Friday, June 29, 2012

June 30: St. Paul, Apostle

Saint Paul, Apostle

The historic records bearing on St. Paul are fuller than those for any Scriptural saint. We have Paul's own wonderful writings, the fourteen letters included in the New Testament, which outline his missionary journeys, exhort and admonish the various Christian congregations, discuss ethics and doctrinal matters; and in the midst of all this we get a revelation of the man himself, his inner character, his problems and fears. St. Luke's Acts of the Apostles and certain apocryphal books are other sources of our knowledge of St. Paul. Of all the founders of the Church, Paul was perhaps the most brilliant and many-sided, the broadest in outlook, and therefore the best endowed to carry Christianity to alien lands and peoples.

Born into a well-to-do Jewish family of Tarsus, the son of a Roman citizen, Saul (as we shall call him until after his conversion) was sent to Jerusalem to be trained in the famous rabbinical school headed by Gamaliel. Here, in addition to studying the Law and the Prophets, he learned a trade, as was the custom. Young Saul chose the trade of tent-making. Although his upbringing was orthodox, while still at home in Tarsus he had come under the liberalizing Hellenic influences which at this time had permeated all levels of urban society in Asia Minor. Thus the Judaic, Roman, and Greek traditions and cultures all had a part in shaping this great Apostle, who was so different in status and temperament from the humble fishermen of Jesus' initial band of disciples. His missionary journeys were to give him the flexibility and the deep sympathy that made him the ideal human instrument for preaching Christ's Gospel of world brotherhood.

In the year 35 Saul appears as a self-righteous young Pharisee, almost fanatically anti-Christian. He believed that the trouble-making new sect should be stamped out, its adherents punished. We are told in Acts vii that he was present, although not a participator in the stoning, when Stephen, the first martyr, met his death. It was very soon afterwards that Paul experienced the revelation which was to transform his life. On the road to the Syrian city of Damascus, where he was going to continue his persecutions against the Christians, he was struck blind. On arriving in Damascus, there followed in dramatic sequence his sudden conversion, the cure of his blindness by the disciple Ananias, and his baptism. Paul accepted eagerly the commission to preach the Gospel of Christ, but like many another called to a great task he felt his unworthiness and withdrew from the world to spend three years in "Arabia" in meditation and prayer before beginning his apostolate. From the moment of his return, Paul—for he had now assumed this Roman name—never paused in his labors. It proved to be the most extraordinary career of preaching, writing, and church-founding of which we have record. The extensive travels by land and sea, so replete with adventure, are to be traced by anyone who reads carefully the New Testament letters. We cannot be sure, however, that the letters and records now extant reveal the full and complete chronicle of Paul's activities. He himself tells us he was stoned, thrice scourged, thrice shipwrecked, endured hunger and thirst, sleepless nights, perils and hardships; besides these physical trials, he suffered many disappointments and almost constant anxieties over the weak and widely-scattered communities of Christians.

Paul began his preaching in Damascus. Here the anger of the orthodox Jews against this renegade was so great that he had to make his escape by having himself let down from the city wall in a basket. Going down to Jerusalem, he was there looked on with suspicion by the Jewish Christians, for they could not at first believe that he who had so lately been their persecutor had turned advocate. Back in his native city of Tarsus once more, he was joined by Barnabas, and together they journeyed to Syrian Antioch,[1] where they were so successful in finding followers that a church, later to become famous in the annals of early Christianity, was founded. It was here that the disciples of Jesus were first given the name of Christians (from the Greek <christos>, anointed). After again returning to Jerusalem to bring aid to members of the sect who were suffering from famine, these two missionaries went back to Antioch, then sailed to the island of Cyprus; while there they converted the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus. Once more on the mainland of Asia Minor, they crossed the Taurus Mountains and visited many towns of the interior, particularly those having Jewish settlements. It was Paul's general practice in such places first to visit the synagogues and preach to the Jews; if rejected by them, he would then preach to the Gentiles. At Antioch in Pisidia Paul delivered a memorable discourse to the Jews, concluding with these words (Acts xiii, 46-47): "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we now turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord commanded us, I have set thee for a light to the Gentiles, to be a means of salvation to the very ends of the earth." After this, the Jews drove Paul and Barnabas out from their midst, and a little later the missionaries were back in Jerusalem, where the elders were debating the attitude of the Christian Church, still predominantly Jewish in membership, towards Gentile converts. The question of circumcision proved troublesome, for most Jews thought it important that Gentiles should submit to this requirement of Jewish law; Paul's side, the more liberal, standing against circumcision, won out eventually.

The second missionary journey, which lasted from 49 to 52, took Paul and Silas, his new assistant, to Phrygia and Galatia, to Troas, and across to the mainland of Europe, to Philippi in Macedonia. The physician Luke was now a member of the party, and in the book of Acts he gives us the record. They made their way to Thessalonica, then down to Athens and Corinth. At Athens Paul preached in the Areopagus, and we know that some of the Stoics and Epicureans heard him and debated with him informally, attracted by his vigorous intellect, his magnetic personality, and the ethical teachings which, in many respects, were not unlike their own. Passing over to Corinth, he found himself in the very heart of the Graeco-Roman world, and his letters of this period show that he is aware of the great odds against him, of the ceaseless struggle to be waged in overcoming pagan skepticism and indifference. He nevertheless stayed at Corinth for eighteen months, and met with considerable success. Two valuable workers there, Aquila and Priscilla, husband and wife, returned with him to Asia. It was during his first winter at Corinth that Paul wrote the earliest extant missionary letters. They show his supreme concern for conduct and his belief in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which gives men power for good.

