17 May 2015
Jeanne Émilie de Villeneuve was bom in Toulouse, France on 9 March 1811, the third daughter of Count Jean Baptiste M. Louis de Villeneuve and Jeanne Gabriclle Rosalie d’Avessens. She was baptized two days later on 11 March 1811. She grew up in an environment of profound faith. From her earliest years, Jeanne Émilie was instilled with a strong sense of duty and responsibility, as well as an openness to the needs of others. The formation she received from her mother and the work of her father, who managed an agricultural estate, and the family’s proximity to Hauterive a Castres, where nascent industrialization was beginning to cause suffering and hardships to families contributed to Jeanne opening her heart to her future mission: helping those who lived in material and spiritual poverty. In 1836, she realized her deep desire to be consecrated completely to God and to her brothers and sisters. In the beginning, her mission was in her city. Professing her religious vows, she decided to dedicate herself completely to the salvation of the poorest souls and began plans to establish a Congregation in mission territories. Jeanne Émilie’s desire to work for the salvation of the poor and the needy was formalized on 22 July 1846, when she opened the first shelter in Castres. Then in December 1847 her dream to establish a foreign mission became a reality. Jeanne Émilie placed her new Congregation under the protection of Mary Immaculate. During the General Chapter on 6 September 1853, she asked to be replaced as Superior General. Her wish was granted, albeit with difficulty. At the end of August 1854, the cholera epidemic which had been spreading throughout France appeared for the first time in Castres. On 27 September Jeanne Émilie felt the first symptoms of the sickness that would claim her life on 2 October. She was the last victim of the cholera outbreak in the city. She was beatified in Castres on 5 July 2009.
Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception (in the world: Adelaide Brando) was born in Naples on 1 May 1856, the daughter of Giovanni Giuseppe Brando and Concetta Marrazzo. She was baptized on the day of her birth in the Church of St Liborio. She received first Holy Communion on 8 December 1864, and on 25 December 1868, at the tender age of 12, she made a vow of perpetual virginity. Her wish was to be a “victim” consecrated entirely to the Lord, as well as a reparatrix. She felt called to consecrated life and expressed her desire to enter the Order of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (Sacramentine Nuns) in Naples. In 1876, she received the religious habit and took the name Sr Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception. Sr Maria Cristina saw in the Eucharistic Jesus the Victim perennially sacrificed to his Father in reparation and expiation. St Ludovico da Casoria and the Servant of God Michelangelo Longo da Marigliano were of great help and comfort to her. On 22 November 1884, at the invitation of the Provost of Casoria, Canon Domenico Maglione (brother of Cardinal Luigi Maglione, Secretary of State of Pius Xll), Sr Maria Cristina Brando moved to the Maglione property in Casoria with her sisters, and then to the present mother house on Via G. D’Anna, where she built a magnificent neo-Gothic shrine to the Blessed Sacrament. On 16 August 1903, the Religious Institute took the official name “Sisters Expiatory Victims of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament”. The Congregation which she founded is dedicated to the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the promotion of divine worship; the education of poor children; catechesis and teaching; in child care, as well as various other works of charity. Sr Maria Cristina died on the morning of 20 January 1906 after receiving the Sacraments. She was beatified by St John Paul II on 27 April 2003.
Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas was born in Jerusalem on 4 October 1843 to a family which provided her with a sound Christian formation. She was baptized on in November with the name of Soultaneh Marie. After discerning the call to consecrated life, she entered the Institute of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition in 1858, and on 30 June 1860 she received the habit, taking the name of Sr Marie Alphonsine. In 1863 she made her religious profession. On 6 January 1874 in Bethlehem, the Virgin Mary appeared to her for the first time. Exactly one year later, she experienced a second apparition, in which Our Lady asked her to start a new religious family that was to be known as the Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary. In July 1880, several young “Daughters of Mary”, under the guidance of Fr Tannous, began to live a common life. According to the wishes of Our Lady, the new community was called “The Institute of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary”. On 12 September 1880, Pope Leo XIII dispensed Sr Marie Alphonsine from her vow of obedience to the Sisters of St Joseph and three years later, on 7 October 1883, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary. On 6 October, she received the religious habit, keeping her religious name Marie Alphonsine. She made her religious profession on 7 March 1885. On 2 November 1887, the Rule of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary was approved, and received diocesan approval two years later. Already a Religious, Sr Marie Alphonsine was admitted into the Third Order Dominicans in the Dominican Convent in Jerusalem on 4 Octobcr 1890, the Vigil of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. On 25 March 1927 she returned to the house of the Father. On 22 November 2009, she was beatified in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. The Sisters of the Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary' presently work in the Holy Land, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Kuwait, and some Emirates of the Persian Gulf (Abu Dhabi, Shariqah), as well as in Rome.
Mary of Jesus Crucified Baouardy was bom into a Greek-Catholic family in Ibellin, Nazareth on 5 January 1846. She was given the name Mariam at her baptism. Orphaned at the age of two, she was adopted by her uncle who, in 1854, moved to Alexandria in Egypt. Without her knowledge, she was secretly engaged to be married at 12 years of age. In order to cancel the engagement she cut off her hair, provoking the wrath of her aunt and uncle, who confined her to household servitude. Knowing the anguish that her aunt and uncle inflicted upon her, a former domestic servant invited her to renounce her faith. Mary immediately responded: “I am a daughter of the Roman, Catholic Apostolic Church”. He responded by cutting her throat with a scimitar. Then, wrapped up in a sheet, she was abandoned in the street and left for dead. She woke up in a grotto, being cared for by a religious woman dressed in blue — Mariam said it was the Virgin — who foretold her future. After recovering from her injuries, she worked for 13 years as a domestic servant in Alexandria, Jerusalem and Beirut. In 1862, she moved with the Naggiar family to Marseilles, where she discerned a vocation to the consecrated life. In 1865 she entered the Order of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition. The Congregation, however, did not allow her to make her religious profession, as they were frightened by her ecstasies and visions. Mariam, however, maintained that she was ill. On 29 March 1867 she manifested the stigmata. On 14 June 1867 she entered the Carmel of Pau, where on 27 July she received the habit and took the name Mary of Jesus Crucified. In 1870 she went to Mangalore to establish a monastery. Two year later, however, she returned to Pau due to misunderstandings which, together with powerful demonic attacks, constituted her great purification. In 1872 Sr Mary revealed to her Superiors that the Lord wanted her to establish a new Monastery in Bethlehem. She arrived there on 11 September 1875, assisted by the generosity of the architect Bertha Dartigaux. During the construction of the monastery, she fell and fractured her arm on 22 August 1878. Her arm failed to heal and became gangrenous. She died a holy death on 26 August. St John Paul II beatified her on 13 November 1983.
23 November 2014
Giovanni Antonio Farina was bom in Vicenza, Italy, on 11 January 1803. He entered the episcopal seminary in Vicenza at 15 and was an outstanding student. On 14 January 1827 he was ordained a priest. After his ordination he taught in the seminary and in public schools, and served in parish ministry. In 1836 he founded the Institute of the Teaching Sisters of St Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts, for the education of poor, deaf and blind girls, and for the care of the elderly and infirm. Known as a man of charity, in 1850 he was appointed Bishop of Treviso, where he served for a decade, before being transferred in 1860 to Vicenza, where he remained for 28 years, until his death. He became known as “the bishop of the poor” and was involved with the formation of the clergy. He reorganized the schools of Christian doctrine and promoted the Catholic press. In 1869 he took part in the First Vatican Council, where he upheld papal infallibility, supporting the requests for the definition of the dogma. His final years were marked by various forms of recognition for his apostolic activity and his great charity. He died on 4 March 1888, having had a profound impact on the diocese by his pastoral zeal and the works of charity carried out by the Sisters of his Institute. He was beatified by John Paul II on 4 November 2001.
Kuriakose Elias Chavara of the Holy Family, son of Kuriakose and Mariam, was bom in Kainakary, India, on 10 February 1805. He is considered a pioneer for his contribution to the growth of society and the Syro-Malabar Church. His devout mother had a decisive influence on his spiritual formation, particularly with regard to devotion to the Holy Family. He entered the seminary in 1818 and was ordained a priest on 29 November 1829. He founded two religious congregations: in 1831 he established the men’s congregation of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate and in 1866, with Fr Leopoldo Beccaro, OCD, he founded the first indigenous women’s congregation of the Third Order Discalced Carmelites for the education and encouragement of women’s activities and their spiritual care. On 8 December 1855, he made his religious profession of the evangelical counsels, and guided the Congregation as its Superior General until his death. His life was devoted to the service of the Syro-Malabar Church. He was the first vicar general of that Church in the Diocese of Verapoli, and he laboured to impede the threat of a schism. He also authored a number of spiritual, liturgical and poetic works. His work, Testament of a Loving Father, made him the patron of the family. Chavara was an active and contemplative religious. He died on 3 January 1871 at the age of 66 and was buried at Koonammavu; on 4 May 1889 his remains were transferred and reinterrcd in the chapel of the monastery of St Joseph, the Motherhouse at Mannanam. He was beatified by John Paul II on 8 February 1986.
Ludovico da Casoria was born Arcangelo Palmentieri in Casoria, near Naples, on 11 March 1814. In 1832 he took the Franciscan habit and was given the name Ludovico. Ordained a priest in 1837, he devoted himself to study and teaching. In 1847, following a profound mystical experience which he referred to as a “cleansing”, he devoted himself completely to the service of the poor. At first he cared for fellow friars who were ill, establishing the infirmary of “La Palma”. In 1854 he founded the Opera dei Moretti for the ransom and Christian formation of African children who had been sold as slaves, with the hope of awakening missionary vocations for that continent. To support these charitable works, he then founded two religious congregations: the Brothers of Charity (1859), now extinct, and the Franciscan Sisters of St Elizabeth (1862). Zeal for the evangelization of Africa impelled him to travel to the missionary station of Scellal. In 1871 he opened a house in Assisi for the blind and the deaf. He died at the Marine Hospice in Posillipo, Italy, on 30 March 1885, with an outstanding reputation for holiness. He was beatified by John Paul II on 18 April 1993.
Nicola da Longobardi was born Giovanni Battista Clemente Saggio on 6 January 1650 in Longobardi, Italy. The son of Fulvio Saggio and Aurelia Pizzini, he joined the secular branch of the Minim Fathers of St Francis of Paola in 1668 and, several years later, he entered the protoconvent in Paola as an oblate religious. On 29 September 1671 he professed his vows with the Minims. He lived in various communities, where he carried out the most humble tasks in a devout and edifying manner. At the same time he gave catechism lessons which were greatly appreciated by children and parents alike. He had a special love for the poor and the infirm, assisting them both spiritually and materially out of a conviction that in them the Lord Jesus is hidden and present. He had frequent mystical experiences. In January of 1709 he offered himself as a victim for the Church, in order to avert the threat of a new “sack” of Rome. On 3 February 1709, after receiving the last sacraments, he kissed the crucifix and fell asleep in the Lord. His reputation for holiness has continued through the centuries. He was beatified by Pius VI on 17 September 1786.
Euphrasia Eluvathingal of the Sacred Heart was bom on 17 October 1877 to an aristocratic family in Kattoor, India. She was baptized with the name Rose and dedicated her virginity to God at the age of nine years at the behest of the Virgin Mary; she became a postulant on 10 May 1897 at the age of 20, and received the name Euphrasia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. After taking the habit in 1898, on 24 May 1900 Sr Euphrasia made her religious vows in the Congregation of the Sisters of the Mother of Carmel, whose founders included St Kuriakose Elias Chavara. Her spiritual letters illustrate her profound spirituality and her union with God, as well as her extraordinary mystical experiences. Her austere and holy life made her an example to all. She was very devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Blessed Sacrament, the crucified Saviour and the Virgin Mary. The people of Ollur, seeing her constantly praying at the shrine there, used to call her “the Prayerful Mother”. Observing the peace and serenity which her face radiated, the Sisters used to call her “the Moving Tabernacle”. She died on 29 August 1952, aged 75. Her remains were placed in the nave of the chapel of the Convent of St Mary in Ollur. She was beatified on 3 December 2006.
Amato Ronconi was born in the year 1226 at Saludecio, to Felice, of the house of Ronconi, and his wife Santa. Orphaned at a young age, he spent his early years with his brother’s family. From his youth, Amato determined to live an evangelical life in the true Franciscan spirit. He frequently visited a small religious community founded by St Francis on Mount Formosino, between Castello di Montegridolfo and Mondaino. Francis of Assisi became his inspiration for a life of penance and charity. To follow Francis more closely, he chose to enroll in the Franciscan Third Order. He lived with his sister Chiara in the house of Monte Orciaro which his older brother Girolamo had granted them as part of his paternal inheritance. Amato’s home, located along the road which led from Rimini, passing through Urbino, and then on to Rome, became a hospice for the many pilgrims who sought hospitality. Amato received them and provided them refreshment. He worked in the fields, which furnished him with the means ncccssary to support the hospice and assist the poor. Today too, this institution, now a home for the elderly, carries on Bro. Amato’s spirit of practical charity towards the poor and pilgrims. Amato also undertook long pilgrimages; he journeyed to Rome and on four occasions to Santiago de Campostela. On 10 January 1292 Bro. Amato divested himself of all his possessions and gave all his goods to the monks of St Benedict, so that they could continue his work. He died in his cell on 8 May 1292. He was beatified by Pius VI on 17 March 1776.
27 April 2014
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born in Sotto il Monte, on 25 November 1881. Under the guidance of an outstanding parish priest, Fr Francesco Rebuzzini, he received a profound ecclesiastical formation which would sustain him in difficulty and inspire him in the works of the apostolate. He entered the Seminary of Bergamo in 1892, where he remained for studies in classics and theology until his second year of theology.
As a 14-year-old boy, he began drawing up the spiritual notes which he would keep in various ways until his death, and would later be collected in the Journal of a Soul. It was there that he began the practice of regular spiritual direction. On I March 1896, the spiritual director of the Seminary of Bergamo, Fr Luigi Isacchi, enrolled him in the Secular Franciscan Order, whose Rule he professed on 23 May 1897.
From 1901 to 1905 he studied at the Pontifical Roman Seminary, where he benefited from a scholarship of the Diocese of Bergamo for qualified seminarians. In the meantime he completed a year of military service. He was ordained a priest in Rome on io August 1904 in the Church of Santa Maria in Monte Santo in Piazza del Popolo. In 1905, he was named secretary to the new Bishop of Bergamo, Giacomo Maria Radini Tedeschi.
He served as secretary until 1914, accompanying the Bishop on his pastoral visits and taking part in his numerous pastoral initiatives, including a Synod, the editorship of the monthly journal La Vita Diocesana. pilgrimages and various social works. In 1910, when the statutes of Catholic Action were revised, the Bishop entrusted him with the pastoral care of Catholic women. He wrote for Bergamo's daily Catholic newspaper, and he was a diligent, profound and effective preacher.
These were the years of his profound contact with sainted Bishops: St Charles Borromeo (whose Atti della Visita Apostolica, completed in Bergamo in 1575, he would later publish), St Francis de Sales and Bl. Gregorio Barbarigo. They were also years of great pastoral activity at the side of Bishop Radini Tedeschi. When the latter died in 1914, Fr Roncalli continued his priestly ministry as a seminary professor and a spiritual assistant to various ecclesiastical associations.
When Italy entered the war in 1915, he was called to military service as a sergeant medic. A year later, he became a military chaplain serving military hospitals behind the lines, and coordinated the spiritual and moral care of soldiers. At the end of the war he opened a "Home for Students" and served as a chaplain for students.
In 1921 he began his service to the Holy See. Called to Rome by Pope Benedict XV to be the President for Italy of the central council of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, he visited many Italian dioceses and organized missionary circles. In 1925 Pope Pius XI named him Apostolic Visitor to Bulgaria, elevating him to the episcopal dignity with the titular see of Areopolis. He chose as his episcopal motto Obedientia et Pax, which served as the programme of his life.
Ordained a bishop in Rome on 19 March 1925, he arrived in Sophia on 25 April. Subsequently named the first Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria, Archbishop Roncalli remained there until 1934, visiting the Catholic communities and fostering respectful relations with other Christian communities. He was present and offered ready charitable assistance during the earthquake of 1928. He quietly endured misunderstandings and the difficulties of a ministry marked by halting progress. He grew in self-knowledge and confidence, and in abandonment to Christ crucified.
On 27 November 1934, he was named Apostolic Delegate in Turkey and Greece. The Catholic Church was present in many ways throughout the young Turkish Republic which was in the process of renewing and organizing itself. His ministry to Catholics was demanding and he became known for his respectful manner and dialogue with the Orthodox and Muslims. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was in Greece, he sought to gain information about prisoners of war and he helped to save many Jews by giving them transit visas issued by the Apostolic Delegation. On 6 December 1944, he was appointed Apostolic Nuncio in Paris by Pope Pius XII.
During the final months of the war and the first months of peace, Archbishop Roncalli assisted prisoners of war and worked to restore stability to the life of the Church in France. He was attentive, prudent and trusting in his approach to the new pastoral initiatives undertaken by bishops and priests in France. He constantly sought to embody evangelical simplicity, even in dealing with the most complex diplomatic issues. His pastoral desire to be a priest in every situation sustained him.
Following the death of Pius XII, he was elected Pope on 28 October 1958, taking the name John XXIII. In the. five years of his pontificate he appeared to the world as an authentic image of the Good Shepherd.
Meek and gentle, resourceful and courageous, simple and ever active, he undertook various corporal and spiritual works of mercy, visiting prisoners and the sick, welcoming people of all nations and religions, demonstrating an exquisite sense of fatherhood to everyone. His social magisterium was contained in the Encyclicals Mater et Magistra (1961) and Pacem in Terris (1963).
He convoked the Synod of Rome, instituted the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law, and convened the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. As Bishop of Rome, he visited parishes and churches in the centre and in the outskirts.
People saw in him a reflection of benignitas evangelica and called him the "good Pope". A profound spirit of prayer sustained him. He embodied, as the driving force behind a movement of renewal of the Church, the peace of one who trusts completely in the Lord. He advanced resolutely along the paths of evangelization, ecumenism and dialogue, and showed a paternal concern to reach out to those of his children most in need.
He died the evening of 3 June 1963, the day after Pentecost, in a profound spirit of abandonment to' Jesus, of longing for his embrace, and surrounded by the prayers of the entire world, which seemed to have gathered at his bedside to breathe with him the love of the Father.
John XXIII was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II on 3 September 2000 in Saint Peter's Square, during the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
Karol Wojtyła was born in Wadowice, Poland, on 18 May 1920. He was the third of three children born to Karol Wojtyła and Emilia Kaczorowska. After completing high school in Wadowice, he enrolled in the Jagellonian University of Krakow in 1938. When the occupying Nazi forces closed the University in 1939, Karol worked in a quarry and then in the Solvay chemical factory to earn a living and to avoid deportation to Germany.
Feeling called to the priesthood, he began his studies in 1942 in the clandestine major seminary of Krakow, directed by Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha. After the war, Karol continued his studies in the major seminary, newly reopened, and in the school of theology at the Jagellonian University, until his priestly ordination in Krakow on 1 November 1946. Fr Wojtyła was then sent by Cardinal Sapieha to Rome, where he attained a doctorate in theology. He wrote his dissertation on faith as understood in the works of St John of the Cross.
In 1948, Fr Wojtyła returned to Poland and was appointed a curate in the parish church of Niegowic, near Krakow, and later at St Florian in the city. He was a university chaplain until 1951, when he again undertook studies in philosophy and theology. In 1953, Fr Wojtyła presented a dissertation at the Jagellonian University of Krakow on the possibility of grounding a Christian ethic on the ethical system developed by Max Scheler. Later he became professor of moral theology and ethics in the major seminary of Krakow and in the theology faculty of Lublin.
On 4 July 1958, Pope Pius xi' appointed Fr Wojtyła Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow, with the titular see of Ombi. He was ordained in Wawel Cathedral in Krakow on 28 September 1958. Then on 13 January 1964, Pope Paul VI appointed Bishop Wojtyła as Archbishop of Krakow and subsequently, on 26 June 1967, created him a cardinal.
Bishop Wojtyła took part in the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and made a significant contribution to the drafting of the Constitution Gaudium et Spes. He also took part in the five assemblies of the Synod of Bishops prior to the start of his Pontificate.
On 16 October 1978, Cardinal Wojtyła was elected Pope and on 22 October he began his ministry as universal Pastor of the Church. Pope John Paul II made 146 pastor- - al visits in Italy and he visited 317 of the current 322 Roman parishes. His international apostolic journeys numbered 104 and were expressions of the constant pastoral solicitude of the Successor of Peter for all the Churches.
His principal documents include 14 Encyclicals, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, II Apostolic Constitutions and 45 Apostolic Letters. He also wrote five books.
Pope John Paul II celebrated 147 beatifications, during which he proclaimed 1,338 blesseds, and 51 canonizations, for a total of 482 saints. He called 9 consistories, in which he created 231 Cardinals (plus one in pectore). He also presided at 6 plenary meetings of the College of Cardinals.
From 1978, Pope John Paul II convoked 15 assemblies of the Synod of Bishops: 6 ordinary general sessions, 1 extraordinary general session and 8 special sessions.
On 3 May 1981, an attempt was made on his life in St Peter's Square. Saved by the maternal hand-of the Mother of God, following a lengthy stay in hospital, he forgave the attempted assassin and, aware of having received a great gift, intensified his pastoral commitments with heroic generosity.
Pope John Paul II also demonstrated his pastoral concern by erecting numerous dioceses and ecclesiastical circumscriptions, and by promulgating Codes of Canon Law for the Latin and the Oriental Churches, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
He proclaimed the Year of Redemption, the Marian Year and the Year of the Eucharist as well as the Great Jubilee Year of 2000, in order to provide the People of God with particularly intense spiritual experiences. He also attracted young people by beginning the celebration of World Youth Day.
No other Pope met as many people as Pope John Paul II. More than 17.6 million pilgrims attended his Wednesday General Audiences (which numbered over 1,160). This does not include any of the other special audiences and religious ceremonies (more than 8 million pilgrims in the Great Jubilee Year of 2000 alone). He met millions of the faithful in the course of his pastoral visits in Italy and throughout the world. He also received numerous government officials in audience, including 38 official visits and 738 audiences and meetings with Heads of State, as well as 246 audiences and meetings with Prime Ministers.
Pope John Paul II died in the Apostolic Palace at 9:37 pm on Saturday, 2 April 2005, the vigil of Sunday in albis or Divine Mercy Sunday, which he had instituted. On 8 April, his solemn funeral was celebrated in St Peter's Square and he was buried in the crypt of St Peter's Basilica.
Only 26 days after his death his successor Benedict XVI dispensed with the five-year waiting period for his cause of canonization and then on I May 2011 John Paul II was beatified.
The martyrdom of Antonio Primaldo and his Companions must be set in the historical context of the struggle between Europe and the Ottoman Empire. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the siege of Belgrade in 1456, Emperor Mehmed II, sovereign of the Ottoman Empire, tried unsuccessfully to conquer the Island of Rhodes. He then turned his attention to the southeastern coast of Italy, near Albania which he had already conquered. The Turks closed in on the city of Otranto with a fleet of warships and soldiers. At that time Otranto had a population of 6,000 inhabitants, left unprotected, abandoned by the Aragonese militia which was engaged in Tuscany. Once the siege began, they were called to surrender, renounce their faith in Christ and convert to Islam. After their refusal, the city was bombarded, and on 12 August it fell. The invaders sacked the city and killed Archbishop Stefano Pendinelli, the canons, religious and faithful in the Cathedral. The following day the commanding officer, Gedik Ahmed Pasha, ordered all surviving men — about 800 — to be brought to the Turkish camp and forced to abjure. Antonio Pezzulla, known as Il Primaldo, a humble shoemaker, replied on their behalf. Ready and firm, he said that they "held Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, their Lord and true God, and they preferred to die a thousand times rather than deny him and become Turks". Ahmed Pasha complied and ordered their heads were cut off or their bodies mutilated. For a year or more their corpses lay unburied in the place of their execution. They were discovered by the troops sent to liberate Otranto. In June 1481, they were buried in the nearby church of "the well of Minerva", and on 13 October of the following year were transferred to the Cathedral. In early 1500, a chapel was built within the Cathedral as a permanent resting place for the Relics of the Martyrs, a place which attracts a constant flow of pilgrims. The Church in Otranto solemnly celebrates their memorial on August 14 each year.
