30 November 2009

Recognizing a Saint: Part 4 of 5

30 NOVEMBER 2009. Reviewing the Church's process of declaring a person a saint, we have reached the step that is most difficult for a person--now called Venerable--to achieve: beatification.

Beatification is the statement by the Church that it is worthy of belief that the person is in heaven, having achieved salvation. The step of beatification can take one of two paths depending on whether the candidate is a martyr or a confessor.

A martyr is one who has voluntarily given her or his life for the faith. For a martyr to achieve beatification, the Pope must make a declaration of martyrdom. This declaration certifies that the Venerable gave her or his life voluntarily as a witness for the faith or in an act of heroic charity for others.

If the Venerable is not a martyr, then she or he is called a confessor--for she or he has confessed, or bore witness, to their faith by the way she or he lived their life. For a confessor, beatification requires proof that a miracle has taken place because of the intercession of the Venerable. In other words, the Church believes that a proven miracle is God's sign that the Venerable is indeed in heaven, enjoying the beatific vision, and God has performed the miracle in response to the Venerable's prayers. Today, the miracles are almost always miraculous cures. For the Church to confirm that a cure is miraculous, the Church must find that a person was sick, no known cure was available for the illness, the person directed their prayer of intercession to the Venerable, and the person was cured. The cure must be instantaneous, spontaneous, complete and lasting, and without medical or natural explanation.

Once the declaration of martyrdom is made or a miracle has been proven, the Church may declare the Venerable to be a "Blessed,"or, in Latin, Beatus or Beata. Each Blessed has a designated feast day, although it is typically only celebrated in the Blessed's home diocese (or other area particularly associated with the Blessed) or within the Blessed's religious order. Churches may not normally be named in honor of a Blessed.

Probably the most recognized Blessed today is Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Mother Teresa was declared a Blessed on 19 October 2003 by Servant of God Pope John Paul II the great. Several Blesseds have been profiled on this Blog:

Blessed Margaret of Savoy
Blessed James Benfatti
Blessed Simon Ballacchi
Blessed Raymond of Capua
Blessed Dominic Spadafora
Blessed Jordan of Pisa
Blessed Robert Nutter
Blessed Adrian Fortescue
Blessed Pope Benedict XI
Blessed Junipero Serra
Blessed Osanna of Mantua
Blessed Diana and Blessed Cecilia

The next and final installment in this series will examine the final step in the Church's recognition of sainthood: canonization.

IMAGE: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

29 November 2009


29 NOVEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the first Sunday of Advent and the turning over the calendar to a new liturgical year. Actually, the new liturgical year begins with first vespers on the Saturday night (last night) before the first Sunday of Advent. Last night's first vespers service with Pope Benedict XVI was shown here in the U.S. on EWTN, and our friends at New Liturgical Movement have posted pictures here.

So, to begin: Happy New Year Church!

Advent (from the Latin adventus, meaning "coming") is the first season of the liturgical year, and celebrates the expectant anticipation of the coming of the Word into the world, the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Latin word itself comes from the Greek word parousia, commonly used to reference the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time. So, in this sense, then, Advent is both a reminder of the expectant waiting for the celebration of Christ's birth, and the waiting today that we Christian's endure in anticipation of Christ's Second Coming.

Advent actually has two phases. In the first two weeks of Advent, the Church focuses on the final coming of Christ. Here, at the beginning of a new liturgical cycle, we are invited to reflect on the end of time. For a follower of Christ, it is important to always keep our death--the end of our days--in mind.

Our destiny--the very purpose of our life--is to share eternity with God after a lifetime on earth.

The third and fourth weeks of Advent, however, are devoted to preparation for Mary's miraculous gift of motherly love to all of humanity--the birth of Our Savior.

There is some commonality between Lent and Advent. The liturgical color for both seasons is purple. Both are seasons of preparation and anticipation. And,both seasons are penitential in nature. As in Lent, the faithful are encouraged during Advent to make extra efforts to engage in spiritual activities (similar to the spiritual exercises that are traditional during Lent) and to, especially, avail themselves to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this way, we truly act to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ.

True to the first phase of Advent, today's readings focus on end times. The first reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah recounts the words of the Lord: “The days are coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.” (Jer 33, 14). This is a promise of a happy and secure life, a promise of justice and peace.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples: “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Lk 21, 36) In the second reading, Saint Paul advises the early Christian community to prepare for judgment by the Lord, who will judge us according to how we have loved our neighbor. “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father.” (1 Thes 3, 12)

So, as we begin this new year with an eye on the end, let us pray to be able to attentively listen to the call of Christ and the Church. I pray that we may each take this First Sunday of Advent as the new opportunity to  begin again to live our lives in a manner that will be pleasing to the Lord at the end of time.

Recognizing a Saint: Part 3 of 5

29 NOVEMBER 2009. This third installment in the series examines the next step in the Church's process of recognizing a saint: the declaration of the candidate as Venerable.

Following the transfer of the candidate's information to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the postulator continues to collect information. When enough information has been gathered, the Congregation will recommend to the Pope that a proclamation be issued recognizing the Servant of God's heroic virtue. This proclamation confirms that the Servant of God has exhibited the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, all to a heroic degree in her or his earthly life.

If the Holy Father gives his consent, a proclamation of heroic virtue is issued by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, declaring the candidate a "Venerable Servant of God." No special ceremony surrounds the issuance of the proclamation.

For Knights of Columbus, we know that Father Michael J. McGivney, our founder, was declared a Venerable Servant of God under Pope Benedict XVI on 5 March 2008.

While a Venerable still has no feast day, and no churches may be built in his or her honor--as the Church has still not made an official statement of its belief that the person is indeed in heaven--prayer cards and other printed materials may be distributed to encourage the faithful to pray for a miracle, wrought by the intercession of the Venerable, as a sign of God's will that the Church recognize the Venerable as a saint. As an example, the Father Michael J. McGivney Guild, which was formed to promote Father McGivney's canonization, provides a prayer for his canonization here.

After the declaration of "Venerable Servant of God," the next step in the Church's process is beatification, which will be examined in the next installment of this series.

IMAGE: Father Michael J. McGivney

28 November 2009

Recognizing a Saint: Part 2 of 5

28 NOVEMBER 2009. This second installment in the series on the process of sainthood is an examination of how the Church declares a person to be a Servant of God.

The process of canonization--by which an individual is officially recognized by the Church as a saint--begins at the diocesan level. A bishop who has jurisdiction over the person whose life will be examined for recognition as a saint (the candidate), usually the bishop of the place where the candidate died or is buried (although another ordinary may be given this authority), must give permission for an investigation to be opened into the virtues of the candidate. This is normally done at the request of the members of the faithful or the bishop may decide to open the investigation ex officio on behalf of the faithful.

The diocesan investigation cannot be opened for the first five years after a person has died. However, the Pope has the authority to waive the five-year waiting period, as was done by the great Pope John Paul II for Mother Teresa of Calcutta and by Pope Benedict XVI for his predecessor, Servant of God Pope John Paul II.

Normally, a guild, organization, or the candidate's religious order will promote the cause of the candidate's sainthood. An exhaustive search is made of the candidate's writings, speeches, and sermons and a detailed biography is written and eyewitness accounts of the candidate's life are gathered. When a sufficient body of information is gathered about the candidate's life, all of the information gathered at the diocesan level about the Servant of God is presented by the jurisdictional ordinary to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Once at the curia, a postulator is appointed to continue to gather information about the Servant of God. Religious orders that deal regularly with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints have their own designated postulator general. Father Vito Thomas Gomez, O.P., is the Postulator General for Dominican causes.

A Servant of God is not yet a saint. He or she has no feast day, and no veneration in public worship is yet allowed. The Servant of God, though, is on the way to sainthood.

The following Servants of God likely includes names you recognize:

Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul I
Dorothy Day
Archbishop Fulton Sheen
Louisa Piccarreta

The next step in the Church's process of canonization is for the Servant of God to be declared Venerable, which will be described in the next installment in this series.

