Thursday, July 19, 2012

July 20, Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity
By Deacon Leo Racine                        

Elizabeth Catez was born near Bourges, France on July 18, 1880, during the solemnity of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, in a military camp of Avor, where her father was Captain Francis Joseph Catez. On the following July 22, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, she was baptized “Elizabeth”.

It was the 19th of April, 1890 at the Church of St. Michael in Dijon, the ten year old Elizabeth approached the Eucharistic Table for the first time.  The afternoon of the day of Grace, she was to come into contact with Carmel for the first time. Elizabeth’s mother, Marie (Rolland) Catez took her to the large parlor of the rue Carnot, a short distance from their home.  There, Elizabeth met a tall nun, Mary of Jesus.  The greetings with the young girl were brief, and at once, the nun revealed to her the “secret” of the name received in Baptism: “Elizabeth—house of God.”

Shortly after that, as if to confirm the meeting of April 19, a small picture brought some verses that the prioress had written for the purpose of confirming the “little dwelling place of God” in the vocation contained in her name. The road was traced out forever.  The name was completed when she entered Carmel at the age of 21 years, with the addition—“of the Trinity.”

A Presence:
Vocation and Mission became embodied in a Presence: the Presence of the “Three” within Elizabeth of the Trinity. This Presence was sought in faith, desired with ardor, adored in love, at each instant.

Faith upheld her interiorly, and enlightened her to seek a degree, that she had to confess that at times, its veil seemed to be torn, to give place to vision.  This was the case not only in love’s long vigils of prayer and the adoring celebration of the sacred Liturgy, but also in her cell, through the corridors, at the wash, in the refectory and at recreation.

Everywhere, she felt the indwelling of the “Three”.  Everywhere, she heeded the obligation to give herself serenely and joyously, without ever losing sight of those for whom she was the “little heaven”. 

“I have found heaven on earth.  Because heaven is God and God is in my soul.  The day I understood that, everything became clear to me”.  It was an enlightenment in faith, a faith that would be her joy, but above all, a time of martyrdom.  It was not long after she entered Carmel that she felt enveloped “ in a cloud”—a thick dense cloud that was to purify her and render her worthy of a dedication in which love would not be an unmixed fervor of sentiment, but a gift of the will.  She accepted the time of trial as a time of Grace.

After that came the invasion of that Grace.  Faith purified her in her martyrdom: it brought Elizabeth “light”.  She was ever more careful to remain under the influence of the Divine Friend, Who never left her, Whom, she likewise ought never abandon.

“Let us live with God as a friend: let us make our faith a living thing in order to be in communion with Him—in everything: that ,is what makes us saints.  We bear our heaven within us, since He who satiates the glorified souls in the light of vision gives Himself to us in faith and mystery.  It is the same thing”

“Seeing that He is always with me, prayer—heart to heart communication – can never have an end.  I feel Him so alive in my soul.
I have but to recollect myself to find Him within me, and herein lies all my happiness.”  In a letter written in August 1901, Elizabeth wrote: “Everything is delightful in Carmel: one finds the good God at the wash, as at prayer. On all sides, there is none but He.  One lives Him, one breathes Him”.

A Message:                      
Whether in the martyrdom of her whole being, or when surrounded by obscurity and darkness, Elizabeth looked to heaven. To strengthen the certainty of her hope, she trusted in Mary,” the humble creature of faith”, who lived recollected within Herself.
Elizabeth looked to Mary in the hour in which she was called to climb her Calvary, asking Mary to teach her to suffer in silence, for love, in communion with Christ and with the Church.

The Message of Elizabeth is all contained in the continuity of life, of experience, of joy, in the Trinity, with the Trinity and for the Trinity.  “ It seems to me, that in Heaven my mission will be to draw souls, helping them to go out of themselves, in order to adhere to God with a spontaneous movement full of love: and to keep them in that great interior silence which allows God to impress upon them, to transform them into Himself”.

“ How I would like to tell all souls what source of strength, of peace, and also of happiness they would find, if they would consent to live in this intimacy”  “ However, they do not know how to wait.  If God does not communicate Himself to them sensibly, they abandon His holy Presence, and when He arrives laden with gifts, He finds no one.  The soul has gone to exterior things; she no longer dwells in her own interior”. “Everything passes away. At the evening of life, only love remains.  One must do all for love.  One must forget self.  God desires much that we forget ourselves”.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity lived a full life in our century. At 19 months, it was said of her: “This child has a will of iron, when she wants a thing, she has to obtain it at any cost.”  The priest who prepared her for her First Communion wrote:” With such a temperament, Elizabeth will become a saint or a demon”. 