The third missionary journey covered the period of 52 to 56. At Ephesus, an important city of Lydia, where the cult of the Greek-Ionic goddess Diana was very popular, Paul raised a disturbance against the cult and the trade in silver images of the goddess which flourished there. Later, in Jerusalem, he caused a commotion by visiting the temple; he was arrested, roughly handled, and bound with chains; but when he was brought before the tribune, he defended himself in a way that impressed his captors. He was taken to Caesarea, for it was rumored that some Jews at Jerusalem, who falsely accused him of having admitted Gentiles to the temple, were plotting to kill him. He was kept in prison at Caesarea awaiting trial for about two years, under the proconsuls Felix and Festus. The Roman governors apparently wished to avoid trouble with both Jews and Christians and so postponed judgment from month to month. Paul at last appealed to the Emperor, demanding the legal right of a Roman citizen to have his case heard by Nero himself. He was placed in the custody of a centurion, who took him to Rome. The Acts of the Apostles leave him in the imperial city, awaiting his hearing.

It would appear that Paul's appeal was successful, for there is some evidence of another missionary journey, probably to Macedonia. On this last visit to the various Christian communities, it is believed that he appointed Titus bishop in Crete and Timothy at Ephesus. Returning to Rome, he was once more arrested, and after two years in chains suffered martyrdom, presumably at about the same time as the Apostle Peter, bishop of the Roman Church. Inscriptions of the second and third century in the catacombs give evidence of a cult of SS. Peter and Paul. This devotion has never diminished in popularity. In Christian art St. Paul is usually depicted as a bald man with a black beard, rather stocky, but vigorous and intense. His relics are venerated in the basilica of St. Paul and in the Lateran Church at Rome.

Because of the pressure of his work, Paul usually dictated his letters, writing the salutation in his own hand. The most quoted of New Testament writers, Paul has given us a wealth of counsel, aphorisms, and ethical teachings; he had the power of expressing spiritual truths in the simplest of words, and this, rather than the building up of a systematic theology, was his contribution to the early Church. A man of action, Paul reveals the dynamic of his whole career when he writes, "I press on towards the goal, to the prize of God's heavenly calling in Christ Jesus." Although he himself was forever pressing onwards, his letters often invoked a spirit of quiet meditation, as when he ends his epistle to the Philippians with the beautiful lines: "Whatever things are true, whatever honorable, whatever just, whatever holy, whatever lovable, whatever of good repute, if there be any virtue, if anything worthy of praise, think upon these things."

·      Antioch, in northwestern Syria, founded by one of the generals of Alexander the Great in about 300 B.C., had become a rich and beautiful city, ranking dose to Alexandria under the Roman Empire.
·      Saint Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles. Scriptural Saint. Celebration of Feast Day is June 30.
·      Taken from "Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.
This item 8218 digitally provided courtesy of

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 29: St. Peter, Apostle

Saint Peter, Apostle
By Carole Babineau

Peter, who was originally named Simon but better known as the “Prince of the Apostles,” was born in Bethsaida, a town on the northern end of Lake Genesareth. His father was Jona and his brother was the apostle St. Andrew. He owned his own boat and pursued the comfortable career of a lake fisherman and may be considered to have been middle class. A fisherman of the time required a certain amount of capital to own his own boat, and given the general poverty among the Palestinians of this period, such relative prosperity would stand out. At the beginning of Christ’s ministry, Peter was living with his wife and mother-in-law at his home in Capernaum. We can see from his example that when one follows whatever state in life God has chosen for them, they will attain the holiness that He has planned for them.  

Although Peter was not Jesus’ favorite (that would be John, son of Zebedee), nor given charge of the money (that office was reserved to Judas Iscariot), he soon emerged as leader of the Twelve. Peter often spoke to Jesus on behalf of them, and in turn was given instructions for all of them by Jesus. When Our Lord questioned the Twelve: “Who do you say that I am?” it was Peter who, as spokesman of the rest, made the sublime profession of faith: “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Thus Jesus answered him by saying: “Blessed art thou Simon Bar-Jona because flesh and blood have not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: that thou art Peter (Kaipha, a rock) and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, it shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven” (Mt 16:13-20; Mk 8: 27-30; Lk 19:18-21). This passage from the Gospel is really the charter of the papacy. As far as Catholics and some others are concerned, this is where the story really begins. For Jesus made Peter the head of His Church, and Peter’s successors will rule it until the end of time.

n the four gospels we see a few of Peter’s more prominent traits. His impetuousness and love stands out more than once because of the great love he had for Our Lord. Just to give an example: at Jesus’ first prediction of the Passion to His disciples, Peter, allowing his love for Our Lord to cloud his mind, impulsively cries out: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you!” In return for his words Jesus rebuked him saying: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” When we allow our judgment to be clouded by purely human sentiment, then we run the risk of placing obstacles in the path of God’s Will in our lives.