27 November 2009

Recognizing a Saint: Part 1 of 5

27 NOVEMBER 2009. Over the course of the year the Church celebrates hundreds of saints and blesseds, and many hundreds more are celebrated by particular religious communities and local churches due to particular or local devotions. As the Acta Sanctorum Blog seeks to celebrate with the Church all of these saints and blesseds, it seems like now (as a new liturgical year is about to begin) may be an opportune time to examine how the Church comes to recognize a person as a saint.

To begin, this first installment in the series will look at the basics of the Church's recognition of saints and provide a short introductory history.

As discussed in an earlier post, a saint is a "'holy one' who leads a life in union with God through the grace of Christ and receives the reward of eternal life. The Church is called the communion of saints, of the holy ones." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2d ed. (hereinafter CCC), glossary (emphasis added)) Thus, the declaration of a person as a saint is a statement of belief by the Church that the person is indeed in heaven, having received the reward of eternal life for having lived a holy life in union with God, through the grace of Christ. 

In other words, the Church's recognition of an individual as a saint is not what makes that person a saint. Instead, the Church is declaring its belief that the person is a saint and was a saint (even before the person's formal recognition by the Church).

There a number of steps that must be achieved before the Church will declare a person's sainthood: (1) first the person's life undergoes an examination during which the person is given the title "Servant of God;" (2) at some point, the body of the person is exhumed with permission and examined and declaration is made that no heretical cult or superstitious practice has grown up around the person or her or his tomb; (3) then, the person must declared "Venerable" and having heroic virtue; (4) then, the person may be beatified (the most difficult step in the process)--and earns the title "Blessed"--which is an affirmation that it is "worthy of belief" that the Blessed is, indeed, in heaven; and (5) finally, the person may be canonized--thereby earning the title "Saint"--which is the declaration of belief that the person is indeed in heaven, enjoying the beatific vision.

The process to achieve sainthood, which had been around in some from since at least the Thirteenth Century, was simplified further, following reforms by Pope Paul VI, by Pope John Paul II in his apostolic constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister, issued on 25 January 1983, and the norms issued by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 7 February 1983.

The declaration of sainthood provides for universal veneration of the Saint throughout the Church. While not an express limitation, the veneration of a Blessed, or Beati, may be limited to only a particular diocese or a particular religious order.

Reportedly, there are more than 10,000 named saints and blesseds from history, counting both Catholic and Orthodox sources, but there is no definitive head count. The General Roman Calendar assigns feast days of saints to about half of the days of the year. However, that is only a small percentage of all the saints listed in the Roman Martyrology--the Church's official 776 page list of saints.

The second installment of this series will look more closely at what is involved in a person being named a Servant of God.

26 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

26 NOVEMBER 2009. Today in the United States we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday dedicated to giving thanks for all that we have, individually and as a country.

Thanksgiving has been celebrated in the United States since 1863, and has been a national holiday since 1941. While originally a religious holiday to celebrate the end of the liturgical year and to give thanks to God for the blessings of the past year, today in the United States the holiday is primarily recognized as a secular holiday.

The readings for today revolve around giving thanks to God. As others have commented, however, every mass is the supreme celebration of thanksgiving to Our Lord. Still, to recall on this day our need to give thanks to God for all the blessings that we have (especially, as there is no other creator and redeemer for us to give thanks to) seems a liturgically important and fitting celebration.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to all in the United States and everywhere else today that joins us in giving thanks to Our Lord for the blessings we have received over the last year.

Image: The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe. From Wikimedia Commons.

25 November 2009

Blessed Margaret of Savoy, widow

25 NOVEMBER 2009. Today is the feast day of Blessed Margaret of Savoy, a widow of nobility who left the world and the royal court for the love of Christ.

Born in Fossano, Italy on 21 June 1390, Margaret was the eldest of four children born to Amadeo of Savoy, (Lord of Piedmont and titular Prince of Achea) and his wife Catherine of Geneva. Blessed Margaret was the Marchioness of Montfrerrat from 17 January 1403, until the death of her husband, Theodore II, on 16 April 1418.

Known for her beauty and piety, Margaret's marriage of more than 15 years, however, never produced children. And, when her husband died, Blessed Margaret left the affairs of state to the son of her late husband from his first marriage, John-Jacques, and retired to Alba where she joined the Third Order of Saint Dominic, taking a voluntary vow of chastity. However, because of her beauty, she was pursued by many men for marriage.

Receiving a vision of Saint Vincent Ferrer, her departed spiritual advisor, he counseled her to take the habit of the Third Order to assume a character that would protect her from further solicitations. However, after joining the Order, the Duke of Milan asked for Blessed Margaret's hand in marriage, even obtaining the permission of Pope Martin I for Margaret to be released from her voluntary vows. But, Blessed Margaret did not retreat from her vows.

Margaret was soon attacked, though. by a painful malady, where she was visited and encouraged on her sick bed by the Blessed Virgin Mary. Then, Our Lord, Himself, visited Blessed Margaret, accompanied by a a multitude of angels, holding in his hands three arrows labeled: calumny, sickness, and persecutions. Our Lord asked Blessed Margaret to choose from among the three, and abandoning herself entirely to the Divine Will, Our Lord left Blessed Margaret with all three arrows, which she lovingly embraced. The calumny came principally from the Duke of Milan who, having been denied Margaret's hand in marriage, complained to the Pope that Margaret was feeding heresy.

Instead of bowing to the Duke of Milan's pressure and retreating from her vows, Blessed Margaret redoubled her spiritual mortifications and joined with several younger women of rank and founded a convent, dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalen, placing it under the Dominican Order.

During her life, Blessed Margaret was known to work many miracles, including curing the sick, multiplying the provisions of the convent, and calming a tempest with her prayers before it threatened the City of Alba. It was said that as the storm ceased, the voices of demons could be heard in the air cursing the name of Blessed Margaret for frustrating their evil designs.

Two days before her death, Margaret asked her sisters to lift her out of bed and lay her prostrate at the feet of Our Lord. Although the sisters could not see anything, they complied with her wishes. Then, Blessed Margaret's cell became radiant with light and a sweet harmony announced the presence of angelic choirs and Our Lord, Himself. The same sweet harmony was heard the next day, the feast day of Saint Cecelia. And, as Blessed Margaret was administered the last sacraments, she was seen to be attended by an unknown religious, who was believed to be Saint Catherine of Siena.

Blessed Margaret died in Alba on 23 November 1464 at the age of 74. When Blessed Margaret died the town bell tolled of its own accord, waking to the residents who reported seeing a procession of saints, bearing lighted torches in their hands, processing towards the convent.

Although originally buried in a simple tomb, in 1481 Blessed Margaret's remains were transfered to a more beautiful spelechre in her convent. Many miracles were attributed to her after her death. Blessed Margaret was beatified by Pope Clement IX in 1669.


O God,
who didst teach Blessed Margaret
to forsake with all her heart
the pomps of this world
for the humble following of Thy Cross,
grant that, by her merits and example,
we may learn to tread under foot
the perishable delights of the world,
and in the embraces of Thy Cross
to overcome all adversities.
Who livest and reginest world without end.

IMAGE: Arms of the Principality of Achea, from Wikimedia Commons

22 November 2009

Solemnity of Christ the King

22 NOVEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King. Today's readings tell the story that the Church celebrates: truth has triumphed over falsehood. Truth is supreme and conquers all that is opposed to it. Christ is God's very word made flesh for the redemption of humanity. Hail Christ the King! Above whom there is none, and beneath whom all are subject to His dominion.

19 November 2009

Blessed James Benfatti

19 NOVEMBER 2009. Today we celebrate the feast day (optional memorial) of Blessed James Benfatti, Bishop of Mantua.

Born in Mantua, Italy, Blessed James also died there on 19 November 1332. He was both a doctor of theology and a priest.

In 1290 Blessed James entered the Dominican convent in his hometown. There he became the friend and brother friar of Nicholas Boccasino, who later became Pope Benedict XI. Under Pope Denedict XI, Blessed James held several important offices including Papal Legate. And, in the course of his service to the Pope, he also served as Papal Legate for Pope John XXII.

In 1303 Blessed James was consecrated as the Bishop of Mantua (some resources say he was consecrated in 1304). There Bishop James was known for his devotion to the poor, earning him the name "Father of the Poor." As bishop, Blessed James rebuilt the Cathedral and refurbished churches in his diocese. He also actively fought against the hatred and division that plagued the city at that time. After his death, Bishop James was credited with many remarkable miracles that occurred, and people began to call him Blessed James in gratefulness for his intercession.