ST MARÍA GUADALUPE GARCÍA ZAVALA (1878-1963)
Laura Montoya y Upegui was born in Jericó, Antioquia, Colombia, on 26 May 1874. Her parents, Juan de la Cruz Montoya and Dolores Upegui, were deeply religious. She was baptized on the same day and given the name of Maria Laura of Jesús. When she was 2 years old, her father was killed in the fratricidal war defending his religion and country and their estates were seized. Her family lived in extreme poverty: Laura's mother taught her to forgive and temper her personality with Christian feelings. At a young age, she had strong experiences of God's love that fostered a mystic dimension in her. An orphan at 16, she began to attend the school Normal de Institutoras in Medellin. After graduating, she felt drawn to help the indigenous peoples of South America and decided to found what she was to call "Works of the Indians". In 1907, while she was at Marinilla, she wrote: "I saw myself in God and it was as if he were envelopimg me in his fatherhood, making me a mother of those without faith. They caused me to suffer for them as if they were really were my own children". Christ's ardent "Sitio" (I thirst) on the Cross led her to quench this thirst of the crucified Lord, giving herself to the service of the indigenous who lived in rainforests and in 1914 — thanks to the support of Bishop Maximiliano Crespo of Santa Fe in Antioquia — she decided to found a religious congregation The Missionaries of Mary Immaculate and St Catherine of Siena. She understood the human dignity and divine vocation of indigenous peoples, so she wanted to share their culture and daily life, fighting racial discrimination in those people who judged her and were unable to understand her desire to bring faith and knowledge of God to the most distant and inaccessible places, thereby giving a living witness to the Gospel. She spent the last nine years of her life confined to a wheelchair — never ceasing her apostolate of the word and the pen. Mother Laura died on 21 October 1949.
Jacques Berthieu was born in France on 27 November 1838, in Montlogis, France. At the age of 15, he entered the minor seminary in Pleaux. In October 1859, he moved to the major seminary in Saint-Flour, where he was ordained a priest on 21 May 1863. For nine years, he served as pastor in the parish of RoannesSaint-Mary. Here, his religious and missionary vocation matured and he entered the Society of Jesus in 1873.
On 26 September 1875, he sailed from Marseilles for a mission in Madagascar, pledging to help the suffering people, to teach the catechism, and to administer the sacraments. Finally, in 1891, he arrived in Andrainarivo.
In June 1896, rebels overran the village and captured Fr Berthieu. Near Ambiatibe, the rebel leader ordered six armed men to go to him. When the priest saw them, he knelt down and made the sign of the cross. One of the men said: "Give up your stupid religion. Stop deceiving the people. We will admit you in our group and make you our chief and adviser". Berthieu answered: "My son, I cannot possibly agree with this. I would rather die".
Two men then fired their rifles at him, but missed. Another rifle shot hit the priest in the back, but did not kill him. Then, their captain shot Fr Berthieu in the neck. This was the shot that killed him on 8 June 1896. Fr Berthieu was beatified On 17 October 1965.
ST CARMEN SALLÉS Y BARANGUERAS (1848-1911)
Searching to find an answer to the restlessness she felt, she dedicated long hours to prayer and asked the advice of learned and spiritual people before making a decision. Carmen suffered greatly before answering her call.
On 1869, Carmen entered the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. There she discovered her special vocation to educate youth with a preventive method, inspired by the mystery of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
In 1870, while still a novice, she left the Congregation and joined the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation where for 22 years she carried out the mission of educating girls, young women and workers.
Always seeking to fulfil God's will, in 1892 she left the Dominican Order with three other Sisters: Candelaria Boleda, Remedios Pujol and Emilia Horta, and on 15 October they went to Burgos. On 7 December 1892, Archbishop Manuel Gomez Salazar granted Diocesan approval to the new Congregation and authorized the opening of the first school. Mother Carmen founded 13 other "Houses of Mary Immaculate", as she used to call her communities and schools. She also planned to go to Italy and Brazil.
She passionately loved Jesus Christ and Mary Immaculate and allowed herself to be molded by them. She had a fruitful life because she was self-giving. "While there are children and youth to be educated, the difficulties cannot stop us" she used to say.
She died in Madrid on 25 July 1911 and was beatified on 14 March 2005. Today, the Congregation, present in 16 countries, continues to pass on her message: "Forward, always forward, God will provide".
ST ANNA SCHÄFFER (1882-1925)
Anna Schäffer's life and character can only be understood through her great love for Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. She made a profession of faith by writing: "My greatest strength is the Holy Eucharistic communion". It was here that she found the strength she needed to give herself through the wider apostolate of prayer and consolation, both by word and writing. She died on 5 October 1925 and was beatified 7 March 1999.
With Anna Schaffer the question of the meaning of suffering is raised. Anna lived and experienced personally the words we read in the Letter of St Paul to the Colossians: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church" (Col 1:24). Through Christ she was able to accept the mystery of the Cross in love and gratitude. Anna Schaffer is an open portal thatwelcomes all those who are suffering. She shows that the fate of an incurable disease can be born through trust in Christ. In her troubled life, the great Christian truth was revealed: that human beings are loved by God especially in suffering.
Giovanni Battista Piamarta was born in Brescia, Italy on 26 November 1841. His father was a barber and his mother was a very pious woman and had a decisive influence on his education. However, she died when he was only nine years old. His maternal grandfather became a strong influence in his life and kept him from the streets, directing him to the oratory of St Thomas. While an apprentice to a mattress maker, young Giovanni met Don Pancrazio Pezzana, parish priest of Vallio, who inspired in him the desire for religious life. On 23 December 1865, he was ordained. During the first 20 years of his ministry, he lived his pastoral calling with intensity. As a priest in the parishes of Brescia, he was universally remembered as "zealous, excellent, flawless in everything".
In a period of industrialization in Brescia, Piamarta sympathized with the difficulties and hopes of disadvantaged youth. Together with Mons. Pietro Capretti, "the jewel of the Brescian clergy" and a member of the Catholic movement, on 3 December 1886 he established the Istituto Artigianelli for the vocational, human and Christian formation of the poorest youth. Although very fruitful, this initiative brought Piamarta many "thorns and pains". He met each and every one of them with unshaken trust in Providence. In 1895, with the help of Fr Giovanni Bonsignori, he began the Agricultural Colony of Remedello, a beacon for agricultural progress and the training of Christian engineers.
He founded the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth for men in 1900 and in 1911, with Mother Elisa Baldo, the Congregation of the Humble Servants of the Lord for women. By establishing Queriniana, printing and publishing house, he contributed to the emergence of a strong diocesan Catholic press, making Brescia a European centre in this field.
"All things to all men": Fr Piamarta's was a life of tireless dedication, made possible by profound daily prayer beginning at dawn. He died on 25 April 1913 and was beatified on 12 October 1997.
A year later she made her profession as a Sister of St Francis. Her desire was to teach and she did so for a period of time serving as teacher and principal in several schools in New York State. As a member of the governing boards of her religious community she participated in establishing two of the first hospitals in the central New York area: St Elizabeth Hospital in Utica (1866) and St Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse (1869), of which she became administrator in 1870. In 1877, she was elected Mother General. As such she accepted a request from the Sandwich Islands (today Hawaii), to send sisters to care for the sick. Learning that they suffered mainly from Hansen's disease (leprosy) her devotion to St Francis who deeply cared for the sick poor and her own special concern for those with leprosy convinced her that this was God's will.
Mother Marianne originally accompanied the six volunteer sisters only to see them settled at the mission, but deeply moved by the plight of those with Hansen's disease she chose to stay on with them. In 1884 she established Malulani Hospital on the Island of Maui. She was put in charge of the Branch Hospital at Kaka'aoko, Honolulu, and in 1885 the Kapiolani Home was opened for the well children of patients with Hansen's disease on the premises of the hospital.
Mother Marianne is known to have brought to fruition many projects of St Damien DeVeuster, the "Apostle to Lepers". She met him in 1884. When the priest was diagnosed with the dreaded disease, in 1886, Mother Marianne gave him hospitality. In 1888 she agreed to take over the settlement for exiles on the Kalaupapa peninsula on the Island of Molokai. She arrived several months before Fr Damien's death in 1889, assuring him that she would provide care for the patients at Boy's Home, Kalawao. In fact, she was officially appointed his successor.
Mother Marianne's treatment of patients was far ahead of her time. She advocated educational programmes in collaboration with hospitals in Syracuse, Honolulu and Kalaupapa and, aware of the need for beauty, encouraged an interest in needlework and landscaping. She was also attentive to spiritual needs and arranged for religious education for patients in their homes.
Mother Marianne died in Kalaupapa on 9 August 1918 and was buried among the people she so loved. In 2004, her remains were moved to the Motherhouse Chapel in Syracuse. The "Mother of Outcasts" was beatified on 14 May 2005. Her legacy of caring is continued today by the Sisters of St Francis who, besides their many other activities, are still present at Kalaupapa, Molokai, with a small group of people with Hansen's disease and minister at several schools and parishes on the island.
Despite her afflictions, from childhood Kateri had a sweet nature, inclined to virtue and hard work. Her mother had secretly introduced her to the Christian faith. She was baptized Kateri on Easter Sunday in 1676 by Fr Jacques de Lamberville, a devout Jesuit missionary committed to the evangelization of the Indians. She took the name Catherine (Kateri), after St Catherine of Sienna, and fully embraced the life of the 14th-century mystic. She continued her domestic duties but resisted offers of marriage, reportedly displeasing her uncle.
Fr Pierre Cholenec, a Jesuit missionary, said of her: "in less than a few months she became for her companions a model of humility, devotion, sweetness, charity and all of the other Christian virtues". But her extraordinary virtue sparked jealousy and led to harassment even by those who had once admired her.
Her situation was far from easy. In addition she was distant from any Christian community and so deprived of the comfort of the sacraments. The Jesuits, including Fr de Lamberville, therefore encouraged her to move to Kahnawake, a Christian Iroquois village on the banks of the St Lawrence River, in the prairie of La Madeleine opposite the city of Montreal. The Jesuits of the Mission of St Francis Xavier considered Kateri's arrival as that of an envoy of God to edify all with her exemplary life. At the mission she had the good fortune to meet a
Fr Cholenec was so impressed by her devotion that on 25 March 1679 he permitted her to make a vow of perpetual virginity. This was the first act of the kind recognized among the North American Indians. In taking this decision Kateri knew she risked living in poverty, because an Indian girl depended on her husband for a home and support; yet Kateri was content to live in poverty for the love of Our Lord. In her last and very painful illness, she gave sublime proof of the heroicity of her virtues and especially of her faith, hope, charity, patience, resignation and joy in suffering. She died at three o'clock in the afternoon on 17 April 1680 on Wednesday in Holy Week, with the words "I love you Jesus" on her lips. She was 24 years old. Pope John Paul II beatified Kateri in 1980 on the basis of her reputation for healings and answered prayers.
However, a Chinese healer named Choco, jealous of the missionaries' prestige, spread rumours that the baptismal water was poisonous. And since several sickly Chamorro infants had died after Baptism, many believed the slanderer and apostatized. Chamorro's campaign was supported by the macanjas (sorcerers) and the urritaos (young male prostitutes) who began to persecute the missionaries, killing many.
Meanwhile Fr Diego and Pedro made the most of Matapang's absence to baptize the child with the consent of her Christian mother. When Matapang learned of the Baptism he became even angrier. He hurled spears, first at Pedro who avoided them. Witnesses said that Pedro had every opportunity to escape but did not wish to abandon Fr Diego. Those who knew him believed that if he had had any weapons he would have defeated his aggressors but Fr Diego never permitted his companions to carry arms. Finally a spear hit Pedro in the chest and he fell to the ground. Hirao immediately charged towards him, killing him with the blow of a cutlass on the head. Fr Diego had time to give Pedro sacramental absolution before the assassins killed him too. Matapang took Fr Diego's crucifix and pounded it with a stone, blaspheming God. The assassins then stripped the martyrs' bodies, tied stones to their feet took them out to sea on a boat and threw them into the deep. Their remains were never recovered. Fr Diego was beatified in 1985. Pedro Calungsod was beatified by John Paul II on 5 March 2000.
23 October 2011
Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro was born in Salamanca, Spain on 6 June 1837. She learned the cord-making craft and upon the death of her father, she started to earn her living at the age of fifteen. She soon set up her own shop of braid and trimmings where she worked with the greatest possible recollection.
Bonifacia's way of life attracted a group of young women who wished to spend Sunday afternoons and feast days in her company, to be protected from the dangers of that period. Bonifacia's workshop home thus became the nucleus of a centre for the protection of women workers.
In 1870 Francisco Butinyà y Hospital (1834-1899) a Catalan Jesuit and a zealous evangelizer of the world of work, was assigned to Salamanca. Bonifacia shared with him her faith experience and through her, Fr Butinyà came into contact with her friends. Inspired by the Spirit to establish a new female congregation to protect women workers, he asked Bonifacia to found with him the "Siervas de San Jose" (Missionary Sisters, Servants of St Joseph). On io January 1874, Bonifacia, her mother, and five young women began their community life in Salamanca.
This new form of religious life for women, inserted in the world of work was illuminated by contemplation of the Holy Family and recreated the workshop of Nazareth. The "Siervas de San José" offered work to unemployed women, thereby helping them to avoid risking their dignity. The religious wore no habits nor were dowries obligatory, and they worked in the shop side by side with lay women, with a common fund. But the diocesan clergy of Salamanca rose up in arms against this daring, innovative form of religious life.
Fr Francisco Butinyà was banished from Salamanca and the bishop was transferred to Barcelona. Bonifacia was left alone at the helm of the Congregation in a hostile environment. Two of the directors of the Congregation, appointed by the bishop to succeed Fr Butinyà, rashly sowed division among the sisters, one of whom they incited to oppose the shop as a way of life and a refuge for women workers.
In 1882 the director wished to introduce changes in the apostolic aim spelled out in the Constitutions by Francisco Butinyà, the Founder, however Bonifacia, refused. To be rid of her, he called for her dismissal as superior.
Bonifacia was obedient to the new superior and humbly adapted. She was the target of humiliation, rejection, scorn and calumny, in the attempt to make her leave Salamanca and forfeit her position as foundress. Bonifacia's sole response was uncomplaining silence, humility and forgiveness, but she stood her ground. To resolve the conflict she proposed to the Bishop of Salamanca a new foundation in Zamora. On 25 July, 1883 she arrived in this city where she was welcomed and supported by the bishop, the clergy and the people. In Zamora Bonifacia was able to fulfil with total fidelity the Congregation's original intention and continued as a cord-maker, taking in abandoned and unemployed young women.
The motherhouse in Salamanca made substantial modifications to Fr Butinyà's Constitutions and changed the purpose of the Congregation to teaching. They totally abandoned the community in Zamora and when in 1901 the Congregation obtained the Pope's approval, it was excluded.
Yet Bonifacia was never heard to make even the slightest complaint. Her sole concern was "to please God in all things". She died in Zamora on 8 August leaving no great institutions but bequeathed to her daughters a life spent faithfully following Jesus. On 23 January, 1907 the Zamora house was incorporated into the rest of the Congregation but not until 1941 was Bonifacia recognized as Foundress. She was beatified by John Paul II on 9 November 2003.
Guido Maria Conforti was born at Casalora di Ravadese, near Parma, Northern Italy, on 30 March 1865 and baptized that same day. He entered the seminary at the age of 11. Although seemingly epileptic symptoms delayed his ordination to the priesthood, he was nevertheless appointed vice-rector of the seminary. He possessed a remarkable talent as a formator and guided the young seminarians to holiness by his witness to a life lived in faith.
Better health enabled Guido Maria to be ordained a priest on 22 September 1888. As a very young priest he was appointed Director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and, not even 30, Vicar General. Unable to pursue the missionary vocation to which he felt called, in 1895 he founded the Pious Society of St Francis Xavier for Foreign Missions for the Evangelization of Non-Christians in Emilia. In 1899 he sent his first two missionaries to China; they were followed by many other Xaverian Missionaries.
In 1902, Pope Leo XIII appointed Fr Conforti Archbishop of Ravenna and he made his perpetual profession on the day of his episcopal ordination. He served his archdiocese for two years but a recurrence of poor health forced him to resign and he dedicated himself to the formation of his missionary students.
In 1907 he was transferred to the Diocese of Parma where he served for over 24 years. Conforti made religious instruction a priority, establishing schools of Christian doctrine in all his parishes and providing for the training of catechists. He also celebrated a "Catechetical Week", the first of its kind in Italy. As well as caring for his missionary family as Superior General and supporting every project of missionary outreach in Italy. In 1916 he collaborated in founding the Missionary Union of the Clergy and served for 10 years as its first president. In 1928 he went to China to visit his missionaries and the Christian communities that they cared for.
He died on 5 November 1931. An extraordinary number of people thronged to the funeral of Bishop Conforti who wanted the spirit of his Xaverians to be marked by faith, obedience and brotherly love.
The fame of his virtues and holiness spread from Parma to all the countries where Xaverians are present today. Bishop Conforti was beatified by John Paul II on 17 March 1996.
Aloysius [Luigi] Guanella was born to Lorenzo and Maria Bianchi on 19 December 1842 in the Alpine village of Fraciscio, Campodolcino, in the northern Italian Province of Lombardy.
After completing his studies at the seminary in Como, Aloysius Guanella was ordained a priest on 26 May 1866. A year later, he was appointed parish priest of Savogno. During the seven years of his ministry he became acquainted with St John Bosco and with St Joseph Benedict Cottolengo's institution in Turin. Wishing a more zealous pastoral ministry, in 1875 he entered the Salesians of Don Bosco and made religious vows for three years. The Bishop of Como then recalled him to the diocese and Fr Guanella returned with the ideal of founding a boarding school to prepare youths for religious life. However the opposition of the civil authorities forced him to close it.
"The hour of mercy", as he called it, struck in November 1881, when he went to Pianello Lario as parish priest. Here he met a group of young women dedicated to helping the needy. They became the nucleus of his new congregation: the Daughters of St Mary of Providence.
Fr Guanella built up this charitable institute which expanded in central Como. In this city the Daughters began the work at the House of Divine Providence, later to become the Mother House of the female Congregation and of the male Congregation he founded, the Servants of Charity. Both Congregations continued to spread in Italy and in Switzerland. In 1904 the dream of Aloysius Guanella came true: a foundation in the Holy City of Rome, to be closer to the Pope.
St Pius X understood and highly esteemed him and confided to him his wish to build a Church dedicated to the Transito di San Giuseppe [peaceful passing of St Joseph]. The Pious Union of the Transito, an association to pray for the dying, sprang up beside this church in Rome. Fr Guanella's missionary zeal then impelled him to go to the Italian immigrants in North America to which he sailed in December 1912, at the age of 70.
Trust in Providence was his leitmotif and "Prayer and suffering" was the motto by which he lived and which sums up the spirituality of his sons and daughters, who continue to give "Bread and the Lord" to those they serve.
Fr Aloysius Guanella died on 24 October 1915. He was beatified by Pope Paul vi on October 25, 1964.
17 October 2010
St Cándida María de Jesús Cipitria y Barriola (in the world: Juana Josefa) was born on 31 May 1845, in Berrospe, Andoain, Guipuzcoa, Spain, the first child born to Juan Miguel, a weaver, and María Jesús. She was baptized that same day in the parish Church of San Martín. She was confirmed in 1848 and at the age of ten made her first communion, which filled her with lasting joy.
"I am for God alone" was her answer to God's first call. On 8 December 1871, Mother Cándida María de Jesús founded a new congregation in Salamanca for the Christian education of children and youth and for the advancement of women. Her simple background and scant education and means at the beginning of the foundation and throughout her life served only to highlight her trustful response to God's call which made her a suitable instrument for fulfilling her mission.
Mother Cándida opened schools for children and adolescents from all social backgrounds and Sunday-schools for girls employed as domestics. She thus involved the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesús in the pastoral plan of the Church of her time.
Indeed, the universal dimension of her charism continues to be a commitment worth considering, a precursor of what we call "social justice" today. She based her spirituality on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. With the collaboration of Fr Herranz, sj she wrote the Constitutions for her religious family and they were approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1902.
Endowed with many gifts of the Holy Spirit, she was calmly able to achieve a great dealand to endure much suffering. Trust was a marked characteristic of her spirituality. Her words, "I distrust myself and place all my hope in you, my dearest Mother", reveals how deeply she trusted in Our Lady, "Star of our way".
Mother Cándida's entire life was steeped in the experience of God's closeness and in her personal love for Christ. Her prayerful spirit was outstanding. She did everything for the glory of God. She was a contemplative, a woman immersed in God, who spent long hours before the tabernacle, in trials and suffering she had the fortitude to remain serene. As a result she did not complain about the present and was not disturbed by the future. She tried to inculcate this spirit in her daughters and among the pupils at her schools. She lived and loved poverty above all: "Where there is no room for my poor, there is no room for me either", she once said, while working as a maid in Burgos. As Foundress and Superior General, she was docile to the will of God and exercised her authority in a spirit of service to her brothers and sisters, governing her religious as daughters of God. Mother Cándida witnessed to God's power. She expressed conviction with deep sincerity: "Without the Cross we can go nowhere. Let crosses come and may God's will be done".
Mother Cándida died in Salamanca, Spain, on g August 1912 and the fame of holiness she already enjoyed in her lifetime has continued to increase. On 6 July 1993, Pope John Paul II beatified her in Rome on 12 May 1996.
The Congregation she founded is present today in 17 countries in Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia.
Mary in her teens was asked to help with the family finances, so she began working as
They conceived of a Congregation of Sisters who would work wherever there was a need, especially in rural areas. In January 1866 the Congregation became a reality when Mary and two Sisters began teaching in Penola, South Australia.
On 15 August 1867, she and her companions professed the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in Adelaide and Mary took the name "Sr Mary of the Cross". Other young women joined her and together they educated the poor. In a society with no social welfare system, Mary also opened her charitable heart to the destitute and the elderly. By 1869, 6o Sisters were working in schools, orphanages and shelters for women.
A complex set of circumstances led the Bishop of Adelaide, formerly a friend and benefactor, to excommunicate Mary in 1871 for presumed disobedience. She calmly accepted the excommunication and the dismissal of many of her Sisters. The Bishop revoked the sentence before his death, less than six months later. Mary went back to her work and most of the dismissed Sisters returned to the Institute.
She was advised to go to Rome to seek the help of Pope Pius Ix. The Institute needed a centralized government which would enable Mary to send the Sisters wherever they were needed, rather than being restricted to a specific diocese.
Though Mary did not then receive definitive approval for her Institute —which would come in 1888 — she met with encouragement, especially during her three meetings with Pope Pius IX. She went home with support for a centralized government.
Throughout her life Mary suffered from poor health but used her illnesses to come closer to God. At the age of 60, she had a stroke while visiting New Zealand; but she continued in the office of Superior.
By 1905 the deterioration of Mother Mary's health was evident but she remained cheerful. Her attention to God's will inspired her to write: "The will of God is to me a very dear book and I never tire of reading it". And one of her favourite sayings was: "Never see a need without doing something about it". She died peacefully on 8 August 1909.
Three Popes — Paul John Paul II and Benedict XVI — have prayed at her tomb, not to mention thousands of pilgrims from across the world.
Australia's first Saint was beatified in 1995 by John Paul II.
St Stanisław Kazimierczyk Sołtys was born on 27 September 1433 in Krakow, Poland. His parents, Maciej and Jadwiga Soltys were devout Catholics who brought him up to be a good Christian.
He earned degrees in theology and philosophy at the Jagiełłonian University. In 1456 he entered the novitiate of the Order of the Canons Regular of the Lateran, a congregation with which, as a parishioner, he had been acquainted from childhood. Here he made his vows and was ordained a priest.
In this same church he was appointed preacher, "lector" and novice master, as well as vice-prior of the community. Stanisław, a profoundly humble, patient chaste and modest, devoted himself zealously to the offices entrusted to him and lived a rigorous and ascetic lifestyle.
Stanisław also taught young religious in whom he always sought to inculcate a love for the Blessed
Stanisław saw his life as a constant struggle for holiness, but his commitment in caring for every aspect of the convent, his dedicated attention to the novices and to the poor people who knocked at the door, the diligence with which he composed his homilies, his dedication to hearing confessions and, lastly, his forthright and fervent devotion, earned him high esteem and great respect as people considered him a living saint.
This opinion was reinforced immediately after Stanisław's death on 3 May 1489. In the first year after he died the faithful began to pray to God for his intercession and the convent's records note almost 200 graces attributed to it. Stanisław's contemporaries and the following generations testified to the excellence of his life and his exceptional virtues.