At the Last Supper we find a head-strong and presumptuous Peter adamantly stating that he would rather die with the Lord than to deny Him. Little did he know that by proudly relying on his own strength he would be the very one to deny His Master before men. The true test arrived while his beloved Lord was being tormented. The threefold confrontation in the courtyard led to his threefold betrayal of the One he swore before the others he would die for. At the moment he heard the rooster’s crow and saw the sorrowful but loving glance of His Master he realized the extent of his cowardice. Overwhelmed by the thought of his betrayal he ran to weep and beg for forgiveness. By seeing his own fall through humbled eyes he was now able to see the merciful love of Him who came to save not the just, but sinners. As proof of this forgiveness, Jesus turns to Peter on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias asking of him a threefold manifestation of his love for Him: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” In this way God, in his infinite mercy is giving his faithful servant a second chance to repair and make up for the loss of his trifold sin. We learn through Peter’s example that no matter how grave the sin may be, if one is truly repentant, Our Lord is always ready to forgive. Let us take the opportunity to follow in Peter’s footsteps and not follow in those of Judas who also betrayed Our Lord but, instead of repenting, fell prey to unholy remorse, never to experience God’s loving and unending mercy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June 28, St. Juan Diego

Saint Juan Diego
By Ellen Scarano

I chose St. Juan Diego because he is the patron saint of my third grade class at All Saints Catholic School.

St. Juan Diego was born in 1474 near Mexico City.  His feast day is December 9.  He was canonized on July 31, 2002.  He was a farmer, a landowner and a weaver.  He had to walk 15 miles every day to Mass.  

His story goes something like this: Once upon a time Juan Diego was coming home from church and he saw Mary!  She told him to tell the bishop to build a church in that very spot.  Juan Diego went to the bishop and told him.  The bishop did not believe him and wanted proof.  Juan Diego went back to Mary and told her.  She said to come back tomorrow and get some roses at that spot.  That night Juan Diego’s uncle got very sick.  Juan Diego went a different way to get the priest but Mary found him and told him his uncle would be fine and to go up the hill and get the flowers.  He climbed the hill and picked up some very colorful roses in his cloak.  He brought them to the bishop, the bishop was amazed because it was wintertime and the kind of rose was a kind of rose that does not grow in Mexico.  When he dropped the roses a picture of Mary was on his cloak.  That’s the bishop’s proof, so he built a church right away and they lived happily ever after.  

St. Juan Diego’s cloak, which still has the image of the Virgin Mary on it, is in the church Our Lady of Guadalupe. St. Juan Diego was made a saint because after the church was built, so many Mexicans were converted to Christianity. St. Juan Diego was the first native saint in the Americas.  He lived the first 50 years of his life following the traditions of his native people.  His original name was Cuauhtlatoatzin, which means, “talking eagle” in the Nahuatl language.  After the Spanish invasion of Mexico by Hernan Cortes in 1521 missionaries brought Christianity to Mexico.  Cuauhtlatoatzin and his wife welcomed the Franciscan missionaries and were among the first to be baptized in 1524 or 1525.  Cuauhtlatoatzin took the Christian name Juan Diego and his wife took the name Maria Lucia.  Maria Lucia became sick and died in 1529.  After Maria Lucia died St. Juan Diego lived with his uncle.  St. Juan Diego saw the Virgin Mary for the first time on December 9, 1531.  He was 57.  After the church was built, St. Juan Diego was allowed to live near the church and he got special permission from the bishop to receive Holy Communion three times a week and that was very unusual then.  He lived as a hermit and cared for the chapel and the first pilgrims who came to pray there until he died on May 30, 1548 at the age of 74. 

Pope John Paul II recognized St. Juan Diego as a model of humility.  Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego were very important in bringing Christianity to the different native people of Mexico.  In the seven years that followed the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe the native people of Mexico accepted the Spaniards and 8 million people became Catholic.  Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego are both now strong symbols of the Mexican nation and heritage.

June 27, Bl. Miguel Pro

Blessed Miguel Pro
By Claudia the Aspirant

Joyful, daring, funny, unpredictable, talented, witty…what do these words bring to mind? Perhaps a famous celebrity, yet in reality they describe a 20th century martyr. He is widely known for his last battle cry: Viva Cristo Rey! His full name is Josè Ramon Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez was. This is the famous 20th century Mexican martyr whose martyrdom pictures have become very well known. While his pictures are quite famous and impressive, it is very easy to forget that he really and truly is a 20th century martyr; a modern day saint. Since Holy Mother Church calls us all to this very same vocation, namely that of becoming saints, we must have something to learn from the life of this wonderful saint.

As in the lives of all the saints, Our Lady was present in his life even
from the beginning. Therefore it is no coincidence that he was born in a town called Guadalupe, Zacatecas on January 13, 1891. Three days later he was immediately baptized in the chapel of a Franciscan Monastery with water from the Holy Land.

