanctified in the Catholicon (main church) of the Eastern Orthodox Mar Saba monastery in Palestine | photo by adriatikusImage: Relics of St. Sabbas the Sanctified in the Catholicon (main church) of the Eastern Orthodox Mar Saba monastery in Palestine | photo by adriatikus Saint Sabas Saint of the Day for December 5 (439 – December 5, 532) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec05.mp3

 

Saint Sabas’ Story

Born in Cappadocia, Sabas is one of the most highly regarded patriarchs among the monks of Palestine, and is considered one of the founders of Eastern monasticism.

After an unhappy childhood in which he was abused and ran away several times, Sabas finally sought refuge in a monastery. While family members tried to persuade him to return home, the young boy felt drawn to monastic life. Although the youngest monk in the house, he excelled in virtue.

At age 18 he traveled to Jerusalem, seeking to learn more about living in solitude. Soon he asked to be accepted as a disciple of a well-known local solitary, though initially he was regarded as too young to live completely as a hermit. Initially, Sabas lived in a monastery, where he worked during the day and spent much of the night in prayer. At the age of 30 he was given permission to spend five days each week in a nearby remote cave, engaging in prayer and manual labor in the form of weaving baskets. Following the death of his mentor, Saint Euthymius, Sabas moved farther into the desert near Jericho. There he lived for several years in a cave near the brook Cedron. A rope was his means of access. Wild herbs among the rocks were his food. Occasionally men brought him other food and items, while he had to go a distance for his water.

Some of these men came to him desiring to join him in his solitude. At first he refused. But not long after relenting, his followers swelled to more than 150, all of them living in individual huts grouped around a church, called a laura.

The bishop persuaded a reluctant Sabas, then in his early 50s, to prepare for the priesthood so that he could better serve his monastic community in leadership. While functioning as abbot among a large community of monks, he felt ever called to live the life of a hermit. Throughout each year—consistently in Lent—he left his monks for long periods of time, often to their distress. A group of 60 men left the monastery, settling at a nearby ruined facility. When Sabas learned of the difficulties they were facing, he generously gave them supplies and assisted in the repair of their church.

Over the years Sabas traveled throughout Palestine, preaching the true faith and successfully bringing back many to the Church. At the age of 91, in response to a plea from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sabas undertook a journey to Constantinople in conjunction with the Samaritan revolt and its violent repression. He fell ill and soon after his return, died at the monastery at Mar Saba. Today the monastery is still inhabited by monks of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Saint Sabas is regarded as one of the most noteworthy figures of early monasticism.

Reflection

Few of us share Sabas’ yearning for a cave in the desert, but most of us sometimes resent the demands others place on our time. Sabas understands that. When at last he gained the solitude for which he yearned, a community immediately began to gather around him, and he was forced into a leadership role. He stands as a model of patient generosity for anyone whose time and energy are required by others—that is, for all of us.

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Saint John Damascene

12/04/2018 - 12:00am
<em>Saint John Damaskinos</em> | unknownImage: Saint John Damaskinos | unknown Saint John Damascene Saint of the Day for December 4 (c. 676 -749) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec04.mp3

 

Saint John Damascene’s Story

John spent most of his life in the Monastery of Saint Sabas near Jerusalem, and all of his life under Muslim rule, indeed protected by it.

He was born in Damascus, received a classical and theological education, and followed his father in a government position under the Arabs. After a few years, he resigned and went to the Monastery of Saint Sabas.

He is famous in three areas:

First, he is known for his writings against the iconoclasts, who opposed the veneration of images. Paradoxically, it was the Eastern Christian emperor Leo who forbade the practice, and it was because John lived in Muslim territory that his enemies could not silence him.

Second, he is famous for his treatise, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, a summary of the Greek Fathers, of which he became the last. It is said that this book is for Eastern schools what the Summa of Aquinas became for the West.

Third, he is known as a poet, one of the two greatest of the Eastern Church, the other being Romanus the Melodist. His devotion to the Blessed Mother and his sermons on her feasts are well known.

Reflection

John defended the Church’s understanding of the veneration of images and explained the faith of the Church in several other controversies. For over 30 years, he combined a life of prayer with these defenses and his other writings. His holiness expressed itself in putting his literary and preaching talents at the service of the Lord.