Stanisław was buried under the floor near the altar of St Mary Magdalen, Patroness of weavers, because his father was a weaver.
In 1632 a special altar was built for Stanisław's relics. Today dozens of pictures hang on this altar, depicting events of his life.
Although Stanisław was venerated as a Saint immediately after his death, it was not until 1773 that the Canons presented an official request to the Holy See to confirm his cult. They were obliged to wait due to adverse event such as: the Partitions of Poland, the two World Wars and the Communist Government.
As Bishop of Krakow Karol Wojtyła was a fervent champion of the cau e of beatification of Stanisław Kazimierczyk Sołtys. He visited the Church of Corpus Christi several times and, as Pope, beatified Stanisław Kazimierczyk on 18 April 1993.
On 19 December 200 Benedict confirmed a miracle obtained through the intercession of Blessed Stanisław, thereby paving the way to his Canonization.
St Giulia Salzano was born on 13 October 1846 in Santa Maria Capua Vetere in the Southern Italian Province of Caserta. Her mother was Adelaide Valentino and her father, Diego Salzano, was a Captain in the Lancers of King Ferdinand II of Naples. Giulia's father died when she was four years old and she was entrusted for her upbringing to the Sisters of Charity in the Royal Orphanage of San Nicola La Strada. She stayed with them until she was 15. She earned a teaching diploma and then taught at the local school at Casoria, in the Province of Naples, where her family had moved in October 1865.
She took a great interest in the Catechism and in instructing children, young people and adults in the faith. She also encouraged devotion to the Virgin Mary.
Together with St Caterina Volpicelli, her friend and co-worker, she promoted love of and devotion to the Sacred Heart, putting into practice the motto: Ad maiorem Cordis Iesu glorriam. For Giulia the Sacred Heart, as a living symbol and image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ, was the enlightening content of catechesis.
The definition in the Catechism "God created us to know him, love him and serve him in this life...", was the spark that kindled within her a passion for teaching Christian doctrine. She was convinced that without knowledge of God, the world can neither love nor serve him. Because of her constant concern to make known the teachings and life of Jesus through education and witness, in 1905 she founded the Congregation of the Catechetical Sisters of the Sacred Heart. She devoted her life to the charism of catechesis, affirming: "While I have any life left in me, I shall continue to teach the Catechism. And then, I assure you, I would be very happy to die teaching the Catechism".
She likewise exhorted her daughters: "The Sister Catechist must be ready at every moment to instruct the little ones and the uneducated. She must not count the sacrifices such a ministry demands, indeed she should desire to die while doing it, if this be God's will". Another Blessed, Ludovico da Casoria, predicted almost prophetically: "Take care not to be tempted to abandon the children of our dear Casoria, because it is God's will that you should live and die among them". And so it was. She died on 17 May 1929 in Casoria, the day after she had examined too children for First Communion. "Donna Giulietta", as she was called by the people of Casoria, was so well known for her holiness that the Cause for her Canonization was introduced on 29 January 1937. On 25 January 1994 the Positio for her cause, was consigned to the Congregation for the Causes for Saints. On 23 April 2002 Pope John Paul II approved the Decree recognizing her heroic virtues and on 20 December that same year he signed the Decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Giulia Salzano, and beatified her in 2003.
Giulia Salzano's holiness is distinguished by her vocational and charismatic insight: she is the only Foundress who focused on catechesis. Indeed, on account of her charism she may be considered a Prophetess of the New Evangelization.
St Battista Camilla da Varano (in the world: Camilla da Varano) was born in Camerino, Italy, on g April 1458 to Prince Giulio Cesare da Varano and Donna Cecchina di Maestro Giacomo. Camilla was born out of wedlock but was nonetheless brought up and educated in her father's palace in the arts and literature under the tutelage of Giovanna Malatesta, the Prince's wife.
When she was about nine years old, after hearing an exhortation by Fra Domenico da Leonessa, she made a vow to meditate every Friday on the Passion of Christ and to shed at least one tear. This simple resolution which she performed with childlike enthusiasm and faithfulness despite the sacrifices it cost her, opened an unexpected horizon of grace to an intense spiritual life. Camilla wrote later: "That holy word, which I uttered, moved by the Holy Spirit, made such an impression on my tender and childlike heart that I always remembered it".
From the age of 18 to 21, she wentthrough a time of deep spiritual struggle to resist the attraction of the world but did not abandon her suffering Lord, on the contrary, she began to lead a more austere way of life. In Lent 1479, on the eve of the Annunciation in the Church of San Pietro di
Having thus prepared herself to belong totally to Christ and overcoming parental resistance she entered the monastery of the Poor Clare's in Urbino on 14 November 1481. She took the religious name of "Sr Battista". In 1484 she returned to Camerino and on 4 January founded a new community of Poor Glares in a monastery that her father had purchased from the Olivetan monks.
Her second trial wounded her deeply: Pope Alexander VI first excommunicated her father with her three brothers and then had them killed. This event obliged her to seek asylum in the Kingdom of Naples. Only after the death of Alexander VI could she return to Camerino, where her youngest brother restored the Lordship of the da Varano family.
On 28 January 1505 Pope Julius II sent her to found a new community of Poor Clares in Fermo where she stayed for two years. She founded another community of Poor Clares at San Severino Marche (1521-22) . Her charitable spirit led her to serve her neighbour in many ways.
On 31 May 1524, after 43 years as a cloistered nun, the new Saint died in her monastery at Camerino, where her remains still repose, during a plague epidemic. She was 63 years old. She was beatified in 1843 by Pope Gregory XVI.
St André Bessette (in the world: Alfred Bessette) was born on g August 1845 in Saint-Grégoire d'Iberville, near Montreal, Canada. He was the eighth of 12 children, two of whom died. Alfred's father moved the family to Farnhan in 1849, in the hope of improving the family's situation while working as a carpenter and lumberman. Alfred's father was killed by a falling tree when Alfred was nine. His mother died three years later from tuberculosis, leaving 10 children to care for. Much later, Bro. André was heard to say: "I seldom prayed for my mother, but I often pray to her".
At the age of 12, Alfred was forced to leave school to learn a trade and to seek work; he could barely write his name or read his prayer book.
In spite of frail health, Alfred tried to make a living as an unskilled labourer, going from job to job as an apprentice and was easily exploited.
Like many French-Canadian emigrants, he went to the U.S. and worked for four years in textile mills. Alfred returned to Canada in 1867, putting his whole heart into his work.
Three years later, at the suggestion of Fr André Provencal, his parish priest who helped him, Alfred presented himself as a candidate at the novitiate of the of Holy Cross in Montreal. Because of his frail health, his superiors at first had doubts about his religious vocation, at last he was accepted and given the name "Brother André".
He was made porter at the College Notre-Dame du Sacre-Coeur, the school his community founded, and did menial tasks but he soon started to welcome the sick and the broken-hearted. He invited them to pray to St Joseph to obtain favours. Before long, many people were reporting that their prayers had been answered.
For 25 years, in his small office or in the tramway station across the street, Bro. André spent six to eight hours a day receiving visitors. There were soon rumours of healings that doctors could not explain. Bro. André began to visit the sick and earned the reputation of being a miracle-worker. But he strongly protested: "I am nothing... only a tool in the hands of Providence, a lowly instrument at the service of St Joseph". He went even further: "People are silly to think that I can perform miracles. It is God and St Joseph who can heal you, not I".
During his life, Bro. André strove to build thechapel, today known as the Oratory, that was to become the world's greatest shrine dedicated to St Joseph. In 1931 the Great Depression put a stop to the construction. In 1936, the superiors of the Congregation of Holy Cross called a special meeting to decide whether the project should continue. The Provincial asked Bro. André for his opinion. He said "This is not my work, it is the work of St Joseph. Put a statue of him in the middle of the building. If he wants a roof over his head, he'll take care of it". Two months later, the Congregation had the necessary funds to continue the building work.
Bro. André died on 6 January 1937. He was 92 and newspapers reported that more than a million people attended his funeral. Today his body lies in a simple tomb in the Basilica on Mount Royal. The inscription reads: Pauper, servis a humilis [sic] (a poor and humble servant). Pope John Paul II beatified Bro. André on 23 May 1982.
11 October 2009
St Zygmunt Szczęsny Felinski was born on 1 November 1822 to Gerard Feliński and Eva Wendorff, in Wojutyn, Volinia (present-day Ukraine), then Russian territory. He was the third of six children, of whom four survived.
Feliński was raised with faith and trust in Divine Providence, love for the Church and for Polish culture. His father died when he was 11 and in 1838 the Russians exiled his mother to Siberia for "involvement in patriotic activity" — that is, working for farmers' rights.
Feliński studied mathematics at the University of Moscow (1840-44) and in 1847 went to the Sorbonne University and the College de France in Paris to study French literature. He was in touch with all the important Polish emigrants and took part in the unsuccessful Revolt of Poznań.
In 1851 he returned to Poland. He entered the diocesan seminary at Żytomierz and studied at the Catholic Academy of St Petersburg. He was ordained a priest on 8 September 1855 and assigned to the Dominican Fathers' Parish of St Catherine of Siena in St Petersburg until 1857, when the Bishop appointed him spiritual director of the Ecclesiastical Academy and professor of philosophy. In 1856 he founded a charitable organization for the poor, and in 1857, the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary. On 6 January 1862, Pope Pius IX appointed Fr Feliński Archbishop of Warsaw and he was consecrated on 26 January 1862 in St Petersburg. He arrived in Warsaw on 9 February 1862.
The Russians had brutally suppressed the Polish uprising in this city in 1861. On 13 February 1862, the new Archbishop reconsecrated the Cathedral of Warsaw, which had been desecrated by the Russian troops. Three days later he opened all the churches with the solemn celebration of the "Forty Hours" Devotion.
Zygmunt Feliński was Archbishop of Warsaw in the turbulent period from 9 February 1862 to 14 June 1863. Unfortunately, he met with distrust on the part of some, even clergy, since the Russian Government had led people to believe that he was collaborating secretly with the Government.
The Archbishop always showed clearly he was at the service of the Church alone and strove to eliminate government interference in the internal affairs of the Church. In reforming the diocese he regularly visited all the parishes and charitable organizations on order to address their needs better. He reformed the syllabus of the Ecclesiastical Academy of Warsaw and of the diocesan seminaries, giving a new impetus to the spiritual and intellectual development of the clergy. He took steps to obtain the release of priests in prison and he encouraged them to proclaim the Gospel publicly, to catechize their parishioners, to open parish schools and to educate a new generation that would be devout and honest. He also cared for the poor and opened an orphanage in Warsaw that he entrusted to the Sisters of the Family of Mary.
Archbishop Feliński strove to prevent the nation from making rash moves and, as a protest against the Russians' bloody repression of the "January Uprising" in 1863, resigned from the Council of State and wrote to the Emperor Alexander II, urging him to put an end to the violence. He likewise protested against the hanging of Fr Agrypin Konarski, a Capuchin and chaplain of the "rebels". His courageous actions soon led to his exile to Siberia.
On 14 June 1863, he was deported to Jaroslavl, where he spent the next 20 years, deprived by the Tsar of all contact with Warsaw. Yet he managed to organize works of mercy for his fellow prisoners, especially the priests, and somehow succeeded in collecting enough funds to build a Catholic church. The people were impressed by his spirituality and nicknamed him the "holy Polish Bishop". Archbishop Feliński was released on 15 March 1883 and Leo XIII transferred him from the See of Warsaw to the titular See of Tarsus. For the last 12 years of his life he lived in semi-exile, serving as parish priest in southeastern Galizia at Dźwiniaczka, among farmers of Polish and Ukrainian origin. As chaplain of the public chapel of the local manor, he undertook an intense pastoral work. He set up the first school and a kindergarten in the village at his own expense. He also built a church and convent for his Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary, and found the time to prepare for publication the works he had written in exile.
He died in Krakow on 17 September 1895 and was buried there on 20 September; the following month his mortal remains were translated to Dźwiniaczka, and in 1920, to Warsaw. Here, on 14 April 1921, they were solemnly interred in the crypt of St John's Cathedral where they are venerated today. John Paul II beatified him in Krakow, Poland, on 18 August 2002.
St Rafael Arnáiz Barón was born in Burgos, Spain, on 9 April 1911 into a well-to-do Christian family. He was the eldest of four. As a boy he attended several schools run by Jesuits and his sensitivity to spiritual topics and to art was apparent from boyhood. These qualities were remarkably well balanced giving him an open, joyful attitude to the world, combined with exuberant good humour, respect and humility.
Bouts of fever and pleurisy interrupted his education. When he had recovered his father took him to Zaragoza to consecrate him to Our Lady of the Pillar and his family moved to Oviedo where he completed his secondary schooling.
In 1930 Rafael embarked on architectural studies in Madrid. It was in this year that his deeper commitment to Christ began. After completing his secondary schooling, that summer he had spent a holiday near Avila at the home of his uncle and aunt, the Duke and Duchess of Maqueda. It was they who introduced him to the Trappist Monastery of San Isidoro de Dueñas whose beauty and prayerful atmosphere attracted him.
He was called up but declared unfit for active duty. He decided to abandon his architectural studies in Madrid and seek the mystery of the "Absolute" in this Cistercian Monastery of the Strict Observance, which he entered on 16 January 1934 and joyfully received the white habit. He was 23. He said upon entering that this decision had not been prompted by suffering or disappointments but rather by God who, "in his infinite goodness" had given him far more in life than he deserved.
Rafael felt deeply suited to the monastic rhythm of Gregorian chant and the Liturgy of the Hours. He wrote many letters to his mother, who after his death collected them in a book, and to his uncle and aunt with whom he had a close friendship.
Four months after entering the monastery, after an austere Lent, he was smitten by a serious form of diabetes mellitus which forced him to go home for treatment. Indeed, he was obliged to go back and forth between his home and the monastery again and again between 1935 and 1937. It was at the height of the Spanish Civil War.
Thus, on his final return to the monastery, he was made an oblate, taking the last place and living on the fringes of the community. Canon law at the time did not permit a person in his condition of poor health to take monastic vows.
He died in the monastery's infirmary on 26 April 1938 after a final attack of the disease at only 27 years old. He was buried in the monastery cemetery and his remains were later translated to the Abbey Church.
Despite his brief life, he embodies the Cistercian grace in a remarkably pure way. From beginning to end he let himself be led through a series of bewildering contradictions and perplexities — illness, war, the inability to pronounce his vows, abnormal community relations — until he totally renounced himself. Humiliation was his constant companion.
His one desire was to live in order to love: to love Jesus, Mary, the Cross, his Trappist monastery. His reputation for holiness spread rapidly throughout Spain and his grave at San Isidro became a place of pilgrimage where many favours were received.
On 19 August 1989, at the World Youth Day in Santiago de Compostella, John Paul II proposed Bro. Rafael as a model for young people today, and beatified him on 27 September 1992, in Rome.
In his Homily at the beatification Mass, the late Pope said of this Spanish Trappist that he set an example, especially for young people, "of a loving and unconditional response to the divine call".
St Mary of the Cross (in the world: Jeanne Jugan) was born at Cancale, in Brittany, France, on 25 October 1792 in the turbulent period of the French Revolution. She was the sixth of eight children, four of whom died in infancy. Their fisherman father was lost at sea when Jeanne was only four.
From her mother and the place of her birth, Jeanne inherited a lively, deep faith and a profound determination that could overcome any difficulty. The political climate and the family's financial plight prevented Jeanne from going to school. She learned to read and write from some ladies of the Third Order of St John Eudes who were numerous in the region.
In Jeanne's world children began working at an early age. She would pray her Rosary while tending the herd, on the high cliffs above the Bay of Cancale. The beautiful view uplifted her soul. At the age of 15 she left home and went to work in a wealthy family not far from Cancale. With her new employer, she went to the help of the needy.
In 1801 Napoleon Bonaparte restored religious freedom and a true spiritual awakening ensued. Numerous missions were preached and it was in this fervent atmosphere that the future Foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor heard the Lord's call.
When a young man asked for her hand in marriage she told him that God wanted her for himself; and was keeping her for a work as yet unknown. And as an immediate response she divided her clothes into two piles, leaving the prettiest to her sisters. She then left for Saint-Servan where for six years she worked as an assistant nurse. She enrolled in the Third Order of St John of Eudes. From that time her one desire was to "be as humble as Jesus".
Health problems obliged Jeanne to leave the hospital. She was taken in by a friend in the Third Order, Miss Lecoq, whom she would serve for 12 years until her death in 1835. In 1839, Jeanne was 47 years old and shared an apartment with two friends: Fanchon, 71, and Virginie Trédaniel, a 17-year-old orphan. In Saint-Servan at that time the economic situation was disastrous; 4,000 out of population of 10,000 were reduced to begging.
One winter evening in 1839, she came across a poor and blind old lady. Jeanne did not hesitate to give the lady her own bed. This was the initial spark that kindled a great blaze of charity.
From that time, Jeanne was not to be deterred. In 1841 she rented a large room in which she welcomed 12 elderly people. In 1842, without money, she purchased a dilapidated convent where she soon provided 40 elderly persons with accommodation.
Encouraged by a St John of God brother, she begged for the poor in the streets and founded her institution on abandonment to Providence. In 1845 she won the Montyon Prize, awarded each year "to a poor French man or woman for outstandingly meritorious activity".
She founded homes in 1846 in Rennes and in Dinan, in 1847 in Tours, and in 1850 in Angers. The Congregation spread throughout Europe, America, and Africa and shortly after her death, to Asia and Oceania.
It would seem that this fruitfulness was the result of a total and radical dispossession. In 1843, Jeanne had been re-elected Superior. Contrary to all expectations and solely on his own authority, Fr Le Pailleur, named as Superior instead Marie Jamet, who was 21 years old. In his action, Jeanne discerned God's will and supported the work, encouraging the younger sisters by her example.
In 1852, the Bishop of Rennes officially acknowledged the Congregation and appointed Fr Le Pailleur Superior General. His first act was to call Jeanne Jugan back definitively to the Motherhouse for a retirement that was to last 27 long years.
The younger sisters, ever increasing in number with the expansion of the Congregation, did not even realize that she was their Foundress. Jeanne, living in their midst, with her serenity and wisdom, transmitted a constant spirit of praise. "Love God very much; he is so good. Let us entrust ourselves to him".
She died peacefully on 29 August 1879. Her Congregation then numbered 2,400 Little Sisters in 177 homes on three continents. John Paul II beatified her on 3 October 1982.
St Francisco Coll y Guitart was born on 18 May 1812 in the small village of Gombreny, in the Diocese of Vic, Catalonia. He was the 10th and last child of a wool carder.
At the age of 10 he was sent to the Seminary in Vic in 1823. He completed his studies in 1830 and that same year entered the Convent of the Order of Preachers in Gerona, founded only about 35 years after St Dominic de Guzman's death. He made his solemn profession and received the Diaconate in 1831.
Contemporaries of Fr Coll testify that he always behaved as a man of God and led an exemplary life.
In 1835 religious orders in Spain were forcibly suppressed and Friar Francisco Coll, was obliged to abandon his convent and become a secularized Dominican. He was nevertheless ordained a priest on 28 May 1836 despite the risks involved.
Indeed, in spite of being unable — because of the new anti-clerical laws — to live in his convent or to wear his habit, he remained a Dominican all his life in all that he was and all that he did.
Soon after his ordination Francisco offered his services to his Bishop and for 40 years exercised his ministry as an itinerant missionary in the parishes of northeast Spain. Impelled by an irresistible force, he started to preach as a new apostle, "the apostle of modern times". Like the Founder of his Order, he received no stipend nor would he accept donations; he was a preacher of popular missions. He prayed for long hours, studied and dedicated a great deal of time to preparing sermons for preaching the missions. He believed in the efficacy of collaboration and gave spiritual exercises to the priests in the region. Thus he collaborated with diocesan priests, Jesuits, Claretians, Augustinians and fellow Dominicans. With his friend, St Anthony Mary Claret, he founded the "Apostolic Fellowship" for evangelization in 1846.
He preached to cloistered nuns and prisoners, visited the sick and imparted catechesis to children, always encouraging the devotion to the Virgin Mary.
His complete trust in God and his apostolic zeal motivated him to gather a group of young women who had already chosen to follow Jesus' call. In 1850 he was appointed Director of the Secular Order of Dominican Tertiaries, which enabled him to found the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Anunciata in 1856 to solve the problem of the Christian formation of girls, then considered inferior to boys.
When Fr Coll died, according to the Congregation he founded, there were already 300 sisters and 50 communities dedicated to the Christian education of children, mainly girls. Today the Congregation has about 1,039 members in Europe, America, Africa and Asia.
Fr Coll y Guitart lost his sight and then his mental faculties and was cared for by the nuns of his Congregation, He died in Vic on 2 April 1875 at the age of 62. His body was exposed in the chapel of his religious and they buried him in the local cemetery. His mortal remains were later translated to the chapel of the Mother House.
John Paul II beatified him on 29 April 1979. In his Homily for Fr Coll's Beatification, the Pope described him as "a transmitter of faith, a sower of hope, a preacher of love, peace and reconciliation among those whom passions, war and hatred keep divided", and "a real man of God", a "man of prayer", who made his priestly and religious identity a source of inspiration, with the words, "I am a religious" constantly on his lips.
St Jozef Damien De Veuster, SS.CC, was born at Tremelo, Belgium, on 3 January 1840. Jozef ("Jef") began his novitiate with the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary ("Picpus Fathers") at the beginning of 1859 and took the name Damien. He would pray every day before a picture of St Francis Xavier, patron of missionaries, to be sent on a mission.
In 1863 his brother, who was to leave for a mission in the Hawaiian Islands, fell ill. Since preparations for the voyage had already been made, Damien obtained permission from the Superior General to take his brother's place. He landed in Honolulu on 19 March 1864. He was ordained to the priesthood on the following 21 May.
At that time, the Hawaiian Government decided on the harsh measure of quarantine aimed at preventing the spread of leprosy: the deportation to the neighbouring Island of Molokai of all those infected by what was then thought to be an incurable disease. The entire mission was concerned about the abandoned lepers and Bishop Louis Maigret, a Picpus father, felt sure they needed priests. He did not want to send anyone "in the name of obedience" because he was aware such an assignment was a potential death sentence. Of the four brothers who volunteered, Damien was the first to leave on 10 May 1873 for Kalaupapa.
At his own request and that of the lepers, he remained on Molokai. Having contracted leprosy himself, he died on 15 April 1889, at the age of 49, after serving 16 years among the lepers. He was buried in the local cemetery under the same Pandanus tree where he had first slept upon his arrival in Molokai. His remains were exhumed in 1936 at the request of the Belgian Government and translated to a crypt of the Church of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts at Louvain.
Damien is universally known for having freely shared the life of the lepers in quarantine on the Kalaupapa Peninsula of Molokai. His departure for the "cursed isle", the announcement of his illness (leprosy) in 1884 and his subsequent death deeply impressed his contemporaries of all denominations.
Damien was above all a Catholic missionary. Fr Damien is known today as a hero of charity because he identified so closely with the victims of leprosy.
He respected the religious convictions of others; he accepted them as people and received with joy their collaboration and their help. With a heart wide open to the most abject and wretched, he showed no difference in his approach and in his care of the lepers. In his parish ministry or in his works of charity he found a place for everyone.
Among his best friends were Meyer, a Lutheran, the superintendent of the leper colony, Clifford, an Anglican, and Moritz, a painter, a free-thinker who was the doctor on Molokai and Dr Masanao Goto, a Japanese Buddhist and leprologist.
He continues to inspire thousands of believers and non-believers who wish to imitate him and to discover the source of his heroism. People of all creeds and all philosophical systems recognized in him the Servant of God which he always revealed himself to be, and respect his passion for the salvation of souls.
Pope John Paul II beatified Damien de Veuster in Brussels on 4 June 1995.
26 April 2009
From 1871 to 1873 he was a curate at Lodrino, a mountain village, and then at the Shrine of Santa Maria della Noce near Brescia. He was known for his attention to his people's needs. After flooding left many parishioners homeless, he organized a soup-kitchen in the parish house that served 300 meals a day. In 1885 he was transferred to Botticino Sera as curate and two years later was appointed parish priest and dean of the same parish, where he spent the remaining 25 years of his life.
A zealous pastor of souls, he provided catechesis for every age group, started a choir, organized various confraternities, rebuilt the church and cared for the liturgy. When he preached, people were amazed at the warmth and power that his words instilled.