As a baby boy he experienced his first encounter with death. After eating a large amount of tecojotes (a small fruit) he contracted a severe food poisoning. For an entire year he suffered from fevers and other complications. Finally the doctors announced the certain death of the child to his parents. With great hope, his father  took him into his arms and presenting him before an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, cried out to his Heavenly Mother to please give him back his son. This most tender Mother had compassion on him and fully restored Miguel’s health only a few days after.

It was on the feast of Saint Joseph in 1898 when Bl. Miguel made his First Holy Communion, along with his two older sisters. The sacrament was administered by Fr. Mateo Correa who would share in the same fate as Bl. Miguel. Fr. Mateo Correa would be martyred on February 6,1927.

Bl. Miguel’s earthly mother was a great model for him of his Heavenly Mother. She too was a compassionate mother especially toward the poor. Since her husband was a mining engineer, she knew of the poor life of the miners and their families. She tried alleviating their sufferings by frequently visiting the families and providing them with food, medicine, and clothing. Often too she herself would tend to the sick. Her charity culminated with building a small hospital that offered free services to the miners and their families and sacraments to the sick. Her example led Bl. Miguel to acquire a great love for the poor.

His response to the priesthood came after one of his sisters had entered the convent and another one had made up her mind to also enter. Initially, this made him very sad, but then it caused him to question his vocation. Determined to know the will of God, he asked the mother superior at the convent where his sister was, to pray for him. Later that year he asked his parent’s consent to enter the Jesuits and on August 10, 1911 he was admitted to the novitiate.

Bl. Miguel became known for being convinced that God wanted him to become a saint. However, he quickly found out that becoming a saint is not an easy task. He had to overcome his pride and resentment that came from his sensitivity to criticism. Finally on the feast of the Assumption in1913, he made his vows and became a professed member of the order.

Meanwhile the revolution in Mexico had already begun. As time went by it became more and more dangerous. A year exactly after his vows on August 15, 1914, they were forced to flee into Texas as the situation had become too risky. From Texas he went to California, Spain, Nicaragua, and Belgium. It was in Belgium where he was ordained a priest on August 31, 1925. Up until that time he had successfully concealed his stomach sickness. It had become so severe that he had to undergo numerous operations. Since his health didn’t improve he was sent back to Mexico, where the last and most important stage of his life begun.

Only 23 days upon his arrival, a decree was released suppressing all public worship both in and outside of churches and all religious buildings became a property of the state. Now the church had to go underground. His underground ministry consisted of distributing Holy Communion (about 300 daily), giving conferences to all groups of people, and providing social aid for the poor. He did all this under many disguises including a taxi driver, a mechanic, and a “dandy”. Through all this he had a great desire to become a martyr, but was obedient to his superiors who asked him to take the necessary precautions to avoid getting caught.

In November of 1927 Bl. Miguel and his brothers took refuge in the house Mrs. Valdéz. On the last night before planning to depart to the U.S., Bl. Miguel and his brothers were arrested. This was only a week after having made an offering to share with Our Lady her sufferings at Calvary. The brothers were being accused of being involved with the bombing that attempted to assassinate General Obrégon.

Despite the fact that there was no evidence and with out a trial, Bl. Miguel and one of his brothers were sentenced to death. Bl. Miguel for being a Catholic priest. All were invited to witness the event and on November 22, 1927 was heard the last cry of Bl. Miguel “Viva Cristo Rey!”

There are many lessons that can be learned from this saint that can help us all in our path to sanctification. First, a love unto death for Christ the King. Second, true devotion to Our Lady. Third, a great desire to become a saint. Fourth a clear characteristic of his: joy amidst sufferings. May we live for what he died; Christ our King!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 26, St. Josemaria Escriva

Saint Josemaria Escriva
By Jocelyn Trindade

St. Josemaria Escriva is a modern saint who taught us that everyday people in ordinary professions and circumstances can be holy.  Born in Barbastro, Spain in 1902, he was one of Jose Escriva and Dolores Escriva’s 6 children, though three of them died when still young.  Jose Escriva was a textile worker. His parents always taught all of their children to put God first in their lives and made sure that the faith took up a prominent place at home and in their children’s hearts.

In 1915 the Escriva family had to move to Longroño and it was here that St. Josemaria first started thinking of a vocation to the priesthood.  He was moved one winter day when he saw a friar walking barefoot in the snow.  This friar was living a life of poverty and gave up everything so he could better follow Jesus with an undivided heart. Seeing the footprints in the snow that the friar left behind, St. Josemaria’s heart was moved; he felt that God was asking something more from him, and though he didn’t know exactly what God wanted, he realized that he would better figure it out as a priest after studying law at the University of Saragossa.  He was ordained on March 28, 1925 and from that day forward St. Josemaria proved to be a worthy priest of Jesus Christ and brought many souls to Him.  His first assignment was at a small parish and later was moved to Saragossa, the city where he took up his studies in law school.

Two years later in 1927, St. Josemaria moved to Madrid to obtain a doctorate in law and it was there, in Madrid, while on retreat that he very clearly understood the specific mission that God was calling him to him.  And so, St. Josemaria founded Opus Dei (Latin for “The Work of God”) at the Basilica de La Milagrosa (Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal).  Through this “call within a call” that St. Josemaria experienced of first to the priesthood and then to founding Opus Dei, he continued to give himself tirelessly to God’s people by working most especially with the poor and the sick in hospitals. 