Nearly 150 years after his death, in 1480, when repairs were being made to the church were he was buried, an accident opened his tomb and people were startled to find his body completely incorrupt. Again, in 1604, the same phenomenon occurred.

Blessed James' cult was confirmed in 1859 by Pope Pius IX.


Eternal God,
You established Blessed James as a model for your flock
and made him renowned for his zeal for peace
and for his mercy towards your people.
By his prayers and example
may we be united in the truth of your word
and ever ardent in your divine love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. 

18 November 2009

Dedication of the Basilicas of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

18 NOVEMBER 2009. Today the Church marks the dedication of another two papal basilicas (like the dedication of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran earlier this month) named after the Apostles Peter and Paul.

We read from today's breviary the following:
Anniversaries of dedication were celebrated in the Vatican Basilica of Saint Peter and in the Basilica of Saint Paul on the Ostian Way as early as the twelfth century. the two basilicas had been completed under Pope Sylvester and Siricius in the fourth century. More recently this commemoration was extended to the entire Latin Rite. Just as the Maternity of the Virgin Mother of God is celebrated on the anniversary of Saint Mary Major (August 5), so on this day we honor the two princes of Christ's apostles.
From ancient times, one of the places on earth most venerated by Christians is the tomb of Saint Peter in Rome. The Emperor Constantine erected a basilica over the tomb of Saint Peter on Vatican Hill and another over the place of Saint Paul's martyrdom on Ostian Way. Both were eventually consecrated by Saint Sylvester. Both Basilicas, however, from their original founding, have suffered destruction and been rebuilt:

 The Basilica of Saint Paul was destroyed by fire in 1823, but was rebuilt and consecrated by Pope Pius IX on 10 December 1854 on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a which dogma which he had just proclaimed. Today it is called the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls because it is an extraterritorial complex, lying outside of the official boundaries of the Vatican City-State.

Although the original structure of Saint Peter's basilica stood for more than 1,000 years, its neglect (especially during the Avignon papacy) caused it to fall into a state of disrepair. The present structure of the Basilica of Saint Peter was inagurated in 1506 by Pope Julius II and took 120 years to construct. Pope Urban VIII consecrated the completed basilica on 18 November 1626.


give apostolic protection to Your Church,
so that as she received the first revelation
about You from the apostles
she may also receive through them
an increase of heavenly grace
until the end of time.


17 November 2009

Elizabeth of Hungary, tertiary Franciscan

17 NOVEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, a Thirteenth Century woman who came from royal blood, but lived her life in piety, ultimately leaving the cares of the world to serve as the servant of the poor.

Saint Elizabeth was born on 7 July 1207 at Presburg, Hungary, the daughter of Alexander II, King of Hungary. At the age of four, the child Elizabeth was sent to the court of Landgrace of Thringia, where she was betrothed to his infant son. As she grew in age, Elizbeth's piety grew as well.

In 1221, at the age of 14, Elizabeth was married to Prince Louis of Thuringia. However, despite her royal setting, Saint Elizabeth lived an austere life of simplicity and penance, devoting herself to works of charity. Some histories say that Prince Louis, her husband, was also inclined to religion and encouraged Elizabeth in her virtue. Other histories say that Prince Louis and his family were opposed to her charitable care for the poor. What is uncontroverted, however, is Elizabeth's charity itself.

Elizabeth and Louis had three children before he died from the plague. After his death, Elizabeth left the royal court, made provisions for the care of her children, and in 1228 renounced the world becoming a tertiary of Saint Francis.

During this period, Elizabeth was under the authority of her confessor, a priest and inquisitor named Konrad von Marburg. Konrad was known for his harsh methods, and some histories report that his treatment of Saint Elizabeth was quite harsh, including physical beatings as punishment. Reported in some historical accounts, it was Konrad that ordered Saint Elizabeth to send away her children. However, Saint Elizabeth made vows of obedience to Konrad and followed those vows.

Saint Elizabeth built the Franciscan hospital at Marburg and devoted herself to the care of the sick until her death at the young age of 24 on 17 November 1231. Her gifts of food to the poor and a large gift of grain to famine stricken Germany earned her the title of patron saint to bakers.

After Elizabeth's death, reports of miracles occurring at her grave, especially miracles of healing, became widely reported and led to Elizabeth's quick canonization less than four years later.

Saint Elizabeth's relics, including her skull which is adorned with the gold crown that she wore in life, are preserved at the convent of Saint Elizabeth in Vienna, Austria. Saint Elizabeth of Hungary was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on 27 May 1235.

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary is the patron saint of bakers, countesses, death of children, the falsely accused, the homeless, nursing services, tertiaries, widows, and young brides.


You taught Saitn Elizabeth to recognize
and serve Christ, in the poor.
Grant, through her intercession,
that we may always lovingly serve the needy
and the oppressed.


16 November 2009

A prayer for Our Bishop's Fall Assembly

16 NOVEMBER 2009. Dear Bishops engaged in the Fall General Assembly in Baltimore, we the faithful offer our prayers to Our Lord Jesus Christ for the successful and fruitful conduct of your assembly. May your time together both renew your spirit as pastors of the Church in the United States and renew your resolve to faithfully and collegially address the many challenges confronting the faithful in today's world.

May the Holy Spirit, ever the guide of our lives, descend upon you and remain with you through your discussions, contemplation, and work of these assembly days. And, may Our Lady of Guadalupe, protectress of the Americas, protect, indeed, your good work and carry it as an offering to God our Father, by the grace and power of her intercession.

In the name of Christ Our Lord, we pray. Amen.

IMAGE: From Cardinal Se├ín Patrick O'Malley’s Blog—www.cardinalseansblog.org

Ad Centum: Saint Gertrude, virgin

16 NOVEMBER 2009. Today is the feast day (optional memorial) of Saint Gertrude of Helfta.

Saint Gertrude of Helfta is the most celebrated of several Saints of the same name, and for this reason tradition refers to her as Saint Gertrude the Great. She was born on 6 January 1256. We know nothing of her parents, so several sources say that Saint Gertrude was probably an orphan. Placed with the Benedictines of Helfta at the age of five, Saint Gertrude was known for her pursuit of academic studies. When she reached the appropriate age, Gertrude became a Benedictine nun. The sister of Saint Gertrude's abbess was Saint Mechtilde of Hackeborn, who became close friends and a trusted spiritual advisor of Saint Gertrude.

Saint Gertrude learned Latin in her youth, as was the custom for women religious in those days, and wrote Latin with unusual elegance and force. She also had an uncommon knowledge of Holy Scripture and of all the branches of learning having religion as their object; but one day Our Lord reproached her for being too dedicated to her studies. Afterwards she could find in them nothing but bitterness; but soon Our Lord came to instruct her Himself. One of the great mystics of the Church, Saint Gertrude had visions of Our Lord and the Holy Virgin throughout her life--these visions are recorded in her written works, Revelation, which are still in print today.

Saint Gertrude had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In her writings we learn that during one of her visions of Christ, He invited her to rest her head on His chest to listen to the beating of His heart. Saint Gertrude is also known for her tender compassion for the souls in purgatory, and is often invoked in prayer for souls in purgatory. According to legend (because it is not found in Saint Gertrude's writings), Our Lord told Saint Gertrude that 1,000 souls would be released from purgatory each time the following prayer is said:
Eternal Father, I offer Thee the most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus Christ, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, for those in my own home and within my family. Amen.
The prayer was extended to cover living persons as well.

Saint Gertrude died on 17 November 1302, at the convent of Saint Mary's of Helfta, Saxony. Although never officially canonized, Saint Gertrude the Great received an equipotent canonization and Pope Clement XII declared a universal feast day in her honor in 1677.

It is also notable that Saint Teresa of Avila (St. Teresa of Jesus) had great a devotion to Saint Gertrude.

Saint Gertrude the Great, pray for us!

