Thursday, May 31, 2012

June 1, St. Thomas Aquinas

Saint Thomas Aquinas
By Timothy G. Greene

Europe was slowly emerging from the dark ages by the early 1200’s.  Population growth was increasing steadily with long hot summers and short mild winters.  There was a growing restlessness throughout the land, especially in Italy where there seemed to be something like a precursor to the renaissance, with a rising interest in the finer things of culture like art and music.  However, it could not yet be realized due to the fact that most people lived in poverty and could never look forward to advancement because of the Feudalistic system in which all of Europe was trapped. 

Feudalism, by definition meant a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service of labor, a most inefficient form of government, in which nobles owned the land and vassals were the managers, with a multitude of serfs who would work the land.  The surfs, little better than slaves, lived harsh lives, while the noble class lived in castles and indulged themselves in their great wealth.  There was much warfare between the nobles; it was a world of seemingly endless corruption and violence.  Yet in 1225 in the kingdom of Naples, would be born to a noble family of the castle Roccasecca a son who would be named Thomas Aquino, who would become one of the greatest thinkers of all time.  Thomas’ father was the Count Landulf of Aquino and his mother Theodora Countess of Theate were related to the Hohenstaufen dynasty of the Holy Roman empire.  (Britannica)  All of Thomas’ brothers would take up military careers like their father, however Thomas was clearly of a different sort, his goal in life was to become a Dominican priest, much to the dismay of his family.

Thomas began his early education at Monte Cassino but after the military conflict that broke out between the Emperor Frederick II and Pope Gregory IX spilled into the abbey in 1239, Thomas’ parents enrolled him in the Studium Generate University recently established by Frederick in Naples.  (Columbia Encyclopedia)  During his study at the university Thomas would meet an influential figure named Petrus de Ibernia.  From this Dominican teacher Thomas would learn mathematics, astronomy, music and most of all Ibernia would convince Thomas to join the Dominica order.  Thomas’ parents would not be pleased with this, a Benedictine yes, but never a Dominican.  When Thomas was on his way to Paris for more schooling his parents had his brothers kidnap him while he had stopped to take a drink at the spring.  He was imprisoned in the family castle for up to two years, and his two sisters, Marotta and Theodora, attended to his needs, but tried in vain to weaken his will.  After a time the sisters were converted to Thomas’ view point.  The most dramatic episode of his imprisonment came when his brothers sent a temptress to his quarters.  As soon as Thomas saw this girl’s intention; which was to seduce him, he rushed to the fire place and grabbed a burning stick and forced her out.  He then closed the door and drew a cross on the door with the charred end of the stick. (Fr. Christopher Rengers, O.F.M., Cap)

When he fell asleep that night, he had a dream that two angels came and placed a cord around his waist saying, “On God’s behalf we gird you with the girdle of chastity, a girdle which no attack will ever destroy.” (Lives of the Saints, Richard P. McBrian)  For the rest of his life Thomas would remain free from any such temptations.  Finally his family released him and after some traveling he would eventually end up in Cologne, where he would study under St. Albert the Great, from 1248 to 1252.  It is not known for certain but Thomas was probably ordained at Cologne.  This large quiet young man was dubbed the dumb ox by fellow students at Cologne.  He was so quiet and non committal that no one seemed much impressed by him at first, but after getting to know him better his genius became evident.  St. Albert the Great had said regarding Thomas, “Today you call this man a dumb ox, but one day the bellowing of this ox will resound throughout the world.” (Fr. Christopher Rengers, O.F.M., Cap)

Of this St. Albert the Great was quite correct, because Thomas Aquinas would become a Doctor Universalis, or Doctor of the Catholic Church.  Thomas Aquinas is held in the Catholic Church to be the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood.  The works that he is best known for are the Summa Theologica, and the Summa Contra Gentiles.  As one of the 33 Doctors of the Church, he is considered to be the greatest theologian and philosopher.  Pope Benedict XV declared, “This Dominican order acquired new luster when the church declared the teaching of Thomas to be her own and that Doctor, honored with the special praises of the Pontiffs, the master and patron of Catholic schools.”  (Oxford Encyclopedia) Thomas was the foremost proponent of natural theology, and the father of Thomasism.  His influence on western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy was conceived as a reaction against, or as an agreement with his ideas, particularly in the area of ethics, natural law, metaphysics, and political theory.  Thomas was influenced by many of the great philosophers, but by far he was most influenced by Aristotle of ancient Greece (384 BC to 322 BC), who was the inventor of formal logic, which is the science of valid inference. (Philosophy, Christian, 11th edition)  Aristotle was a seeker of truth and Thomas would use many of his methods in his teaching.