In 1936 when a civil war broke out, St. Josemaria continued to shepherd souls even when it was dangerous to do so.  He would dress in civilian clothing to hide his identity and sit on park benches to hear confessions.  When men or women would come to him for confession, to bystanders it looked like they were in the midst of a normal leisurely conversation, but what St. Josemaria was really doing was reconciling sinners to Christ in the Sacrament of Mercy.

St. Josemaria used his talents for Christ. He obtained many doctorate degrees in law and theology and was an advisor for several Vatican offices.  But he didn’t stop there.  St. Josemaria traveled to many cities and countries to speak to men and women about their universal call to holiness and how to become saints by ordinary means.  St. Josemaria knew that holiness wasn’t something that only few were called to.  He recognized that being holy was something that every baptized person has the potential for.

He did so most especially through founding Opus Dei, which is a model for living out holiness at every state in life by continually joining one’s work to Christ.  In this way, students, plumbers, doctors, athletes, and stay-at-home moms could very concretely and practically live out their mission of being “other Christ’s” in the world.  By sanctifying ordinary work moment by moment, Christians are able to bring Christ to secular places and transform culture from within, starting first with themselves.  St. Josemaria Escriva knew the great secret; ordinary things, when given to God, become extraordinary and can be the means that help us reach holiness.

St. Josemaria died in Rome on June 26, 1975, beatified on May 17, 1992, and canonized on October 6, 2002 by Blessed John Paul II.  Hundreds of thousands of Catholics continue to follow St. Josemaria Escriva’s vision of sanctifying ordinary tasks with, through, and for Christ. When we recognize that we, too, are capable of becoming great saints, Christ’s mission for us to be “salt, light, and leaven” for society doesn’t seem so impossible. 

St. Josemaria had a knack for making holiness very attainable through very practical means.  He loved to take mundane tasks and use them as examples to show how to sanctify our actions.  One of the things that St. Josemaria taught his spiritual sons and daughters involves sleeping…  Or, I guess I should say, not sleeping.  He taught that at the exact moment when our nemesis – the alarm clock – goes off (what he called the “heroic minute”) in the morning, we should immediately arise out of bed without hitting the snooze button.  Disciplining our bodies in this way, St. Josemaria taught, was a way of echoing St. Michael’s “Serviam,” or “I will serve” which he cried out when thousands of fallen angels led by Lucifer said to God, “I will not serve.”  St. Josemaria recognized the importance of small mortifications and sacrifices as soon as you wake up because if we could say “no” to sleep, which is good, we would be better able to say “no” to that which is sinful during the day when we are much more alert.

St. Josemaria constantly urged those under his care to strive for the greatness we were made for and not to settle for anything mediocre.  He always offered challenging spiritual advice but he also knew that human beings are weak creatures; he was patient with others in their gradual improvement of their souls.  One of St. Josemaria’s famous sayings was, “Nunc coepi,” “now I begin again.”  St. Josemaria recognized that the path to holiness was a continual process of daily conversion.  He said,  “Your interior life has to be just that: to being… and to begin again.” 

Standing as a great saint of modern times, St. Josemaria teaches us that holiness is very much possible even for ordinary Christians. Through his intercession, may we continue to seek holiness in our daily lives! St. Josemaria Escriva, pray for us!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

June 25, St. Andre Bessette

Saint Andre Bessette
By Nancy Paiva

Born on August 9, 1845 in a village of St. Gregoire outside of Montreal. Alfred Bessette was the eighth child in what would become a family of twelve, to Alfred and Clothilde, very religious French Canadian farmers. Alfred was born a very sick baby and his father baptized him immediately! His lack of physical strength and health remained his whole life yet he lived to be 91 years old. His father died when he was six and his mother struggled to raise 12 children. She also got very sick and had to give up her children for adoption, all but the feeblest one, Alfred. They went to live with his mother’s sister. Alfred became very close to his mother but 2 short years after his fathers death she also died. Before she died, she summoned her children to her bedside and said “ From the height of Heaven, my dear little ones, I will watch over you”, Years later Andre would say of her: “I rarely pray for her, but often I pray to her”. He tried doing all kinds of work; farming, baking and cobbler work, but he was too frail and weak to stick with anything. He also was too sickly to go to school.

A few years later he went to Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to look for work. But unable to read or write he soon returned to Canada and was encouraged by his parish priest Fr. Provencal to join the Holy Cross congregation as a Brother. Andre relished being united with God in prayer, and in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, absorbed for hours at a time. It was during these times that he started his deep long conversations with St. Joseph. Andre met with the Holy Cross Brothers and was impressed by them. Their black habit with Roman collar, cincture and medal of Saint Joseph, their manly bearing and devotion all attracted him. But he was nervous, he was still illiterate and they were very educated. But Fr. Provencal made him feel better telling him that they needed janitors and manual laborers as well. The Brothers were not too sure they wanted him, although they never told him so! Finally in 1870 he made up his mind to join if they would have him.