15 November 2009


15 NOVEMBER 2009. This is it. Today is the last--the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Church calendar is now drawing to a close. You have felt it coming now for sometime--maybe it was the first cool day in September, or the first fall of leaves  in October--but, the passage of time is again taking us into the Season of Anticipation and then the Season of Joy. Yes, Advent and Christmas are not far off.

In reflection of today's last Sunday, today's readings also speak of the last times--using a theological term--today's Gospel is an eschatological explanation from Christ, Himself, of how the world as we know it will come to an end. And, as Christ says, no one knows the day or hour, except the Father.

However, what is also clear from today's mass is that Christ, our Salvation and the Word, wants to have a relationship with each of us. At His last coming Christ will "gather the elect from the four winds." All of the faithful, chosen by Christ, will be gathered, even those who have gone before. As the first reading says: "[m]any of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake." So, those that are faithful and destined to live in eternity with Christ, by His redemption, will be called individually by Him.

Be certain of this: Christ wants us to share eternity with Him. That is, after all, the purpose of this fleeting life. He would not draw everyone together at the last, if Christ did not want each one of us to join Him in eternity. That is why the first reading says that the Archangel Michael has been sent to protect the Church--the people of God. Saint Michael the Archangel is just one of the many protectors that God has given us, His people.

The Responsorial Psalm reminds us of the destiny that Christ has made possible for us--"You are my inheritance, O Lord." And, the second reading tells us that Christ the High Priest is unlike every other priest who offers the same sacrifices each day. Christ has made one sacrifice, through which the redemption of all humanity was achieved: "For by one offering, he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated."

Praise Our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation that He has given! Consider this gift this week as the Church prepares for the Solemnity of Christ the King next Sunday.

14 November 2009

A Prayer for Guidance

By Saint Thomas Aquinas

O creator past all telling,
you have appointed from the treasures of your wisdom
the hierarchies of angels,
disposing them in wondrous order
above the bright heavens,
and have so beautifully set out all parts of the universe.

You we call the true fount of wisdom
and the noble origin of all things.
Be pleased to shed
on the darkness of mind in which I was born,
The twofold beam of your light
and warmth to dispel my ignorance and sin.

You make eloquent the tongues of children.
Then instruct my speech
and touch my lips with graciousness.
Make me keen to understand, quick to learn,
able to remember;
make me delicate to interpret and ready to speak.

Guide my going in and going forward,
lead home my going forth.
You are true God and true man,
and live for ever and ever.

13 November 2009

Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin

13 NOVEMBER 2009. Today, in the dioceses of the United States, the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini (Francesca Cabrini), the founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart and the first American citizen to be canonized.

Francesca, one of thirteen children, was born in Lombard, Italy on 15 July 1850. At birth, Francesca was so small and fragile that she was rushed immediately to the local church for baptism for fear that she would not survive. However, her life of service and virtue is not only a testament to her survival, but of her flourishing in love of service to Christ.

As a young child, Francesca was mostly tended to by her eldest sister Rosa. Rosa desired to be a teacher, who imagined little Francesca as her pupil. The family's patriarch, Agostino Cabrini, often read aloud to his children gathered in their kitchen. And, the stories were usually stories of missionaries serving in far away lands. It is no wonder then that little Francesca imagined herself in play as a missionary sailing to far away places. When she turned 18 Francesca applied to the convent in the hope that she would one day be sent to the Orient as a teacher. However, Francesca's application was denied because of her health.

Undetered in her vocation of service, Francesca at once set herself to living as a lay person. Francesca cared for her parents, but both of them died within a few years. Then, a small pox epidemic swept through her hometown, and Francesca devoted herself to serving and assisting the ill. She worked so frequently with the sick that she eventually contracted small pox herself. However, her sister Rosa nursed Francesca back to health and she suffered no long-term effects of the illness.

On her recovery, and with improved health, Francesca accepted a job as a substitute teacher and reapplied to the convent. However, the local priest, Father Serrati, counseled the convent to again deny her application. Father Serrati had watched the way she devoted herself to the service of others in the small pox outbreak and thought Francesca's zeal and piety would have other avenues.

Father Serrati asked Francesca to go to a nearby town and "put things right" at an orphanage that was badly disorganized. During her time at the orphanage, Francesca took the nun's habit and after three years took her vows. So impressed were her superiors with the work that Sister Cabrini was doing, that they made her the mother superior of the orphanage at the age of about 27. For three years afterward Sister Cabrini worked at the orphanage until it was dissolved. At the orphanage, Sister Cabrini built strong relationships with many of the girls, and when the orphanage closed it left homeless Sister Cabrini and seven young nuns that she had trained.

At this point, the Bishop of Lodi called on Sister Cabrini and asked her to found a missionary order of women to serve the diocese. Happily accepting, now Mother Cabrini acquired an abandoned Franciscan friary in Cadogno and set to establishing her new order. Mother Cabrini's sisters opened a day school, sold embroidery to earn money, took in orphans, and soon were fully involved in missionary work. At the same time Mother Cabrini composed a simple rule for her order, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. They wore a simple habit, even keeping their rosary in a pocket to better enable them to work, and adopted as their patrons Saint Francis Xavier and Saint Francis de Sales. Mother Cabrini's order then began to grow and new houses were soon started around the diocese.

In 1887 Mother Cabrini went to Rome to establish a house there and seek papal approval for her order. After a short while in Rome she made contacts at high levels in the Church and her order was accepted by Pope Leo XIII, who later spoke of Mother Cabrini with admiration and affection. In this period too, Italy was suffering from terrible economic woes and many Italians were immigrating to the Americas. However, upon arrival on our shores, the new immigrants were often mistreated and were without the ties to family and church they had in Italy--simply struggling to survive. In answer to this cry, Mother Cabrini came to the United States 1889.

When Mother Cabrini and her company of nuns arrived in New York, they immediately set to work. Having no convent, a local wealthy Italian family purchased a house for the sisters who used it to start an orphanage. Soon, the orphanage was overflowing with children and the nuns frequently resorted to begging to meet the needs of all the children.

Over the next many years, Mother Cabrini spent much time in the United States and Rome. Then she traveled to Nicaragua, opening schools there. From there, schools were opened by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Argentina, France, England, and Spain. Schools were next opened in Brasil as South American novices took to the order. Then, Mother Cabrini returned to the United States, starting new schools in New York and across the country as she traveled westward. In 1909 in Seattle, Washington, at the age of 59 Mother Cabrini took the oath of American citizenship. While Mother Cabrini might have, at this point in her life, been looking forward to a life of reduced activity, she continued to travel to and fro in the support of her order.

However well known that Mother Cabrini became, though, she always lived a modest and humble life. In fact, she deplored being referred to as the "head" of her order. Although the friend of three popes, Mother Cabrini did not take on the air of authority.

On the way back to New York from a trip to the Pacific Coast, Mother Cabrini stopped in Chicago. While there, though, she suffered a recurrence of malaria that she had contracted many years before. As she was recovering from her illness, Mother Cabrini was helping her nuns and some children prepare for a Christmas party in the hospital when she suffered a fatal heart attack. Mother Cabrini died on 22 December 1917, at the age of 67.

Mother Cabrini's body today lies beneath the altar at the Saint Frances Cabrini Shrine at Mother Cabrini High School in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. She was beatified on 18 November 1938, and canonized on 7 July 1946 by Pope Pius XII.

Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini is the patron saint of immigrants.


God, You called Saint Frances Cabrini
from Italy to serve immigrants of America.
By her eaxmple
teach us concern for the stranger,
the sick, and the frustrated.
By her prayers help us to see Christ
in all men and women we encounter.


12 November 2009

Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr

12 NOVEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Josaphat, born about 1580 in the Ukraine. Saint Josaphat--whose baptismal name was Johannes--was born into an orthodox family and from an early age he showed great piety. As a child, Josaphat applied himself with zeal to the study of ecclesiastical Slav, learning to recite the entire casoslov (or breviary), which from an early age he prayed daily. Much of Saint Josaphat's early religious training came from the breviary, as many of the orthodox clergy at the time, in Saint Josaphat's area, were not formally educated and, therefore, not permitted to give catechetical instruction.