Elizabeth seemed born for music.  At 8 years of age, she was able to execute pieces that required notable finger ability.  At 11 years she was awarded the medal for excellence in piano and the first in Solfage.  She studied at the Dijon Conservatory under the guidance of the Masters and received first prize at age 15 years. 

At 18 years of age, in the midst of festivities, she thought of the Presence of God and of the next day’s Communion, of which she wrote: “Communion absorbed me so much as to render me estranged and as though insensible to everything around me.” She writes: “ May my hope be in Jesus alone. And yet living still in the midst of the world, I see none but Him, I think of no other, my only love, my heavenly friend..”  Her father had died at Dijon, after a painful illness on October 2, 1887.

On February 8, 1901, at 21 years of age, at last, Elizabeth was granted permission from her mother to enter Carmel, for which she longed since the age of 14 years. Sr. Elizabeth of the Trinity recollects: “ In their mysterious Chapel oh, How happy I am there!  Alone with the God of my heart, I can let my tears flow.  Like them, I wish to leave all, I aspire to give you my life, and share your agony. Would that I might die crucified.”  She died on November 9th, 1906, of Addison’s disease, exclaiming: “ I go to light, to love, and to life.”

Blessed Pope John Paul 11, who revered her as one of his best teachers in the spiritual life, beatified her on November 25, 1984,
Solemnity of Christ the King.

July 19, Daniel the Prophet

Daniel the Prophet
By Dan White

Daniel, a great prophet of the Old Testament, was born long long ago. He was taken from Jerusalem by king Nebuchadnezzar along with Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah who became Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednedo; but that’s another story. When taken to Babylon, which was Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, Daniel was renamed to Belteshazzar. Daniel and his friends were chosen because they were handsome, intelligent, and insightful, the best of the best if you will.

 King Nebuchadnezzar required Daniel’s charges to feed him the lavish meats and wines of their country that they would be healthy and fit to be educated for three years before they entered into the service of the king. Being a radical man of God Daniel convinced the guards to allow him to eat vegetables and drink water according to his beliefs and that he would be just as healthy and fit as the rest of the men. He was just as healthy as the rest of the young men and after three years of studying he was place in the service of the king.

 After some time the king had a dream which none of his advisors or magicians could interpret making the king furious enough to condemn all wise men and such to death. Daniel stepped up and interpreted the dream, earning him favor in the eyes of the king and acquiring control of an entire providence. Daniel was known most for his trip to the lions den for not worshiping the king (Darius) according to his law. Daniel refused to bow and worship the king but would rather travel home and pray to the one true God. This caused an uproar among other men of the king’s court, who had the king throw him into a den of hungry lions where God held their mouths shut. Daniel also had many visions from the lord that foretold the future and even saw the end of days.

Our cannon of scripture even differs from the protestant cannon because it includes two short stories that establish Daniel as an upright and just man. The first is a situation where God spoke to Daniel putting him a position of an investigator and judge. The second is a story where Daniel disproved a Babylonian god. Daniel must have led quite a life, a life we should try to emulate.

Daniel, a young man taken from his home and put into slavery kept his moral beliefs under the toughest of conditions. We live in a time that is not largely unlike the ancient city of Babylon, where intelligence and false gods came before God. Much as Daniel understood his call to live in a way that was upright and just before the Lord so, too are we called to stand up to the societal norms and live according to his will. Daniel’s devotion to the Lord and use of his God given intelligence shows us that God has given us everything we are; if we would only acknowledge it we would see that He only desires great things for us.

Daniel was so in love with the Lord that God chose to show him the meanings of visions; directions on how to proceed that gained him favor on earth making him the king’s right hand man. By not succumbing to the king’s law and worshipping him, Daniel demonstrates the radical love we need to have for God. He shows us that in the midst of trying times, when the world is denouncing God, we need to demonstrate courage to kneel and pray. Even when the ones around us say that it’s not the right thing to do. Daniel did this and then had the faith to know that God would protect him. 