The novice Master Fr. Gastineau gave him a great welcome. Perhaps he was expecting much of the new novice because he had received a letter from Fr. Provencal that said “ I am sending a Saint to your congregation”. During the novitiate he did well Spiritually and also learned how to read and read with great fervor. The Holy Scripture, I’m of Christ, and lines of the saints. He also memorized “The Passion of our Lord” as contained in each of the 4 Gospels as well as “The Sermon on the Mount”. As it was his health was not good and there was talk of his dismissal. Desperate to save his vocation and despite his timidity he knocked on the Bishops door and once inside threw himself at the Bishops feet. My only ambition is to serve God in small tasks. The Bishop touched deeply by Andre’s humility said don’t be afraid my child. You are to be admitted to the religious profession. Brother Andre was professed August 22, 1872. His 1st assignment was as a porter at college Notre Dame in Montreal. In 1874 he made his final vows at the age of 28.

For the next 40 years he contented himself with humble tasks of welcoming visitors, cleaning, and running errands. He put himself at the service of everyone including students whom he would tend to when they were ill. Word of his holiness spread. Many visitors came to ask Bother Andre to pray for their ill relatives. He had developed a life of deep prayer and penance. People came from great distances to beg for prayer believing that he possessed great healing powers. He developed a reputation as a miracle worker. Brother Andre insisted it was not he who was gifted to heal but Saint Joseph patron of the Province of Quebec.  He would give the people medals of Saint Joseph and oil from a lamp that burned before the great foster father of Jesus. One day as Andre was scrubbing the parlor floor a lady came to see him. She was afflicted with rheumatism so bad, that she could only walk with 2 men supporting her arms. I want you to heal me she said. Not looking up from the floor he said to the men supporting her “let her walk” the woman walked out unassisted. Another time someone related the story of a young couple with an infant diagnosed as having a brain tumor. Upon hearing this Brother Andre took the baby into his arms gently rubbing the afflicted infants head. The moving scene of the aged Brother caressing the infirmed baby was more than just a tender moment. The child, it was later discovered, was completely cured.

In the midst of this entire goings on, the Brothers heart became fixed on one holy ambition. Building a shrine to Saint Joseph in Montreal. When the Holy Cross Congregation purchased some land across from them Brother Andre put a statue of St. Joseph in a little cave on his chosen site. Placing a bowl in front of the statue he planned on collecting alms from St. Joseph’s petitioners, which would be used to build a chapel. He also made small sums of money from cutting hair of the students at the school. The determination that our brother had to build the Shrine to St. Joseph took him well beyond the confines of Montreal to find the needed money. He went to cities in the U.S. and Canada in this holy pursuit. In these forays he made rounds of factories to beg for contributions from their workers. He built the 1st small Chapel in 1904, continuing to upgrade as funds became available. To put it simply what started out as a 15 – 18 foot Chapel in 1904 became a minor Basilica in 1955 and was completed interior and all in 1966. Today it is the largest church in the world dedicated to Saint Joseph. For Brother Andre the cross of Christ, the love of Christ, the love of Saint Joseph was not just a devotion,  it formed and shaped his life and all those he came in contact with.

Brother Andre Bessette died on January 6, 1937 at the age of 91 years old. Pope John Paul II beatified him in May 1982. Pope Benedict XVI canonized him October 17, 2010.

Brother Andre Bessette, throughout his whole lifetime of poor health and pain he was committed to helping the poor and afflicted with gentle love, kindness and prayer. What an example of Gods goodness he is to me. What an example to us all! 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June 24, St. John the Baptist

Saint John the Baptist
By Pauline A. Venancio

St. John the Baptist was a Jewish prophet; it is believed that he was born somewhere in Judea and was a preacher. His birth was announced in a strange way. His parents Zechariah and Elizabeth as we learn from St. Luke, “were both just before God, walking in all the commandments and justifications of the lord without blame; and had no children for that Elizabeth was barren.” They prayed that there union would be blessed with a child and as the years went on the reproach of barrenness bore heavily upon them. Zechariah, as he was performing his priestly function, went to offer incense and there appeared to him an angel sent from God. Upon seeing him Zechariah was troubled and afraid of the angel. The angel said to him, “Fear not your prayer has been answered and your wife Elizabeth shall bear a son and you will call him John and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.” No one really knows the date of John the Baptist’s birth. The gospel suggests that John was born six months before Christ.

It is said that John had gained notice as a prophet in the region of the lower Jordan Valley. The word of the Lord was made unto John, the son of Zechariah, in the desert. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching clothed not in the soft garments of a courier but in those “of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle about his loins.” He looked as if he came neither eating nor drinking. A few incredulous scoffers feigned to be scandalized: “He hath a devil.” Nevertheless, “Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the country about Jordan,” drawn by his strong and winning personality, went out to him. The austerity of his life added immensely to the weight of his words; he was truly a prophet. “Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Such was the message of his teaching. Men of all conditions flocked around him. While baptizing people thought “that perhaps he might be the Christ.” He, however, did not fail to insist that his was only a forerunner’s mission.