In Naples, 1273 Thomas was celebrating the Mass of St. Nicholas when, according to some, he heard Christ speak to him.  Christ asked him what he desired, being pleased with his meritorious life.  Thomas replied, “Only you Lord.  Only you.” (Lives of the Saints, McBrien)  After this exchange something happened, but Thomas never spoke of it or wrote it down.  Because of what he saw, he abandoned his routine and refused to continue his work.  When asked if he would return to work, Thomas’ response was, “I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me.”  Thomas’ behavior seemed to be affected by a supernatural experience of God.  Later in 1274, Pope Gregory X convened the Second Council of Lyon to be held on the 1st of March, and requested that Thomas attend.  On his way to the council riding on a donkey along the Appian Way, he struck his head on a branch of a fallen tree and became seriously ill.  He was escorted to Monte Casino to convalesce.  After resting for a while he set out again, but stopped at the Cistercian Fossanova Abbey after again falling ill.  He died on March 7th 1274 while giving commentary on the Song of Songs.

Fifty years after the death of Thomas, on July 18, 1323, Pope John XXII, seated in Avignon, pronounced Thomas a saint.  In a monastery in Naples, near the Cathedral of Saint Januarious, a cell in which Thomas supposedly lived is still shown to visitors.  His remains were placed in the Church of the Jacobins in Toulouse in 1369.  Between 1789 and 1974, they were held in Basilique de Saint Sernin, Toulouse.  In 1974 they were returned to the Church of the Jacobins, where they have remained ever since.

In 1879 Pope Leo XIII decreed that all Catholic seminaries and universities must teach Thomas’ doctrines, and where Thomas did not speak on a subject, the teachers were urged to teach conclusions that were reconcilable to his thinking. (Encyclopedia Britannica,  In 1880, Saint Thomas Aquinas was declared patron of all Catholic educational establishments.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 31, St. Albert the Great

Saint Albert the Great
By Sue Levesque

St. Albert the Great (Albertus) was born in Lauingen on the Danube, near Ulm, Germany at the Danube, near Ulm, Germany at the beginning of the thirteenth century. As a young man Albert studied at the University of Padua, the seat of one of the most famous medieval universities. During his stay in Padua he attended the Church of the Dominicans. It is during this time Albert had an encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary, who convinced him to enter Holy Orders. In 1223 (or 1221) he became a member of the Dominican Order, against the wishes of his family. His first assignment was the position of lecturer at Cologne, Germany, where the Dominicans had a house, he taught for several years. In 1245 he came to the University of Paris, where he received his doctorate and taught for some time as a Master of Theology with great success. It was during this time Thomas Aquinas began to study under Albertus.

Albertus was the first to comment on virtually all of the writings of Aristotle, thus making them accessible to wider academic debate. He was ahead of his time in the attitude towards science. Two aspects of this attitude deserve to be mentioned: 1) he did not only study science from books, as other academics did in his day, but actually observed and experimented with nature (the rumors staring by those who did not understand this are probably at the source of Albert’s supposed connections with the alchemy and witchcraft). 2) he took from Aristotle the view that scientific method had to be appropriate to the objects of the scientific discipline at hand (in discussions with Roger Bacon, who, like many 20th century academics, thought the science should be based on mathematics).

Prestigious tasks were assigned to him. In 1248, he was charged with opening theological studium
at Cologne, one of the most important regional capitals of Germany. He brought with him from Paris an exceptional student, Thomas Aquinas. The sole merit of having been St. Thomas’s teacher would suffice to elicit profound administration for St. Albert. In 1254, Albert was elected Provincial of the Dominican Fathers, he distinguished himself for the zeal with which he excercised this ministry. He was especially known for acting as a mediator between conflicting parties. In Cologne he is not only known for being the founder of Germany’s oldest university there, but also for “the big verdict” (der Grose Schied) of 1258, which brought an end to the conflict between the citizens of Cologne and the archbishop.

His gifts did not escape the attention of the Pope of that time, Alexander IV, who wanted Albert
with him for a certain time at Anagni where the Popes went frequently in Rome itself and at Viterbo, in order to avail himself of Albert’s theological advice. The same Supreme Pontiff appointed Albert Bishop of Regensburg, a large and celebrated diocese, but which was going through a difficult period. From 1260 to 1262, Albert exercised this ministry with unflagging dedication, succeeding in restoring peace and harmony to the city, in reorganizing parishes and convents and in giving a new impetus to charitable activities.

In the year of 1263-1264, Albert preached in Germany and in Bohemia, at the request of Pope
Urban IV. As a man of prayer, science, and charity, his authoritative intervention in various events of the church and of the society of the time were acclaimed: above all, he was a man of reconcilation and peace. In 1270 he preached the eight Crusade in Austria. Albert did his utmost during the Second Council of Lyons, in 1274, summoned by Pope Gregory X, to encourage union between the Latin and Greek churches after the separation of the great schism with the East in 1054.

Among the last of his labors was the defense of the orthodoxy of his former pupil, Thomas Aquinas whose death in 1274 grieved Albertus. After suffering a collapse of health in 1278, he died on November 15th, 1280 in Cologne, Germany. His tomb is in the crypt of the Domincan Church of St. Andreas in Cologne, and his relics at the Cologne Cathedral.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 29, Elijah the Prophet

Elijah the Prophet

“Elias (Hebrew 'Eliahu, "Yahveh is God"; also called Elijah).