Centuries before Saint Josaphat's birth, in 1054, the Great Schism occurred, separating the Eastern churches under Constantinople from the Western churches under Rome. Nearly five centuries later, the orthodox metropolitan of Kiev and five orthodox bishops committed to bringing themselves and the faithful in their pastoral care back into union with Rome. It was into this context that Saint Josaphat was born, and he experienced both the positive and negative consequences of the reunification. Many of the followers of the metropolitan did not want to return to communion with Rome, which led to a schism in the Orthodox Ruthenian Church, creating great division that sometimes led to bloodshed.

On 23 November 1595, the Ruthenian Church, through the Union of Brest, reunited with the Roman Catholic Church. However, schismatic Ruthenian separatists refused the reunification.

In 1604, at about the age of 24, Saint Josaphat embraced Catholicism and entered the Basilian monastery of the Trinity at Vilna. In the monastery, Saint Josaphat met Joseph Benjamin Rutsky; the two became lifelong friends and allies in the Church and spent long periods of time planning for the reunification of the Ruthenian separatists with Rome and a reform of monastic life.

After his ordination as a Byzantine Rite priest, now Father Josaphat was sent to Rome to found new Basilian houses, and Rutsky became the abbot of Vilna. Saint Josaphat returned to take Rutsky's place as abbot, when Rutsky was named Archbishop of Kiev. In his role as abbot of Vilna and other monasteries, Saint Josaphat began to put into practice his ideas for reunification and monastic reform. However, Josaphat's practices were austere and ascetic, to the extent that one community went so far as to threaten to throw him into the river until he persuaded them to see his purposes.

After leading several monasteries, on 12 November 1617, Saint Josaphat was reluctantly consecrated as the bishop of Vitebsk. He became archbishop of Polotsk in 1618. Upon becoming bishop, Saint Josaphat found the state of the Church in ruins, literally. Buildings were falling down, priests and monks were marrying multiple times, and there seemed to be a lack of commitment by the clergy to live a life of pastoral service modeled on Christ. To this scene, Saint Josaphat instituted many reforms, including holding synods, publishing a catechism for universal use, and instituting rules of conduct for clergy. Despite the improvements found under the bishopric of Saint Josaphat, the separatist Ruthenians tried in every way to injure Saint Josaphat's efforts at complete reunification, going so far as to even set up a competing diocese and archbishop. The Roman Catholics with whom Saint Josaphat was seeking communion did not give him great support either--owing at least in part to Saint Josphat's adherence to the Byantive Rite and not "Romanizing" his practices.

In October 1623, Saint Josaphat decided to return to Vitebsk to quell the division with the Ruthenian separatists himself. The separatists did their best to incite a violent reaction from Saint Josaphat and his followers, hurling insults and profanity at them. When finally, one of the inciters was confined by Saint Josaphat's party, the separatists launched a violent attack against Saint Josaphat and his followers.

On 12 November 1623, an angry mob attacked Saint Josaphat, killing him and many followers. Saint Josaphat was beaten with a stick, then an ax, and finally shot in the head. His body was drug through the streets and thrown in the river with the body of a dog that had tried to protect him.

However, the violence in the end had the opposite effect of pushing forward the separatists' agenda. Saint Josaphat's rival archbishop was reconciled with Rome and the weight of opinion came down decidedly on the side of those seeking complete reunification with Rome.

Josaphat was beatified by Pope Urban VIII on 16 May 1643. And, in 1867, Saint Josaphat became the first saint of the Eastern Church to be canonized a saint by Rome.


fill your Church with the Spirit
that gave Saint Josaphat courage
to lay down his life for his people.
By his prayers
may your Spirit make us strong
and willing to offer our lives
for our brothers and sisters.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

11 November 2009

Saint Martin of Tours, bishop

11 NOVEMBER 2009. Today's memorial celebrated by the Church is that of Saint Martin of Tours, patron saint of beggars, soldiers, and the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps.

Saint Martin was born in what is today Hungary in about 316. Martin was the son of a soldier in the Roman army, and although he was from a pagan family, Saint Martin presented himself to the Church at the age of 10 as a catechumen (or, candidate for Baptism). When Saint Martin's father was transferred to Ticinum, Cisalpine Gaul (today Pavia, Italy) Martin moved too, and upon reaching the appropriate age was conscripted into the Roman Army.

As a soldier in the Roman army, Saint Martim met a half-naked and shivering beggar outside the gates of the city of Amien. Immediately, moved with pity for the man, Saint Martin cut his own cloak in half and shared it with the beggar. That night, Saint Martin had a dream of Jesus wearing his half-cloak. In his dream, Jesus said to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized, he has clothed me." This dream confirmed in Martin his piety, and he was baptized as a Christian at the age of 18.

Saint Martin still served two more years in the Army. Just before a battle was to take place in Worms, Saint Martin determined that his faith prohibited him from fighting. When he refused to fight, he was jailed for cowardice. However, in response to the charge, Saint Martin offered to go before the enemy unarmed. His military leaders were going to take Martin up on his offer, but the armies made peace and the battle never occurred.

After his service as a soldier, Saint Martin declared his vocation and became a disciple of Saint Hilary of Poitiers. In his ensuing years, Saint Martin spent time in various places, including spending some time living as a hermit off of the Italian coast. During this time he experienced the happiness of converting his mother to Christianity. Saint Hilary spent a period of time in exile, but upon his return, Saint Martin and Saint Hilary built a monastery at Liguge, where Saint Martin lived until being chosen a Bishop of Tours in 371.

At probably the age of 55, Saint Martin became the Bishop of Tours. He continued, though, to lead the same simple life that he had lived in the monastery. At first as bishop, Saint Martin lived in a little cell near the church. However, soon after, Saint Martin laid the foundations for the celebrated monastery of Marmoutier, which consisted originally of only a few grottos hewn into the rock with wooden cells. However, many eventually flocked to this monastery which is the reason that Saint Martin became known as the founder of monasticisim in Gaul.

During his time as bishop, many heresies plagued the Church. While a staunch supporter of the Church in the face of heresy, Saint Martin was also opposed to those who would put heretics to death, making efforts to save them from execution.

On the whole, Saint Martin's life was known for his constant prayer. Many miracles were attributed to Saint Martin during his life and after his death. Saint Martin died on 8 November 397 at about the age of 81.

During the middle ages, the veneration of Saint Martin was very popular. In many places in Europe today, Saint Martin's Day is still celebrated by the faithful and others alike.

As a historical footnote, it is interesting to know that Martin Luther, who initiated the Protestant Reformation, was named after Saint Martin and was baptized on Saint Martin's feast day, 11 November.


God, Your bishop Saint Martin glorified You
by both his life and his death.
Renew in us Your grace,
so that neither death nor life can
separate us from Your love.


10 November 2009

Pope Saint Leo the Great

10 NOVEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Pope Saint Leo the Great. While history does not record the place or date of Saint Leo's birth, tradition tells that he was born in Tuscany. Pope Leo's pontificate began on 29 September 440 and lasted until his death on 10 November 461. Pope Leo's pontificate, besides Pope Gregory I, was the most significant and important in the Church of antiquity.

We know that by 431, Saint Leo was a deacon that held an important enough role that Cyril of Alexandria appears to have tried to persuade Saint Leo to throw the weight of Rome behind his claim to patriarchal jurisdiction over Palestine. However, nothing more showed the confidence of the Church in Saint Leo, than being dispatched to Gaul to settle a dispute between its two highest officials.

While on his mission to Gaul, Pope Sixtus III died, and the people unanimously elected Saint Leo as Pope. In 440, he began his epoch papacy, know best for centralizing the government of the Church.

In the early years of his papacy, Pope Leo disputed the authentic leadership of the Church with Pope Dioscorus, Pope of Alexandria, the metropolitan of Thessalonica, and the Gallica Church, saying that the Church must be lead by the successor of Peter: "The care of the universal Church should converge towards Peter's one seat, and nothing anywhere should be separated from its Head."

Calling on secular authorities for support, in 445 Pope Leo secured an edict from Emperor Valentinian recognizing the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.

The doctrine of the Incarnation (true God and true man) was confirmed by Pope Leo in a letter to the Patriarch of Constantinople. And, at the Council of Chalceon in 451, the same letter was confirmed as the true expression of Catholic faith concerning the person of Christ.

