24 July 2010

Blessed Jane of Orvieto

24 JULY 2010. Today the Dominican Order remembers Blessed Jane of Orvieto, born at Carnaiola, Italy in the later half of the thirteenth century. Blessed Jane is a lay Dominican, visionary and prophet, known for her life of deep prayer.
BLESSED JANE, popularly called Vanna, belonged to July 23 the peasant class, and was born at Carnajola, near Orvieto, in Italy, A.D. 1264. She was left an orphan at the age of five, and some of her playfellows told her that, now she had neither father nor mother, there was no one to care for her. Little Jane immediately led them to the church, and pointing to a picture of the Guardian Angel, said, " Behold him who will hold the place of father and mother to me. I have a better parent than you." Divine Providence came to the assistance of the little orphan, and she was adopted by some members of her family who lived at Orvieto. These people were anxious that she should enter the married state as soon as her age would permit, but Jane's heart had been consecrated from childhood to a Heavenly Spouse. To escape their importunity she fled to the house of a friend who lived in the country, and entered the Third Order of Saint Dominic.

In the school of the Divine Master she was taught the virtues of the religious life, detachment from earthly things, patience, obedience, humility, a tender charity for the poor and the sick ; above all, an ardent love of God. So brightly did this heavenly flame burn within her, that, during her long devotions, which occupied great part of the day, she could bear only the lightest clothing, and the bare mention of the love of Jesus, of the maternal goodness of Mary, or of the sufferings of a martyr, sufficed to throw her into an ecstasy. Every Good Friday but one, during the last nine years of her life, she was favoured with an extraordinary rapture, lasting from mid-day until evening, during which her body lay stiff and motionless in the attitude of the crucifix, and her bones were distinctly heard to crack, as though being violently dislocated.

One Christmas night, as she was grieving that sickness prevented her from assisting at Midnight Mass and receiving the Divine Infant in Holy Communion, her little chamber was miraculously flooded with light, in the midst of which appeared a white Host, which descended into her breast. On another occasion, when she was again confined to her bed by illness, our Blessed Lady appeared to her, bearing the Divine Infant in her arms. " Jane," said the Holy Child, " thou canst not to-day receive Me in Holy Communion, but I am ever thine by grace."

Blessed Jane strove to conceal from the knowledge of all the Divine favours which were lavished upon her; she sincerely regarded herself as the worst of sinners, and nothing caused her so much pain as to see herself treated with respect and veneration. On the other hand, she looked upon those who ill-treated her as her benefactors. One day, when a woman had grossly insulted her, she said, " I am sorry that I am so weak as to be unable to do a severe penance for this poor woman's sins; at any rate, I shall have the pleasure of saying two hundred Paters and Aves for her." Hence it passed into a proverb at Orvieto, that, in order to obtain an abundant share in Sister Jane's prayers, one must do her some injury.

She was endowed with the gift of prophecy, and amongst other things predicted some of the miracles which she was to work after her death. She had to endure cruel persecution from the devils, who were sometimes suffered to beat and otherwise ill-treat her; but she bore all with the utmost courage and patience.

Towards the close of her life, Blessed Jane had the happiness of having for her spiritual director Blessed James of Bevagna, who was at that time exercising the office of Lector and Preacher in the Convent at Orvieto. At the beginning of the August of 1301, this holy man had occasion to visit the Convent he had founded at Bevagna, and there he was attacked by his last illness and happily departed to our Lord. On the morning of his death, Blessed Jane, who did not even know that he was ill, was praying in the Church of the Friars at Orvieto, when she saw her holy confessor coming towards her. She was greatly rejoiced at the sight, and begged him to hear her confession, which he accordingly did. He then gave her his belt and his knife, to keep in remembrance of him. In the course of the afternoon, Blessed Jane sent a small present to the Convent by a servant, who brought back word that Father James was dying at Bevagna. " Impossible !" said the servant of God, " I saw him in church this morning; " and she produced the things which he had given her and which the Fathers perfectly recognised as having been those used by her saintly director. They then despatched messengers to Bevagna, who found that Blessed James had indeed died that morning, and that his body was lying exposed in the church.