With the spread of the industrial revolution, he founded the Workers' Mutual Aid Association to help labourers suffering from illness, accidents, disabilities or old age. He used his own inheritance to plan and build a spinning factory, providing it with the latest equipment and later building an adjacent residence for working women. To educate young working women, he founded the Congregation of Worker Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth, who went into the factories to work alongside the other women, sharing their toil and tensions, while teaching them by their example. To the sisters and the young working women Fr Tadini held up the example of Jesus, who not only sacrificed himself on the Cross but spent the first 30 years of his life in Nazareth where he was not ashamed to use a carpenter' s tools or to have calloused hands and a brow bathed in sweat.
He taught his parishioners that work is not a curse but
rather the way in which men and women are called to fulfil themselves as
human beings and as Christians. His strength came from prayer: his
parishioners would see him stand for hours in front of the Blessed
Sacrament, despite his disability, absorbed in contemplation of God. Fr
Arcangelo Tadini ended his earthly life on 20 May 1912.
BERNARDO TOLOMEI, son of Mino Tolomei, was born in Siena on to May 1272. At his Baptism he was given the name "Giovanni". He was probably educated by the Dominicans at their College of San Domenico di Camporeggio in Siena. He was knighted by Rudolph I of Habsburg (1218-1291). While studying law in his home town, he was also a member of the Confraternity of the Disciplinati di Santa Maria della Notte dedicated to aiding the sick at the "della Scala" Hospital. Due to progressive and almost total blindness, he was forced to give up his public career. In 1313, in order to realize a more radical Christian and ascetic ideal, together with two companions (Patrizio di Francesco Patrizi, d. 1347 and Ambrogio di Nino Piccolomini, d. 1338), both noble Sienese merchants and members of the same confraternity, he retired to a family property in Accona, about 30 km south-east of the city. It was here that Giovanni, who in the meantime had taken the name "Bernardo" out of veneration for the holy Cistercian abbot, together with his two companions, lived a hermitic penitential life, characterized by prayer, manual work and silence.
Towards the end of 1318 or the beginning of 1319, while immersed in prayer, he saw a ladder on which monks in white habits were ascending, helped by angels and awaited by Jesus and Mary.
To legalize his group's status, Bernardo, with Patrizio
Patrizi, visited Bishop
The Monastery of Santa Maria di Monte Oliveto Maggiore was born when the foundation stone of the church was laid on 1 April 1319, The hermits became monks in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict to which they made some institutional changes. The most characteristic of these, recorded in an episcopal document of 28 March 1324, was the temporary nature of the abbatial office and the confirmation of the abbot-elect by the Bishop of Arezzo. When the time came to elect an abbot, Bernardo succeeded in withdrawing from those eligible for election because of his blindness. Thus Patrizio Patrizi was elected the first abbot (1 September 1319). Two other abbots followed: Ambrogio Piccolomini (1 September 1320) and Simone di Tura (1 September 1321).
On 1 September 1322, Bernardo could no longer oppose the wishes of his brethren and so became the fourth abbot of the monastery he founded in which office he remained until his death. An Act dated 24 September 1326 attests that Cardinal Giovanni Caetani Orsini (d. 1339), Apostolic Legate, dispensed Abbot Bernardo from the Canonical impediment of "Infirmity of Sight", hence validating his election. From Avignon, with two Bulls dated 21 January 1344 (Vacantibus sub religionis: the canonical approval of the new community; Solicitudinis pastoralis officium: the faculty to erect new monasteries in Italy), Clement VI approved the Congregation that had 10 monasteries. Bernardo did not go to Avignon but sent two monks: Simone Tendi and Michele Tani.
The fact that despite having decided not to re-elect an abbot at the end of his annual mandate the monks chose to ignore their decision and re-elect Bernardo for 27 consecutive years until his death is significant evidence of Bernardo's spiritual personality. Another act of trust in Bernardo's fatherhood was seen at the General Chapter of the 4 May 1347 when the monks granted him the faculty to govern without recourse to the Chapter or the brethren, trusting that he would do all things in conformity with God's will and for the salvation of all.
At least twice, in 1326 and 1342, Bernardo tried to give up his abbatial office, declaring to the Papal Legate and Jurists that he was not a priest but only in Minor Orders, and mentioning the existing dispensation from his function as abbot because of his persistent blindness. However, his leadership was declared fully legitimate, in accordance with the canonical norms. With the Papal Approval of a new Benedictine Congregation called: "Santa Maria di Monte Oliveto", Bernardo became the initiator of a firmly-rooted Benedictine monastic movement.
Bernardo left his monks an example of holy life, the practice of the virtues to a heroic level, dedication to the service of others and to contemplation. During the plague in 1348 Bernardo left the solitude of Monte Oliveto for the monastery of San Benedetto a Porta Tufi in Siena. In the city the disease was particularly virulent. On the 20th August 1348, while helping his plague-stricken monks, he succumbed to the plague, together with 82 monks.
This hero of penance and martyr of charity did not pass unnoticed, as Pius XII noted in a letter sent to the Abbot General, Dom Romualdo M. Zilianti on II April 1948, to commemorate the imminent sixth centenary of Bl. Bernardo's death. The venerable abbot was buried near the monastery's church in Siena. All the plague-stricken bodies were placed in a common pit of quicklime outside the Church. Later excavation has not succeeded in identifying relics of Bernardo.
NUNO ÁLVARES PEREIRA was born in Portugal on 24 June 1360, in all likelihood at Cernache do Bonjardim. He was the illegitimate son of Brother Ivaro Gonalves Pereira, Hospitaller Knight of St John of Jerusalem and Prior of Crato, and of Donna Iria Gonalves do Carvalhal. About a year after his birth, the child was legitimized by royal decree and was thus able to receive the typical education given to the children of noble families in that period. When he was 13 years old he became page to Queen Leonor, was received at court and was created a knight. At the age of 16, complying with his father's wishes he married Donna Leonor de Alvim, a rich young widow. The couple had three children: two boys who died in infancy and a girl, Beatrice, who was eventually to marry Alfonso, first Duke of Braganca, son of King João I.
When King Fernando died without an heir on 22 October 1383, his brother João became involved in the struggle for the Lusitanian crown that was being contested by the King of Castile, who had married the dead king's daughter. Nuno took the side of João who wanted him as his commander-in-chief of the army. Nuno led the Portuguese army to victory on variousoccasions until the Battle of Aljubarrota (14 August 1385), which brought the conflict to an end.
Nuno's military prowess was tempered by a deep spirituality and profound love for the Eucharist and for the Blessed Virgin, the main foundations of his inner life. Totally dedicated to Marian prayer, he fasted in Mary's honour on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and on the eve of her feasts. The banner he chose as his personal standard bore the image of the Cross, of Mary and of the holy knights, James and George. At his own expense he built numerous churches and monasteries, including the Carmelite Church in Lisbon and the Church of Our Lady of Victories at Batalha.
After his wife's death in 1387, Nuno did not wish to marry again and became a model of celibate life. When peace was achieved at last, he gave the bulk of his wealth to the veterans. He was to dispose of the rest of it in 1423 when he decided to enter the Carmelite convent that he himself had founded, taking the name "Brother Nuno of St Mary". Motivated by love, he abandoned power to serve the poor: this was a radical choice that brought to a peak the authentic pathof faith that he had always followed. With this choice, he left behind the weapons of war and power to be clad in spiritual armour, as the Rule of Carmel recommends. He would have liked to withdraw to a community far from Portugal, but Don Duarte, the king's son, prevented him from doing so. However, no power could stop him from dedicating himself to the convent and above all to the poor, whom he continued to help and serve in every possible way. For them he organized the daily distribution of food and he never hesitated to respond to their needs. On entering the convent the Commander of the King of Portugal, chief officer of the army and victorious leader, founder and benefactor of the Carmelite community, did not want any privileges but chose the humblest rank of lay brother, putting himself at the service of the Lord, of Mary his ever venerated Patroness, and of the poor, in whom he recognized the face of Jesus himself.
The day on which Bro. Nuno of St Mary died was also important: it was Easter Sunday, 1 April 1431; he was immediately acclaimed a saint by the people who called him "O Santo Condestável" [The Constable Saint].
While the fame of Nuno's holiness remained constant and increased with time, the interim period leading to the process of his canonization was more complex. This process was begun by the Portuguese sovereigns and continued by the Carmelite Order, but many obstacles were to stand in its way. Only in 1894 did Fr Anastasio Ronci, then Postulator General of the
Carmelites, succeed in introducing the process of recognition of the cult ab immemorabili of Blessed Nuno. Despite the difficulties, it was brought to a successful conclusion on 23 December 1918 with the Decree Clementissimus Deus of Pope Benedict xv.
His relics were frequently removed from the original tomb in the Carmelite church until, shortly after the pilgrimage in 1961 in honour of the sixth centenary of Blessed Nuno's birth, with the precious silver reliquary in which the relics were kept, the reliquary was stolen and has never been recovered. His relics were replaced by several bones, relics from other places that were collected and preserved.
The discovery of the site of the original tomb in 1996, together with some authenticated bone fragments, prompted the desire to hasten Bl. Nuno's canonization.
Fr Felipe M. Amenós y Bonet, the Postulator General of the Carmelites, took up the cause and his holiness was corroborated by a miracle in the year 2000. After the necessary investigations, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI promulgated the decree approving the miracle on 3 July 2008. During the Consistory of 21 February 2009 he mentioned that Bl. Nuno would be enrolled among the saints on 26 April 2009.
CATERINA VOLPICELLI was born into an upper middle-class Neapolitan family on 21 January 1839 from which she received a sound human and religious formation. She was taught literature, languages and music at the Royal Educational Institute of St Marcellino by Margherita
Salatino (the future foundress, with Bl. Ludovico da Casoria, of the Franciscan Grey Sisters of St Elizabeth). She belongs to that array of "apostles of the poor and marginalized" who in 19th-century Naples were a sign of the presence of Christ, the Good Samaritan, who comes close to all who are injured in body and spirit.
Caterina had been trying to outshine her sister in society, frequently going to the theatre and the ballet, but prompted by the Lord's Spirit who revealed God's plan to her through the voice of wise and holy spiritual directors, she soon gave up the transient pleasures of an elegant and carefree life, to adhere with generous decision to a vocation of perfection and holiness.
Her chance meeting with Bl. Ludovico da Casoria on 19 September 1854 at La Palma, Naples, as she herself says, was "a rare stroke of prevenient grace, charity and favour from the Sacred Heart, delighted by the poverty of his servant". Bl. Ludovico led her to join the Third Order Franciscans and indicated to her the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the one goal of her life, inviting her to remain in society to be a "fisher of souls". Guided by her confessor, the Barnabite Fr Leonardo Mat-era, on 28 May 1859 Caterina entered the Perpetual Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, but she soon left, for serious health reasons. Caterina's confessor showed her the monthly leaflet of the Apostleship of Prayer in France; from him she received detailed information about this new association with the diploma of Messenger, the first in Naples. In July 1867, Fr Ramiere visited the palace of Largo Petrone in Naples, where Caterina was considering establishing her apostolic activities "to revive love for Jesus Christ in hearts, in families and in society". The Apostleship of Prayer would be the cornerstone of Caterina's whole spiritual edifice and would permit her to cultivate her ardent love of the Eucharist and her outreach to others.
With the first messengers, on 1 July 1874, Caterina founded the new institute of "Servants of the Sacred Heart", at first approved by the Cardinal Archbishop of Naples, the Servant of God Sisto Riario Sforza, and later, on 13 June 1890, by Pope Leo XIII who granted the new religious family the "Decree of praise".
Concerned about the lot of the young, she then opened the orphanage of the Margherites, founded a lending library and set up the Association of the Daughters of Mary, with the wise guidance of Venerable Mother Rosa Carafa Traetto (d. 1890).
She soon opened other houses: in Naples, in the Sansevero Palace and then at the La Sapienza Church in Ponticelli, where the Servants distinguished themselves in nursing cholera victims in 1884 and in Minturno, Meta di Sorrento and Rome. On 14 May 1884, the new Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Guglielmo Sanfelice, OSB, consecrated the Shrine dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which Caterina Volpicelli had had built next to the Mother House of her institutions. She built it specifically for adoration in reparation, as requested by the Pope, to support the Church in difficult times for religious freedom and Gospel proclamation. Caterina's participation in the first National Eucharistic Congress celebrated in Naples in 1891 (19-22 November), crowned the apostolate of the Foundress of the Servants of the Sacred Heart. Caterina Volpicelli died in Naples on 28 December 1894, offering her life for the Church and for the Holy Father.
GELTRUDE CATERINA COMENSOLI was born in Bienno in Val Camonica, Brescia, on 18 January 1847, the fifth of 10 children. Her parents, Carlo and Anna Maria Milesi, baptized her on the day of her birth, giving her the name "Caterina". She experienced the joys of innocence and light-heartedness typical of that age; however, the Lord instilled in her the compulsion to be intimately united to him: she was often drawn by a strong desire to pray and to meditate deeply. To those who asked her what she was doing she would answer: "I am thinking".
At the age of seven, unable to resist any longer the pressing invitation of Jesus, one day, in the very early morning, she went to the nearby Saint Mary's Church. Standing at the balustrade, she secretly made her First Communion. Caterina experienced a "heavenly" feeling and swore eternal love to Jesus. The child became more serious and meditative and more absorbed in the thought of Jesus present in the Eucharist who, she realized, was often left alone for days on end. While still young, she became an Apostle of the Eucharist.
She chose some of the girls she knew to establish the Guard of Honour. Her ideal was Jesus. The motto: "Jesus, loving you and making others love you", became the programme of her life. Attracted by a more perfect life, at the age of 15 she joined the convent of the Sisters of Charity (the Maria Bambina" Sisters), founded by St Bartolomea Capitanio in Lovere, Brescia, but had to leave almost immediately because of ill health.
Having returned home, she became a member of the Company of St Angela Merici, a kind of secular institute, and devoted herself to teaching catechism to the young people of the parish.
In 1867, she left her village due to her family's financial situation and worked at the household of Rev. G.B. Rota, parish priest of Chiari, who a few years later was to become the Bishop of Lody, and afterwards with the Countess Fé-Vitali.
During the Christmas season of 1876 she reaffirmed her dedication to Jesus and wrote a very demanding plan of life to which she remained faithful.
On the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1878, with the permission of her confessor she made perpetual the vow of chastity which she had made on the morning of her secret Communion. Without neglecting her duties as a domestic servant, Caterina became the teacher of the children of San Gervasio, Bergamo, guiding them towards an honest life of Christian and social virtues.
By means of assiduous prayer, mortification and an intense interior life she prepared herself to accept the will of God. After her parents' death, Caterina opened her heart to the Bishop Speranza of Bergamo who was in Bienno at that time as a guest of the Fé-Vitalis. She confided to him her desire to found a religious congregation.
In 1880, while in Rome with the Fé-Vitalis she succeeded in speaking to Pope Leo XIII about her plans to establish a religious institute devoted to the adoration of the Eucharist. The Pope changed them by inviting her to include the education of young female factory workers as well.
Supported by the new Bishop of Bergamo, Mons. Guindani, and by her "Father and Superior", Rev. F. Spinelli, on 15 December 1882, Caterina, together with two of her friends, founded the Congregation of the Sacramentine Sisters of Bergamo [Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament] with the first hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. On 15 December 1884 she was clothed in the religious habit and took the name "Sr Geltrude of the Blessed Sacrament". By 1887 six other houses were opened and Sr Geltrude was elected superior.
The new Congregation proved to be a work of God. Indeed, like all God's works, it endured many adversities which sorely tried the young Institute. Already there had been differences between Fr Spinelli and Sr Geltrude as to the primary task of the sisters. The former wanted the apostolate to come first, and adoration to be in second place; the foundress saw adoration as the institute's main purpose. The financial crisis brought the final separation between the two founders.
The majority of the sisters supported their superior and on the Bishop's advice left Bergamo and went to Lodi. Bishop Rota of Lodi welcomed them and generously gave them a house at Lavagna di Comazzo, which temporarily became the Mother House of the Institute.
When innumerable difficulties had been surmounted, Bishop Rota, with the Decree of 8 September 1891, granted the institute canonical recognition as a diocesan congregation. On 28 March 1892, Mother Geltrude returned to Bergamo, the birthplace of the Congregation, where she remained to attend to its further expansion.
The Foundress had guaranteed the continuation of the perpetual and public adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and had instilled in her Sisters her precious ideas. Hers was a spirit of prayer, sacrifice, mortification, obedience, humility and charity mainly towards the poor. She died after a brief illness on 18 February 1903.
On 9 August 1926, her venerable remains were translated from the cemetery of Bergamo to the Mother House of the Institute which she had founded. There she lies in a special chapel next to the Church of Adoration.
At the request of numerous people, on 18 February 1928, the Ordinary Process was initiated on the reputation of Mother Geltrude's holiness, virtuous life and the miracles God granted through her intercession. It ended in 1939.
That same year, Pius XII authorized the preliminary investigation of the Apostolic Process in the Cause of Mother Geltrude.
On 26 April 1961, the General Congregation of the then Congregation of Sacred Rites was held in the presence of Pope John XXIII who promulgated the Decree on the heroic virtues of Mother Geltrude Comensoli.
12 October 2008
St. Gaetano Errico was born on 19 October 1791 in Secondigliano, a small village just north of Naples, Italy. He was the second of nine children born to Pasquale and Marie (Marseglia) Errico. His father managed a small pasta factory and his mother worked the loom weaving plush.
He was known as a good and obedient child, who helped his father in the pasta factory and eagerly shared his parent's deep faith. By the age of 14 Gaetano felt the call to the priesthood and religious life. Many Congregations at that time accepted adolescents as young as Gaetano, however, his first choices, the Capuchins and the Redemptorists, rejected his application because of his age.
When he was 16 he applied to the Archdiocesan Seminary of Naples. He was accepted and began his studies in January 1808. Since he could not board at the seminary because of his family's meagre income, he registered as a day student and walked the eight kilometres to and from the seminary each clay.
During the formation period, Gaetano did very well in his studies. He was faithful to his spiritual life, never missing daily Mass and Holy Communion. While still living at home he managed to help his parents as well. In addition, on Thursdays and on Sundays he would walk through the town encouraging the children to attend their catechism classes on his way to visit the sick.
On 23 September 1815, in the Chapel of St. Restituta in Naples' Cathedral, Gaetano was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Ruffo Scilla. Soon after ordination he was appointed to a position as a teacher.
For the next 20 years, Fr. Errico taught his students with exemplary dedication, giving them both a good education and a proper spiritual formation. With great care and ardour, lie imparted the tenets of Christian doctrine and moral values.
He also carried out pastoral duties at Sts. Cosrnas and Damian Church. His ministry was characterized by four principle concerns: proclamation of the Word; ministry of Reconciliation: material and spiritual assistance to the sick and selfless charity through which he proclaimed to all that in God they have a Father who loves them.
Every year, Fr. Errico travelled to a Redemptorist retreat house near Salerno for his annual retreat. In 1818, an extraordinary event occurred during prayer that was to change his life forever. St. Alphonsus Liguori appeared to him in a vision and told him that God wanted him to found a new religions congregation. Further, as a sign of this desire, he was to build a church in Secondigliano in honour of Our Lady of Sorrows. The vision of Our Lady imbued him with courage.
At first, the people of Secondigliano welcomed the news that God wanted a church in honour of .Jesus' Sorrowful Mother in their little village. However, a few people were opposed to it arid their jealousy and distrust made Fr. Errico's task more difficult. However, he never lost sight of the goal and against all odds the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows was built. It was dedicated on 9 December 1830.
When the church was nearly completed, Fr. Errico began the construction of what would serve as the first home of the future Congregation. It was a small house and Fr. Errico lived there with a lay brother who looked after the Church.
From such humble beginnings, he began to invite priests to come on retreat, in the hope that a number would feel inspired to the missions and religious life.
When the church and house were completed Fr. Gaetano commissioned Francesco Verzella, a famous Neapolitan sculptor, to create an image of Our Lady of Sorrows. History has it that the sculptor had to rework the statue several times before it corresponded to Fr. Errico's vision of her sorrowful expression. The statue arrived in Secondigliano in May 1835 and drew an unending number of pilgrims.
The following year, again while on retreat, God revealed to Fr. Errico that the new Congregation must be in honour of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. He already had an abiding devotion to the Sacred Hearts and now his desire to share this love through apostolic and missionary work increased.
Fr. Errico's love for the Sacred Hearts urged him to seek out the lost and reconcile them to God. He especially sought the most vulnerable, those in danger, the sick, the abandoned and marginalized and the spiritually bereft. He wanted everyone to feel the touch of our loving Father, ever ready to forgive and slow to anger.
The new Congregation and its Statutes were approved on 14 March 1836 and in October of that year the novitiate with eight novices was opened.
In April 1846, he went to Rome to ask for final approval. The Congregation grew. The number of its members increased and new houses had to be opened in southern Italy. On 7 August 1846, Pope Pius IX issued the Apostolic Brief of Approbation. Fr. Gaetano Errico was unanimously elected Superior General.
Fr. Errico was truly a man of God, a man with a mission, a man aflame with an unquenchable love of Jesus and Mary. The first secret of his holiness was prayer. Ever on his knees, his small room in the house in Secondigliano bears the indentations on the floor where, kneeling, he found refuge and strength.
Penance further sustained his holiness. He fasted continuously, often only taking bread and water in order to give his share of food to the poor. Self-castigation was part of his penance, offered humbly for the many sins that wounded the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Fr. Errico was never too tired to travel in order to preach, hear confessions, encourage the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. His comforting and caring presence reminded all of the love of God the Father. It prompted many in the small towns and villages to call him a saint.
Fr. Errico died on the morning of 29 October 186o at the age of 69.
In December 1876, Pope Leo declared him Venerable and Pope Paul VI declared his heroic virtues with an Apostolic Decree on 4 October 1974.
Pope John Paul n celebrated his Beatification on 14 April 2002 saying: "he urges us to rediscover the value and importance of the Sacrament of Penance, where God distributes his pardon so generously and shows the gentleness of the Father towards his weaker children" (John Paul II, Beatification Homily, 14. April 2002; L'Osservatore Romano English Edition, 17 April 2002, p. 2).
St. Maria Bernarda Bütler (in the world, Verena), Foundress of the Congregation of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians, was born to Enrico and Caterina
Bütler, deeply devout peasants, in Auw, Aargau, Switzerland, on 28 May 1848. She was the fourth of eight children.
Having completed her elementary schooling, she began working in the fields at the age of 14. After briefly falling in love, she felt that God was calling her.
Verena applied first to the Teaching Sisters, then to the Franciscans in Chan and to the Sisters of the Presentation in Zug. She even entered the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Menzingen but did not finish postulancy.
In 1867, at the suggestion of Fr. Sebastian Villiger, Verena entered the Capuchin Convent of Maria Hilf at Altstätten, Sankt Gallen, in Switzerland. Here, as a novice, she took the name of Sr. Maria Bernarda of the Sacred Heart of Mary. She made her first profession in October 1869.
Before taking her final vows, finding the discipline somewhat lax, she and four others asked the Bishop for its reform.
In 1874 Sr. Maria Bernarda was appointed bursar and procurator; she also dedicated herself zealously to the kitchen garden and the storeroom, always in deep recollection and union with God. Her efforts at reform were so successful that she was appointed novice mistress, then Superior in 1886.
Numerous vocations enabled the Superior to satisfy her missionary zeal so she accepted the invitation of the German Bishop Pietro Schumacher of Portoviejo, Ecuador, to found a mission of Sisters in his diocese.
Sr. Maria Bernarda obtained Papal and Swiss authorization and left for Ecuador with six sisters on 19 June 1888, impelled by the desire to found new houses for the Congregation. They arrived on 29 July.
Filled with enthusiasm, she founded a convent in Chone with a hospital and school for children, overcoming great difficulties of various sorts. Her efforts and outreach among the local people were soon to bear fruit.
However, misunderstandings with her Capuchin convent in Altstätten led to separation. This prompted her to found the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Help of Christians and soon two other houses were opened, at Santana and at Canon Ben.
Nonetheless, Sr. Maria Bernarda had her trials which she bore with heroic virtue: the stilling heat, health problems and uncertainty, riot to mention misunderstandings on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities and the departure of some of her Sisters to found a new Order.
She silently forgave and prayed for those who caused her suffering, which culminated in 1895 in persecution by the Government, forcing her and her Sisters to leave Ecuador.
Unsure of her destination, Sr. Maria Bernarda reached Bahia in Brazil with 15 Sisters and subsequently set sail for Colombia. During the voyage Bishop Eugenio Biffi of Cartagena invited them to work in his diocese. They arrived on 2 August 1895.