However, aside from important governance matters of the Church, Saint Pope Leo is probably is probably most notably known for meeting Atila the Hun outside Rome in 452, and convincing him to turn back from his sack of Western Europe.

Pope Saint Leo the Great died in 461, leaving many important letters and writings of great historical value. Known for his governance efforts, Pope Leo's pontificate is most significant for the development and implementation of the doctrine of Petrine supremacy.

According to Saint Leo, the Church is built upon Peter, in pursuance of the promise of Matthew 16:16-19. Peter participates in everything which is Christ's; what the other apostles have in common with him they have through him. What is true of Peter is true also of his successors. Every bishop is charged with the care of his own special flock, but the Bishop of Rome is entrusted with the care of the whole Church. Other bishops are his assistants in this great task.

Both the Catholic Church and many Anglicans mark 10 November as the feast day of Pope Saint Leo the Great. The Eastern Orthodox churches mark 18 February as his feast day.


God, you established Your Church
on the solid rock of the Apostles
and You will never allow the powers
of hell to dominate her.
Grant that she may persevere
in Your truth
and enjoy continual peace
through the intercession of Pope Leo.


08 November 2009

Dedication of St. John Lateran

9 NOVEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome. You may ask, why is a feast day dedicated to a church building? Well, the answer is that today is not so much about the building alone, as it is about the consistent and liturgical presence at the site of the basilica, and its symbolism for the universal Church.

While many Catholics probably think that Saint Peter's Basilica is the central locale of the universal Church, the Basilica of Saint John Lateran is actually that spot (officially named, the Archbasilica Sanctissimi Salvatoris et Sancti Iohannes Baptista et Evangelista in Laterano (Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and Sts. John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran)). Every diocese has a cathedral, and the Diocese of Rome, headed by the Holy Father, the bishop of Rome, is no different. St. John Lateran is the cathedral church for the Diocese of Rome, the Pope's own church and so, in a sense, the diocesan church of the entire Church--the spiritual home of all the faithful.

The first basilica on the site was built in the Fourth Century, after the Emperor Constantine donated the land that he had received from the wealthy Lateran family. St. John Lateran was the official residence for the Pope until the 15th century. The current Basilica structure was commissioned by Pope Innocent X in 1646. One of Rome's most imposing churches, the facade is crowned with 15 massive statutes of Christ, Saint John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, and 12 doctors of the Church. The only part of the original Lateran Palace remaining is the Pope's private chapel--the Sancta Sanctorum, which includes the Scala Sancta, or Holy Stairs (said to be the chairs that Jesus ascended at the praetorium of Pilate in Jerusalem, brought to Rome in the Fourth Century by Saint Helena, mother of Constantine the Great).

Below the main altar of the Basilica is a small wooden table that tradition says was used by Saint Peter and the first subsequent popes (through Saint Sylvester I (314-355)) to say mass. The remains of several popes are entombed at the Basilica, including Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903). Many important historical events have occurred at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, including the signing of the Lateran Pacts (establishing the Vatican City State) and five Ecumenical Councils.

Initially, the observance of the dedication of Saint John Lateran was limited to Rome. But, in 1565 it was extended to the universal church. As each of us are living stones that compose the Church on earth (1 Peter 2:4-8), this feast is a celebration of all of our participation in the living Church, most famously symbolized by the Basilica of Saint John Lateran: the physical church that all of us can call our worldly home.


God, out of living and chosen stones
You prepare an eternal dwelling
for Yourself.
Multiply in your Church
the spirit of grace that you have given her,
so that Your people
may ever grow into that building
which is the heavenly Jerusalem.


06 November 2009

Saint Francis de Capillas, Blessed Alfonsus Navarrete, and Companions, Martyrs

6 NOVEMBER 2009. Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Francis de Capillas, Blessed Alfonsus Navarrete, and Companions, Martyrs of The Far East.

Saint Francis, Blessed Alfonsus, and their companions were robed with the white robe of martrydom for trying to spread the Gospel to Japan and China in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

In Japan, Blessed Alfonsus Navarrete, a Spanish Dominican, was beheaded on 1 June 1617 in Omura. In 1622, nine other Dominicans were burned to death in Nagasaki. All told, from 1614 through 1632, more than 100 Spanish and Japanese Dominicans (novices, cooperator brothers, tertiaries, and confraternity members) were martyred for the faith.

Saint Francisco had labored for a number of years in the Phillippines before going to China in 1642. In China, Saint Francis de Capillas, also a Spanish Dominican, was beheaded in 15 January 1648. In the following century several Spanish Dominicans were also martyred in China, including Bishop Peter Sanz on 26 May 1747 and Bishop Francis Serrano along with the priests Joachim Royo, John Alcober, and Francisco Diaz on 28 October 1748.

Saint Francisco de Capillas was proclaimed Protomartyr (First Martyr) of China on 16 September 1748 by Pope Benedict XIV. Two centuries later, he was beatified by Pope Pius X on 2 May 1909. Still nearly another century after his beatification, he was canonized by the great Pope John Paul II on 1 October 2000.

Blessed Francis de Capillas was beatified on 7 May 1867 by Pope Blessed Pius IX.

05 November 2009

Blessed Simon Ballacchi

5 NOVEMBER 2009. Today we celebrate the optional memorial of Blessed Simon Ballacchi, an Italian cooperator brother. His life of service and penance is an example to us all of loving God through simple actions.

Blessed Simon was born around 1240 A.D. in the village of Sant'Archangelo in the Diocese of Rimini, Italy. He was the son of Count Ballacchi and the nephew of two Archbishops of Rimini, and his brother became a priest. It was in Rimini that Blessed Simon received the the habit of a cooperator brother at the age of 27. Apparently Brother Simon's family was not happy about his entry into the Order, as they had expected him to manage the family's property.

Tradition tells us that Blessed Simon led a life in Rimini that was distinguished for humility and kindness.

Blessed Simon was also known for his strict penances for the conversion of sinners, imitating Saint Dominic. He wore an iron link around himself for twenty years and whipped himself every night. During Lent, Blessed Simon lived on only bread and water, and found time for additional prayer by giving up sleep. However, despite the strictness of his penances, Brother Simon was also famous for his sweetness of life, particularly in his dealings with the poor, to whom he taught the basics of Christian life with wisdom.

Brother Simon would leave the monastery to walk around the village carrying a cross in his hand, calling the children to catechism. He often volunteered for the simplest tasks around the monastery, working mainly in the garden, even if the weather was bad.

At the age of 57 Blessed Simon became blind. For the last several years of his life he was bedridden. However, he bore these afflictions with great courage and was always in good spirits. Blessed Simon died in Rimini on 3 November around the year 1319 A.D. After his death, Brother Simon was honored by a great number of people for several days.

Simon Ballacchi was beatified on 14 March 1820 when his cult was confirmed by Pope Pius VII.


O God, you adorned blessed Simon
with the desire to be joined
in prayer and the prerogative of humility,
having turned away from the vanity
of the world;
grant that we may imitate him
and seek you alone, so that we
may be able at last to reach
the rewards promised to the humble in heaven.
Through our Lord.


03 November 2009

Saint Charles Borromeo

4 NOVEMBER 2009. Today is the memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo (Carlo Borromeo). Saint Borromeo is known for his efforts in leading many important reform efforts during the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

Born on 2 October 1538, to Gilberto II Borromeo, Count of Arona, and Margherita de' Medici (sister of the future Pope Pus IV), Saint Borremeo began life, as the second son and third of six children, in an aristocratic family. Indeed, the saint was born in the castle of Arona on the shores of Lago Maggiore in northern Italy. Saint Borromeo's early years were spent in Arona and Milan. At the age of 12 the saint's father permitted him to receive the tonsure, and upon the resignation of his uncle, Giulio Cesare Borromeo, he became the titular abbot of Saints Gratinian and Felinus in Arona. Upon recieving tonsure, Saint Borromeo's father sent him to pursue studies in Milan; Saint Borromeo also studied canon and civil law in Pavia.

In August 1558 Saint Borromeo's father died. Although not the eldest son, Saint Borromeo was asked by his family to take over management of its affairs following the death of thier patriarch. He did so, but after a time Saint Borromeo resumed his studies, receiving his doctorate of civil and canon law in 1559.