Blessed Jane prepared for her own last passage with the greatest fervour, and, fortified by the holy Sacraments of the Church, departed to her Spouse on the 23rd of July, A.D. 1306. Many visions and miracles bore witness to the glory which she had attained in heaven. Fifteen months after her death, when her body was removed to a more fitting resting-place, it was found perfectly flexible and incorrupt. She was beatified by Benedict XIV.
(Short Lives of Dominican Saints, 205-208 (1901)).


O God, 
who didst reward by an increase of heavenly gifts
the singular purity and fervent love of Blessed Jane, Thy Virgin, 
grant that we may so imitate her virtues 
as to be ever pleasing to Thee, 
by the chastity of our lives 
and the purity of all our affections. 
Through Christ our Lord. 


18 July 2010


18 JULY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the sixteenth Sunday of ordinary time, and the long dog days of Summer are upon us. Today's reading can be found here.

In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, the Lord appears to Abraham as three strangers, whom Abraham is quick to serve. In response to Abraham's hospitality, the Lord promises to return to Abraham again in a year, at which time Sarah, thought to be barren, would be with child. So, Abraham's service and hospitality for the Lord is repaid.

However, in the Gospel reading from Saint Luke we hear of Martha's complaints that she is left to wait on the Lord while her sister, Mary, did nothing but sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him speak. When Martha asks the Lord to make Mary give her assistance, Christ responds:
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.There is need of only one thing.Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."
However, Christ does not ignore or reproach Martha for her hospitality who, like Abraham, has the great honor of personally serving the Lord. Instead, Christ responds to Martha's complaints and says: do not be anxious about your perception of others or your own slights. Be focused, instead, on the one thing that is important: the Word of God.

Indeed, to serve the Lord is an honor. We see from the first reading and the Gospel that there can be two paths to that service: an active service that is focused on the physical needs of others, and a contemplative or interior service that is focused on the Word of the Lord.

And, in the second reading too, we hear Saint Paul's words of acknowledgment of his service for the Lord:
I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister . . . .
Although Saint Paul has suffered for Christ, that suffering is a cause for his rejoicing exactly because it has been endured in service to Christ. Suffering too can be offered and endured in service to our Lord. We need look no farther than the great and Venerable Pope John Paul II and Blessed Mother Theresa to see contemporary examples of this truth.

In a profound sense suffering unifies both the active service to the Lord and the contemplative because often physical suffering produces interior anguish. To stay firm to Christ, then, in that interior difficulty, and to offer physical and other suffering to God, is a manner of service that all of us, at one time or another, can give to the Lord in the image of Abraham and Martha.

16 July 2010

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

16 JULY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the name given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patronesss of the Carmelite Order who celebrate today as a feast.

Historically, Mount Carmel is an important location in Judeo-Christian history, associated in the Old Testament with the great prophet Elijah. It was at Mount Carmel that Elijah defended the purity of Israel's faith in the living God. According to the story told in the First Book of Kings, Elijah challenged the450 prophets of Baal, which the people of Israel had been persuaded to worship, as to who of the two of them, Elijah or the 450 prophets of Baal, could call upon his diety to consume a sacrifice with fire. The prophets of Baal were unable to call upon Baal to consume their sacrifice, but Elijah, after having drenched the sacrifice in water, prostrated himself in prayer, and following his prayer:
The LORD'S fire came down and consumed the holocaust, wood, stones, and dust, and it lapped up the water in the trench. Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, "The LORD is God! The LORD is God!"
(1 Kgs 18: 38-39). Immediately upon the people's acclamation that the Lord is God, a hard rain began to fall, ending a serious and prolonged drought that had plagued the area.