The Bishop assigned them a wing of the women's hospital known as the Obra Pia, which Mother Maria Bernarda established as the Mother House of her Congregation. It was here that she ended her days. She founded other houses in Colombia, as well as in Brazil, with schools, hospitals and homes, but the Novitiate was in Gaissau, Austria.
A true Franciscan, she devoted herself to the care of the poor and the sick who were always her special favourites. Indeed, she instructed her Sisters to give them priority. Mother Maria Bernarda was elected Superior General for nine consecutive mandates.
She died at the Obro Pia at the age of 76, on 19 May 1924, after 56 years of religious life and 36 as a missionary. She had been Superior for 30 years.
In 1956, her mortal remains were translated to the Chapel of the Pieta. in Colegio Biffi, Cartagena, Colombia.
St. Maria Bernarda was proof of boundless apostolic zeal and charity. She found divine mercy in contemplation of the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and the Passion of Our Lord. This legacy and charism she bequeathed to her Congregation, present today on three continents, together with her affection for Mary whom she chose as Mother and Patroness.
St. Maria Bernarda Bütler was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 29 October 1995.
St. Narcisa de Jesús Martino Morán was horn at Nobol, a village in Ecuador, on 29 October 1832. Narcisa's parents, Pietro Martillo and Giuseppina Moran, were peasant farmers and her father also a milkman.
There are almost no records of her early life except of her Confirmation, which she received on 16 September when she was seven years old. It seems that she was both beautiful and popular.
She spent her childhood doing housework and learned dressmaking. At the age of 15, as a seamstress, she started to take in work at home. When her parents died in 1851, she moved to live with relatives in Guayaquil where for years she worked increasingly at her trade in order to raise her younger siblings.
She was frequently obliged to move house and always sought some humble dwelling place, preferably an attic where she could be alone to meditate and devote herself to almost. continuous mortification.
Narcisa would spend eight hours a day praying in solitude and silence. At night she spent another four hours using instruments of penance such as a crown of thorns and sleeping on the bare floor. She ate almost nothing hut bread and water.
Some witnesses say that they often saw Narcisa in ecstasy, comforted by a vivid awareness of Jesus' presence.
In time she decided to consecrate herself to the Lord through virginity and penance, living a hidden life far from the eyes of the world, in the deepest humility and poverty, offering her penances to the Lord as a burnt offering for the salvation of humanity. Love for Jesus was her sole raison d'être.
In 1865, Narcisa accompanied her spiritual director, who was seriously ill, to Cuenca, where he died two years later. Although she was deeply upset by his death she declined the Bishop's invitation to stay on there at a convent of Discalced Carmelites. She returned to Guayaquil because she felt called to live a devout life, but one more integrated in the world.
Like her model, St. Marianna of Jesus, she too desired to offer her life in expiation for her city. Thus she met and made friends with Mercedes Molina, also venerated today as a Blessed, who was running an orphanage. Narcisa helped with the children's Christian formation and by making clothes for them. They shared a home and went to Mass together.
In 1868, on the advice of her spiritual director, Narcisa moved to Lima, Peru, where she lodged with Dominican Tertiary Sisters. However, her robust constitution had been gradually undermined by the harsh penances she had inflicted upon herself over the years which probably hastened her death.
On the evening of 8 December 1869, in wishing the Sisters "good night", she said to them almost jokingly that. she was leaving on a long journey. Just before midnight, the Sister on duty noticed that her cell was mysteriously illuminated and that a strong fragrance was coming from it.
Upon entering, the Sisters found Narcisa dead. She was only 37. She was buried in the crypt of the monastery but her body was subsequently translated to the Shrine named after her in her native town.
Narcisa was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 25 October 1992.
Fr Bernard J. O'Connor*
St. Alphonsa Muttathupadath, a member of the Syro-Malabar Church's Franciscan Clarist Congregation and India's first native-born Saint.
Baptized Annakutty (1910), it was during the funeral homily commemorating her brief 36 years that this extraordinary woman was described by her confessor, Fr. Romulus C.M.I., as "another St. Thérèse of Lisieux". What is ironic is that when she died on 28 July 1946, she was virtually unknown at Bharananganam, the locale where she resided. Few took notice of her passing and burial. But since then her grave has become a pilgrimage site for hundreds of thousands, some estimate millions, from across India and beyond.
Among these are many who are deeply committed to their Christian heritage. But their number also includes many who are Hindu, Muslim or who do not identify with any Organized religion. St. Alphonsa now attracts those who transcend state and national borders; she is also a focal point for contact between humanity's diverse philosophical and spiritual traditions. She can well be considered a model for the Church's mission of promoting interreligious dialogue desired effect, since the aunt finally consented to permit Annakutty to enter the convent.
Perhaps we should refrain from concluding that this action demonstrates an irrational response to being enmeshed in a clash between two intractable personalities. Some suggest. that Annakutty was so obsessed with manipulation and control that she would persist until she had her way despite the cost. But is this a valid appraisal?
What this gesture does symbolize is that Annakutty was so sensitive to the anguish of her aunt that she did not want to prolong her aunt's distress or the unfortunate likelihood of their becoming increasingly alienated from each other. Her approach was to bring closure and finality to what threatened to pit them against each other.
St. Alphonsa preferred to assume pain, instead of inflicting and extending pain. This does not imply a deviant selfishness. It reflects a generous heroism, not essentially different from the soldier who throws himself upon a grenade in order to spare his comrades from death by explosion.
St. Alphonsa was convinced that God called her to a vocation guided by poverty, chastity and obedience. Therefore, her surrender to his will could never be a matter of compromise.
Who is St. Alphonsa?
We might think of her by referring to the "Prayer for the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops" (see page 8). The Lord is implored so that the faithful may "be purified and strengthened in spirit". Thus, they "might greater follow the Gospel" and "make of themselves a living offering to the heavenly Father".
St. Alphonsa's entire existence was as a voluntary self-offering to her Divine Spouse. And in this year dedicated to St. Paul, the words of his Epistle to the Colossians (1:24) aptly summarize how she perceived of her relationship to Jesus, the Suffering Servant: "I fill up what is still lacking in the passion of Christ in my flesh for the sake of His body, that is the Church".
From her earliest days, St. Alphonsa experienced relentless physical and mental affliction. Herein lies the key both to her identity and to the enduring significance of her message for modern culture. The prevailing contemporary mindset is one of utter disdain for suffering. By contrast, she viewed suffering as redemptive, because it enabled her (and us) to be ever more intimately united to Christ in his agonies.
The circumstances surrounding Annakutty's birth rather anticipated the nature of her growth and development. She was born premature, caused by her mother's shock from being attacked by a snake. Just five weeks later, her mother died from related complications. As a result, the infant was reared by her maternal aunt. Although the woman doubtless loved her, Aunt Annama was a strict disciplinarian. She also had a firm intention that the little girl should be cultivated into a "beautiful and appealing" prospect for marriage. This differed from Annakutty's yearning to consecrate herself as a Bride of Christ.
Critics of St. Alphonsa often refer to an episode in her youth which they interpret to "prove" that she was actually afflicted by a serious psychological malady. She was adamant against her aunt's insistence that she must marry, and so she decided to disfigure herself by thrusting her leg into a fire. The subsequent burn required nearly a year to cure. However, it produced the desired effect, since the aunt finally consented to permit Annnakutty to enter the convent.
Perhaps we should refrain from concluding that this action demonstrates an irrational response to being enmeshed in a clash between two intractable personalities. Some suggest that Annakutty was so obsessed with manipulation and control that she would persist until she had her way despite the cost. But is this a valid appraisal?
What this gesture does symbolize is that Annakutty was so sensitive to the anguish of her aunt that she did not want to prolong her aunt's distress or the unfortunate likelihood of their becoming increasingly alienated from each other. Her approach was to bring closure and finality to what threatened to pit them against each other.
St. Alphonsa preferred to assume pain, instead of inflicting and extending pain. This does not imply a deviant selfishness. It reflects a generous heroism, not essentially different from the soldier who throws himself upon a grenade in order to spare his comrades from death by explosion.
St. Alphonsa was convinced that God called her to a vocation guided by poverty, chastity and obedience. Therefore, her surrender to his will could never be a matter of compromise.
On 19 May 1930, St. Alphonsa received her religious habit from the Bishop of Changanacherry. On that occasion she declared that her sole goal was to become a saint. She further pledged, as did St. Thérèse, that she would accept any suffering which might console her Lord in his Passion. Through suffering she sought to be purified of all that prevented her from totally loving him. And through suffering she chose to serve as a victim of reparation and atonement for those who were indifferent or resistant to the gift of grace. God granted her request.
What remained of her lift was spent almost entirely on a sick-bed and in excruciating pain. She was beset by incessant convulsions, by disruptions to her sleep, and by disturbances in food consumption and digestion. Inexplicable swelling continually racked her limbs.
However, there were a few instances when the future Saint was given a temporary reprieve. For example, she testified to an appearance to her of Bl. Kuriakose Chavara. He, too, was Indian and Syro-Malabar. He foretold that "other sicknesses" would follow. But the interval allowed her to regain her strength and to reaffirm her embrace of suffering. Such became intensified when fellow Sisters were persuaded that she "performed" in what was tantamount to a theatre of hallucination.
St. Alphonsa next realized how vicarious suffering could be a source of healing.
When she once prayed for her Bishop, a fever ailing him was seemingly transferred to her. The same occurred with her Mother Superior.
Observers have remarked that St. Alphonsa shunned attention. Her preference was to remain unknown. When asked by her convent's Superior, Mother Ursula, to write about her spiritual experiences, the reply was terse. "There is nothing about me worth recording". She identified with the innocent and unsung. And they found in her a constant inspiration. They knew that her trials were endured without complaint. Indeed, she became renowned for her joy. She strove to be "always cheerful", especially in the presence of detractors.
Children were strongly drawn to her. Because they had not acquired their own voice in society, they had minimal recognition and she became their confidant. Students from the school adjacent to the convent premises shared their problems and hopes with her.
Not only did the children trust her, but, after her death they visited the grave of their "friend", pleading for her intercession. It was the children who were the first to talk of her as a Saint. Numerous adults reacted positively to the testimonies of their sons and daughters. St. Alphonsa's reputation as a mediator for favours spread rapidly and widely.
Not surprisingly, children feature prominently in the reports of those who associate St. Alphonsa with miracles and cures. But what is perhaps surprising is that frequently these recipients were non-Catholic. On 16 April 1948, "a young pagan" from East Pakistan was healed of advanced typhus. There was also the case of a 5 year old Hindu boy, Rajappen, who had been deaf, unable to communicate verbally and unable to walk since birth. Similarly, Abdulla, a Muslim (age 10), was healed of his club foot; as was another Muslim, Leha (age 13), who had been "completely bedridden" due to her paralysis.
Clearly, St. Alphonsa's intercession has an ecumenical and interreligious dimension. A distinct social value is equally apparent. But we should not underestimate the foundation of her profound spirituality. Beyond the central role of suffering, Scripture and the sacraments, she was an advocate of Marian devotion and of the imitation of the Saints.
St. Alphonsa habitually referred to St. Thérèse's familiar doctrine of the "Little Way" and to St. Francis of Assisi's emphasis on poverty as an expression of Christ's self-emptying from Calvary. Yet, her spiritual life was not confined to the abstract. Her discipleship was disciplined; consisting of a programme of resolutions (for example, "to be prompt in obeying") and of day-by-day mortification, as well a deep prayer life, with a greater attention to the Blessed Sacrament, especially on Thursday, the traditional day of the Eucharist.
There is true simplicity in St. Alphonsa's "Path of Love". That path leads us directly to the heart of holiness, where mankind is transformed by our Triune God of perfect fulfilment.
St. Alphonsa was beatified by Pope John Paul It on 8 February 1986.
*Fr O'Connor is an Official at the Congregation for Eastern Churches.
3 June 2007
Anne-Eugenie Milleret de Brou was born on 25 August 1817 in Metz, France. Her father, a banker, provided the family with a lovely home and many comforts. Her mother ensured the sensitive Anne-Eugenie of a Christian education, which strengthened her character and gave her a strong sense of duty. Family life developed her intellectual curiosity and a romantic spirit, an interest in social questions and a broad worldview.
Her seemingly carefree childhood, however, was marked by suffering when two of her siblings died: her elder brother Charles and baby sister Elisabeth. Her own health was damaged by a fall from a horse.
At age 12, Anne-Eugenie received a great consolation when she made her First Holy Communion. Upon receiving the Host, she suddenly felt herself lovingly taken up before the very presence of God. During her life she spoke of this mystical experience as what sustained her in times of trial.
Falling family fortunes
During her early teens Anne-Eugenie witnessed her father's bankruptcy, the selling of their family estate and her parent's marital difficulties that finally ended in separation. The family broke up: Anne-Eugenie went to live with her mother in Paris, while her brother Louis, closest to her in age and her constant companion, lived with their father.
Two years later, Anne-Eugenie's mother contracted cholera and died within a few hours, leaving her young daughter alone at age 15, stripped of those dearest to her in a worldly and superficial society.
She was then sent by her father to live with Catholic relatives in Paris. He wanted her to take her place in society like the other young women her age by marrying. But Anne-Eugenie found her cousins' piety narrow and stifling, and while she had no real objections to marriage she rejected all her suitors.
During Lent of 1836, at 19 years of age, she was invited to attend special Conferences at Notre Dame in Paris, preached by the eloquent Fr. Lacordaire. He understood both the ideals of youth and their ignorance of Christ and his Church. His words touched Anne-Eugenie's heart, and later she wrote to him:
"Your words answered all my thoughts... gave me a new generosity, a faith that nothing was to shake.... I was really converted, and I had conceived the desire to give all my strength, or rather all my weakness, to this Church, which alone now had in my eyes the secret and the power of good" (cf. Feu vert... au bout d'un siècle, Marie-Domin-ique Poinsenet, in L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 20 February 1975, p. 6).
She discovered that the ideals of justice and liberty, equality and fraternity are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus, the universal and definitive liberator.
Gospel service in education
Shortly afterwards, Anne-Eugenie met Fr. Marie-Theodore Combalot, who quickly recognized that he had encountered a chosen soul who would, be Foundress of the Congregation he had long dreamed of establishing. He explained his dream of evangelizing minds through education and of making families truly Christian as a means of transforming society.
Anne-Eugenie accepted his ideas as God's will for her and followed Fr. Combalot's guidance. She prepared for this work by participating in the Benedictine Sisters' novitiate in Paris and by studying dogmatic and moral theology with the Visitation Sisters.
On 30 April 1839, at age 22, she became the Foundress of the Religious of the Assumption. Together with her first companions she went to live in a flat in rue Ferou near the Church of St. Suplice in Paris. In 1841 the Sisters opened their first school dedicated to the education of aristocratic youth. Their number quickly grew to 16 Sisters from four nations. On Christmas Day 1844 the Foundress took her perpetual vows and the name Marie Eugenie of Jesus.
Mother Marie Eugenie and her first companions wanted to link the past treasures of the Church's spirituality and wisdom with a type of religious life and education able to satisfy the demands of modern minds, making Gospel values penetrate the rising culture of a new industrial and scientific era.
The Congregation's spirituality, centred on Christ and the Incarnation, was both deeply contemplative and dedicated to apostolic works. The Sisters' personal quest for God naturally overflowed in love of and service to others.
In the last years of her life, Mother Marie Eugenie experienced a progressive physical weakening, which she lived in silence and humility.
After a life spent in the service of God and neighbour, and having seen the number of Sisters grow to over 1,000 in six nations, Mother Marie Eugenie of Jesus died on 10 March 1898 in Auteuil, Paris. She was beatified by Pope Paul VI on 9 February 1975.
Simon was born in Lipnica Murowana, in southern Poland, c. 1435-1440. His parents, Gregory and Anne, gave him a good education inspired by the values of the Christian faith, and despite their modest circumstances also gave him an adequate cultural formation. During his childhood Simon demonstrated a sense of responsibility, a natural predisposition to prayer and a tender love for the Mother of God.
He moved to Krakow in 1454 and attended the famous Jagiellonian Academy. There he met St. John of Capestrano, whose preaching attracted a number of young men to the Franciscan vocation. St. John of Capestrano had founded the first convent of the Observance in Krakow on 8 September 1453. The convent was named after the recently canonized St. Bernardine of Siena and the local people commonly referred to these Friars Minor as "Bernardini".
In 1457 the young Simon finally joined the Friars and was received along with 10 other students in the convent of Stradom, Krakow.
Under the guidance of the Novice Master, Bro. Christopher of Varese, renowned for his teaching and holiness, Simon generously embraced the poor and humble life of the Friars Minor and was ordained a priest around 1460.
His first assignment was as Guardian of the convent in Tarnów. He later transferred back to Stradom where his profound union with God and careful study of the Sacred Scriptures were revealed through his untiring dedication to preaching, which radiated his ardour, faith and wisdom.
Bless the Holy Name of Jesus
Like St. Bernardine of Siena and St. John of Capestrano, Friar Simon spread devotion to the Name of Jesus and obtained a significant number of conversions. In 1463, he was assigned to preach in the Cathedral of Wawel. His dedication to this task earned him the title of "predicator ferventissimus", as ancient sources confirm.
In his desire to honour St. Bernardine of Siena, who had been his role model, he went to Aquila, Italy, to participate on 17 May 1472 in the solemn translation of the Saint's body to a Church erected in his honour.
He travelled to Italy again in 1478 for the General Chapter in Pavia. On this occasion he accomplished a long-desired pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles in Rome, which he later extended to the Holy Land.
Knowing the possibility of being captured by non-believers, he memorized the Rule of the Order before undertaking the journey in order to have it ever present. He lived this experience in a spirit of penance and deep love for the passion of Christ, with the hidden aspiration, if God willed it, of shedding his own blood for the salvation of souls. He emulated St. Francis of Assisi in his love for the Holy Places.
Deadly plague hits home
Friar Simon's love for others was manifested in an extraordinary way during the last year of his life when a plague broke out in Krakow. The city was under the scourge of the epidemic from July 1482 to 6 January 1483. The Franciscans of the convent of St. Bernardine tirelessly did all they could to care for the sick.
He considered it a propitious time to exercise charity and to fulfil it by offering his own life. He went everywhere, comforting, consoling, administering the sacraments and proclaiming God's Word to the dying. He was soon infected.
Friar Simon suffered the pain of the disease with extraordinary patience and, near the end, expressed his desire to be buried under the threshold of the church so that all could trample upon him. On his sixth day with the disease, 18 July 1482, without fear of death and with his eyes fixed on the Crucifix, he gave his soul back to God.
The cult rendered to Friar Simon, which passed into the history of seraphic sanctity under the title of "Salutis omnium sitibundus", was confirmed by Bl. Innocent XI on 24 February 1685.
His Canonization cause, taken up by Pope Pius XII on 25 June 1948, reached its happy ending following the recognition of his heroic virtues and of the miraculous cure attributed to Bl. Simon's intercession which occurred in Krakow in 1943. The respective decrees were promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI on 19 December 2005 and 16 December 2006.
Simon of Lipnica combined commitment to evangelization and charity, both of which flowed from his great love for God's Word and for the poor and suffering. The Order of Friars Minor, on the vigil of celebrating the eighth centenary of its foundation (1209-2009), hails him as an authentic witness to poverty, humility and simplicity, as well as to the joy of belonging fully to the Lord and to being a gift to the life of the Friars.
John Andrew Houben was born at Munstergeleen, The Netherlands, on 11 December 1821, the fourth of 11 children, and was brought up in a devout Catholic atmosphere.
As a child he was quiet yet always cheerful. John enjoyed serving at Holy Mass, and in considering a priestly vocation, he knew that education was an essential element. A slow learner, he persevered in his efforts to study, including the two-mile walk to and from high school every day, although others doubted he would ever complete his education.
In 1840, he enlisted as an army reserve but did not prove to be a skilled soldier. In the five years he spent in the army, he saw only three months active service. Until his time as a reservist ended, he worked in his uncle's flour mill and continued his studies in his spare time, now with more success.
During his short military career he came to hear about the religious Congregation of Passionists and decided to join them. But family difficulties increased: first with the death of his uncle, who had taken a special interest in the family, and then in 1844 with the death of his mother at 52 years of age.
It was therefore not surprising that his father tried to dissuade him from joining the Passionists; but in 1845 he entered their novitiate at Ere, Belgium, and was given the name Charles.
His father died in August 1850 and the funeral expenses prohibited his family from travelling to attend his priestly ordination six months later on 21 December.
Ministry in England and Ireland
In February 1852 Fr. Charles was assigned to England. There he came in contact with many Irish who were unable to go to America to escape the famine and had thus travelled to England. The young priest's heart went out to them, greatly admiring their loyalty to the faith.
In 1857, he went to Ireland, to the newly-founded Passionist monastery of Mount Argus, three miles from Dublin. At that time 10 Passionists were living in a reconstructed farmhouse with a temporary chapel.
Soon, however, construction began on an 80-room monastery and retreat house for priests and laity, the first of its kind in Ireland. Fr. Charles was charged with the task of travelling throughout Ireland to collect funds for it. He was very successful.
Except for an eight-year period in England (1866-74), he spent the remainder of his 36 years there. He became known by all as "Fr. Charles of Mount Argus", and is known as such today.
Although a poor preacher — he never fully mastered the English language — his pastoral gifts became manifest in the confessional and in comforting the sick. His daily routine was to walk from the monastery to the church preaching to the people about the love Jesus showed in his passion. Inside the church he would pray privately, ask the people to renew their baptismal promises, bless them with the relic of St. Paul of the Cross (Founder of the Passionist Congregation), and then lay his hands on them in prayer.
Healings, trouble, ultimate graces
Great graces were attributed to his prayers, not only physical cures but also healing of depressions and psychological disorders. Often people would send carriages to bring him into the country to visit the sick.
Trouble began for the holy priest when some physicians complained to the local Cardinal that Fr. Charles was telling people they had no need to go to a doctor. His custom of also blessing holy water with a relic of St. Paul of the Cross led some disrespectful persons to profit from it by selling the holy water they managed to acquire. This led to allegations of simony.
Although Fr. Charles was innocent of both charges, Cardinal Cullen and his superiors decided to send him to England to quell the turmoil. There he helped with the novices and worked in various parishes, but no evidence exists that any miraculous cures occurred during that time.
In 1874 Fr. Charles returned to Mount Argus and lived there for the last 19 years of his life. He resumed his fundraising for the church and continued his care for the sick. As a result, the crowds returned and the cures began again.
His pastoral ministry was brought to a premature close when a small horse-drawn carriage in which he was travelling overturned, causing him a fracture which never healed and a wound which became ulcerated. He also patiently bore a constant toothache.
He died on 5 January 1893. His funeral was one of the largest ever held in Dublin, and his tomb has been a place of continuous pilgrimage.
Pope John Paul II declared Fr. Charles Venerable in 1979 and beatified
him in 1988.
George Preca was born in Valletta, Malta, on 12 February 1880 to Vincenzo Preca and Natalina Ceravolo. He was baptized on 17 February.
As a young man, he was inspired by the example of Bl. Ignatius Falzon, who established a catechetical movement. Intent on becoming a priest, George entered the seminary at Malta.
Between 1905 and 1906, before he was ordained, George began a series of formation meetings for several young men in Hamrun. Their leader, Eugene Borg, would later become the first Superior General of what was called the Society of Christian Doctrine.
A new priest, a new society
George Preca was ordained a priest on 22 December 1906; for some weeks afterwards, he spent his time absorbed in prayer and contemplation and only went out to celebrate Mass.
On 2 February 1907, the group of young men met for a lesson by Fr. George in Ta' Nuzzu Church in Hamrun. On 7 March, they gathered in a small rented room. These two dates mark the beginnings of the Society of Christian Doctrine: today, it has developed into a group of lay people dedicated to the apostolate of catechesis, who lead a simple Gospel lifestyle and commit themselves to a life of prayer.
At first, eager to emphasize their fidelity to the Pope, Fr. George called the society "Societas Papiduurn et Papidissarum" (Society of the Sons and Daughters of the Pope), but then a new name was chosen, almost in jest about the rundown place where the first members met, which was referred to as a "museum". The name proved popular and Fr. George made it into an acrostic: "Magister utinam sequatur Evangelium universus mundus" (M.U.S.E.U.M.), meaning, "Teacher, that the whole world might follow the Gospel".
In 1910, Fr. Preca founded a women's branch with help from Giannina Cutajar, who became its first Superior General.
Little by little, the Society's characteristics were defined: members were celibate lay workers, dedicated without reserve to the apostolate of catechesis.