It doesn’t end there either; our sacred scripture contains the visions and writings of Daniel. One of these visions tells of the end of days; it speaks of the hope we have in the resurrection when we will be “like stars forever” (Dan 12:3). Even in the Old testament God was showing the hope of everlasting hope, a life with Him forever. Daniel is a great example for us today: we need to be a light in a dark place, the world doesn’t always consider God to be the creator, our maker, and our guide. Daniel did, as should we. Daniel represents a faithful man who knows no matter what that God will take care of him. We need to live our lives in a way that demonstrates that faith, giving God credit for all our gifts and talents and giving them back to him by using them for the advancement of his kingdom.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 18, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
By Cynthia L. Mello

Diminutive in stature but larger than life in the practice of the faith, many know her as Mother Teresa or simply Mother.  Her signature sari with the familiar blue stripes will forever be engraved in the memories of those who witnessed her example.  For decades she showed us by example how to find Jesus in the suffering faces and horrible predicaments of mankind.  She spoke to our hearts and our very souls, without uttering a single word.  Her deeds spoke volumes about what it truly means to be Christian.  Daring to go into situations where most would avoid, she did not turn away, but rather embraced them with the Father’s love.  Poverty, filth, disease, and famine surrounded her.  In the midst of all of that suffering, she taught us that we can make a difference, if not for everyone, at the very least, for someone.

Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910 in Skopje, Albania (now Macedonia), Mother Teresa’s family consisted of an older brother Lazar and sister Aga.  Her father Nikola was a very successful merchant.  Her mother, Dranafile was extremely pious.  She would be the one who would make sure the children attended Mass several times weekly and recite the rosary daily.  She would be the one to help orphans, the needy, and the poor.  Agnes (called Gonxha by her family) would often accompany her mother on these missions of charity.  In 1919 tragedy struck their family.  At age 9 Agnes lost her father suddenly and mysteriously.  The same family that had helped so many now fell on hard times.

In 1928, as she began her adult life, she entered the order of the Sisters of Loreto headquartered in Ireland.  She would take the name Sister Mary Teresa of the Child Jesus which would exemplify her desire to follow St. Therese Lisieux in doing simple things with great love.  After a year in Ireland to learn English, she traveled to the Loreto School in Calcutta, India.  There she would teach Geography and English as a second language.  She would eventually become principal. 

In September 1946 she was sent by train to a house in the Himalayan mountains to recover from tuberculosis.  On that journey she received a second true calling from God.  She was called to leave her convent and start a new ministry serving the poorest of the poor.  After much struggle and shear determination on her part, Vatican approval was received.  She traded in her old habit for her Indian sari.  She sought some basic medical training and began “the work”.  Her first mission was to begin teaching the children in the slum called Moti Jheel.  She held class under a small tree, using a stick to write in the ground.

That was not enough.  She saw desperate dying bodies in the streets of the slums.  Alone at first in a sea of despair, she picked up one person, one single solitary soul at a time, and raised them from the slums and gutters of Calcutta to God’s radiant light.  She gave each and every person God’s unconditional love.  As others witnessed and spoke about her works of mercy, word spread like wildfire.  Soon others began to follow in her footsteps.  Driven by her passion, commitment, and love they too began the work of Jesus.  This mission continues today across five continents and      many nations with over 4,000 missionaries.

Still, that was not enough.  She continued the work by establishing a home for unwanted children and babies.  She rescued abandoned infants and orphans.  She took in the disabled.  Next she brought help to the lepers directly by way of ambulance.  She taught them how to heal each other and gave them the skills to build a real community.  She would later open homes for those stricken with AIDS.

She gained notoriety by her deeds.  Even after she had established her Missionaries of Charity order, she still continued to do the same daily tasks that all of the sisters would do when needed.  She would eat the same foods that were served to everyone at the Mother house, even though she could have easily chosen not to.  Criticized by some for not trying to cure people on death’s door she would explain that they were religious sisters, not doctors or social workers.  They were simply trying to offer God’s love.

She had some dark days in her life where she struggled as many do with feelings of abandonment and doubt.  Facing the extreme suffering of so many on a daily basis would undoubtedly test even the strongest will.  The constant demand of the work, and the constant awareness of so much suffering undoubtedly took its’ toll.  She would eventually find some solace and surrender to the darkness by realizing she shared this experience with Jesus, just as He too experienced feelings of abandonment on the cross.  Yet through all of her pain, she continued with the work.  She continued through her weaknesses and found strength again and again to carry on and on and on.

We must strive to follow her lead.  Look for Jesus among our “poorest of the poor”, the distressed humanity around us.  Reach out to those who perhaps have lost hope.  Lift people out of the “gutters” of our own society right here in the USA, right here in greater New Bedford, right in our own families, schools, and workplaces.  Reach out to those who have fallen into despair due to loneliness, addiction, sin, sex, pornography, materialism, and all of the trappings that abound in this country.  Strive to make that important difference, however small it may seem to some, that will help a fellow human being achieve dignity, feel wanted, or feel needed.