In the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries a group of hermits began to settle on Mount Carmel. They built a chapel in the midst of their hermitages, which they dedicated to Our Lady. By the fifteenth century popular devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel had centered on the scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, or the brown scapular.

According to the traditions of the Carmelite order, on 16 July 1251, the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite. During his vision, she revealed to him the Brown Scapular. About a 125 years later, the Carmelite order began to celebrate on this date as the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The Carmelites had long claimed that the order extended back to ancient times. In fact, they assert that their order was founded on Mount Carmel by  Elijah and Elisha, his assistant. In A.D. 1226, Pope Honorius III approved the Carmelite Order and, in doing so, seemed to have accepted its antiquity. In A.D. 1609 the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was declared to be the patronal feast of the Carmelite order.

From there, celebration of the feast began to spread Pope Benedict XIII placed the feast on the General Roman Calendar in A.D. 1726, and it has since been adopted by some Eastern Rite Catholics as well.

Today's memorial celebrates the devotion that the Blessed Virgin Mary has to those who are devoted to her, and who outwardly demonstrate that devotion by wearing the Brown Scapular. According to tradition, those who wear the scapular faithfully and remain devoted to the Blessed Virgin until death will be granted the grace of final perseverance and will be delivered from Purgatory early.


O most beautiful Flower of Mt. Carmel, Fruitful Vine, Splendour of Heaven, Blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me in this my necessity. O Star of the Sea, help me and show me herein you are my Mother. O holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart, to succour me in this necessity; there are none that can withstand your power.

15 July 2010

Saint Bonaventure

15 JULY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Bonaventure, a Franciscan theologian, bishop and Doctor of the Church.

Born in about the year A.D. 1218 in Tuscany, Bonaventure studied philosophy and theology in Paris and, having earned the title of master, taught his fellow friars with tremendous success. In A.D. 1257 Saint Bonaventure was elected as the Minister General of the Franciscan Order and is credited with bringing peace and unity to the Order and the Church.

After being made Cardinal-Bishop of Albano, Saint Bonaventure died at the Council of Lyons on 16 July 1274. His writings are an important source of illumination for both philosophy and theology.


All-powerful Father,
may we who celebrate the feast of Saint Bonaventure
always benefit from his wisdom
and follow the example of his love.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.


11 July 2010


11 JULY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the fifteenth Sunday in ordinary time. Readings for today's mass can be found here.

Today's Gospel reading from the Gospel of Saint Luke gives us the story of the legal scholar who questioned Jesus as to what he must do to attain eternal life. Jesus answers by having him recite the law, to which he says:
You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus, then, tells him that he has correctly recited the law, and that by faithfully following these commands he "will live." But, the man wishes to justify himself (his own knowledge of the law or his own life), so he further questions Jesus, asking "And who is my neighbor?"

In reply, Jesus gives us this parable of the good Samaritan:
"A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
'Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.'
Jesus then poses this question to his scholarly interlocutor:
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers' victim?"
When the man acknowledges that the good Samaritan, who helped the injured man, was the neighbor because he treated the injured man with mercy, Christ tells him: "Go and do likewise."

That is, indeed, the command of Christ to all of us, to go and do likewise. As our Lord has poured out his mercy on us with such generosity, we are to live in imitation of that mercy, to live in imitation of Christ who gave Himself entirely for our salvation. 

Notice too that Christ rephrased the scholar's question: the scholar asked: "Who is my neighbor?" But, in response to the scholar, at the end of the parable, Christ asks the scholar which of the three--priest, Levite, or Samaritan--was neighbor to the wounded man? While the scholar's question was self-centered--whom must I love--Christ's question in return is selfless--what is a neighbor called to do? The scholar's question, love as Christ did.