Due to growing suspicion about the capacity of its lay members, Fr. George was ordered in 1909 to close all his centres. He obeyed without complaint. Parish priests, however, protested to the Bishops and the order was revoked.
From 1914 to 1915 several libellous articles about M.U.S.E.U.M. appeared in certain Maltese newspapers, but Fr. George imposed a vow of non-reaction upon his members and taught them to refuse to be upset by unjust criticism.
In 1916 the Bishop of Malta ordered an inquiry into the society's work and the findings were favourable. Although some changes were required, the way was opened for the Society's recognition and development. It was canonically established on 12 April 1932.
Evangelization par excellence
Fr. George Preca worked tirelessly to spread the values and teachings of the Gospel in Malta. He wrote booklets on dogmatic, moral and ascetic subjects in Maltese, but his influence was felt most through spreading the Word of God, translated into Maltese.
His charismatic preaching often referred to parables and stories from Scripture and the lives of the saints. He never shied away from preaching about death, judgment, hell and heaven. Convinced of God's justice, he also proclaimed the Lord's infinite mercy.
People flocked to him for advice, comfort or encouragement. He was also endowed with many supernatural gifts, including the knowledge of hearts and of the future. He was nonetheless a humble, good and generous priest, who spread devotion to the mystery of the Incarnation through the words "Verbum Dei caro factum est" (The Word was made flesh), which he chose as the Society's motto.
Fr. Preca, a Third Order Carmelite since 1918, greatly loved the Blessed Virgin Mary. From his earliest years he wore the Carmelite scapular, which he asked all Society members to wear. He had a special devotion to Our Lady of Good Counsel and spread devotion to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
Milestones in the Society's history include: in 1951, the St. Michael Intermediate School was planned; in 1952, five members were sent to open M.U.S.E.U.M. centres in Australia (the Society also exists today in England, Albania, Kenya, Sudan and Peru); in 1954, building of the Society's Generalate and a church dedicated to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal began.
In 1955, Fr. George blessed the foundation stone of the Sacred Family Institute in tabbar, Malta, and the Society of Christian Doctrine's "Veritas Press", which is still located there today.
After a long life entirely dedicated to the Gospel and Christian formation, the Servant of God died on 26 July 1962.
11 May 2007
Anthony Galváo was born in 1739 in Guaratinguetá, São Paulo State, Brazil, to a deeply religious family of high social standing.
His father, Antonio Galváo de Franca, who was active in the world of commerce, belonged to the Third Order of St. Francis and was known for his generosity. His mother, Izabel Leite de Barros, who bore 11 children before her premature death in 1755 at age 38, was equally known for her generosity. In fact, when she died, none of her clothes could be found because she had given them all to the poor.
When Anthony was 13 years old his father sent him to the Jesuit seminary in Belém, but due to a growing anti-Jesuit climate, his father later recommended that he pursue his vocation with the Franciscan Friars instead.
At age 21, on 15 April 1760, he entered the novitiate of the St. Bonaventure Friary in Macacu, Rio de Janeiro. During his novitiate he was known for his piety, zeal and exemplary virtues.
He made his solemn profession on 16 April 1761 and took the Franciscan vow to defend the Blessed Virgin Mary's title of the "Immaculate"; at that time it was still a controversial doctrine.
A year later he was ordained a priest and sent to St. Francis Friary in São Paulo, where he continued his studies in theology and philosophy. In 1768 he was appointed preacher, confessor and porter of the convent, an important post.
In 1769-70 he served as confessor to the "Recolhimento", the Recollects of St. Teresa in São Paulo. Here he met Sr. Helena Maria of the Holy Spirit, a prayerful and penitent nun who claimed to have visions where Jesus was asking her to found a new "Recolhimento". Fr. Galvão, her confessor, studied these messages and consulted with others who recognized them as valid and supernatural.
He therefore collaborated in the new foundation and Our Lady of the Conception of Divine Providence was established on 2 February 1774. It was modelled on Conceptionists.
Following an unexpected call
After Sr. Helena's sudden death on 23 February 1775, Fr. Galvão became the new head of this young Institute, a post he assumed with humility and prudence.
During this time a change in São Paulo's Government brought an inflexible leader who ordered the closing of the convent. Fr. Anthony accepted the decision with faith, the Sisters obeyed but did not leave the premises, and due to popular pressure and the Bishop's efforts, the convent was soon re-opened.
Subsequently, the number of vocations increased and more living space was required. It took Fr. Anthony 28 years to build the convent and church, with the latter being dedicated on 15 August 1802.
In addition to the construction work and duties within and outside his Order, Friar Galvão committed himself to the Recollect's formation. The Statutes he wrote for them is a guide for the interior life and religious discipline. In 1929 this convent became a monastery, incorporated into the Order of the Immaculate Conception.
Just when things seemed more tranquil, another government intervention brought Fr. Anthony a further trial. The Captain General sentenced a soldier to death for having slightly offended his son, and the priest was sent into exile for having come to the soldier's defence. Again, popular demand succeeded in having the order revoked.
In 1781 Fr Galvão was appointed novice master in Macacu. He was later named guardian of St. Francis Friary in São Paulo in 1798, and was re-elected in 1801. But the "Recollects" and the Bishop of São Paulo appealed to the Provincial: "None of the inhabitants of this city will be able to bear the absence of this Religious for a single moment...". As a result, he returned.
In 1811 he founded St. Clare Convent in Sorocaba, São Paulo. After 11 months, he returned to São Paulo to St. Francis Friary. In his old age, he obtained permission from the Bishop and the guardian to stay at the Recolhimento da Luz. He died there on 23 December 1822.
Fr. Anthony of Saint Anne Galvão was laid to rest in the Recolhimento Church, and his tomb continues to be a destination for pilgrimages of the faithful who obtain graces through the intercession of this "man of peace and charity".
23 October 2005ST. JOZEF BILCZEWSKI (1860-1923)
Archbishop of Lviv for Latins, Ukraine
Jozef Bilczewski was born on 26 Apr 1860 in Wilamowice, Krakow, Poland. After he graduated from high school in Wadowice and Kety in 1880, he entered the seminary and was ordained a priest on 6 July 1884 in Krakow by Cardinal Albino Dunajewski.
In 1886 Fr. Bilczewski earned a doctorate in theology at the University Vienna, and then went to Rome and to Paris to continue his studies, which he concluded at the Jagiellonian University of Krakow in 1890.
A learned man
In 1891 he became professor of dogmatic theology at the John Casimir University of Lviv, where he also served a dean of the faculty of theology and a rector of the University.
As professor, Fr. Bilczewski was beloved by his students and admired by the other professors. He dedicated more of his time to studies and, although he was relatively young, he earned the reputation of being a scholar.
On 17 December 1900 Pope Leo XI appointed Fr. Bilczewski as Archbishop of Lviv for Latins.
For 23 years, Archbishop Bilczewski carried out this very demanding service. In his episcopal mission he had to deal with difficulties due to internal problems and the dissensions during the First World War. He often intervened with the civil Authorities on behalf of Poles, Ukrainians and Jews.
Time of persecution
The Polish-Ukrainian War (1918-19) brought with it a new wave of violence and many priests were killed or imprisoned. Then the Bolshevik Revolution (1919-20) unleashed all its fury against the Catholic Church.
Through these and other conflicts, Archbishop Bilczewski stood firm to protect one and all without distinctions of race or religion.
From 1918 to 1921 the Archdiocese lost approximately 120 priests. Although seriously ill himself, the Archbishop accepted sickness calmly and courageously.
Archbishop Jozef Bilczewski died on 20 March 1923 in Lviv.
He was beatified on 26 June 2001 by Pope John Paul II.
Gaetano Catanoso was born on 14 February 1619 in Chorio di San Lorenzo, Reggio Calabria, Italy. His parents were wealthy landowners and exemplary Christians.
Gaetano was ordained a priest in 1902, and from 1904 to 1921 he served in the rural parish of Pentidatttlo.
Fr. Catanoso had a great devotion to The Holy Face of Jesus, and began "The Holy Face" bulletin and established the "Confraternity of the Holy Face" in 1920. He once wrote, "The Holy Face is my life. He is my strength".
Versatility, openness to God's will
On 2 February 1921, he was transferred to the large parish of Santa Maria de la Candelaria. where he remained until 1940. He was very versatile and his ability to peacefully and diligently serve in such contradictory parish realities earned him the reputation of holiness.
Because he was not conditioned by exterior factors, positive or negative. Fr. Gaetano worked well in all situations and settings, striving always to deepen his union with Christ and to do God's will for the good of those entrusted to his pastoral care. He desired nothing more than to serve at the country parish of Pentidattilo, and his appointment to Candelaria did not make him "puffed up".
As parish priest of Candelaria, he drew people to Christ by reviving Eucharistic and Marian devotions. He opened institutions, promoted catechetical instruction and crusaded against blasphemy and the profanation of feast days.
Fr. Gaetano felt it his duty as a priest to help children and youth who lacked role models and risked being corrupted, as well as abandoned older persons and priests who were isolated without support. He even helped restore churches and Tabernacles left to decay.
In short, he saw the Face of Christ in all who suffered and would say: "Let us all work to defend and save the orphans, those who are abandoned. There are too many dangers and there is too much misery. With Jesus let us turn our gaze to the abandoned children and youth: today, humanity is more morally sick than ever".
Fr. Catanoso often spent hours or entire days in prayer before the Tabernacle, and in the parish and beyond he promoted Eucharistic Adoration. He also set up so-called "flying-squads", teams of priests willing to cooperate in the parishes by giving homilies and hearing confession on these occasions.
Spiritual assistance, Founder
From 1921 to 1950 he served as confessor at religious institutes and in the Reggio Calabria prison. He was also hospital chaplain and spiritual director of the Archiepiscopal Seminary.
In 1934, Fr. Catanoso founded the "Congregation of the Daughters of St. Veronica, Missionaries of the Holy Face"; its mission: constant prayer of reparation, humble service in worship, catechesis, assistance to children, youth, priests and the elderly. The first convent was opened in Riparo, Reggio Calabria.
When the Archbishop curtailed the activities of the Congregation. Fr. Catanoso showed great docility in accepting this decision.
Finally, however, on 25 March 1958, the Constitutions he had written received diocesan approval.
Fr. Celanese died on 4 April 1963, after an exemplary life. He was
beatified by Pope John Paul II on 4 May 1997.
Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga was born on 22 January 1201 in Viña del Mar, Chile. When he was 4 years old his father died and his mother was forced to sell their modest family property in order to pay debts.
Alberto and his brother soon became accustomed to living with relatives and they were often moved from one relatives' house to another.
A scholarship allowed Alberto to attend the Jesuit High School in Santiago, Chile, and it was there that he became a member of the Sodality of Our Lady. In this setting, he became actively interested in the poor, visiting them every Sunday afternoon in the most miserable neighbourhoods.
Helping the family and the poor
After secondary studies in 1917, he strongly wanted to enter the Jesuit Order, but was advised to postpone this plan so he could take care of his mother and younger brother. Alberto worked in the afternoons and evenings to support his family, while at the same time attending the law faculty of the Catholic University. He also continued visiting the poor on Sundays.
To complete his bachelor's degree he wrote a paper on "Regulation of Child Labour", while his master's thesis was on "Work in the Home". His academic pursuits were indicators of his concern for the poor, a concern that would later define his ministry.
After completing obligatory military service, he completed his studies in August 1923. That same month he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Chillán, and in April 1925 he was sent to Córdoba, Argentina, to complete this initial formation.
After two years of novitiate and first vows, he remained in Córdoba to complete his education in the humanities.
In 1927 he was sent to Barcelona, Spain, for studies in philosophy and theology, but due to the 1931 suppression of the Jesuits in Spain, he had to go to Belgium to complete his four years of theology in Louvain.
A Jesuit priest
Alberto was ordained a priest in August 1933. He completed his theology studies and tertianship in Europe and then returned to Chile in 1936.
In Santiago, Fr. Hurtado taught religion at St. Ignatius High School and pedagogy at the Catholic University. In directing the Spiritual Exercises for young people, he accompanied many young men in their response to the priestly vocation and fostered in lay people a desire to live a consistent life of faith and active charity.
He also taught the rich; entrepreneurs and employers that "it is by his work that the worker is sanctified".
In 1941 he was appointed Assistant for Catholic Action, first in the Archdiocese of Santiago and later at the national level. The same year, he published his book entitled "Is Chile a Catholic Country?".
'El Hogar de Cristo'
In October 1944, while he was leading the Spiritual Exercises, Fr. Hurtado appealed to his retreatants to consider the many who are poor in the city.
His appeal evoked a generous response and marked the beginning of an initiative that made him famous: he would provide not only a home for the homeless but also a warm family environment of love.
This programme became known as the "Hagar de Cristo", the "Hearth of Christ".
Through the contributions of benefactors and the collaboration of committed lay people. Fr. Hurtado opened welcome homes for young people, women and children. In some cases these homes became rehabilitation centres, while others offered vocational training.
Every home always inspired and permeated Christian values. Fr. Hurtado said that the purpose of "Hogar de Cristo" was to help those received in them to gradually develop "the knowledge of values which each one has as a person, of his dignity as a citizen, and more so, as a child of God".
Fr. Hurtado also wrote three important works on trade unions, social humanism, and the Christian social order.
In 1951 he started the journal Mensaje, dedicated to explaining Church teaching.
Pancreatic cancer ended his life in a quick few months. In the midst of terrible pain, he was often heard to say, "I am content. Lord".
Fr. Hurtado died on 18 August 1952 and was beatified by Pope John Paul
II on 15 October 1994.
Zygmunt Gorazdowski was born on 1 November 1845 in Ukraine. His family lived their Catholic faith most seriously, and Zygmunt grew up in this deeply religious environment that was not exempt from trials and suffering.
As a child, Zygmunt was afflicted with a lung ailment; this, however, did not prevent him from considering the needs of others and offering his help where he could.
After finishing high school in Przemyśl he enrolled in the faculty of law Lviv. At the end of his second year of law studies he decided to enter the Latin Catholic Seminary in Lviv, feeling called to the priesthood.
All done for the service of the poor
He finished his studies there and, considering his poor health, underwent two years of intensive therapy. On 21 July 1871, he was ordained a priest.
For the first six years, Fr. Gorazdowski served as parish vicar and administrator at Tartakow, Wojnilow, Bukaczowce, Grod Jagelonski and Zydaczow. He gave of himself totally in carrying out his priestly duties and in works of charity.
During an outbreak of cholera in Wojnilow, Fr. Zygmunt heroically did all he could do to help the sick and dying, even laying out the bodies of the dead despite the great risk of contagion.
Throughout his priesthood he took great care to protect the spiritual health and growth of his parishioners, for whom he wrote and published a catechism and many other books to help parents, teachers and youth. He also began many apostolic works for the poor and suffering.
Beginning in 1877, Fr. Zygmunt started a wonderful spiritual and charitable project in the Parish of St. Nicholas in Lviv. He worked for 40 years there, serving in many schools and also founding the "Bonus Pastor" Association for priests.
Founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph
Above all else, his charity sparkled, especially for the needy and suffering. He founded a home and soup kitchen for the needy, a health-care centre for the terminally ill and for convalescents, an institute for poor seminarians, a home for single mothers and orphans, and "St. Joseph's Polish-German Catholic School".
In order to maintain and continue these works, he founded the Religious "Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph" on 17 February 1884.
Fr. Zygmunt Gorazdowski died in Lviv on 1 January 1920. Those who knew him called him the "Father of the poor and priest of the homeless".
He was beatified on 26 June 2001 by Pope John Paul II.
The Sisters of St Joseph continue in the charism entrusted to them by
their Founder. They currently work in eight countries with the poor, sick
and suffering, and serve in the field of education.
Phillip James Amoroso was born on 5 November 1715 in Nicosia, Sicily, Italy, to Philip Amoroso and Carmela Pirro. His father was a shoemaker and died a month before little Philip James was born. Leaving his wife and three children.
The family was poor and very religious. Like many other poor Sicilian youth, Phillip James did not go to school as a child but grew up as an apprentice to the local shoemaker. The shop, next door to a convent of Capuchin friars, gave the young boy a chance to visit the community, know the Religious there and admire their lifestyle: joy in austerity, freedom in poverty, penance, prayer, charity and a missionary spirit.
Initial rejection, powerful perseverance
When he was 20 years old, Phillip James asked the superior of the convent of Nicosia if he could enter the Order; he wished to enter as a simple lay friar, since he was illiterate and could not become a priest, but also because his humble and simple disposition made him feel unworthy of such an honourable vocation.
Phillip James was rejected, however, by the Father Provincial, and for the next eight years, with persevering insistence, he continued to apply for admission, but to no avail..
Finally, when the Father Provincial of Messina came to Nicosia on a visit, Phillip James asked for an interview with him in order to express his desire. This time, he was accepted. and on 10 October 1742 at the age of 27, he entered the Capuchin community at Mistretta, taking the name "Fra Felix".
As a novice, Bro. Felix was remembered for his spirit of obedience, angelic purity, love of mortification and patience. On 10 October 1744 he made his profession.
Immediately following his profession, he was sent back to the convent of Nicosia; it was unusual for a young friar to return to the convent of his hometown, because this could easily be a distraction and temptation considering family ties and bonds of friendship
But this was not the case with Bro. Felix, and the interior and exterior detachment that his superiors noted in him made them trust the young friar.
Begging 'for the love of God'
Bro. Felix was given the assignment of assisting the "questing brother" in his mendicant rounds. Every day he went through the town, knocking at the doors of the rich, asking them to share their wealth, and of the poor, offering them comfort in their daily hardships.
He always thanked those who opened the door to him even if they drove him away with angry words. His response was always the same: "So be it, for the love of God".
Although Bro. Felix was illiterate, he made up for it by attentive listening to biblical passages and by spiritual works, using his memory and strong will to keep his attention fixed on these holy words, all for the good of his soul.
Charity, obedience, Eucharist
Bro. Felix was endowed with the gift of healing temporal and spiritual diseases, and gladly tended the sick and bedridden, even though he himself was often ill. He had a special devotion for the Eucharist and contemplated Jesus Crucified every Friday, practicing extreme penance and mortification. He also prayed to the Mother of God with tenderness.
As his strength failed, his concentration on God grew, together with his joyful and simple spirit of obedience.
At the end of May 1767, while working in the garden, Bro. Felix suddenly felt ill with a high fever; his superior, Fr. Macario, commanded him in obedience to go and rest. When the doctor prescribed medicine for him he said that it was useless, because this was his last illness.
Bro. Felix died on 31 May 1787 at the age of 71.
He was beatified on 12 February 1888 by Pope Leo XIII.
15-17 May 2004
Luigi Orione was born on 23 June 1872 in Pontecurone, Italy. As a young boy, he received a solid human and Christian formation from his mother as well as direction from two priests, Fr Michele Cattaneo and Fr Francesco Milanese.
When Luigi was 10 years old he felt called to become a priest. He had to "put off" this desire, however, in order to help with the family income, travelling along the roads of Monferrato as an apprentice to his father, who was a street paver.
When Luigi was 13, he was permitted to enter the Franciscan convent of Voghera. An attack of pneumonia that almost sent him to the grave, however, forced his return home a year later.
Two saints enter the scene
Fr Milanese continued to stay close to the young Luigi and encouraged him to enter the Oratory of Valdocco in Turin, where St John Bosco assumed responsibility for the boy's formation and became his confessor. He recognized Luigi's good qualities and sensed "something more" in him.
During this time, Luigi was also influenced by the example of the charitable works of St Joseph Benedict Cottolengo, whose "Little House of Divine Providence" was near the Oratory.
Having completed three years of study in Valdocco, Luigi returned to his native Diocese of Tortona and began philosophy courses at the seminary. To pay his way, he worked as a custodian at the cathedral, and always had complete trust that divine providence would "pull him through": he believed that if it was God's will that he become a priest, everything would fall into place.
Founder of 'Divine Providence'
When he was 20, Luigi began an Oratory for young boys in Tortona, and the following year, in 1893, he opened a boarding school for poor boys in the St Bernardine estate. As a seminarian, he also dedicated his time to the care of others and was a member of the San Marziano Society for Mutual Help and the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
Luigi Orione was ordained a priest on 13 April 1895, when the Bishop also bestowed the clerical habit upon six pupils of the boarding school. Many seminarians and priests surrounded this "young founder" and became his core group of the Little Work of Divine Providence. In 1899 he founded the branch of the Hermits of Divine Providence, and with a Decree of 21 March 1903, the Sons of Divine Providence (priests, lay brothers and hermits) were canonically approved. The Congregation aimed "to bring the little ones, the poor and the people to the Church and to the Pope by means of works of charity".
Full of missionary zeal, Don Orione sent his first Religious to Brazil in 1913; from that moment on, the "Little Work" was to expand throughout Latin America and beyond.
Love for humanity, love for God
On two occasions, Don Orione rushed to assist the victims of earthquakes: at Reggio and Messina (1908) and in the Marsica region (1915), true examples of human and religious heroism. On 29 June 1915, 20 years after the foundation of the Sons of Divine Providence, he added to the "single tree of many branches" the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity. He also founded the Blind Sisters, Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament and later, the Contemplative Sisters of Jesus Crucified. Don Orione always gave God first place in his life and understood the absolute necessity of prayer in order to give life and energy to apostolic works. He also fostered devotion to the Blessed Mother and constructed the shrines of Our Lady of Safe Keeping in Tortona and Our Lady of Caravaggio at Fumo, all through the manual labour of his seminarians.
In his travels, Don Orione tirelessly opened schools, churches and homes for the poor and needy, and following World War I, their numbers substantially increased. Among his most enterprising works were the "Little Cottolengos", built on the outskirts of large cities to care for the suffering and abandoned.
Promoter of the media
Known as a gifted preacher and confessor, and a man of great wisdom, Don Orione was also entrusted on more than one occasion with solving and healing confidential social or Church problems.
Taking advantage of the media and press, he published magazines and brochures, opened printing presses and spoke on radio. He also set up lay associations, thus adding more "branches" to this "tree of divine providence".
The last three years of his life were spent at the Motherhouse in Tortona, while he continued to make weekly visits to the "Little Cottolengos" of Milan and Genoa. On 12 March 1940, following two heart attacks, he died in San Remo, Italy.
The body of Don Orione was found intact at its first exhumation in 1965.
He was beatified on 26 October 1980 by Pope John Paul II.
Hannibal Di Francia was born on 5 July 1851 in Messina, Italy. His father, Francis, was a knight, papal vice-consul and honorary captain of the navy, and his mother, Anna, also belonged to an aristocratic family. Hannibal was only 15 months old when his father died.
'Ask the Lord of the harvest...'
Hannibal grew up with a deep love for the Eucharist and was given permission to receive Holy Communion daily, something quite exceptional in those days. He was only 17 when, at prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, he was given the grace to understand fully Jesus' words in the Gospel: "Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers to gather his harvest" (Mt 9:38). He believed these words were aimed directly at him, and they were to become the fundamental insight that would guide his entire life.
Hannibal possessed exceptional intelligence and remarkable literary abilities, and as soon as he understood that God was calling him to become a priest, he decided to place his gifts at the service of the Lord.
'Sheep without a shepherd'
On 16 March 1878, a few months before his priestly ordination, Hannibal had a providential encounter with a blind beggar in one of the poorest parts of Messina called the "Avignon Houses". Here he discovered the sad social and moral reality of the ghetto's inhabitants, and it marked the beginning of a long walk in boundless love at the service of the poor and orphans.
With the permission and encouragement of his Bishop, Fr Hannibal made the Avignon ghetto his home, dedicating himself to these "sheep without a shepherd". Although the experience was marked by misunderstandings and obstacles of every kind, his faith and love for the people gave him the strength to persevere; he was carrying out what he called the "spirit of a twofold charity: the evangelization of and care for the poor".
In 1882 he opened "Anthonian Orphanages" that were placed under the patronage of St Anthony of Padua. His concern here was not only to provide the children with food and housing, but above all to ensure their growth in a "family climate" that would help integrate the moral and religious aspects of their lives.
The secret to salvation: 'rogate'
With his genuine missionary spirit, Fr Hannibal wanted to reach out to orphans and the poor worldwide. He wrote: "What are these few orphans we attend to, these few people we bring the Good News to, compared to the millions who are lost and abandoned as sheep without a shepherd?... I looked for an answer and I found a complete one in the words of Jesus: 'Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers to gather his harvest'. I concluded then that I had found the secret key to all good works and to the salvation of all souls".