The loftiest and most wonderful prophet of the Old Testament. What we know of his public life is sketched in a few popular narratives enshrined, for the most part, in the First (Third) Book of Kings. These narratives, which bear the stamp of an almost contemporary age, very likely took shape in Northern Israel, and are full of the most graphic and interesting details. Every part of the prophet's life therein narrated bears out the description of the writer of Ecclesiasticus: He was "as a fire, and his word burnt like a torch" (48:1). The times called for such a prophet. Under the baneful influence of his Tyrian wife Jezabel, Achab, though perhaps not intending to forsake altogether Yahveh's worship, had nevertheless erected in Samaria a temple to the Tyrian Baal (1 Kings 16:32) and introduced a multitude of foreign priests (xviii 19); doubtless he had occasionally offered sacrifices to the pagan deity, and, most of all, hallowed a bloody persecution of the prophets of Yahveh.
Of Elias's origin nothing is known, except that he was a Thesbite; whether from Thisbe of Nephtali (Tobit 1:2) or from Thesbon of Galaad, as our texts have it, is not absolutely certain, although most scholars, on the authority of the Septuagint and of Josephus, prefer the latter opinion. Some Jewish legends, echoed in a few Christian writings, assert moreover that Elias was of priestly descent; but there is no other warrant for the statement than the fact that he offered sacrifices. His whole manner of life resembles somewhat that of the Nazarites and is a loud protest against his corrupt age. His skin garment and leather girdle (2 Kings, 1, 8), his swift foot (1 Kings 18:46), his habit of dwelling in the clefts of the torrents (xvii,3) or in the caves of the mountains (xix, 9), of sleeping under a scanty shelter (xix, 5), betray the true son of the desert. He appears abruptly on the scene of history to announce to Achab that Yahveh had determined to avenge the apostasy of Israel and her king by bringing a long drought on the land. His message delivered, the prophet vanished as suddenly as he had appeared, and, guided by the spirit of Yahveh, betook himself by the brook Carith, to the east of the Jordan, and the ravens (some critics would translate, however improbable the rendering, "Arabs" or "merchants") "brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening, and he drank of the torrent" (xvii, 6).

After the brook had dried up, Elias, under Divine direction, crossed over to Sarepta, within the Tyrian dominion. There he was hospitably received by a poor widow whom the famine had reduced to her last meal (12); her charity he rewarded by increasing her store of meal and oil all the while the drought and famine prevailed, and later on by restoring her child to life (14-24). For three years there fell no rain or dew in Israel, and the land was utterly barren. Meanwhile Achab had made fruitless efforts and scoured the country in search of Elias. At length the latter resolved to confront the king once more, and, suddenly appearing before Abdias, bade him summon his master (xviii, 7, sq.). When they met, Achab bitterly upbraided the prophet as the cause of the misfortune of Israel. But the prophet flung back the charge: "I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's house, who have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and have followed Baalim" (xviii, 18). Taking advantage of the discountenanced spirits of the silenced king, Elias bids him to summon the prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel, for a decisive contest between their god and Yahveh. The ordeal took place before a great concourse of people (see MOUNT CARMEL) whom Elias, in the most forcible terms, presses to choose: "How long do you halt between two sides? If Yahveh be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him" (xviii, 21). He then commanded the heathen prophets to invoke their deity; he himself would "call on the name of his Lord"; and the God who would answer by fire, "let him be God" (24). An altar had been erected by the Baal-worshippers and the victim laid upon it; but their cries, their wild dances and mad self-mutilations all the day long availed nothing: "There was no voice heard, nor did any one answer, nor regard them as they prayed" (29). Elias, having repaired the ruined altar of Yahveh which stood there, prepared thereon his sacrifice; then, when it was time to offer the evening oblation, as he was praying earnestly, "the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the holocaust, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench" (38). The issue was fought and won. The people, maddened by the success, fell at Elias's command on the pagan prophets and slew them at the brook Cison. That same evening the drought ceased with a heavy downpour of rain, in the midst of which the strange prophet ran before Achab to the entrance of Jezrael.

Elias's triumph was short. The anger of Jezabel, who had sworn to take his life (xix, 2), compelled him to flee without delay, and take his refuge beyond the desert of Juda, in the sanctuary of Mount Horeb. There, in the wilds of the sacred mountain, broken spirited, he poured out his complaint before the Lord, who strengthened him by a revelation and restored his faith. Three commands are laid upon him: to anoint Hazael to be King of Syria, Jehu to be King of Israel, and Eliseus to be his own successor. At once Elias sets out to accomplish this new burden. On his way to Damascus he meets Eliseus at the plough, and throwing his mantle over him, makes him his faithful disciple and inseparable companion, to whom the completion of his task will be entrusted. The treacherous murder of Naboth was the occasion for a new reappearance of Elias at Jezrael, as a champion of the people's rights and of social order, and to announce to Achab his impending doom. Achab's house shall fall. In the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth will the dogs lick the king's blood; they shall eat Jezabel in Jezrael; their whole posterity shall perish and their bodies be given to the fowls of the air (xxi, 20-26). Conscience-stricken, Achab quailed before the man of God, and in view of his penance the threatened ruin of his house was delayed. The next time we hear of Elias, it is in connexion with Ochozias, Achab's son and successor. Having received severe injuries in a fall, this prince sent messengers to the shrine of Beelzebub, god of Accaron, to inquire whether he should recover. They were intercepted by the prophet, who sent them back to their master with the intimation that his injuries would prove fatal. Several bands of men sent by the king to capture Elias were stricken by fire from heaven; finally the man of God appeared in person before Ochozias to confirm his threatening message. Another episode recorded by the chronicler (2 Chronicles 21:12) relates how Joram, King of Juda, who had indulged in Baal-worship, received from Elias a letter warning him that all his house would be smitten by a plague, and that he himself was doomed to an early death.