If I say that I am a Christian, then I am laying claim to a life that is being lived in imitation of Christ. I cannot say that; I have no right to lay claim to the statement that my life truly is lived in imitation of Christ, wretched sinner than I am. But, I do lay claim to this: I try to live in imitation of Christ and, though often tripped up by my own failings, I continue to try to imitate Christ. For I am not a Christian, in the truest sense,  I am attempting to achieve Christianity out of love for our Lord.

In is recent encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI describes the parable of the good Samaritan these terms:
The parable of the Good Samaritan offers two particularly important clarifications. Until that time, the concept of “neighbor” was understood as referring essentially to one’s countrymen and to foreigners who had settled in the land of Israel; in other words, to the closely-knit community of a single country or people. This limit is now abolished. Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbor. The concept of “neighbor” is now universalized, yet it remains concrete. Despite being extended to all mankind, it is not reduced to a generic, abstract and undemanding expression of love, but calls for my own practical commitment here and now.

The Church has the duty to interpret ever anew this relationship between near and far with regard to the actual daily life of her members. Lastly, we should especially mention the great parable of the Last Judgment (cf. Matthew 25:31-46), in which love becomes the criterion for the definitive decision about a human life's worth or lack thereof. Jesus identifies himself with those in need, with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Matthew 25:40). Love of God and love of neighbor have become one: In the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God.

08 July 2010

Blessed Adrian Fortescue

8 JULY 2010. Today the Dominican Order remembers Blessed Adrian Fortescue, a fifteenth and sixteenth century lay Dominican, husband, father, and martyr.


O God, 
since all things are within your power, 
grant through the prayers of blessed Adrian, your martyr,
that we who keep his feast today 
may become stronger in the love of your name 
and hold to your holy Church even at the cost of our lives. 
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. 

07 July 2010

Blessed Benedict XI

7 JULY 2010. Today the Dominican Order remembers Blessed Pope Benedict XI, the second Dominican Pope and ninth Master General of the Order.


Eternal Shepherd, 
you made Blessed Benedict known 
for his great love of the brethren 
and his service to your flock. 
By the help of his prayers 
may we ever be ardent in our fellowship 
and with one heart be steadfast
in the household of the Church. 
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. 


06 July 2010

Saint Maria Goretti

6 JULY 2010. O Blessed Innocent! Today the Church remembers Saint Maria Goretti, a young girl that was martyred for her faith and is one of the youngest of all canonized saints.

Born on 16 October 1890, Maria Goretti at Corinaldo, Ancona, Italy, Maria was born the third of six children to Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. In A.D. 1896 Maria's family moved to Ferriere di Conca, and not long afterward Saint Maria's father died of malaria. She was only nine at the time of her father's death.

After the death of her father, the family was forced to move onto the Serenelli farm to survive. On the farm there was a young man that, though many years older than Maria, attempted to make sexual advances toward the young girl on several occasions. Always rebuffing him, Maria sought to remain chaste.

While Saint Maria's mother and siblings worked in the fields, Maria ofter stayed at home with her infant sister, taking care of the house. It was tedious and difficult work, but tradition tells that Saint Maria undetook this work without complaint.

On 5 July 1902, Maria was at home sewing and tending to her infant sister. Alessandro Sereneli, age 20, came into Saint Maria's home and threatened to kill her is she did not do as he said. He intended to rape her. However, Saint Maria protested, screaming: "No! It is a sin! God does not want this, you'll go to hell." Sereneli first choked Saint Maria, but as she continued to struggle he stabbed her eleven times. Then, mortally wounded, as she attempted to flee, Sereneli stabbed her three more times before himself running away.

Awaking to the noise, Saint Maria's infant sister began crying. Not long after, Sereneli's parents came to check on the crying child and found Saint Maria bleeding to death. Immediately, she was taken to the local hospital, where surgery was attempted on her without anesthesia. However, half-way through the surgery she awoke and insisted remaining awake. The surgery could not sustain Saint Maria's life. And, about 20 hours after her attack, and after having forgiven her attacker and saying that she wanted him with her in heaven, Saint Maria died from her injuries, clutching a crucifix and looking upon a vision of the Virgin Mary.