Fr Hannibal felt that the "ask" ("rogate") was the real answer. To carry out his apostolic ideal, he founded two religious congregations: the Daughter's of Divine Zeal in 1887 and the Rogationist Fathers in 1897. He wanted both institutions to live the "Rogate" as a fourth vow. They were both canonicaily approved on 6 August 1926.
Risk of 'artificial priests'
Fr Hannibal's love for the priesthood was great, and he strongly believed that the world would be redeemed only through the work of many holy priests. He was deeply concerned with the spiritual formation of his seminarians and used to say that without much prayer and solid spiritual training, "all the efforts of bishops and seminary educators would only result in artificial priests".
To spread prayer for vocations he promoted several initiatives: he had personal epistolary contacts with the Popes of his time, and instituted a "Sacred Alliance" or prayer movement for vocations intended for the clergy and the "Pious Union of Evangelical Rogation" for all the faithful. He also published the periodical "God and Neighbour" to involve everyone in this work.
A crucial event in his life was the catastrophic earthquake of 1908 in Messina, which left 80,000 dead, including 13 of his nuns. With his usual unshakeable faith, he did not despair but joined solidarity and spirituality to help the victims "start again from nothing".
Fr Hannibal Di Francia died on 1 June 1927 in Messina. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 7 October 1990.
Today his religious families are present on all the continents. According
to the ideals of their Founder, they dedicate themselves to spreading prayer
for vocations through vocational centres, publishing houses and printing
presses, and running institutions for orphans and abandoned children,
schools for the deaf, nutritional centres, homes for the aged and single
mothers, and professional and vocational schools.
Gianna Beretta Molla was born on 4 October 1922 in Magenta, Italy, the 10th of 13 children to Alberto and Maria Beretta. Five siblings died when they were young, and three entered the Religious life.
The solid Christian education that Gianna received at home (influenced by the Franciscan spirituality lived by her parents) convinced her of the necessity of prayer, gave her a great trust in divine providence and allowed her to understand the meaning of suffering when lived out of love. Gianna experienced life as a marvellous gift from God and had a most positive outlook on everything.
'No' to sin, all for Jesus
A spiritual retreat held in Genoa in March 1938 marked a "great leap" in her life, and she received a deeper awareness of the importance of living to the full a life in God's grace. She wrote: "I want to have a fear of mortal sin as if it were a snake; to rather die a thousand times than to offend the Lord". She also made the proposal to "do everything for Jesus. Each one of my works, every misfortune, I offer to Jesus".
Gianna was also no stranger to suffering, and four years later, both her parents died: her mother in April 1942, followed by her father in September of that year.
Mission as a medical doctor
During her years of secondary and university education, she balanced studies with generous service, dedicating her time and attention to the elderly and needy as a member of the St Vincent de Paul Society.
In 1950, after earning degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of Pavia, she opened a medical clinic in Mesero, near Magenta. She then specialized in paediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952, and thereafter was particularly focused on providing assistance to mothers and babies as well as helping the elderly and poor.
Together with her work in the field of medicine, considered from the beginning her "mission", she also offered her time to Catholic Action, working especially with very young children. She even found time to express her love for life through skiing and mountain climbing.
Grand vocation to motherhood
Gianna often reflected on what God desired of her, and through prayer and spiritual direction she believed the Lord was calling her to "form a Christian family".
Following a beautiful and holy engagement to Pietro Molla, also a member of Catholic Action, she was married on 24 September 1955 in St Martin's Basilica in Magenta, preparing for the special day by a triduum of prayer.
On 19 November 1956, to her great joy, she became the mother of Pierluigi; on 11 December 1957 she gave birth to Mariolina; and on 15 July 1959, Laura was born. As all three pregnancies had complications, Gianna was even more thankful to God for these blessed "gifts".
With extraordinary simplicity and balance she was able to harmonize the demands of being a mother, wife and doctor. She also continued her volunteer activities.
In September 1961, towards the end of the second month of her fourth pregnancy, Gianna was again touched by the mystery of suffering and pain: she had developed a life-threatening tumour in her uterus that required surgery. Before the operation, Gianna pleaded with the surgeon to spare the life of the child she was carrying and entrusted herself totally into God's hands. As a doctor she was well-aware of the gravity of her situation and of the risk of losing her own life or that of the child in continuing the pregnancy, although she confided this awareness to only a few.
'Do not hesitate: choose the child’
The operation was "successful" and the life of the child was spared. Gianna spent the remaining seven months until her baby's birth strong in spirit and unrelenting in dedication to her tasks as mother and doctor, always with the same peaceful smile on her face.
A few days before the child was due, Gianna told her husband with a firm voice and an inspired look: "If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child, I insist on it. Save the baby".
On Good Friday, 20 April 1962, Gianna entered St Gerard's Hospital of Monza; the following day, Holy Saturday, Gianna Emanuela was born.
A few hours after her child's birth, Gianna began to experience severe pain due to septic peritonitis. Despite all efforts to ease her suffering and save her life, she died a week later on 28 April 1962. Until her last breath, Gianna repeated: "Jesus, I love you! Jesus, I love you!". She was 39 years old.
At the Sunday Angelus of 23 September 1973, Pope Paul VI defined Gianna as "a young mother from the Diocese of Milan who, to give life to her daughter, sacrificed her own, with conscious immolation".
Gianna Beretta Molla was beatified on 24 April 1994 by Pope John Paul II,
during the International Year of the Family.
Youssef Kassab Al-Hardini was born in 1808 in Hardin, Lebanon. As a child, he was strongly influenced by the monastic tradition of the Maronite Church. Four of his brothers became priests or monks, and Youssef himself entered the Lebanese Maronite Order in 1828.
The young man began religious life at the monastery of St Anthony in Qozhaya, near the Qadisha (Holy Valley), where he remained for two years until he began his novitiate and was given the name "Nimatullah". During the novitiate, he deepened his life of personal and community prayer and dedicated time to manual labour, while also learning to bind books.
Love for the Blessed Sacrament
Nimatullah was especially noted for his love of the Blessed Sacrament. During his free time — frequently at the sacrifice of sleep — he was often found in the chapel on his knees, arms raised in the form of a cross and eyes fixed on the tabernacle.
On 14 November 1830 he made his religious profession and was sent to the monastery of Sts Cyprian and Justina in Kfifan to study philosophy and theology. On 25 December 1833 he was ordained a priest and became director of the scholasticate and a professor.
During the two civil wars of 1840 and 1845, he suffered greatly with his people. His brother, Fr Elisha, suggested he withdraw to a hermitage, but he replied: "Those who struggle for virtue in community life will have greater merit".
He observed that the ordinary, everyday life is a continuous martyrdom, since the monk must always be a model to his brother monks, guarding himself from becoming a source of scandal; instead, the hermit lives alone, away from all external temptations.
It was also a decisive moment in his spiritual life, and he offered himself to God for Lebanon and his Order. His motto was: "The greatest is he that can save his soul", and he would often repeat this to his brother monks.
The 'first concern' of a monk
Fr Nimatullah was at times also reprimanded by his superiors for being too hard on himself and too merciful and indulgent towards his brothers. He understood holiness in terms of communion and fraternal charity and is said to have remarked: "A monk's first concern, night and day, should be not to hurt or trouble his brother monks".
Throughout his life he had a special devotion to the Virgin Mary, his "source of strength". He never tired of repeating her holy name, and carried a special place in his heart for the mystery of the Immaculate Conception (a dogma proclaimed by the Church in 1854). After the Angelus he would often repeat: "Blessed be the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin".
In 1845 the Holy See appointed him Assistant General of the order. A man of culture, Fr Nimatullah asked the Superior General to send monks to further their studies at the new college founded by the Jesuits in Ghazir.
A truly humble man of God
He served as Assistant General for two more terms, but refused to be appointed Abbot General: "Better death than to be appointed Superior General", he is reported as saying.
His reluctance to assume positions of authority in his Order came from his deep humility and his earnest belief that he was far from living in continual contact with God, so necessary to properly serve the monks and the Order. Even when he was Assistant General, he remained humble, refusing to have a special servant accompany him and attend to his personal needs, as was the custom in the Order at the time.
'O Mary, I entrust my soul to you'
In December 1858, while teaching at the monastery of Kfifan, he became gravely ill, a result of the bitter cold in that region. His condition worsened, leading to his death on 14 December. He died holding an icon of the Blessed Virgin and saying: "O Mary, to you I entrust my soul". He was 50 years old.
When the then Patriarch Boulos Massad heard of Fr Nimatullah's death, he commented: "Congratulations to this monk who knew how to benefit from his monastic life".
While still alive, Fr Nimatullah was known as the "Saint of Kfifan", a monk who gave himself completely to his brother monks and neighbours during a time of suffering in his Land and difficulty within his Order.
Fr Nimatullah was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 10 May 1998.
Costanza Cerioli was born on 28 January 1816 in Soncino, Italy, the last of 16 children born into the noble family of Francesco Cerioli and Francesca Corniani. She was a frail child plagued by a heart condition throughout her life.
Comfort found in God alone
Costanza lived at home until she was 11 years old, when she was sent off to school in Bergamo; here she remained for five years, suffering terribly from the loneliness of being away from home. But this experience helped her grow to depend on God, finding her comfort in him alone.
At age 19, Costanza returned to Soncino where a planned marriage awaited her; 59-year-old Gaetano Busecchi, widow of a countess, was set to be her husband. Seeing it as God's will, she accepted this proposal and was married on 30 April 1835.
Her marriage lasted 19 years and was marked by suffering on all sides: her husband's difficult character and poor health weighed on her, and three of the four children that Costanza gave birth to died prematurely; Carlo, her greatest "consolation", lived to be 16.
Before his death due to serious illness in January 1854, Carlo spoke these prophetic words to his mother: "Mama, do not cry... the Lord will give you other children". At the end of that same year, on 25 December, Gaetano also died.
This marked a dark period for Costanza, causing a profound existential crisis. Never had she found herself so alone and abandoned, her life so seemingly senseless, it was during this time that the words spoken by her son became a constant echo in her soul and sustained her, becoming her "guiding light".
She sought spiritual direction and entrusted her tragedies and entire life into the hands of God, asking constantly for the grace to live her life with eyes of faith.
Costanza continued to feel the need to express her "maternity" and to "give of herself" to others, as she had done with Carlo. She was now 38 years old and, inspired by the Gospel, understood that charity was the only truly meaningful road.
She thus began to visit and assist the sick and share her belongings with the poor and orphans. Looking into the searching and frightened eyes of the orphaned children who begged along the streets inspired her to make even more courageous decisions.
She began to give all her wealth and belongings to the poor and opened her home to welcome orphans. Her family and neighbours would remark: "The anguish that this devout woman passed through must have driven her crazy... she does not realize what she is doing".
The money she received once she sold her jewellry was used to purchase materials for the orphanage. Even before giving away all her goods, she had made the most important decision: to give her entire self to God, making a perpetual vow of chastity on 25 December 1856. And with her confessor's approval, she made vows of poverty and obedience on 8 February 1857.
It was not long before other young women desired to join Costanza and "follow" in her works of charity. God's plan was unfolding before her eyes with greater clarity; in silence, prayer and recollection she began to draw up the Rule for her "work".
Sisters of the Holy Family
On 8 December 1857, Costanza, "mother of many orphans", founded the Institute of the Sisters of the Holy Family in Comonte, Italy. She took the name "Sr Paola Elisabetta", and summarized the charism of the Congregation in this way:
"The humility, simplicity, poverty and love of work found in the Holy Family of Nazareth is what makes up the specific spirituality of this Institute. The Sisters that belong to it must strive to model themselves on this life, full of the recollection, hiddenness and same spirit of humble labour that Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived in this blessed home".
From that day, Mother Paola dedicated herself to the growth and development of the religious community. On 4 November 1863, in Villacampagna, a male branch was also founded by her, the Religious of the Holy Family.
Under the protection of St Joseph
With the House of Nazareth as the model of both branches, Mother Paola entrusted her "work" to the special protection of St Joseph and willed that the orphans under their care be known as the "sons and daughters of St Joseph".
She was very attentive to the education of these parentless children and to the problem of poverty. Her motherly spirit was limitless and she understood the importance of carefully and properly forming her religious sons and daughters, so that they would be able to love and educate well the children God placed under their care, these "neglected and lost ones".
Mother Paola Elisabetta died unexpectedly in her home in Comonte on 24 December 1865. She was 49 years old.
She was beatified by Pope Pius XII on 19 March 1950, the Solemnity of St
José Manyanet y Vives was born on 7 January 1833 in Tremp, Northeastern Spain, the ninth and last child of Antonio Manyanet and Bonaventura Vives.
When he was almost 2 years old, his father died. A priest, Fr Vaientino Lledos, became his "guardian" and later, his spiritual director. When he was 5, young José was offered to Our Lady by his mother, who instilled in him from the beginning a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother.
Called to the priesthood
As a young boy, José felt called to the priesthood, and in order to pursue his vocation he had to leave Tremp. To pay the cost of his schooling with the Piarist Fathers in Barbastro and formation at the Seminaries of Lleida and Urgell, he earned money by privately tutoring the children of well-to-do families.
During these years he cultivated his Christian life in an exemplary way and strengthened his priestly vocation. The Bishop of Urgell had made him a part of his staff during his years of theological studies, and José's commitment and fidelity were so great that the prelate kept him with him, directed him spiritually and in his studies, and ordained him a priest on 9 April 1859. He then appointed him as librarian of the seminary, administrator of the curia and secretary of pastoral visits.
After 12 years of intense work in the Diocese of Urgell, Fr Manyanet refused other charges and honours, preferring to dedicate himself to families and to their Christian formation, while at the same time strongly feeling God's call to found a religious institute with this scope.
For the good of families
With the approval of the Bishop, he founded in 1864 the religious Congregations of the Sons of the Holy Family Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and in 1874, the Missionary Daughters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Their mission: to imitate, honour and propagate the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth and the Christian formation of families, especially through the Catholic education of youth and through the priestly ministry. The two Congregations began their work by opening schools and other apostolic centres in various parts of Spain.
For almost 40 years, through constant prayer, an exemplary life full of virtues and loving dedication for souls, Fr Manyanet was the guide and propelling force in the spread of the two Institutes, in no way sparing himself.
Spirituality of the Holy Family
Called by God to present to the world the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth, he wrote several books and pamphlets on subjects such as devotion to the Holy Family, the formation of Religious and families, and the direction of colleges and professional schools. He founded the magazine "La Sagrada Familia", which is still published today.
Fr Manyanet made pilgrimages to Lourdes, Rome and Loreto in order to reaffirm his Marian devotion, express his ecclesial communion and better understand the spirit of the house of the Holy Family: this was always his home, his school and the theme of his life, and he wanted it to be the same for his sons and daughters.
Bearing 'God's mercies'
The labours of Fr Manyanet flourished even among many difficulties, and he himself was not spared from certain physical infirmities that tested him throughout his life. Indeed, for 16 years his health was compromised by open wounds on his side, which he called "God's mercies".
But his indomitable constancy and strength, nourished by a profound adherence and obedience to God's will, helped him overcome all types of obstacles.
On 17 December 1901 Fr Manyanet died in Barcelona, centre of his work. His last words were the short prayer which he had repeated so many times throughout his life; "Jesus, Joseph and Mary, may my soul pass away in peace with you". He was beatified on 25 November 1984 by Pope John Paul II.
Today both Institutes are present in several European countries, in North and South America and in Africa.
5 October 2003
Daniel Comboni was born on 15 March 1831 in Limone on Lake Garda, Italy, the fourth of eight children.
His parents worked for a rich landowner in the area and although they were materially poor, they were rich in faith and values. Because they could not afford to pay for Daniel's schooling, the boy was sent to an institute for poor children in Verona, founded and directed by Fr Mazza.
While in Verona, already feeling called to the priesthood and strongly influenced by the example and missionary zeal of Fr Mazza (affectionately known as "Fr Congo" because his love for the African people), Daniel decided that his future would be dedicated to the evangelization of Africa. With this ideal strongly impressed in his heart, he began in 1849 his studies in languages, medicine and theology.
In 1854 he was ordained a priest and three years later, under the direction of Fr Mazza, set out for Africa with five other missionaries.
After a four-month journey, the expedition reached Khartoum, capital of Sudan. Fr Comboni understood upon his arrival that the mission would be far from easy, especially since the African people generally did not trust the "white men", whom they associated with their worst enemies, the slave traders.
However, despite fatigue, the oppressive climate, sickness and the death of some of his companions, Fr Comboni did not lose heart. He wrote to his parents; "We are called to labour, to sweat, even to die, but the thought that we labour and die for love of Jesus Christ and for the salvation of the most abandoned souls, is too sweet for us to falter in this great commitment".
Fr Comboni resolved not to give up the mission to which he felt so strongly called: "Africa or death!", he used to exclaim.
In 1859, however, he was forced to return to Italy because of poor health, ending his missionary experience after only two years. Three of his missionary partners died, and the mission was termed a "failure" and had to be closed.
After regaining his health, Fr Comboni served as vice-rector at the Institute founded by Fr Mazza, helping him with the young men and women who had been rescued from slavery and welcomed into the Institute. While the African mission seemed an apparent loss, Fr Comboni did not give up; driven by the ideal of evangelizing Africa and wishing to give voice to a people oppressed by slavery and hardship, he continued to hope.
In 1864, praying at the tomb of St Peter, Fr Comboni was inspired to draft a "plan for the rebirth of Africa", a missionary blueprint to "save Africa through Africans". Fr Daniel was so firmly convinced of the human and religious capacity and dignity of the African peoples that he began to travel all over Europe in search of funds for the mission, approaching kings, bishops and ordinary people alike.
Although some thought his idea a fantasy or "Utopia", Fr Comboni continued to dedicate all his energy to the project. He also began publishing the first missionary magazine in Italy, the Annals of the Good Shepherd Association.
In 1867, Fr Comboni founded a missionary institute for men, known today as the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus or Verona Fathers, and one for women in 1872, known as the Comboni Missionary Sisters or Missionary Sisters of Verona. Both Congregations were intended primarily for work in Africa.
Together with some of the African men and women rescued from slavery and educated by Fr Mazza, the first missionaries included formed Religious from other Institutes, eager to help Fr Comboni with the new mission and foundation.
After the initial years of growth and expansion of missionary foundations in Africa, on 2 July 1877, Fr Comboni was appointed as Vicar Apostolic of Central Africa and consecrated Bishop a month later. Besides travelling widely in his vicariate and establishing missions, he sought to end the widespread slave trade and its abuses, and pioneered superior methods of evangelization. He was also a linguist, geographer and ethnologist, and contributed extensively to scientific journals. He compiled a dictionary of the Nubian language and published studies on the Dinka and Bari tongues.
In 1877, a two-year drought and famine of unprecedented severity killed half the local population and exhausted the missionaries. In 1880, for the eighth and last time, Bishop Comboni returned to Africa to take his place beside his missionary sons and daughters, working to combat the scourge of slavery and to consolidate the missionary activity of the Africans themselves.
A year later he fell ill and died at the age of 50 on 10 October 1881, in Khartoum, Sudan, among the people he had served and loved.
Bishop Comboni was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 17 March 1996.
Arnold Janssen was born on 5 November 1837 in Goch, Germany, the second of 11 children to Gerhard and Anna Katharina Janssen. Arnold learned early on how to work on the family farm and to put God first in his life.
When he was 10 years old, Arnold began high school in Goch, and then transferred to the diocesan minor seminary. After completing his studies in 1855, he went to Muenster to study mathematics, natural sciences and philosophy, and then transferred to the major seminary in Muenster to study theology; his intention was to become a priest and a high school teacher.
On 15 August 1861, he was ordained a priest and assigned to a secondary school in Bocholt.
Fr Janssen was also named diocesan director for the Apostleship of Prayer; this apostolate encouraged him to interact with Christians of other denominations, and he dedicated his time to promoting the Apostleship in the Diocese of Muenster.
These activities turned Fr Arnold Janssen into a "travelling apostle" and as soon as school holidays began, he was constantly on the road, often by foot, to visit the dioceses. Little by little the desire grew within him to dedicate all his energies to making the German Church aware of its missionary responsibility. With this in mind, he resigned from his teaching post in 1873.
Soon after, he founded the mission magazine titled "The Little Messenger of the Sacred Heart". Its purpose, Fr Janssen said, was "to inform people about the Catholic missions at home and abroad in a readable and interesting manner".
During this time, the Catholic Church in Germany was undergoing persecution and all aspects of Church life were put under the authority of the civil power: anti-Catholic laws were passed, priests and Religious were expelled, bishops were imprisoned.
In this chaotic situation, Fr Janssen proposed that some of the expelled priests could go to the foreign missions or help with the preparation of missionaries; he strongly wanted to establish a house in Germany for the preparation of overseas missionaries and used his magazine for fundraising.
But outside interest in the development of a German mission seminary did not exist, and following a visit of the Apostolic Vicar of Hong Kong to Germany, Fr Janssen was encouraged to begin this difficult task on his own.
Many people said he was not fit for the job and that the time was not right in the Church for such a project. His reply was that "the Lord challenges our faith to do something new, precisely when so many things are collapsing in the Church".
With the support of some Bishops, Fr Janssen started to gather funds and look for an appropriate formation house. The political situation in Germany forced him to buy a house in Steyl, the Netherlands, across the border from Germany.
On 8 September 1875 the house was inaugurated; this date is considered the foundation of the "Divine Word Missionaries". On 2 March 1879 the first two missionaries set out for China: Fr Joseph Freinademetz and Fr John Baptist Anzer.
The constant increase in the number of students required almost continuous construction work on the house, and some men worked as volunteers, in this way dedicating their lives to the missions, but not as priests.
The new congregation quickly developed into a community of priests and brothers, though Fr Janssen never expected this. In 1885, at its first General Chapter, the community was established as a religious congregation, taking the name Societatis Verbi Divini (SVD), "Society of the Divine Word". Fr Arnold Janssen was elected as the first Superior General.
Women also volunteered and helped with work in the kitchen and around the house, but their real desire was to serve the mission as religious Sisters. Thus, on 8 December 1889, the Congregation of the "Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters" was founded; the first Sisters left for Argentina in 1895.
In 1898, Fr Janssen selected some of the Sisters to form a cloistered branch, known as the "Holy Spirit Sisters of Perpetual Adoration". Their mission was intercessory prayer for the Church and especially for the other two missionary congregations.
Fr Arnold Janssen died on 15 January 1909 in Steyl at the age of 71. Today there are more than 6,000 Divine Word Missionaries in 65 countries, the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters number more than 3,800 in 35 countries, and the Holy Spirit Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have more than 400 members in 10 countries.
Fr Arnold Janssen was beatified by Pope Paul VI on 19 October 1975.
Joseph Freinademetz was born on 15 April 1852 in Oies in the Dolomite Alps of Northern Italy. He was the fourth of 13 children, four of whom died soon after birth.
The Freinademetz family had a small farm; it was there and from his parents that Joseph inherited a very simple but tenacious faith and a great capacity for work.
After four years of elementary school, young Joseph was sent to school in Brixen, an 11 hour walk on foot. Here, only German was spoken and he knew very little of the language, but learned it quickly; after two years of German elementary school he was able to transfer to high school, where he showed an excellent talent for languages.
In 1872 he entered the diocesan seminary and felt called to the missions. In 1875 he was ordained a priest and was appointed as curate to St Martin's in his home area.
Two years later, he met Fr Arnold Janssen, founder of a Mission House, which was soon to become known as the "Society of the Divine Word".
In August 1878, with the Bishop's permission, Fr Joseph left for the Mission House in Steyl, the Netherlands.
On 2 March 1879 he received his mission cross from the Papal Nuncio and departed for China together with Fr John Baptist Anzer, another Divine Word Missionary priest. On 20 April they arrived in Hong Kong. Under the guidance of another Italian missionary, Fr Joseph began a two-year "mission novitiate" in Saikung, a small station in a remote region of Hong Kong.
The next two years were difficult ones and proved essential to Fr Joseph's spiritual "inner transformation" and human and cultural growth. Externally he became Chinese: his black European cassock was exchanged for a blue Chinese robe and his leather shoes for cloth ones; his reddish-blond hair was cut short except for a crop in the back to which a black ponytail was fastened. Even his name became "Fu Shenfu" — "Lucky Priest".
There remained, however, his "European mentality", and he soon became frustrated and disillusioned. For Fr Joseph, to be a missionary meant to win souls for the Catholic faith, but he soon learned that trying to form Christian communities was far from easy. Much of the time, too, the priest was on his own for weeks at a time, since his Italian missionary companion took advantage of his presence to visit the outstations.
Furthermore, Fr Joseph did not understand the Chinese mindset, and trying to arouse interest among the people in the faith was a distinct challenge; many came to Fr Joseph, not to listen to his message but to see his "exotic European" presence.