According to 2 Kings 3, Elias's career ended before the death of Josaphat. This statement is difficult — but not impossible — to harmonize with the preceeding narrative. However this may be, Elias vanished still more mysteriously than he had appeared. Like Enoch, he was "translated", so that he should not taste death. As he was conversing with his spiritual son Eliseus on the hills of Moab, "a fiery chariot, and fiery horses parted them both asunder, and Elias went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (2 Kings 2:11), and all the efforts to find him made by the sceptic sons of the prophets disbelieving Eliseus's recital, availed nothing. The memory of Elias has ever remained living in the minds both of Jews and Christians. According to Malachias, God preserved the prophet alive to entrust him, at the end of time, with a glorious mission (iv, 5-6): at the New Testament period, this mission was believed to precede immediately the Messianic Advent (Matthew 17:10, 12; Mark 9:11); according to some Christian commentators, it would consist in converting the Jews (St. Jer., in Mal., iv, 5-6); the rabbis, finally, affirm that its object will be to give the explanations and answers hitherto kept back by them. I Mach., ii, 58, extols Elias's zeal for the Law, and Ben Sira entwines in a beautiful page the narration of his actions and the description of his future mission (Sirach 48:1-12). Elias is still in the N.T. the personification of the servant of God (Matthew 16:14; Luke 1:17; 9:8; John 1:21). No wonder, therefore, that with Moses he appeared at Jesus' side on the day of the Transfiguration.

Nor do we find only in the sacred literature and the commentaries thereof evidences of the conspicuous place Elias won for himself in the minds of after-ages. To this day the name of Jebel Mar Elyas, usually given by modern Arabs to Mount Carmel, perpetuates the memory of the man of God. Various places on the mountain: Elias's grotto; El-Khadr, the supposed school of the prophets; El-Muhraka, the traditional spot of Elias's sacrifice; Tell el-Kassis, or Mound of the priests — where he is said to have slain the priests of Baal — are still in great veneration both among the Christians of all denominations and among the Moslems. Every year the Druses assemble at El-Muhraka to hold a festival and offer a sacrifice in honour of Elias. All Moslems have the prophet in great reverence; no Druse, in particular, would dare break an oath made in the name of Elias. Not only among them, but to some extent also among the Jews and Christians, many legendary tales are associated with the prophet's memory. The Carmelite monks long cherished the belief that their order could be traced back in unbroken succession to Elias whom they hailed as their founder. Vigorously opposed by the Bollandists, especially by Papenbroeck, their claim was no less vigorously upheld by the Carmelites of Flanders, until Pope Innocent XII, in 1698, deemed it advisable to silence both contending parties. Elias is honoured by both the Greek and Latin Churches on 20 July.

The old stichometrical lists and ancient ecclesiastical writings (Const. Apost., VI, 16; Origen, Comm. in Matthew 27:9; Euthalius; Epiphan., Haer., 43) mention an apocryphal "Apocalypse of Elias", citations from which are said to be found in 1 Corinthians 2:9, and Ephesians 5:14. Lost to view since the early Christian centuries, this work was partly recovered in a Coptic translation found (1893) by MaspĂ©ro in a monastery of Upper Egypt. Other scraps, likewise in Coptic, have since been also discovered. What we possess now of this Apocalypse — and it seems that we have by far the greater part of it — was published in 1899 by G. Steindorff; the passages cited in 1 Corinthians 2:9, and Ephesians 5:14, do not appear there; the Apocalypse on the other hand, has a striking analogy with the Jewish "Sepher Elia".”