Saint Maria died on 6 July 1902 at the age of 12.

Shortly after the attack on Saint Maria, Alessandro Sereneli was captured. He was later tried and sentence to life in prison for his brutal crime, but because of he was a minor at the time, his sentence was commuted to 30 years. For many years Sereneli was silent and unrepentant. However, after a visit from a local bishop, Sereneli's heart began to soften. After being released from prison, Sereneli visited Saint Maria's mother, begging her forgiveness for his crime. She responded that since Saint Maria had forgiven him, she could do no less. Reportedly, they attended mass together the next day and received Holy Communion next to one another.

Sereneli said that while he was in prison, he had a vision of Saint Maria. He saw her in a garden, where she was dressed in white and was gathering lillies. She saw him and smiled. Then, approaching him she handed him an armful of lillies and as he accepted them they were transformed into a still white flame. Sereneli credited this vision of Saint Maria to his conversion and even testified in favor of her beatification.

Afterward, Sereneli said that he prayed to Saint Maria every day, and referred to her as his "little saint." He later became a lay brother in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, and served as his friary's receptionist and gardener until he died in 1970.

Each of Saint Maria's three brothers credited Saint Maria's assistance, after her death, to having saved their lives.

Saint Maria was beatified by Pope Pius XII on 25 March 1945. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII on 24 June 1950. Both her mother, reportedly a first in the history of the Church, and Sereneli attended her canonization.


Oh Saint Maria Goretti who, 
strengthened by God's grace, 
did not hesitate even at the age of twelve 
to shed your blood and sacrifice life itself 
to defend your virginal purity, 
look graciously on the unhappy human race 
which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. 
Teach us all, and especially youth,w
ith what courage and promptitude 
we should flee for the love of Jesus 
anything that could offend Him or stain our souls with sin. 
Obtain for us from our Lord victory in temptation, 
comfort in the sorrows of life, 
and the grace which we earnestly beg of thee (for N.), 
and may we one day enjoy with thee 
the imperishable glory of Heaven. 


05 July 2010

Happy Independence Day!

5 JULY 2010. Although yesterday was Independence Day here in the United States, today it is observed as a federal holiday. I hope that one and all that find these pages from our shores had a safe and happy Fourth of July.

Here is a thought that was shared with us during the homily from yesterday's mass celebrating the fourteenth Sunday of ordinary time:

Freedom is not an end in itself, but only a means to an end. The end is loving and serving our Lord. If we use our freedom to concern ourselves with the ways of the world to the exclusion of following Christ (in the words of Saint Paul, "the desire[s] of the flesh" (Gal 5:16)), then we are not free. But we place ourselves in bondage to the world and sin and, ultimately, death. Exercising our freedom to serve God truly sets us free.

03 July 2010

Saint Thomas the Apostle

Lord Jesus, Saint Thomas doubted Your resurrection until he touched Your wounds. After Pentecost, You called him to become a missionary in India, but he doubted again and said no. He changed his mind only after being taken into slavery by a merchant who happened to be going to India. Once he was cured of his doubt, You freed him and he began the work You had called him to do. As the patron saint against doubt, I ask him to pray for me when I question the direction in which You are leading me. Forgive me for mistrusting You, Lord, and help me to grow from the experience. Saint Thomas, pray for me. Amen.Your resurrection until he touched Your wounds. After Pentecost, You called him to become a missionary in India, but he doubted again and said no. He changed his mind only after being taken into slavery by a merchant who happened to be going to India. Once he was cured of his doubt, You freed him and he began the work You had called him to do. As the patron saint against doubt, I ask him to pray for me when I question the direction in which You are leading me. Forgive me for mistrusting You, Lord, and help me to grow from the experience. Saint Thomas, pray for me. Amen.

IMAGE: the Incredulity of Saint Thomas, Caravaggio.