We must reach out to the “smallest of the small”.  Continue efforts to stop the murder of abortion.  We must learn from Mother Teresa that we can do so much good on our own if we try, but we can accomplish so much more if we try together.  Stretch out our arms each day and help someone in some small way.

It is easy to relate to Mother because she was with us, in our time in history.  She was not someone from centuries ago, but someone here and now experiencing the same trials and storms that we face in our daily lives.  In her final years she was weathered by the work from her head right down to her worn out sandals.  She never stopped doing the work.  She died on September 5, 1997 peacefully, surrounded by her Sisters.  She offered God’s unconditional love to all she touched.  She is a true inspiration to all people of all faiths.

Monday, July 16, 2012

July 17, Bl. Frederic Ozanam

Blessed Frederic Ozanam
By Frank Scarano

Wow!  What an inspirational experience this has been.  I am in awe of the determination, great intellect and amazing faith of Blessed Frederic Ozanam.  He has shown us how an ‘ordinary’ person can accomplish extraordinary things when the talents given by God are put to use in service of others. 

Frederic Ozanam was born in French-occupied Milan on April 23, 1813, to Marie and Jean-Antoine Ozanam.  When Frederic was still a toddler the family moved back to Lyon, France where Marie and Jean-Antoine had started their family several years earlier.  Frederic considered his roots to be in Lyon and throughout his life returned there to live on several occasions.  Jean-Antoine and Marie established a sound, faith-filled home for their children amid personal tragedy and the societal turmoil of the time.  Frederic was the fifth of fourteen children but only one of three to reach adulthood.  His older brother Alphonse became a priest and youngest brother, Charles, became a physician.  Most of Frederic’s ten sisters and a brother died very young or were stillborn.  Frederic also struggled with poor health and almost died at the age of six from typhoid fever.  Interestingly, his survival is attributed to an intervention of St. Jean-Francois Regis, who was a great servant of the poor in France 200 years earlier.  The eldest sister, Elisabeth, was like a second mother to Frederic and when she died at the age of nineteen it was devastating to young Frederic who was about seven at the time. 

After Elisabeth’s death, Frederic was deeply troubled and became angry, stubborn and disobedient.  In an effort to correct such behavior problems he began study at the Royal College of Lyon in 1822 where he was found to be a gifted student and excelled in his studies.  In 1827, at the age of fifteen, his studies in rhetoric caused a test to his faith.  This question of faith was amplified by a growing community of disbelief fueled by natural disaster and revolt in Lyon.  During this time Frederic prayed to God to see the truth.  He promised that if he was enlightened with the truth that he would spend the rest of his life defending it.  Over the next year his conversations, study and mentorship under Father Noirot helped Frederic to regain his faith.  Shortly thereafter, he began writing in defense of Christianity in well-established venues and important writers and philosophers of the time noticed his work and recognized his talent. 

He earned his first bachelors degree in humanities in Lyon but his father wanted him to study law, so he was off to the Sorbonne in Paris.  In the early 1830s Paris was in turmoil and Frederic was struggling with loneliness amid the skepticism and poverty of the big city.  Fortunately, Frederic reconnected with an acquaintance he had met in Lyon, Andre Ampere, a scientist and devout Catholic.  Ampere was impressed with Frederic and invited him to stay with him while Frederic continued his studies.  Frederic and Ampere had many philosophical discussions that helped Frederic strengthen his Christian faith in a climate where it was fashionable to reject and mock such beliefs. 

With renewed and infectious enthusiasm Frederic gathered a circle of like-minded students to form a Catholic discussion group where they could challenge the opponents of the faith.  With the leadership of Catholic layperson, Emmanuel Bailly, this was the first ‘Conference of History.’  The group was open to all and many lively discussions occurred where the relevance of the Church in France at the time was argued.  Because poverty was rampant in Paris the group was challenged with the question, “What does the Church do to help the poor?”  Spurred forward by this question, Frederic and his friends resolved to form the first ‘Conference of Charity.’

Under the guidance of Mr. Bailly, the first meeting of the ‘Conference of Charity’ was held on April 23, 1833, Frederic’s 20th birthday.  The original group, including Frederic Ozanam and five other students ranging in age from 19-23, dedicated themselves to the poor following the example of St. Vincent de Paul.  The students contacted Sister Rosalie Rendu for the addresses of families in need and began by bringing food, fuel for their fires and above all, friendship.  Sr. Rendu was a great influence for the students and following the example of St. Vincent de Paul, she taught them how to serve the poor with compassion and respect for human dignity.  The group was mocked.  Their adversaries taunted them with questions that would instill doubt for their cause.  The problem of poverty was so overwhelming, how could these six young men expect to make a difference?  The membership in the group slowly began to grow and by the end of 1834 there were 100 members.  As members graduated and moved to other cities other conferences were formed across France and beyond.  Today, almost 180 years later, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul operates in 130 countries and has over 950,000 members.  In the United States alone the members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society help over 12 million people each year. 