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 29, St. Dominic

Saint Dominic
By Marina Haghighat

Dominic was born in 1170 in Caleruega which is located in Spain. When he was older he studied the arts and theology in a Spanish university. When he was 25 years old he became a priest and followed the rule of Saint Benedict. In 1215 he and six followers founded a monastery in Toulouse. In 1217 he got the Pope’s permission to start the “Order of Preachers” (now known as the Dominican Order). Dominic made his headquarters in Rome in the year 1215. He then moved to the Church of San Nicolo Bologna on December 12. He later died on August 6, 1221 when he was 41 years  old. Saint Dominic was canonized on June 12, 1954 by Pope Pius XII

When Saint Dominic started the new order he must have had a lot of trust. He had to have trust in God because He has a plan for everyone. He also needed trust in his followers because when you work on creating a new order you become a family. He teaches us that you should have trust in others around you and in God. Dominic also preached about the rosary and made it popular in his time. He taught us to pray the rosary. “Arm yourself with prayer rather than a sword; wear humility rather than fine clothes” was one of Saint Dominic’s quotes. To me that quote means when the war against Satan comes, arm yourself with prayer because that is what will help us win and beat Satan. It also means that we should focus less on how we look on the outside and we should always keep God higher than us. His life was about serving God and that’s what our life is supposed to be about, too.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May 28, St. Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis of Assisi
By Sr. Maria Francis

Francis was the son of Peter Bernardone, a wealthy merchant of Assisi. His mother was Pica who was of noble birth.  He grew up with a sincere and generous character, tenderly loved by his family, although sometimes they scolded him for a habit of giving away everything he had. His father said, “We shall make a sharp merchant out of him!” for he could not wait as assistant in his business, while the mother said, “We shall make a valiant knight of him, a soul of God,” for she dreamed of the gardens and the chivalry of her native country. From his father, he learned all the tricks and risks of trade; from his mother, the prayers of the faith, the songs of the troubadours; and from the priests, who were the schoolteachers, he learned Latin and the abacus.

Francis was always cheerful, never coarse.  Rudeness, bad words, vulgarity repulsed him like a splash of mud on a garment or a spot of grease on the tablecloth.  For Francis was more elegant in thought than in dress, and he loved the beauty of the soul more than the beauty of things.  When a companion started to tell a dirty story Francis did not reprove him or become scandalized.  He was silent.  He was silent as one who was absent, for some things do not deserve attention or an answer.  And the companion understood and was ashamed.

He was courteous to all by nature and chivalrous by intent. Only once did he send away a beggar who had come into the shop at the busiest time.  “Charity for the love of God,” moaned the ragged beggar among the customers crowded around Francis’ counter. For the love of God. That ordinary expression planted itself in the heart of the youth as of it had reached him for the first time and assailed him with remorse. “If that beggar had been sent by some prince to ask for alms,” he said to himself, “you would have fallen over yourself to please him.  And if he asks in the name of the King of Kings can you deny him anything? Or should you not be more courteous and generous to do him honor.”

His elegance and courtesy were not vainglory but rather the expression of a passion to do well whatever he had to do and to be the first in all things.  Not in order to be praised nor vanquished others but to be pleasing and be loved.

 Our Lord, whose delight it is to show mercy to the merciful, intended to tear Francis away from the danger of worldly pleasure and draw him to Himself.  He permitted Francis to become seriously ill.  As Francis lay in the solitude of the sick chamber, exhausted in body, his soul was being prepared by God for higher things.  He felt a great longing for perfection, and heroic self-conquest was needed as a foundation for that edifice.

When Francis recovered his health, he was one day crossing the plain of Assisi on horseback, when he met a leper.  The unexpected sight he remembered his resolution, dismounted and hastened to kiss the hand of the leper and then pressed alms into it.  As he remounted and turned to salute the leper once more, there was no one to be seen anywhere on the plain.  Seemingly Christ had appeared to him in the form of a leper.

Francis so loved the poor that he frequently associated with them.  Complying with a divine command, he also begged stones to repair three ruined churches.  His father was enraged at this strange conduct, and had his son brought before the bishop of Assisi.  There Francis returned to his father not only the money he had but also the clothes he wore, saying: “Now I can say, Our Father, who art in heaven.” The bishop gave him an old gardener’s cloak, on the back of which Francis drew a cross with a piece of white chalk.  He now begged our Lord to make known to him His will regarding the future.
Soon after, Francis was at holy Mass in the Portiuncola, hearing the Gospel in which our Lord commissions His apostles to carry about with them neither gold, nor silver, nor two coats nor shoes, the heart of Francis was filled with joy, for he recognized in it the will of God regarding his own life.  In a coarse penitential garb, girded with a cord, without shoes, he entered upon a life of complete poverty and began to preach penance.  Francis was then twenty-six years old.

Several companions soon joined him.  When they were eleven in number, he went with them to Rome, where Pope Innocent III gave his approval to the new order.  They lived in the severest poverty and in brotherly harmony, preaching penance to the people both by their example and their words.

In order to open the way of perfection for all who wished to imitate his life, Francis established a Second Order headed by St. Clare and a Third Order for people of both sexes living in the world.  His love for souls inspired him to labor for all his fellowmen.

It was about the passion and death of Christ on the Cross that filled his heart with love of his Savior, and he strove to become as similar to the object of his love as possible.  Two years before his death on Mount La Verna, the crucified Savior appeared to Francis in the form of a seraph and impressed on his body the marks of the five sacred wounds.

Francis knew in advance the day of his death.  Prepared by all the consolations of Holy Church, and lying on the bare ground in imitation of his Savior’s death on the cross, Francis passed to his heavenly home on October 3, 1226.