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Saint Francis Xavier

12/03/2018 - 12:00am
<em>The miracles of St. Francis Xavier</em> Peter Paul Rubens | photo by mAG-VIH-g-_RNA at Google Cultural InstituteImage: The miracles of St. Francis Xavier Peter Paul Rubens | photo by mAG-VIH-g-_RNA at Google Cultural Institute Saint Francis Xavier Saint of the Day for December 3 (April 7, 1506 – December 3, 1552) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec03.mp3

 

Saint Francis Xavier’s Story

Jesus asked, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Matthew 16:26a). The words were repeated to a young teacher of philosophy who had a highly promising career in academics, with success and a life of prestige and honor before him.

Francis Xavier, 24 at the time, and living and teaching in Paris, did not heed these words at once. They came from a good friend, Ignatius of Loyola, whose tireless persuasion finally won the young man to Christ. Francis then made the spiritual exercises under the direction of Ignatius, and in 1534, joined his little community, the infant Society of Jesus. Together at Montmartre they vowed poverty, chastity, obedience, and apostolic service according to the directions of the pope.

From Venice, where he was ordained a priest in 1537, Xavier went on to Lisbon and from there sailed to the East Indies, landing at Goa, on the west coast of India. For the next 10 years he labored to bring the faith to such widely scattered peoples as the Hindus, the Malayans, and the Japanese. He spent much of that time in India, and served as provincial of the newly established Jesuit province of India.

Wherever he went, Xavier lived with the poorest people, sharing their food and rough accommodations. He spent countless hours ministering to the sick and the poor, particularly to lepers. Very often he had no time to sleep or even to say his breviary but, as we know from his letters, he was filled always with joy.

Xavier went through the islands of Malaysia, then up to Japan. He learned enough Japanese to preach to simple folk, to instruct, and to baptize, and to establish missions for those who were to follow him. From Japan he had dreams of going to China, but this plan was never realized. Before reaching the mainland, he died. His remains are enshrined in the Church of Good Jesus in Goa. He and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux were declared co-patrons of the missions in 1925.

Reflection

All of us are called to “go and preach to all nations—see Matthew 28:19. Our preaching is not necessarily on distant shores but to our families, our children, our husband or wife, our coworkers. And we are called to preach not with words, but by our everyday lives. Only by sacrifice, the giving up of all selfish gain, could Francis Xavier be free to bear the Good News to the world. Sacrifice is leaving yourself behind at times for a greater good, the good of prayer, the good of helping someone in need, the good of just listening to another. The greatest gift we have is our time. Francis Xavier gave his to others.

Saint Francis Xavier is the Patron Saint of:

Japan
Jewelers
Missions
Sailors

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Blessed Charles de Foucauld

12/01/2018 - 12:00am
Monument Charles de Foucauld in front of the church of St-Pierre-le-Jeune | Strasbourg | photo by Rabanus FlavusImage: Monument Charles de Foucauld | photo by Rabanus Flavus Blessed Charles de Foucauld Saint of the Day for December 1 (September 15, 1858 – December 1, 1916) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODDec1.mp3

 

Blessed Charles de Foucauld’s Story

Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of 6, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager, and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi.

When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883, began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received.

Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901, he returned to France and was ordained a priest.

Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions.

A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905, he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles’ Tuareg poetry was published after his death.

In early 1909, he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915, Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”

The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916.

Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes—Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel, and Little Sisters of the Gospel—draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005.

Reflection

The life of Charles de Foucauld was eventually centered on God and was animated by prayer and humble service, which he hoped would draw Muslims to Christ. Those who are inspired by his example, no matter where they live, seek to live their faith humbly yet with deep religious conviction.

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Saint Andrew

11/30/2018 - 12:00am
<em>Saint Andrew</em> | Jusepe de Ribera | self scanned from own bookImage: Saint Andrew | Jusepe de Ribera | self scanned from own book Saint Andrew Saint of the Day for November 30 (d. 60?) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODNov30.mp3

 

Saint Andrew’s Story

Andrew was Saint Peter’s brother, and was called with him. “As [Jesus] was walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is now called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-20).

John the Evangelist presents Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist. When Jesus walked by one day, John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus. “Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day” (John 1:38-39a).

Little else is said about Andrew in the Gospels. Before the multiplication of the loaves, it was Andrew who spoke up about the boy who had the barley loaves and fishes. When the Gentiles went to see Jesus, they came to Philip, but Philip then had recourse to Andrew.

Legend has it that Andrew preached the Good News in what is now modern Greece and Turkey and was crucified at Patras on an X-shaped cross.