All of this was started when Blessed Frederic Ozanam was only twenty!  As he continued his life he went on to earn several advanced degrees, cared for his aging parents, married and had a daughter.  As I read more about his life I was continually amazed by his determination and faith.  He had such a passion that he was driven to learn and share his knowledge through teaching and writing prolifically until his death.  He suffered with severe bouts of poor health throughout his life and died in 1853 at the age of 40.  Frederic was a deeply caring man who loved his parents and family.  He was a very caring and devoted son.  After his parents died and he was married, he loved his wife, daughter and in-laws to the same degree.  He was married to Amelie Soulacroix on June 23, 1841.  In one account of his life it was stated that on the 23rd of every month for the next 12 years (until his death) Amelie would receive a bouquet of flowers from Frederic.  How romantic is that!  It is just one small example of how devoted and passionate he was. 

His immense and constant feeling of thankfulness for all experiences, good and bad, also astonished me.  What an inspiration for us to be reminded to thank God for everything as each experience makes us who we are and allows us to praise God and do good for others.  Although Frederic’s father was a physician, there were many financial struggles before he became a doctor and he did not make a lot of money because he treated most of his patients for free.  There was one quote Frederic wrote to a friend in 1836 that was particularly enlightening for me…

I feel like giving thanks to God for having been born in a social position which was on the borderline between financial difficulty and being comfortably off.  Such a position accustoms one to hardship without leaving one totally ignorant of enjoyment.  In that position one cannot go to sleep at night satisfied in one’s desires but one is not preoccupied either by the constant call of need.  (Letter to Francois Lallier, November 5th 1836. SSVP Global, 2009)

I was also very moved by a passage Blessed Frederic Ozanam wrote on his fortieth birthday, as he was ill and in pain, only months from death.

“As at the beginning of the Canticle of Ezechias: I don’t know if God will permit me to carry it through to the end. I know that today I have reached my fortieth year, more than a half of a life. I know that I have a young and beloved wife and enchanting child, excellent brother, a second mother, many friends, an honourable career; my research has in fact reached the point that it could serve as the basis of a book of which I have dreamed for a long time. Yet here I am struck down by a serious and persistent illness that is all the more dangerous for the fact that it is probably underlain by total exhaustion.

Must I then leave all these goods that you yourself have given me, my God? Lord will you not be content with only a part of the sacrifice? Which of my disordered affections must I sacrifice to you? Would you not accept the holocaust of my literary pride, of my academic ambitions, or even of my research plans in which perhaps was contained more pride than zeal for the truth? If I sold part of my books in order to give the proceeds to the poor, and limited myself to carrying out the duties of my state of life, or if I devoted the rest of my life to visiting the poor, and educating trainees and soldiers, would you be satisfied Lord? Would you allow me the pleasure of living through to old age with my wife and completing the education of my child? Perhaps, my God, that is not your will at all. You don’t accept these self-interested offerings; you reject my holocausts and sacrifices!

It is written at the beginning of the book that I must do your will and I have said: here I am, Lord. I am answering your call and I have no reason to complain. You have given me forty years of life. If I put before you the years I have lived with bitterness, I see it is because of the sins with which I ruined them. Yet when I consider the graces with which you have enriched them, I again go over these years in your presence with gratitude, Lord.

When you chain me to my bed for what is left of my life there will not be enough time to thank you for all the time I have lived. Ah! If these pages are the last that I am writing, may they be a hymn to your goodness.”
(Pisa, April 23, 1853, his 40th birthday. SSVP Global, 2009)

Blessed Frederic Ozanam died a few months later on September 8, 1853, with his family at his side.  He calmly and serenely requested his last sacrament a few days before his death.  Fr. Alphonse urged his brother to offer his soul to God ‘confidently, trustingly and without fear.’  To which Frederic said, “Why should I fear Him?  I love Him so much!”