St. Francis can say to us all: “Be followers of me, as I also am of Christ” (1Cor. 4:16).  He felt a strong attachment for the poor, because he saw in them the poor Christ.  And because he always beheld Christ in poverty from the Crib to the Cross, he longed for the greatest poverty; he wanted to be deprived of everything material, that he might find God and call Him his own.  He would cry out in holy rapture through entire nights: “My God and my all!”  “Whatsoever is not God,” says Thomas a Kempis (3,31), “is nothing and ought to be accounted nothing.  For a long time shall he be little, and lie groveling beneath, who esteems anything great but only the one, immense, eternal Good.  Forsake all, and you shall find all; relinquish desire, and you shall find rest.”

St. Francis was deeply attached to our Lady the Mother of God under the title of Queen of the Angels and at a shrine dedicated to her under that name popularly known as the “Little Portion.” How much and how characteristically his love for Her is evident in the famous indulgence of pardon Francis obtained for the shrine from Christ through the help of Mary.

St. Francis free of all self-love, he sacrificed himself for others, and in humility he called himself and his brethren Friars Minor, looking upon himself in all sincerity as the greatest of sinners.

Consider how the poor and humble heart of St. Francis raised itself to God by means of the things of earth.  He saw in created things whatever they possessed of goodness, usefulness and beauty.  But his heart did not cling to these things; rather, his thought mounted to the Author of all that is good, useful and beautiful.  Created things became for him the rungs of a ladder on which he climbed to the uncreated Source of all goods.  Burning with love, he then called upon all created things to join him in thanking and praising the Creator; thanking Him also for all suffering through which God accomplished His Holy will in him.  With the praise of God on his lips, he went into eternity in order to continue it at the throne of God amid the choirs of the seraphim.

May St. Francis intercede for us that we may be enabled to follow him in his footsteps and the grace to imitate him in despising the things of this world and to merit in eternity to share the heavenly gifts. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Below is the letter of St. Francis to the faithful. If someone understood and applied it in practice, someone would surely reach the goal of perfection:


St. Francis wrote this letter to the faithful:

“Since I am the servant of all I am obliged to serve all and to carry out the fragrant words of my Lord, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the Word of the Father.  I must also bring to your attention the words of the Holy Spirit, which are spirit and life. Although all the world’s riches were his, Christ and his blessed mother chose poverty.  He subjected his will to the will of his Father, saying: Father, your will be done; not as I will but as you will.  Now this was the will of his Father that his blessed Son whom he gave us and who was born for us should offer himself by shedding his blood as a sacrifice and victim on the altar of the cross.  This sacrifice was not for himself through whom all things were made, but for our sins thus leaving us an example that we should follow in his footsteps.

He wants us all to be saved through him and to receive him with pure heart and sinless body.  How happy and blessed are they who love the Lord and do what he says in the Gospel: You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul, and your neighbor as yourself.  Let us therefore love God and adore him with pure heart and soul since he says that he is especially seeking authentic worshippers who will worship the Father in spirit and truth.  Let us sing his praises and pray day and night because we must pray always without losing heart.

We must also fast and abstain from vices and sins and from excess in food and drink, and be Catholics.  We must visit churches frequently and show reverence to clerics not only for their own sake, even though they be sinners, but because of the office they hold and because of the ministry of the most holy body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which they offer on the altar and which they receive and administer to others.  Let all firmly believe that no one can be saved except through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord’s holy words which clerics proclaim and administer. 

We must love our enemies and do good to those who hate us.  We are to observe the commandments and counsels of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We must also deny ourselves and submit our bodies to the yoke of service and of holy obedience just as each one promised the Lord.

We are not to be wise and prudent according to the flesh, but rather simple and humble and pure.

I, friar Francis, your least servant, by the love that is God beg and implore all whom this letter may reach to receive these fragrant words of our Lord Jesus Christ with humility and love and fulfill them in love and observe them to the letter. May the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit bless all who accept them with love and understand them and persevere to the end in outing them into practice.  Amen.”

May 27, St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
By Kristin Koblentz

God calls us all to be saints, but some He calls to be extraordinary saints. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was one such man. Born in the year 1090, he grew up to be one of the most influential men of the twelfth century. One of seven children, Bernard’s parents raised him with a superb education, sending him off at only the age of 23 to join the reformed Benedictines of Citeaux, later known as the Cistercians. Not only did Bernard enter the monastery himself, but he brought thirty young noblemen of Burgundy with him, including his six brothers and his widowed father. He received his monastic formation from St. Stephen Harding and was then sent out only two years later as an abbot to start a new monastery in Clairvaux. 

Bernard struggled with the beginnings of his new monastery. The daily routine of the monks was so rigid and austere that Bernard’s health began to take a toll and the authority of the General Chapter was called in to lessen the asceticism of the monks’ regime. But despite the rigidity of daily life, the monastery thrived and was bringing in more vocations than it had room for. The monks met wise and sincere spiritual direction in Saint Bernard. He was an eloquent speaker and spoke out passionately on the revival of the primitive spirit of regularity and fervor in all monastic orders.