Reflection

As in the case of all the apostles except Peter and John, the Gospels give us little about the holiness of Andrew. He was an apostle. That is enough. He was called personally by Jesus to proclaim the Good News, to heal with Jesus’ power and to share his life and death. Holiness today is no different. It is a gift that includes a call to be concerned about the Kingdom, an outgoing attitude that wants nothing more than to share the riches of Christ with all people.

Saint Andrew is the Patron Saint of:

Fishermen
Greece
Russia
Scotland

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Saint Clement

11/29/2018 - 12:00am
<em>Pope Saint Clement I</em> | photo by Lawrence | flickrImage: Pope Saint Clement I | photo by Lawrence | flickr Saint Clement Saint of the Day for November 29 (d. 101) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODNov29.mp3

 

Saint Clement’s Story

Clement of Rome was the third successor of Saint Peter, reigning as pope during the last decade of the first century. He’s known as one of the Church’s five “Apostolic Fathers,” those who provided a direct link between the Apostles and later generations of Church Fathers.

Clement’s First Epistle to the Corinthians was preserved and widely read in the early Church. This letter from the bishop of Rome to the Church in Corinth concerns a split that alienated a large number of the laity from the clergy. Deploring the unauthorized and unjustifiable division in the Corinthian community, Clement urged charity to heal the rift.

Reflection

Today many in the Church experience polarization regarding worship, how we speak of God, and other issues. We’d do well to take to heart the exhortation from Clement’s Epistle: “Charity unites us to God. It knows no schism, does not rebel, does all things in concord. In charity all the elect of God have been made perfect.”

Rome’s Basilica of St. Clement, one of the city’s earliest parish churches, is probably built on the site of Clement’s home. History tells us that Pope Clement was martyred either in the year 99 or in 101. The Liturgical Feast of Saint Clement is November 23.

Saint Clement is the Patron Saint of:

Marble Workers
Mariners
Tanners

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Saint James of the Marche

11/28/2018 - 12:00am
<em>Saint James of the Marches</em> | Francisco de Zurbarán | photo by Galería onlineImage: Saint James of the Marches | Francisco de Zurbarán | photo by Galería online Saint James of the Marche Saint of the Day for November 28 (1394 – November 28, 1476) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODNov28.mp3

 

Saint James of the Marche’s Story

Meet one of the fathers of the modern pawnshop!

James was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. Saint Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances.

James studied theology with Saint John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. This extremely popular preacher converted many people–250,000 at one estimate–and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives, and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence.

With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano, and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the “four pillars” of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching.

To combat extremely high interest rates, James established montes pietatis—literally, mountains of charity—nonprofit credit organizations that lent money on pawned objects at very low rates.

Not everyone was happy with the work James did. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him. James died in 1476, and was canonized in 1726.

Reflection

James wanted the word of God to take root in the hearts of his listeners. His preaching was directed to preparing the soil, so to speak, by removing any rocks and softening up lives hardened by sin. God’s intention is that his word take root in our lives, but for that we need both prayerful preachers and cooperative listeners.

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Saint Francesco Antonio Fasani

11/27/2018 - 12:00am
<em>Man of Prayer</em> | Lawrence OP | flickrImage: Man of Prayer | Lawrence OP | flickr Saint Francesco Antonio Fasani Saint of the Day for November 27 (August 6, 1681 – November 29, 1742) https://wp.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODNov27.mp3

 

Saint Francesco Antonio Fasani’s Story

Born in Lucera, Francesco entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1695. After his ordination 10 years later, he taught philosophy to younger friars, served as guardian of his friary, and later became provincial minister. When his term of office ended, Francesco became master of novices and finally pastor in his hometown.

In his various ministries, he was loving, devout, and penitential. He was a sought-after confessor and preacher. One witness at the canonical hearings regarding Francesco’s holiness testified, “In his preaching he spoke in a familiar way, filled as he was with the love of God and neighbor; fired by the Spirit, he made use of the word and deed of holy Scripture, stirring his listeners and moving them to do penance.” Francesco showed himself a loyal friend of the poor, never hesitating to seek from benefactors what was needed.

At his death in Lucera, children ran through the streets crying out, “The saint is dead! The saint is dead!” Francesco was canonized in 1986.

Reflection

Eventually we become what we choose. If we choose stinginess, we become stingy. If we choose compassion, we become compassionate. The holiness of Francesco Antonio Fasani resulted from his many small decisions to cooperate with God’s grace.

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