Although some have described him as removed from the common people, it seems to me that Blessed Frederic Ozanam was an ‘ordinary’ son, brother, father, husband and teacher, but what made him extraordinary was his amazing faith that allowed him to use the great talents given by God to do good for others.  Let us move forward, inspired by Blessed Frederic Ozanam, to always give thanks to God for every experience and let us work tirelessly, like him, to help others in God’s name.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 16, Bl. Luigi and Maria Quattrocchi

Blessed Luigi and Maria Quattrocchi
By Christina Zajac

Blesseds Luigi and Maria Quattrocchi are modern-day heroes of the faith who, by their lives, beautifully illustrated the holiness to which married couples are called. Holiness is not achieved in spite of a marriage, but through it. Marriage is the means for achieving holiness for those to whom the vocation has been given.

Luigi was born in 1880 in Catania, Italy. Raised by his childless uncle and his wife, Luigi nevertheless kept his ties with his parents and siblings. After obtaining a degree in law, he worked for the Inland Revenue Department before serving on the boards of various banks. He eventually became attorney general. Maria was born in 1884 to a noble family in Florence. She was a professor and writer on educational topics as well as a member of several associations, including Women's Catholic Action.

After meeting and falling in love, Luigi and Maria were married on November 25, 1905 in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. They had four children, three of whom had religious vocations. While pregnant with her fourth child, Maria was advised by her doctors to have an abortion in order to save her life, as she had a 5% chance of surviving her diagnosis. Luigi and Maria refused, putting their complete trust in the Lord’s providence. Despite her difficult pregnancy, Maria safely gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Enrichetta. This experience only strengthened the couple’s marriage and affirmed the power of a living faith.

Their children recalled how their parents led a simple life, like many married couples, but always characterized by a sense of the supernatural. Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, commented that they “made a true domestic church of their family, which was open to life, to prayer, to the social apostolate, to solidarity with the poor and to friendship.”

Family life for the Quattrocchi’s was lively and full of activity. They enjoyed playing sports and vacationing by the sea and in the mountains. Responding to the Lord’s call that whatever you do to the least of His brethren you do to Him, they opened their home to refugees seeking shelter during World War II. They never refused anyone who came knocking at their door begging for food. Maria also volunteered as a nurse for the Red Cross during the War. Together, the family even started a scout group for youth from the poor sections of Rome.

Spiritually, the Quattrocchi’s built the foundation of their faith on solid rock, just like the wise man in St. Matthew’s Gospel. They were nourished by the Word of God through attending daily Mass and receiving the Word-Made-Flesh in Holy Communion. Every evening they prayed the Rosary together, and the family was consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. They also kept the family holy hour on the eve of the first Friday of the month, and participated in the night vigil prayer and weekend retreats organized by the Monastery of St Paul-Outside-the-Walls.

Learning about and transmitting the faith to their children was important to Luigi and Maria. In particular, Maria served as a catechist and supported the establishment of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart. Remarkably, the Quattrocchi’s even took graduate religious courses at the Pontifical Gregorian University!

Doing their part to promote the culture of life, Luigi and Maria were involved in several forms of marriage and family apostolate. In addition, the couple made the “difficult vow of the most perfect,” which they offered to the Lord in humble obedience to their spiritual father. This vow means the renouncing of marital relations, which the two decided together after 20 years of marriage, when Luigi was 46 years old and Maria 41.

It would be easy to attribute Luigi and Maria’s holiness and cause for canonization to their many remarkable apostolic works, or to the fact that three of their children discerned and embraced their religious vocations. The couple’s courageous decision not to abort Enrichetta is reason enough to praise and esteem them highly. However, all of these works are simply the fruit of seeds that were planted on good soil. Maria and Luigi embraced the vocation of marriage, being open to life and to whatever sacrifices the Lord would ask them to make. They truly made their family a “domestic Church,” consecrated to Jesus the Bridegroom and in complete union with Him through prayer and the sacraments.

Family life, however, was not without difficulties. Being faithful to the Lord in small matters prepared them to trust Him in very difficult times. In addition to the normal “ups and downs” in married and family life, Luigi and Maria faced the tragedies of war; had two sons serve as army chaplains; endured the German occupation of Rome; and witnessed the reconstruction of Italy after the war. 

Luigi died in 1951 at the age of 71; Maria died in 1965 at the age of 81. Pope John Paul II beatified Luigi and Maria in 2001 on World Mission Sunday. This was the first time a married couple was beatified together, and with a specific focus on their sanctity as manifested in marriage and family life. A saint’s feast day is usually celebrated on the day he or she died. John Paul II did something new; he declared Luigi and Maria’s feast day would be November 25, the couple’s wedding anniversary. In reflecting on this beautiful, holy couple, Pope John Paul II eloquently remarked:

“This couple lived married love and service to life in the light of the Gospel and with great human intensity. With full responsibility they assumed the task of collaborating with God in procreation, dedicating themselves generously to their children, to teach them, guide them and direct them to discovering his plan of love. From this fertile spiritual terrain sprang vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life, which shows how, with their common roots in the spousal love of the Lord, marriage and virginity may be closely connected and reciprocally enlightening.