So many men flocked to the leadership of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.  He founded 163 monasteries in various parts of Europe, numbering around 343 at the time of his death. But Bernard was not just a skilled spiritual father for monasteries. Bernard’s writings, speeches, and opinions were sought out by many in political and theological affairs. One such instance was the papal schism, which broke out after the death of Pope Honorius II on February 14, 1130. Two popes, Pope Innocent II and Pope Anacletus II, had been elected and at the national convention of French bishops called by King Louis VI, Bernard was chosen as judge between the two rival popes. He chose Pope Innocent II causing the pope to be recognized by all heads of state. Amongst his other achievements in provincial affairs, he was very influential in leading and recruiting for the Second Crusade.

His theological achievements were numerous; having written many treatises and books by the end of his life, St. Bernard’s writings achieved high esteem and even helped to defeat heresy. Towards the end of the 1100s, human reason and rationalism became exalted above the spiritual and supernatural. Peter Abelard was a powerful advocate of this movement and published a treatise on the Trinity that proved to be very controversial. Bernard agreed to a debate with Abelard and he convinced Abelard so completely that Abelard rescinded his view by the end of their discussion.

Saint Bernard’s eloquence of speech, passion for the truth, and fervor in religious monasticism changed the Church forever. He is considered today to be one of the founders of the Cistercian order, a Doctor of the Church, and his devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary still pervade our music and prayers. St. Bernard’s fervor in following the will of God should be mirrored in our daily lives, always striving for the truth, meditating on God’s love, and bringing others to the Light of Christ. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 26, St. Philip Neri

Saint Philip Neri
By George Martin

St. Philip Neri was born in Florence, Italy to a small poor family.  He was born the very same year as St. Teresa of Avila, in 1515.  St. Philip’s two favorite books were the New Testament and a book of riddles.  When he was a boy, his name was Pippo Buono.  One amusing story from the early life of St. Philip Neri is that when he was still a young boy he was at a friend’s barn.  His parents were busy talking and his sisters were busy playing.  Philip went into the barn and saw a donkey and he wanted to ride the donkey.  So he got on the donkey to ride him but, when his sisters found him, the donkey was on top of Philip.  When they got him up he was fine, but the donkey was limping!

When Philip grew up, he would constantly go to Rome to pray in all the churches in the city.  Philip’s main reason for doing this was to beseech God to know what his vocation would be.  His answer came one day while meditating.  St. John the Baptist appeared to him.  He felt this was a sign from God and applied himself to not just to his own salvation but to the salvation of others. 

It is worth noting that while still a laymen Philip tried to convince many to join themselves to Christ by joining one of the many religious families.  Because of this, St. Ignatius of Loyola called him ‘the Bell’ or ‘the Signal.’  St. Ignatius explained that while he called many to enter the religious life, he still remained in the world. St. Philip finally was ordained a priest on June 23, 1551, at the age of thirty-six. 

I think that it is important to remember that while he became a priest relatively late in life, he had always spent his life calling others to holiness.  Philip met with his share of difficulties when he became a priest.  At the church where he was assigned, there were two mean sacristans, whose names were Arminio and Leone.  They would constantly mock him and make things hard for him.  One time while he was saying a Mass at another church for a priest, they hid all of the vestments but the black ones knowing that Philip wanted to celebrate the feast of a saint.  When Philip came back to say Mass at his church, he was left using the black ones.  Finally because Philip endured all these things with patience and meekness, he converted Arminio and Leone.  If St. Philip were here, I believe he would tell us to be kinder and more patient with one another.  It is only by our charity and suffering our difficulties patiently that we can assist each other in obtaining heaven.

Among the many things that St. Philip did is the writing of sonnets.  Reading these has given me an insight of his desire to be united with God.  He writes: “The soul derives from God her being high, in one keen instant out of nothing brought, not painfully through second causes wrought; how should she, then, submit to things that die?” Here St. Philip Neri, tells us that we owe everything to God.  God created us and our immortal soul through no merit of our own.  Our response should be that knowing how wonderful God is for doing such a great thing we should be detached to everything but Him.

One of the virtues St. Philip Neri embodied was humility.  St. Philip loved humility and embraced it.  He would often say when being praised for his sanctity: “May God make me what you call me! But alas, there are innumerable country girls and peasants who will find more glory in the eyes of God than Philip!” 

St. Philip reminds us that every talent or gift comes from God.  We have them not because of something we did but, because of the endless mercy of God.  While reading this I am reminded of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).  We should realize God has given us certain gifts and that we are called as disciples in Christ to use these gifts in the service of God.  As humble as St. Philip Neri was, he recognized his gifts from God and the great responsibility in using these gifts for his fellow men to win paradise.

I am certain that when St. Philip Neri died on May 25, 1595, he heard Our Lord say: “Well done, good and faithful servant, because you have been faithful in little things, I will place you over great things: enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21).

May 25, St. Patrick

Saint Patrick
By Mary Long

St. Patrick was believed to be born in the late 4th century. He is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. He is credited with promoting Christianity throughout Ireland.