In the summer of 1559, Pope Paul IV died and Saint Borromeo's uncle, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo de' Medici was elected as Pope Pius IV. After the papal election of his uncle, Saint Borromeo was summoned to Rome and was given the charge of administering all the papal states (as Secretary of State). On 31 January 1560, Saint Borromeo was made a cardinal-deacon, being given the title of Saints Vitus and Modestus. At this time also the Arbishop of Milan resigned and on 8 February Cardinal Borromeo was named as administrator of the vacant see. Throught this time, Saint Borromeo was charged with administrating the papal states, administrating the Archdiocese of Milan, and managing his family's business affairs. Through this all, Saint Borromeo still found time to study, and founded a college in Pavia, today known as Almo Collegio Borromeo, which is dedicated to Saint Justina of Padua.

Soon, however, the affairs of the Secretary of State consumed Cardinal Borromeo's efforts. The Council of Trent had been suspended since 1552, but in large part due to Saint Borromoe's efforts, it was resumed in 1562 and was concluded in 1563. In November 1562, however, Saint Borromeo's older brother died, which led his family to try and convince Saint Borromeo to quit the Church, marry, and have children so the family's name would not end. However, Saint Borromeo declined to leave the Church and was secretly ordained a priest on 4 September 1563, impressing himself forever in the service of the Church.

On 7 December 1563, Saint Borromeo was consecrated a bishop in the Sistine Chapel, and receive the pallium on 23 March 1564. Now, as Archbishop of Milan, Saint Borromeo set himself to the reformation of his archdiocese. Reformation of the diocese was badly needed, as the diocese had been neglected by the absence of previous archbishops. In this reformation, Saint Borromeo's focus appeared to be better liturgical practives and the better education and development of the clergy. Saint Borromeo founded many seminaries, colleges, and communities of edcucation for candidates for Holy Orders. Saint Borromeo also founded the Oblates of Saint Ambrose, a community of lay men that did not take Holy Orders, but devoted themselves to the Church and followed a discipline of monastic prayers and study.

In response to the Protestant Reformation, Saint Borromeo was instrumental in the leadership he lent to the Catholic counter-reformation.

When Milan was hit with bubonic plague in 1576, Saint Borromeo led the efforts to care for the sick and bury the dead. He took no personal precautions and handed out punishment for those, expecially clergy, who were remiss in discharging their duties.

Many of the reforms pressed by Saint Borromeo were met with opposition by civil leaders and some religious communities. In fact, the Brothers of Humiity (the Humiliati) even attempted to assissinate him, so great was their opposition to his reforms.

Suffering from fever, Cardinal Borromeo died on 3 November 1584, at the age of 46. Throngs of people attended his death outside the place were he lay, saying prayers for him. Saint Borromeo was canonized on 1 November 1610, by Pope Paul V. However, the Milanese people celebrated his feast day long before his canonization, so great was their affection for their beloved Archbishop.

Indeed, the affection by all of Europe for Saint Borromoe after his death was overwhelming. His correspondence showed the degree to which his opinions were sought. He was a trusted advisor to each of the popes that he served under, and the Catholic sovereigns of Europe (Henry III of France, Philip II of Spain, Mary Queen of Scots, and others) regularly sought his advice. His brother cardinals, too, wrote in praise of his virtues.

Saint Charles Borromeo, pray for us.

Prayer to Saint Martin de Porres

To you Saint Martin de Porres
we prayerfully lift up our hearts
filled with serene confidence and devotion.
Mindful of your unbounded and helpful charity
to all levels of society
and also of your meekness and humility of heart,
we offer our petitions to you.

Pour out upon our families the precious gifts
of your solicitous and generous intercession;
show to the people of every race and every color
the paths of unity and of justice;
implore from our Father in heaven
the coming of his kingdom,
so that through mutual benevolence in God
men may increase the fruits of grace
and merit the rewards of eternal life.


02 November 2009

Saint Martin de Porres

3 NOVEMBER 2009. Today is the memorial of Saint Martin de Porres, a Dominican cooperator brother who is an example to all of us of humility and compassion in the service of God.

Saint Martin (Juan Martin de Porres) was born in Lima, Peru on 9 December 1579; the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a young, black girl, who had been born in Panama. Like so many children today who come from similar circumstances, St. Martin grew up very poor, and his mother ultimately could not care for him and his sister, Juana. St. martin was confided to a primary school for two years, and then was placed with a barber/surgeon to learn the medical arts. Even though only 10 at the time, St. Martin took great joy in learning the medical arts because that learning would enable him to serve others while earning a living.

At this early age, Saint Martin spent hours each night in prayer, a practice that increased as he grew older.

At the age of 15, Saint Martin asked to be admitted to the Dominican Convent of the Rosary in Lima. There Saint Martin was first received as a tertiary, and worked as a servant boy, but his duties grew as the saint's superiors noted his charity and piety. Dropping the racial limits that were in place at the time, Saint Martin was received as a full member of the Dominican Order at the age of 24.

Upon receiving the habit of a cooperator brother, Saint Martin was made the head of the convent's infirmary, where he remained in service to the convent until his death.

Saint Martin was deeply attached to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. So much so, that he was unaffected when the step he was kneeling on one night, while praying before the Blessed Sacrament, caught fire. There was much confusion and chaos that followed, but Saint Martin never noticed it and never moved.

Saint Martin was also known for his charity and care for those outside the convent. One day a beggar covered with ulcers came to the convent. Saint Martin provided his own bed to care for the poor man. When one of Saint Martin's brothers reproved him for going too far in his charitable work, Saint Martin said this:
Compassion, my dear Brother, is preferable to cleanliness. Reflect that with a little soap I can easily clean my bed covers, but even with a torrent of tears I would never wash from my soul the stain that my harshness toward the unfortunate would create.
When an epidemic struck Lima, there were at one time as many as 60 ill religious in the convent. Although the postulants and professed members of the community were on opposite sides of the convent, isolated from one another, there were many reports of Saint Martin moving freely through closed doors to tend to them. During this epidemic, the convent became unable to house all the ill that Saint Martin was cared for. So, Saint Martin's superior forbade him from taking in anyone else. In response, Saint Martin's sister opened her home to care for the overflowing ill.

Then, upon finding a poor native in the streets bleeding from a dagger wound, Saint Martin brought him back to the convent and used his own bed to treat the man until he could be moved to his sister's house. When the superior learned that Saint Martin had disobeyed him, he chastised Saint Martin, who responded by saying: "Forgive my error, and please instruct me, for I did not know that the precept of obedience took precedence over that of charity." Acknowledging the response, the superior allowed Saint Martin to continue to care for the ill.

It is said that during normal times, Saint Martin's alms fed about 160 people every day, and that the amount of money he distributed to the poor is difficult, if not impossible, to explain by ordinary calculations.

While Saint Martin is said to have always wanted to be a missionary, he never left his native Lima. However, he was reportedly seen all over the world (China, Africa, Algeria, and Japan) during his lifetime. An African slave said he knew Saint Martin when he was consoled by him in Africa, being told of the fruits of heaven. When that same man saw Saint Martin in Lima he was overjoyed to see him and asked if he had enjoyed a good voyage. It was only later that the man learned St. Martin had never left Lima.

Saint Martin also extended his love and charity to animals, keeping a hospital for dogs and cats at his sister's house. Saint Martin is sometimes depicted with a dog, a cat, a bird, and a mouse eating from the same dish. Saint Martin was also well known for his spiritual wisdom.

Saint Martin died on 3 November 1639. When he died his virtues and the miracles attributed to him were well known. After death, Saint Martin's body was displayed for all to pay their respects. Each person person who saw Saint Martin's body snipped a small piece of cloth from his habit to keep as a relic. It is said that three habits were snipped from his body.

Saint Martin was beatified by Pope Gregory XVI in 1837. Blessed Pope John XXIII canonized Saint Martin de Porres on 6 May 1962.

Saint Martin is the patron saint of the Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi, black people, hair stylists, innkeepers, mixed-race people, Peru, poor people, public education, public health, public schools, race relations, social justice, state schools, television, Mexico, and Peruvian Naval Aviators.