“Drawing on the word of God and the witness of the saints, the blessed couple lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. Among the joys and anxieties of a normal family, they knew how to live an extraordinarily rich spiritual life. At the center of their life was the daily Eucharist as well as devotion to the Virgin Mary, to whom they prayed every evening with the Rosary, and consultation with wise spiritual directors. In this way they could accompany their children in vocational discernment, training them to appreciate everything ‘from the roof up,’ as they often, charmingly, liked to say.”

In today’s society, where marriage, the family, and the very sanctity of human life are under attack, the Quattrochhi’s are a model for families everywhere. Though Luigi’s faith was not strong before he married, it flourished as he embraced his vocation to be a husband, father, and spiritual head of the family. Maria took her duties as a wife and mother seriously. In an expression of her spiritual maternity, she generously embraced those without shelter, food, or education. Married couples can pray to Blesseds Luigi and Maria, asking for their intercession, that the bonds of marriage and family may be strengthened and that all may be sanctified through these bonds.

July 15, Isaiah the Prophet

Isaiah the Prophet

It is stated in the first verse of the Book of Isaiah that he prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah (or Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, the kings of Judah (Isaiah 1:1). Uzziah reigned fifty-two years in the middle of the 8th century BC, and Isaiah must have begun his ministry a few years before Uzziah's death, probably in the 740s BC. Isaiah lived until the fourteenth year of Hezekiah (who died 698 BC), and may have been contemporary for some years with Manasseh. Thus Isaiah may have prophesied for as long as sixty-four years.

Isaiah's wife was called "the prophetess" (Isaiah 8:3), either because she was endowed with the prophetic gift, like Deborah (Judges 4:4) and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20), or simply because she was the wife of "the prophet" (Isaiah 38:1). The second interpretation, that it was simply an honorary title, "Mrs. Prophet" as it were, is likely. They had two sons, naming one Shear-Jashub, meaning "A remnant shall return"Isaiah 7:3 and the younger, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, meaning, "Spoil quickly, plunder speedily."Isaiah 8:3

In early youth, Isaiah may have been moved by the invasion of Israel by the Assyrian monarch Tiglath-Pileser III (2 Kings 15:19); and again, twenty years later, when he had already entered on his office, by the invasion of Tiglath-Pileser and his career of conquest. Ahaz, king of Judah, at this crisis refused to co-operate with the kings of Israel and Syria in opposition to the Assyrians, and was on that account attacked and defeated by Rezin of Damascus and Pekah of Israel (2 Kings 16:5; 2 Chronicles 28:5–6). Ahaz, thus humbled, sided with Assyria, and sought the aid of Tiglath-Pileser against Israel and Syria. The consequence was that Rezin and Pekah were conquered and many of the people carried captive to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29, 16:9; 1 Chronicles 5:26).

Soon after this Shalmaneser V determined wholly to subdue the kingdom of Israel, Samaria was taken and destroyed (722 BC). So long as Ahaz reigned, the kingdom of Judah was unmolested by the Assyrian power; but on his accession to the throne, Hezekiah, who was encouraged to rebel "against the king of Assyria" (2 Kings 18:7), entered into an alliance with the king of Egypt (Isaiah 30:2–4). This led the king of Assyria to threaten the king of Judah, and at length to invade the land. Sennacherib (701 BC) led a powerful army into Judah. Hezekiah was reduced to despair, and submitted to the Assyrians (2 Kings 18:14–16). But after a brief interval war broke out again, and again Sennacherib led an army into Judah, one detachment of which threatened Jerusalem (Isaiah 36:2–22; 37:8). Isaiah on that occasion encouraged Hezekiah to resist the Assyrians (37:1–7), whereupon Sennacherib sent a threatening letter to Hezekiah, which he "spread before the LORD" (37:14).

Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.

This is the word that the LORD hath spoken concerning him; the virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.

Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.

According to the account in Kings (and its derivative account in Chronicles) the judgment of God now fell on the Assyrian army and wiped out 180,000 of its men. "Like Xerxes in Greece, Sennacherib never recovered from the shock of the disaster in Judah. He made no more expeditions against either southern Palestine or Egypt."