John always said, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. I have baptized you with water but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John had been preaching and baptizing for some time when Jesus had come from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by him. John said, “I need to be baptized by you.” Jesus replied “Let it be so now, it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” As soon as Jesus was baptized he went out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened and he saw he Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.”

After the baptism, Jesus is believed to have left to preach in Galilee while John continued preaching in the Jordan valley. Among the many listeners flocking to St. John, some – more deeply touched by his doctrine – stayed with him, thus forming a group of disciples. John’s growing popularity and immense power created fright and fear in the minds of Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Perea and Galilee. Following John’s denunciation of his adulterous and incestuous wife, Herodias, who was also the wife of his half brother, Philip, Antipas had him arrested and imprisoned at Machaerus Fortress on the Dead Sea. On the other hand, Salome, the daughter of Herodias, impressed Antipas with a dance performance. Delighted by the girl’s act, he vowed to grant her any wish. Salome, at the instigation of her mother, demanded the head of John the Baptist. This being done, the girl was not afraid to take that present into her hands, and deliver it to her mother. Thus dies the great forerunner of our blessed Savior, the greatest prophet, “amongst those that are born of women.” His disciples heard of his death, came, took his body and laid it in a tomb, and came and told Jesus. It was told that John the Baptist was indeed a man endued with all virtue who exhorted the Jews to the practice of justice towards men and piety towards God, and also to baptism, preaching that they would become acceptable to God if they renounced their sins.

What we can learn from St. John the Baptist is the importance of having the Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of Confession so that we may be free of sin. St. John the Baptist also said, “I must decrease so that He may increase.” Let us pray for a spirit of true humility and a great hunger for God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Confession.

St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

June 23, Bl. Marianne Cope

Blessed Marianne Cope
From: Wikipedia Article

Cope was baptized Maria Anna Barbara Koob (later changed to Cope). She was born 23 January 1838 in Heppenheim in the Grand Duchy of Hesse (modern-day Germany) to Peter Koob (1787–1862) and Barbara Witzenbacher (1803–1872). The following year her family emigrated to the United States, settling in Utica, New York. They became parochial members of the Parish of St. Joseph, where Cope attended the parish school. By eighth grade, her father had become an invalid and, as the oldest child in the house, she became a factory worker to help support the family. Her father later became an American citizen, which at the time granted automatic citizenship status to her entire family.

After Peter Cope's death in 1862, at which time her younger siblings were of age to support themselves, she felt sufficiently free of her family responsibilities to leave home and to pursue a religious calling she had long felt. She entered the novitiate of the Sisters of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis based in Syracuse, New York. At the completion of her year of formation, she received the religious habit of the Franciscan Sisters along with the new name Marianne. Cope then became first a teacher and then a principal in newly-established schools for German-speaking immigrants in the region.

By 1870, she was a member of the governing Council of her congregation. In this office, she was involved in the opening of the first two Catholic hospitals in Central New York. At the time, their Charter was stipulated so that medical care was to be provided to all, regardless of race or creed. She was appointed by the Superior General to govern St. Joseph’s Hospital, the first public hospital in Syracuse, from 1870 to 1877.

During her period of hospital administration, she became involved with the move of the College of Medicine in Geneva, New York to Syracuse, where it became the Geneva Medical College. She contracted with the college to accept their students in the treatment of the hospital's patients, to further their medical education. Her stipulation in the contract—again unique for the period—was the right of the patients to refuse care by the students. These experiences helped prepare her for the special ministry that lay ahead of her.

In 1883, Mother Marianne, by then herself Superior General of the congregation, received a plea for help in caring for leprosy sufferers from King Kalākaua of Hawaii. More than 50 religious institutes had already declined his request for Sisters to do this. She responded to the letter enthusiastically:
“I am hungry for the work and I wish with all my heart to be one of the chosen Ones, whose privilege it will be, to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the souls of the poor Islanders... I am not afraid of any disease, hence it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned lepers.”

Mother Marianne set out with six of her Sisters from Syracuse to travel to Honolulu to answer this call, arriving on November 8, 1883. The bells of Our Lady of Peace Cathedrral pealed to welcome their ship, the SS Mariposa, as it entered Honolulu Harbor. With Mother Marianne as supervisor, the Sisters' task was to manage Kakaʻako Branch Hospital on Oʻahu, which served as a receiving station for Hansen's disease patients gathered from all over the islands. Here the more severe cases were processed and shipped to the island of Molokaʻi for confinement in the settlement at Kalawao, and then later at Kalaupapa.

The following year, at the request of the government, she set up Malulani Hospital, the first General Hospital on the island of Maui. Soon, however, she was called back with haste to the hospital in Oahu, where she had to deal with a government-appointed administrator’s abuse of the leprosy patients at the Branch Hospital at Kakaako, an area adjoining Honolulu. Her demand to the government to choose between his dismissal or the Sisters’ return to Syracuse resulted in her being given full charge of the overcrowded hospital. Her own expected return to Syracuse to re-assume governance of the Congregation was then delayed when her leadership was declared by both government and church authorities to be essential to the success of the Mission.

Two years after the arrival of the Sisters, her accomplishments had so stirred the admiration of the Hawaiian government that the King himself bestowed on Mother Marianne the Cross of a Companion of the Royal Order of Kapiolani for her acts of benevolence to his suffering people.