All Souls Day

2 November 2009. Today we celebrate All Souls Day, the day on which the Church commemorates the faithful departed. Those souls who have departed this world before us, without attaining full sanctification and moral perfection, can be aided on the journey from purgatory to heaven by our prayers and the sacrifice of the mass.

Officially, today is Commemoratio omnium Fidelium Defunctorum in Latin (literally translated as the Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed). Clergy and religious today are obligated to say the Office of the Dead.

The commemoration of the faithful departed, like Solemnity of All Saints yesterday, has long been a fixture on the calendar for Western Christianity. The 2 November commemoration was first instituted by Saint Odilo of Cluny at his monestary of Cluny in 998 A.D. The decree ordaining 2 November as All Souls Day is printed in the Acta Sanctorum (Saec. VI, pt. i. p. 585). The custom of All Souls Day then spread through the entire Cluniac Order, at the time the largest and most widespread network of monasteries in Europe. From there, the tradition of All Souls Day was adopted by several dioceses in France and was adopted by Rome in the Fourteenth Century.

Today, and for the entirety of November especially, we pray for all the faithful departed--for their assistance in reaching heaven from purgatory, and for the intercession of the saints on behalf off the souls in purgatory and on our behalf as well.

I pray especially for:
our two miscarried children,
Dorothy, and

IMAGE: William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Day of the Dead (1859) from Wikimedia Commons

01 November 2009

Litany of Dominican Saints and Blesseds

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God, the heavenly Father
have mercy on us.
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world
have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit
have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God
have mercy on us.

Holy Mary
pray for us.
Holy Mother of God
pray for us.
Holy Virgin of Virgins
pray for us.
All you holy angels and archangels
pray for us.
All you holy Patriarchs and Prophets
pray for us.
All you holy Apostles and Evangelists
pray for us.
All you holy martyrs
pray for us.
All you holy virgins and widows
pray for us.
All you holy men and women
pray for us.

Saint Michael
pray for us.
Saint Gabriel
pray for us.
Saint Raphael
pray for us.
Saint Joseph
pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist
pray for us.
Saint Mary Magdalen
pray for us.
Holy Father Augustine
pray for us.
Holy Father Francis
pray for us.
Blessed Jane of Aza
pray for us.
Blessed Reginald
pray for us.

Holy Father Dominic
pray for us.
Holy Father Dominic
pray for us.

Blessed Bertrand
pray for us.
Blessed Mannes
pray for us.
Blessed Diana
pray for us.
Blessed Jordan of Saxony
pray for us.
Blessed John of Salerno
pray for us.
Blessed William and Companions
pray for us.
Blessed Ceslaus
pray for us.
Blessed Isnard
pray for us.
Blessed Guala
pray for us.
Blessed Peter Gonzalez
pray for us.
Saint Zdislava
pray for us.
Saint Peter of Verona
pray for us.
Blessed Nicholas
pray for us.
Saint Hyacinth
pray for us.
Blessed Gonsalvo
pray for us.
Blessed Sadoc and Companions
pray for us.
Blessed Giles
pray for us.
Saint Margaret of Hungary
pray for us.
Blessed Batholomew of Vincenza
pray for us.
Saint Thomas Aquinas
pray for us.
Saint Raymond of Penyafort
pray for us.
Blessed Innocent V
pray for us.
Blessed Albert of Bergamo
pray for us.
Saint Albert the Great
pray for us.
Blessed John of Vercelli
pray for us.
Blessed Ambrose
pray for us.
Blessed Cecilia
pray for us.
Blessed Benvenuta
pray for us.
Blessed James of Varazze
pray for us.
Blessed James of Bevagna
pray for us.
Blessed Benedict XI
pray for us.
Blessed Jane of Orvieto
pray for us.
Blessed Jordan of Pisa
pray for us.
Saint Emily
pray for us.
Blessed James Salomonio
pray for us.
Saint Agnes of Montepulciano
pray for us.
Blessed Simon
pray for us.
Blessed Margaret of Castello
pray for us.
Blessed Augustine Kazotic
pray for us.
Blessed James Benefatti
pray for us.
Blessed Imelda
pray for us.
Blessed Dalmatius
pray for us.
Blessed Margaret Ebner
pray for us.
Blessed Villana
pray for us.
Blessed Peter Ruffia
pray for us.
Blessed Henry
pray for us.
Blessed Sibyllina
pray for us.
Blessed Anthony of Pavonio
pray for us.
Saint Catherine of Siena
pray for us.
Blessed Marcolino
pray for us.
Blessed Raymond of Capua
pray for us.
Blessed Andrew Franchi
pray for us.
Saint Vincent Ferrer
pray for us.
Blessed Clara
pray for us.
Blessed John Dominic
pray for us.
Blessed Alvarez
pray for us.
Blessed Maria
pray for us.
Blessed Peter of Castello
pray for us.
Blessed Andrew Abellon
pray for us.
Blessed Stephen
pray for us.
Blessed Peter Geremia
pray for us.
Blessed John of Fiesole
pray for us.
Blessed Lawrence of Ripafratta
pray for us.
Blessed Anthony della Chiesa
pray for us.
Saint Antoninus
pray for us.
Blessed Anthony Neyrot
pray for us.
Blessed Margaret of Savoy
pray for us.
Blessed Bartholomew of Cerverio
pray for us.
Blessed Matthew
pray for us.
Blessed Constantius
pray for us.
Blessed Christopher
pray for us.
Blessed Damian
pray for us.
Blessed Andrew of Peschiera
pray for us.
Blessed Bernard
pray for us.
Blessed Jane of Portugal
pray for us.
Blessed James of Ulm
pray for us.
Blessed Augustine of Biella
pray for us.
Blessed Aimo
pray for us.
Blessed Sebastian
pray for us.
Blessed Mark
pray for us.
Blessed Columba
pray for us.
Blessed Magdalen
pray for us.
Blessed Osanna of Mantua
pray for us.
Blessed John Liccio
pray for us.
Blessed Dominic Spadafora
pray for us.
Blessed Stephana
pray for us.
Saint Adrian
pray for us.
Blessed Lucy
pray for us.
Blessed Catherine Racconigi
pray for us.
Blessed Osanna of Kotor
pray for us.
Saint Pius V
pray for us.
Saint John of Cologne
pray for us.
Blessed Maria Bartholomew
pray for us.
Saint Louis Bertrand
pray for us.
Saint Catherine de Ricci
pray for us.
Blessed Robert
pray for us.
Blessed Alphonsus and Companions
pray for us.
Saint Rose
pray for us.
Saint Dominic Ibanez and Companions
pray for us.
Blessed Agnes of Jesus
pray for us.
Saint Lawrence Ruiz and Companions
pray for us.
Saint Martin de Porres
pray for us.
Blessed Peter Higgins
pray for us.
Blessed Francis de Capillas
pray for us.
Saint Juan Macias
pray for us.
Blessed Terence
pray for us.
Blessed Ann of the Angels
pray for us.
Blessed Francis de Posadas
pray for us.
Saint Louis de Montfort
pray for us.
Blessed Francis Gil
pray for us.
Saint Matteo
pray for us.
Blessed Peter Sanz and Companions
pray for us.
Saint Vincent Liem
pray for us.
Saint Hyacinth Castaneda
pray for us.
Blessed Marie
pray for us.
Blessed George
pray for us.
Blessed Catherine Jarrige
pray for us.
Saint Ignatius and Companions
pray for us.
Saint Dominic An-Kham and Companions
pray for us.
Saint Joseph Khang and Companions
pray for us.
Saint Francis Coll
pray for us.
Blessed Hyacinthe Cormier
pray for us.
Blessed Pier Giorgio
pray for us.
Blessed Bartolo
pray for us.
Blessed Michael Czartoryski
pray for us.
Blessed Julia Rodzinska
pray for us.
All holy Dominican brothers and sisters
pray for us.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

Let us pray.--
God, source of all holiness, you have enriched your Church
with many gifts in the saints of the Order of Preachers.
By following the example of our brothers and sisters,
may we come to enjoy their company
for ever in the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Your Son, who lives and reigns with You
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.