The remaining years of Hezekiah's reign were peaceful (2 Chr 32:23–29). Isaiah probably lived to its close, and possibly into the reign of Manasseh, but the time and manner of his death are not specified in either the Bible or recorded history. There is a tradition (reported in both the Martyrdom of Isaiah and the Lives of the Prophets) that he suffered martyrdom by Manasseh due to pagan reaction.

Gregory of Nyssa, believed that the Prophet Esaias (Isaiah) "knew more perfectly than all others the mystery of the religion of the Gospel." Jerome also lauds the Prophet Esias, saying, "He was more of an Evangelist than a Prophet, because he described all of the Mysteries of the Church of Christ so vividly that you would assume he was not prophesying about the future, but rather was composing a history of past events."

Friday, July 13, 2012

July 14, Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
By Armando Giraldo

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, also known as the “Lily of Mohawk”, was born in 1656, was declared venerable in 1943, and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, making Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha the first Native American to be declared a Blessed. She has yet to be canonized but will be on October 21, 2012 and her feast day is July 14. Bl. Tekakwitha is responsible for establishing Native American ministries all over the United States and Canada.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha was born in Auriesville, New York in the year 1656, the exact date is unknown, and was the daughter of a Mohawk warrior. When she was four, Bl. Tekakwitha watched her mother die from smallpox. Bl. Tekakwitha was also infected with smallpox, and while she survived, her face was disfigured by the disease.  Soon after her mother’s death, she was adopted by her aunt and uncle. During her teenage years she converted and at the age of twelve she was baptized, which caused her to gain a great amount of hostility from her tribe, and refused marriage to remain devoted to her faith to the Lord. Even with the hostility she received from her tribe, she never abandoned her faith, and soon left for a new Christian colony of Indians in Canada. On leaving for this new Christian colony, she devoted her life to caring for the sick, prayer, the Eucharist and Christ crucified. She would go out into the fields, even in the coldest weather during the winter, and pray to the Virgin Mary for quite some time. Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha died at the age of twenty-four on April 17, 1680.

Blessed Tekakwitha is a good role model for many Catholics to look up to while attempting to deepen their faith. Through her example of her life from when she was a child until she died a young woman, she held onto her faith no matter what obstacles may have been in her way. Many of us have lost people in our lives to death, and Bl. Tekakwitha was no stranger to that. Losing her mother at a young age, and having her face physically changed from a disease, demonstrated her strength as a youth to handle devastating situations in life, and never to let her sorrows get in the way of bettering herself.

After being orphaned and adopted by her aunt and uncle, she converted to the faith at only the age of twelve and received a large amount of hostility from her tribe, especially her uncle who was the chief. He had planned for her to wed but because she wanted to devote her life to the Lord and the Eucharist, she refused and created much conflict in her tribe because of her faith. How many of us go through the same situation in our lives? I’m sure many. The society we have today will tell us that believing in our faith isn’t worth it, it’s a waste of time, and is for the weak. Many times when people would say they are Catholic, there are others who would see them as a crazy person for believing in a God that you cannot see, hear, touch, smell or taste. They don’t believe beyond their five senses and thus refuse to believe in something that is not of this world. For those who do, we are seen as condemners because our faith says that we can only gain eternal life through Jesus Christ and the Eucharist. The people who don’t believe in the faith would say that, because of this, we are condemning them.

The situation with Bl. Tekakwitha is that her tribe had forbidden her to have such a faith, attempted to force her to marry when she refused, and were hostile to her. She, however, remained firm in her faith, in her choice to follow the Lord for eternal life, and went against her tribe and family. This is a perfect example of how we should demonstrate our faith throughout our lives; to live it for God and Jesus Christ and defend our faith even against our own family.

Bl. Tekakwitha is one of the many great examples of a person answering the vocation God has called them to. Though her tribe and family were trying to force her into the vocation of marriage, she knew that it wasn’t the life God had in store for her and that she wouldn’t be able to live the life God wanted her to through marriage. At the time, it was very uncommon for a woman to not be wed and mother children, but knowing her vocation, Bl. Tekakwitha refused marriage and remained a virgin to grow closer to the Lord, going against the customs of her tribe. It is very hard to hear the Lord’s calling in our daily lives as we are constantly moving and have work or plans. We make so little time for the Lord that we may go a day without praying, which is a day lost. Through the example of Bl. Tekakwitha we see how she made time for the Lord, no matter how small it was, and never allowed obstacles to get in her way for time for the Lord.