Yet the work kept increasing. Another pressing need was fulfilled when a year later, in November 1885, after Mother Marianne had convinced the government that it was of vital need to save the homeless female children of leprosy patients, the Kapiolani Home was opened. The unusual choice of location for healthy children to dwell in a Home situated on the grounds of a leprosy hospital was made because no one other than the Sisters could be found to care for those so closely associated with people suffering from the dreaded disease.

A new government took over in 1887, which changed the official policy toward leprosy patients. While new patients had not been forced into exile at Molokai for several years, the new administration decided to end that policy, and closed the hospital built for them in Oahu. A year later, as the consequences of this decision became clear, the authorities pleaded with Mother Marianne to establish a new Home for women and girls on the Kalaupapa peninsula of Molokai. Though this step meant that she would likely never be able to return to New York and see her family and friends again, Cope accepted the call. "We will cheerfully accept the work…" was her response.

In November 1888 she moved to Kalaupapa, both to care for the dying Father Damien SS.CC.--who was already known internationally for his heroic care of the leper colony there—and to assume his burdens. She had met him shortly after her arrival in Hawaii, when, while still in good health, Father Damien had gone to Oahu to attend the dedication of the chapel in the hospital she was establishing. After his diagnosis as a leper, he was shunned by both civil and church leaders. It was only Mother Marianne who gave him welcome, even arranging for the King to meet him.
When Father Damien died on April 15, the government officially gave Mother Marianne charge for the care of the boys of Kalaupapa, as well as her original commission for the female residents of the colony. A prominent local businessman, Henry P. Baldwin donated money for the new home; Mother Marianne and two assistants, Sister Leopoldina Burns and Sister Vincentia McCormick, opened and ran a new Girls School, which she named in his honor. At her suggestion, a community of Religious Brothers was invited to come and care for the boys. After the arrival of four Brothers of the Sacred Heart in 1895, she withdrew the Sisters to the Bishops School for Girls and "Brother" Charles Dutton was given charge of the Baldwin House by the government. (He was a victim of the American Civil War who had left behind in the United States a life broken by alcoholism, and it was he who had been Father Damien's primary assistant).

Cope died in 9 August 1918 due to natural causes and was buried at the Bishops Home.

1927 — Saint Francis Hospital was founded in Honolulu in her memory as a community hospital and to train nurses to work with Hansen's disease patients.

1957 — St. Francis opened the Child Development Center at the Honolulu Community Church for preschool-aged children who demonstrated emotional problems.

1962 — St. Francis Home Care Services was established, being the first in Hawaii to specialize in home health for the care of Hawaiian people.

2006 — The Sisters of St. Francis chose to divest themselves of acute care facilities and to focus on long term care, thus the two facilities of St. Francis Hospital were handed over to a private board, with the facilities now known as the Hawaiian Medical Center East and Hawaiian Medical Center West.
Additionally, the Saint Francis School was founded in her honor in 1924, operating as a girls-only school for grades 6-9.The community which Cope founded on Molokai continues to minister to the few patients afflicted with Hansen Disease while the Franciscan Sisters now also work at several schools and minister to parishioners throughout the Hawaiian islands.

On October 24, 2003, the Congregation for the order of Saints declared her to have been "heroically virtuous". In 19 April 2004, Pope John Paul II issued a papal decree declaring her Venerable.

In 1993, Katherine Dehlia Mahoney was allegedly healed from multiple organ failure after praying to Marianne Cope for intercession. On December 20, 2004, after receiving the unanimous affirmation of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, Pope John Paul II ordered a decree to be issued authenticating this recovery as a miracle to be attributed to the intercession of Mother Marianne. On May 14, 2005, Marianne was beatified in Vatican City by Pope Benidict XVI in his first beatification ceremony as pope.

Over 100 followers from Hawaiʻi attended the beatification ceremony, along with 300 members of Cope's religious Congregation in Syracuse. At the ceremony, presided over by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, C.M.F., the Hawaiian song Makalapua (a favorite of Cope) was sung.[12] Her feast day was established as 23 January and is celebrated by her own religious congregation, the Diocese of Honolulu, and the Diocese of Syracuse.

After the announcement by the Holy See of her impending beatification, during January 2005 the Blessed Marianne's remains were moved to the Motherhouse of the Congregation in Syracuse. A temporary shrine was established to honor her. By 2009, the erection of a marble sarcophagus in the Motherhouse chapel was complete, and her remains were moved one last time on her feast day of 23 January, when she was permanently laid to rest, in a new shrine dedicated to her honor.

In 2007 a statue was erected at St. Joseph's Church in Utica, which she had attended in her childhood and where she had received her education.

On 6 December 2011, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints found that a second miracle could also be attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Marianne. This finding was forwarded to Pope Benedict XVI by its Secretary, Cardinal Angelo Amato, for papal approval. On 19 December 2011, Pope Benedict signed and approved the promulgation of the decree for her sainthood and is set to be canonized in October 2012.

Ecumenical veneration
Cope is honored jointly with Saint Damien of Moloka'i on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA). Their shared feast day is celebrated on 15 April.