St. Patrick is known for his spiritual biography, called the Confession, and his literary work the Epistola, the denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish Christians.

St. Patrick is also credited with driving out paganism from Ireland, he was known for “driving the snakes from Ireland.” The serpents or snakes were the idols that the pagans had worshiped.

Patrick was said to be responsible for the baptism of the Druid warrior chief and his clan at the “Holy Wells,” which still bears its name today. It was stated that thousands were baptized here.

There are several accounts of how St. Patrick died. The most well known is that he died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland on March 17th, 460 AD.

The celebration of St. Patrick's Day became associated with everything Irish. St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the trinity to the local pagans hence becoming the National flower of Ireland. People celebrate by wearing green, attending parades and bellying up to the local pub to consume some green ale. Although the parades and shamrocks are fun, the fundamental meaning behind St. Patricks day is traditionally for spiritual renewal and the offering of prayers for missionaries worldwide.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 24, St. Gregory the Great

Saint Gregory the Great
By the Monteiro Family

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Saint Gregory the Great was a living example of this image taught by Jesus in Matthew 25.

Gregory was born in Rome to Gordianus and Silvia.  His father was a wealthy nobleman in Rome who gave Gregory an excellent education.  He eventually became prefect (mayor) of Rome in his 30s, an unheard of responsibility for a man so young.  His family owned farmland and estates.  After his father’s death Gregory converted the family estates to monasteries and his own home into a monastery in honor of Saint Andrew where he himself became a monk.  He followed a very strict and harsh life, spending many hours meditating on the Scriptures.

He became chief advisor to Pope Pelagius II and was loved by the people of Rome for his work to help ease tensions with the Lombards who were at war with Rome.  He was elected to the papacy in the year 590 after the death of Pelagius II.  His election was unanimous among the clergy and people of Rome; however he did not want to be pope.  He wrote to the Byzantine emperor who had to confirm the election and asked for him not to confirm the elections.  The letter was intercepted before the emperor could read it and so Gregory was confirmed as pope.

While he was pope, Saint Gregory believed that not only was he the successor of Saint Peter but that he was “the servant of the servants of God.”  He focused on using the resources of the Vatican to help the poor and sick who fled to the city of Rome due to the fighting and plagues that were in the country.  The food and medical services were all being controlled by the Vatican with Saint Gregory overseeing everything.  The land and estates that his family owned and operated were all being used to help feed the poor and care for the sick.  All donations received by the Church were being used to care for the people in need.  He was the first pope to send out missionaries to the surrounding countries to help spread the word of God.  He worked tirelessly to unite the Church and help her people during the troubling times in which he lived.

Saint Gregory is depicted with the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, sitting on his shoulder because of a story told by his friend Peter the Deacon.  The story goes that when Pope Gregory was dictating his homilies to Ezechiel, the pope’s secretary, a curtain was drawn between them. The pope remained silent for long periods at a time.  Ezechiel wondered why the pope was so quiet and made a hole in the curtain to check on him.  When he looked through the hole he saw a dove seated on Saint Gregory's head with its beak between his lips. When the dove removed its beak the pope would speak again and Ezechiel would write down what he said.  When he became silent Ezechiel again looked through the hole and saw the dove had replaced its beak between his lips.  Saint Gregory was not a conversationalist.  He was a man of few words.  He was, however, an observer and thinker.  One of his contributions to the Church is a thorough contemplation of previous writings of his predecessors and organizing them in a way that was easily understood and used.

Gregorian Chant is attributed to Saint Gregory because of his focus on the celebration of Mass.  He is responsible for the Our Father being recited before the breaking of the Host in the order of the Mass but he is not the creator of the Gregorian Chants.  In the 9th century, monks developed a method to remember the chant melodies known as neumes that were were sung at Mass. Emperor Charlemagne asks for cantors from the Papal chapel in Rome to come teach the neumes chants to his clerics.  The people of Rome thought that it was a command from Pope Gregory and named them the Gregorian Chants.  To this day he is credited with these songs and there is a stain glass window in the choir loft of our church dedicated to him.

Some interesting facts about Saint Gregory are:
§ His great-great-grandfather was Pope Felix III and he had two aunts that were canonized, St. Tarsilla and St. Emiliana.  His mother is also a saint.
§ He is responsible for the placement of the Our Father in the order of the Mass.
§ His feast day used to be March 12th, the day of his death in 604, but because this day always falls within Lent, during which there are no obligatory memorials, it was changed to September 3rd, the day of his papal consecration in 590.
§ Saint Gregory was the first pope to have been a monk before becoming pope.
§ He is the patron saint of musicians, singers, students, and teachers.
§ He and Saint Leo are the only two popes to be named “Doctors of the Church”.

We can look to Saint Gregory to be an example for us to have few words but deep contemplation of the scriptures and the lessons from our spiritual guides in the Church, to use these lessons to show others how to follow Jesus’ teachings fully.  He shows us how to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us and through us at all times.  We hope that we can act, like him, to be the “servant of the servants of God” and care for each other.