This was definitely a time in which the young priest was put face-to-face with his own prejudices and presumptions and felt betrayed by the illusions to which he was clinging,
Personal disappointments, difficulties of physical adjustment and the frustrating lack of success forced Fr Joseph to face the basic existential questions and reflect on his vocation, freeing him from his narrow way of thinking. He also began to realize that it was crucial to study the Chinese thought, customs, character and disposition.
But it was during these initial years that he also found the spiritual foundation on which to build his life in China. Fr Joseph dedicated much energy to the formation of catechists and prepared a catechetical manual in Chinese. He put great effort into the preparation, spiritual formation and ongoing education of Chinese priests and other missionaries.
At different times he served as administrator for the mission, rector of the seminary, spiritual director for the first group of Chinese priests and as provincial superior. He was respected for the brotherly manner in which he exercised his authority and especially for his life of prayer. Even when he had to work until late at night, he still made time for prayer and spiritual reading.
Fr Joseph was also appointed to take the place of the Bishop whenever he would travel outside of China, and at the end of 1907, while he was serving as diocesan administrator for the sixth time, there was an outbreak of typhus. Without concern for the risk to his own health, he continued visiting the communities until he himself became infected with the disease; he died on 28 January 1908 in Taikia, seat of the Diocese.
Fr Joseph Freinademetz learned to discover the greatness and beauty of Chinese culture and to love deeply the people to whom he had been sent. He once wrote: "I love China and the Chinese; I want to die among them and be laid to rest among them". He did and he was.
Fr Joseph Freinademetz was beatified by Pope Paul VI on 19 October 1975.
4 May 2003
Pedro Poveda was born on 3 December 1874 in Linares, Spain, to a solidly Christian family. From early childhood he felt called to become a priest, and in 1889 he entered the diocesan seminary in Jaén. Because of financial difficulties, he transferred to the Diocese of Guadix, Grenada, where the Bishop had offered him a scholarship. He was ordained a priest on 17 April 1897.
After ordination Fr Poveda taught in the seminary and served the diocese in many other ways. In 1900 he completed a licentiate in theology at Seville and later began an apostolate among the "cavedwellers", those who lived in dugouts in the hills outside of Guadix. Here he built a school for children and workshops for adults that provided professional training and Christian formation. He was misunderstood, however, and had to leave this special ministry.
So Fr Poveda headed for the solitude of Covadonga, in the mountains of northern Spain, where, in 1906, he was appointed canon of the Basilica of Covadonga in Asturias, where the Blessed Virgin is venerated under this title.
In Covadonga, he devoted much time to prayer and reflected particularly on the problem of education in Spain. He understood that the Lord was inviting him to open new paths in the Church and in the society of his time. He began to published articles and pamphlets on the question of the professional formation of teachers and was also in contact with other persons who felt the need for the presence and action of Christians in society.
The opposition between faith and science was becoming more and more evident in the culture of his day, which carried with it a de-Christianization of the public education system. Fr Poveda, after his apostolic experience in Guadix and his years of reflection and prayer in Covadonga, understood better the need to provide Christian formation for teachers who work in the State school system. He believed that a solid faith and professional qualifications were both needed to keep the Gospel message alive.
In 1911 he opened the St Teresa of Avila Academy as a residence for students and the starting point of the Teresian Association, dedicated to the spiritual and pastoral formation of teachers. The following year he joined the Apostolic Union of Secular Priests and started new pedagogical centres and some periodicals.
To further his work Fr Poveda moved to Jaén, where he taught in the seminary, served as spiritual director of Los Operarios Catechetical Centre, and worked at the Teacher Training College. In 1914 he opened Spain's first university residence for women in Madrid.
Meanwhile, the Teresian Association continued to develop, spreading to various groups and areas, and leading to its ecclesiastical and civil approval in Jaén. Fr Poveda offered the Teresian Association as a new path of Christian life and evangelization created with and for lay persons, forming them to be witnesses of the Gospel, according to his expression: "To believe firmly and to keep silent is not possible". He wanted the adherents to be ready to give their lives for the faith and in fact, expressed the same desire himself.
In 1921 Fr Poveda moved to Madrid and was appointed a chaplain of the Royal Palace. A year later he was named a member of the Central Board against illiteracy, but most of his time was devoted to the Teresian Association, which received papal approval in 1924. Although he did not direct the Association, as its founder he worked to consolidate and promote the various dimensions of its mission as it spread to Chile and later to Italy (1934).
It was during the religious persecution in Spain that Fr Poveda would be called to the martyrdom he so desired. At dawn on 28 July 1936, when told by his persecutors to identify himself, he said, "I am a priest of Christ". He died a martyr for the faith, and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 10 October 1993.
Born on 30 January 1846 in Seville, Spain, and given the baptismal name "Maria of the Angels" Guerrero Gonzalez, the future saint was affectionately known as "Angelita". Her father worked as a cook in the convent of the Trinitarian Fathers, where her mother also worked in the laundry. They had 14 children, with only six reaching adulthood.
Angelita was greatly influenced by the teaching and example of her pious parents, and was taught from an early age how to pray the Rosary. She could often be found in the parish church praying before the image of "Our Lady of Good Health", while her mother prepared a nearby altar. In their own home, a simple altar was erected in honour of the Virgin Mary during the month of May, where the family would recite the Rosary and give special honour to Our Lady.
Angelita made her First Communion when she was eight, and her Confirmation when she was nine. She had little formal education, beginning work as a young girl in a shoeshop. Her boss and teacher of shoe repair, Antonia Maldonado, was a holy woman; every day the employees prayed the Rosary together and read the lives of the saints. Canon Jose Torres Padilla of Seville was Antonia's spiritual director and had a reputation of "forming saints". Angelita was 16 years old when she met Fr Torres and was put under his direction.
Angelita's desire to enter religious life was growing, and when she was 19, she asked to enter the Discalced Carmelites in Santa Cruz but was refused admission because of her poor health. Instead, following the advice of Fr Torres, she began caring for destitute cholera patients, because a cholera epidemic was quickly spreading among the poor.
In 1868 Angelita tried once again to enter the convent, this time the Daughters of Charity of Seville. Although her health was still frail, she was admitted. The sisters tried to improve her health and sent her to Cuenca and Valencia, but to no avail. She left the Daughters of Charity during the novitiate and returned home to continue working in the shoeshop.
Fr Torres believed that God had a plan for Angelita, but this plan was still a mystery. On 1 November 1871, at the foot of the Cross, she made a private vow to live the evangelical counsels, and in 1873 she received the call from God that would mark the beginning of her "new mission". During prayer, Angelita saw an empty cross standing directly in front of the one upon which Jesus was hanging. She understood immediately that God was asking her to hang from the empty cross, to be "poor with the poor in order to bring them to Christ".
Angelita continued to work in the shoeshop, but under obedience to Fr Torres she dedicated her free time to writing a detailed spiritual diary that revealed the style and ideal of life she was being called to live. On 2 August 1875 three other women joined Angelita, beginning community life together in a room they rented in Seville. From that day on, they began their visits and gave assistance to the poor, day and night,
These Sisters of the Company of the Cross, under the guidance of Angelita, named "Mother Angela of the Cross", lived an authentically recluse contemplative life when they were not among the poor. Once they returned to their home, they dedicated themselves to prayer and silence, but were always ready when needed to go out and serve the poor and dying. Mother Angela saw the sisters as "angels", called to help and love the poor and sick in their homes who otherwise would have been abandoned.
In 1877 a second community was founded in Utrera, in the province of Seville, and a year later one in Ayamonte. Fr Torres died that same year, and Fr José María Alvarez was appointed as the second director of the Institute.
While Mother Angela was alive, another 23 convents were established, with the sisters edifying everyone they served by their example of charity, poverty and humility. In fact, Mother Angela herself was known by all as "Mother of the Poor".
Mother Angela of the Cross died on 2 March 1932 in Seville. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 5 November 1982.
With her characteristic humility, she once wrote these words: "The nothing keeps silent, the nothing does not want to be, the nothing suffers all.... The nothing does not impose itself, the nothing does not command with authority, and finally, the nothing in the creature is practical humility".
Genoveva Torres Morales was born on 3 January 1870 in Almenara, Castille, Spain, the youngest of six children. By the age of eight, both her parents and four of her siblings had died, leaving Genoveva to care for the home and her brother, José. Although he treated her with respect, José was very demanding and taciturn. Being deprived of affection and companionship from her early years, Genoveva became accustomed to solitude.
When she was 10, she took a special interest in reading spiritual books. Through this pursuit she came to understand that true happiness is doing God's will, and it was for this reason that each one of us is created. This became her rule of life.
At the age of 13, Genoveva's left leg had to be amputated in order to stop the gangrene that was spreading there. The amputation was done in her home, and since the anaesthesia was not sufficient, the pain was excruciating. Throughout her life her leg caused her pain and sickness, and she was forced to use crutches.
From 1885 to 1894 she lived at the Mercy Home run by the Carmelites of Charity. In the nine years she lived with the sisters and with other children, the young Genoveva deepened her life of piety and perfected her sewing skills. It was also in these years that Fr Carlos Ferrís, a diocesan priest and future Jesuit and founder of a leprosarium in Fontilles, would guide the "beginnings" of her spiritual and apostolic life.
God also gave Genoveva the gift of "spiritual liberty", and this was something she would endeavour to practise throughout her life. Reflecting on this period at the Mercy Home, she later would write: "I loved freedom of heart very much, and worked and am working to achieve it fully.... It does the soul so much good that every effort is nothing compared with this free condition of the heart".
Genoveva intended to join the Carmelites of Charity, but it seems she was not accepted due to her physical condition. She longed to be consecrated to God and, being of a decided and resolute nature, she continued to be open to his guidance.
In 1894 Genoveva left the Carmelites of Charity's home and went to live briefly with two women who supported themselves by their own work. Together they "shared" the solitude and poverty.
In 1911, Canon Barbarrós suggested that Genoveva begin a new religious community, pointing out that there were many poor women who could not afford to live on their own and thus suffered much hardship. For years, Genoveva had thought of starting a religious congregation that would be solely concerned with meeting the needs of such women, since she knew of no one engaged in this work.
With the help of Canon Barbarrós and Fr Martín Sánchez, S.J., the first community was established in Valencia. Shortly thereafter, other women arrived, wanting to share the same apostolic and spiritual life. It was not long before more communities were established in other parts of Spain, despite many problems and obstacles.
A constant source of suffering for Mother Genoveva was her involvement in external activity and the new foundations. She desired to return to her characteristic interior solitude and remain alone with the Lord, but she accepted her calling as God's will and did not let her physical or interior suffering stop her.
She would say: "Even if I must suffer greatly, thanks be to God's mercy, I will not lack courage". She was known for her kindness and openness to all, and for her good sense of humour — she would even joke about her physical ailments.
In 1953, the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Holy Angels received Pontifical approval. Mother Genoveva died on 5 January 1956. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 29 January 1995.
José María Rubio was born on 22 July 1864 in Dalías, Spain. His parents were farmers and he was one of 12 children, six of whom died at a young age. He was given a Christian upbringing and in 1875, began secondary school in Almería.
As José María felt called to become a priest, he transferred to the diocesan seminary in 1876 to continue his academic pursuits. In 1878 he moved to the major seminary of Granada, where over the years he completed studies in philosophy, theology and canon law. On 24 September 1887 he was ordained a priest.
At this time, he also felt called to become a Jesuit, but since he was impeded by circumstances — he took care of an elderly priest who needed assistance — he could not fulfil this wish for 19 years.
In the years after his ordination, Fr Rubio was also busy as a vice-parish priest in Chinchón and then as parish priest in Estremera. In 1890, the Bishop called him to Madrid, where he was given the responsibility of synodal examiner. He also taught metaphysics, Latin and pastoral theology at the seminary in Madrid and was chaplain to the nuns of St Bernard,
In 1906, after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land the previous year, he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Granada. On 12 October 1908 he made his religious profession.
Fr Rubio was exemplary in his pastoral ministry, sustained and nurtured by his profound spiritual life. The Bishop of Madrid called him "The Apostle of Madrid", and the faithful sought him out from the early morning hours for confession and to receive spiritual direction.
He was known for his incisive, simple preaching that moved many to conversion. He also had particular devotion to the poor, always providing them with the material and spiritual assistance they needed.
Through his preaching and spiritual direction, Fr Rubio was also able to attract and guide many lay people who wanted to live their Christian faith authentically and assist him in the mission of helping the poor. Under his guidance, they opened tuition-free schools which offered academic formation as well as instruction in various trades. They also assisted the sick and disabled and tried to find work for the unemployed.
Fr Rubio was always the heart and soul of all of these works, but he remained in the background, preferring to let his collaborators take centre stage. For this reason, and to help them develop well the gifts that God had given them, he gave the laity the main responsibility and taught them to live and act like the Apostles of the Lord Jesus.
Fr Rubio also organized popular missions and spiritual exercises in the poorest zones of the city, because he believed the poor must be helped fully, both spiritually and materially, and that they must be encouraged and loved for who they are — for their own human dignity.
The most important aspect of the apostolate for Fr Rubio was prayer; adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was the centre of his entire life. The love of Christ was what Fr Rubio wanted to give to the poor. For him and his collaborators, prayer came first, and it was through this intense prayer life that they received the strength to minister in the poorest and most abbandoned areas of Madrid and to assist the people spiritually.
Fr José María Rubio died on 2 May 1929 in Aranjuez. He was beatified by John Paul II on 6 October 1985.
María de las Maravillas was born in Madrid, Spain, on 4 November 1891, the daughter of Luis Pidal y Mon, the Marquis of Pidal, and Cristina Chico de Guzmán y Muñoz. At the time her father was the Spanish Ambassador to the Holy See, and she grew up in a devout Catholic family.
María made a vow of chastity at the age of five and devoted herself to charitable work. After coming into contact with the writings of St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Jesus, she felt called to become a Discalced Carmelite. Her father, whom she had faithfully assisted when he became ill, died in 1913, and her mother was reluctant to accept her daughter's decision to enter the Carmelite monastery.
However, on 12 October 1919, María did enter the Discalced Carmelites of El Escorial in Madrid. She made her simple vows on 7 May 1921.
Before her final profession on 30 May 1924, Sr María had already received a special call from God to found the Carmel of Cerro de los ángeles, and the foundation was inaugurated on 31 October 1926 with three other Carmelites. This was the first of the series of Teresian Carmelite Monasteries that she would establish, according to the Rule and Constitutions of the Discalced Carmelites. María was not being called to found a new order or to "branch off" from the Discalced Carmelites — she herself was very careful in pointing this out; she only sought to live deeply and to transmit the spirit and ideals of St Teresa of Jesus and St John of the Cross.
On 28 June 1926, the Bishop of the Diocese of Madrid-Alcalá appointed her prioress of the new monastery. In 1933 she established another foundation in Kottayam, India, and from this Carmel other foundations were started in India.
Her role as prioress would be permanent in the various monasteries she founded throughout her life, notwithstanding the natural aversion and sense of inadequacy she felt in accepting positions of responsibility. María's spirit of obedience and love for the Church and for her Carmelite sisters, however, gave her the strength and diligence to carry out this duty with love.
Mother Maravillas was often criticized for the poverty of the convents she founded; charges were made that they were "not solid", small in size and unfurnished, with bare walls on which hung chosen Bible verses or writings of the Carmelite saints. She would reply, however, that "it is not our concern to plant a seed, since the Discalced Carmelites have already been founded. Even if our convents collapse, nothing will happen".
During the Spanish Civil War, the nuns of Cerro de los ángeles lived in an apartment in Madrid. In September 1937 another Carmel in the Batuecas, Salamanca, was founded. In 1939 the monastery of Cerro de los ángeles was restored. Even amid enormous deprivation, Mother Maravillas instilled courage and happiness, always being an admirable example to her daughters.
But she also remained a mystery even to the nuns closest to her, since only her spiritual directors knew the "dark night of the soul" that she lived throughout her life, which kept her in profound spiritual aridity and trials, and made total faith and abandonment to the will of God her guide.
In the following years, foundations were established in other parts of Spain. Mother Maravillas also restored and sent nuns to her original Carmel of El Escorial and to the venerable monastery of the Incarnation in Avila.
In order to unite the monasteries founded by her and others that had the same finality, she founded the Association of St Teresa, which received official approval from the Holy See in 1972.
On 8 December 1974, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Mother Maravillas was anointed and received Holy Communion. On 11 December, surrounded by her community in the Carmel of La Aldehuela, Madrid, she died. At the time of her death, her sisters report that Mother Maravillas kept repeating the phrase: "What happiness to die a Carmelite!". She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 10 May 1998.
6 October 2002
The Apostolic Brief for the Beatification of Josemaría Escrivá sums up his mission in the Church.
"The Founder of Opus Dei has recalled that the universality of the call to full union with Christ implies also that any human activity can become a place for meeting God.... He was a real master of Christian living and reached the heights of contemplation with continuous prayer, constant mortification, the daily effort of a work carried out with exemplary docility to the movements of the Holy Spirit, with the aim of serving the Church as the Church wishes to be served".
He was born in Barbastro, Spain on 9 January 1902, the second of six children. When he was 16 years old, he felt called to be a priest and began to study at the seminary of Logroño. He completed his formation for the priesthood at the Pontifical University of Saragossa and was ordained to the priesthood on 28 March 1925. His first assignment was to a parish in a rural district.
In April 1927, with the permission of his bishop, he took up residence in Madrid to study for a doctorate in civil law. In Madrid, his apostolic zeal soon brought him into contact with a wide variety of people, students, artists, academics, workers and priests. At the same time he taught law to earn a living for himself, his mother, sister and brother.
Opus Dei was born on 2 October 1928 during a retreat Fr Josemaría was making in which the Lord showed him the mission he entrusted to him: to open up in the Church a new vocational path aimed at spreading the quest for holiness and the practice of the apostolate through the sanctification of ordinary work in the world. From that moment, he devoted all his energies to fulfilling this mission, fostering among men and women from all areas of society a personal commitment to follow Christ, love their neighbour and seek holiness in daily life. In 1943, during the celebration of Mass, he received the further inspiration of founding the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, into which laymen who were already members of Opus Dei could be ordained and incardinated for service to "the Work". Diocesan priests may also belong to the Priestly Society as supernumeraries or associates, while keeping their status as priests of their diocese.
During these years he set as the goal for the undertakings of the members of the Work: to lift up to God, with the help of grace, every created reality, so that Christ may reign everywhere: to get to know Christ Jesus, to make him known by others, to take him everywhere. He used to say, "The divine paths of the earth have been opened up".
During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), Mons. Escrivá dedicated himself heroically to his priestly ministry even when it meant putting himself at risk. After the war, he returned to Madrid and from there directed Opus Dei which was spreading throughout Spain. In 1946 he moved to Rome for a number of reasons. He wished to see Opus Dei established as an institute of pontifical right. He also wanted to emphasize the distinctive inspiration of the Work: to serve the Church in close union with the See of Peter and the hierarchy of the Church. From Rome, Opus Dei could more easily spread to other countries. On 24 February 1947, Pius XII established Opus Dei and the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross as institutions of pontifical right and on 16 June 1950 he gave definitive approval. In 1982 Opus Dei was established by the Holy See as a Personal Prelature.
In all of this work, Josemaría was never free of all kinds of trials. For more than ten years he had a serious form of diabetes from which he was miraculously cured in 1954. There were also financial hardships and the difficulties that go with the worldwide expansion of apostolic works. Nevertheless, he kept his sense of humour through it all; it was a constant witness to his unconditional love for the will of God. He said, "True virtue is not sad or disagreeable, but pleasantly cheerful".
When Blessed John XXIII called the Ecumenical Council, Josemaría prayed and got others to pray for the fruitfulness of this great initiative. One of the positive results of the Council was that it confirmed key aspects of the vision of Opus Dei: the universal call to holiness, professional work as a means to holiness and the apostolate, the Mass as centre and source of Christian life, the value and legitimate limitations of Christian freedom in politics and civil life. Many Council Fathers saw in him a prophet, who was a precursor of Counciliar teaching on the mission and apostolate of the laity.
Mons. Escrivá was above all a master and promoter of the interior life. During the last years of his life, the founder of Opus Dei undertook long catechetical trips throughout Europe and America. Everywhere he went, he spoke about God, the sacraments, Christian devotions, the sanctification of work, and his love for the Church and the Pope. The heart of Escrivá's message was: "Sanctify your daily life, and sanctify yourself in and through that daily life". He insisted on the need to forge into a solid unity personal prayer, professional activities, and apostolic activity so that every aspect of life would become an offering to God. He was convinced that in order to achieve sanctity through daily work, one has to make the effort to be a soul of prayer, of deep interior life. When a person lives this way, everything becomes prayer, everything can and ought to lead us to God, feeding our constant contact with Him, from morning till night. Every kind of work can become prayer and every kind of work, become prayer, can be turned into apostolate.
On 28 March 1975, the founder celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood. On that day he prayed: Fifty years have gone by and I am still like a faltering child. I am just beginning, beginning again, as I do each day in my interior life. And it will be so to the end of my days: always beginning again.
On 26 June 1975, Blessed Josemaría died in his office in Rome of cardiac arrest. At the time of his death, Opus Dei was present in five continents, with over 60,000 members from 80 nationalities. His spiritual books have been published in millions of copies.
On the centenary of the birth of Blessed Josemaría, in January 2002, in his address to the members of the Congress held for the anniversary, the Holy Father confirmed several key teachings. "From the beginning of his priestly ministry, Bl. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer put at the very heart of his preaching the truth that all the baptized are called to the fullness of charity and that the most direct way to reach this goal is to be found in the midst of normal daily life. The Lord wants to enter into a loving communion with each one of his children, right at the heart of our daily occupations, in the context of everyday life.... One's work is transfigured by the spirit of prayer. Each person discovers the capacity of remaining in a contemplative relation with God even while carrying out the most diverse tasks.... Who can doubt that the time Jesus spent in Nazareth was an integral part of his saving mission? The same holds true for us. Daily activities, even in their seeming dullness in the monotony of actions that seem to be repeated and always the same, can also acquire a supernatural dimension and become in a certain way transfigured" (cf. ORE, n. 3, 16 Jan. 2001, p. 2).
At the time the Pope saw here the secret for overcoming the division between faith and daily life. He added, "the small events of each day hold, locked within them, an unsuspected greatness. Those actions, undertaken with the love of God and neighbour, can overcome at their very root the division between faith and daily life.... The earth is a pathway to heaven, and the life of every believer, even with his or her burdens and limitations, can become a true temple in which dwells the Son of God made man" (ibid).
On 17 May 1992, in Rome, our Holy Father John Paul II raised Josemaría to the glory of the altars. On 20 December 2001, the Holy Father approved a miracle of healing that was attributed to the intercession of Blessed Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer. On 6 October the Holy Father will canonize him in St Peter's Square.
31 July 2002
Little is known about the life of Juan Diego before his conversion, but tradition and archaelogical and iconographical sources, along with the most important and oldest indigenous document on the event of Guadalupe, "El Nican Mopohua" (written in Náhuatl with Latin characters, 1556, by the Indigenous writer Antonio Valeriano), give some information on the life of the saint and the apparitions.
Juan Diego was born in 1474 with the name "Cuauhtlatoatzin" ("the talking eagle") in Cuautlitlán, today part of Mexico City, Mexico. He was a gifted member of the Chichimeca people, one of the more culturally advanced groups living in the Anáhuac Valley.
When he was 50 years old he was baptized by a Franciscan priest, Fr Peter da Gand, one of the first Franciscan missionaries. On 9 December 1531, when Juan Diego was on his way to morning Mass, the Blessed Mother appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill, the outskirts of what is now Mexico City. She asked him to go to the Bishop and to request in her name that a shrine be built at Tepeyac, where she promised to pour out her grace upon those who invoked her. The Bishop, who did not believe Juan Diego, asked for a sign to prove that the apparition was true. On 12 December, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac. Here, the Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick the flowers that he would find in bloom. He obeyed, and although it was winter time, he found roses flowering. He gathered the flowers and took them to Our Lady who carefully placed them in his mantle and told him to take them to the Bishop as "proof". When he opened his mantle, the flowers fell on the ground and there remained impressed, in place of the flowers, an image of the Blessed Mother, the apparition at Tepeyac.
With the Bishop's permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the miraculous image was placed for veneration. Here he cared for the church and the first pilgrims who came to pray to the Mother of Jesus.
Much deeper than the "exterior grace" of having been "chosen" as Our Lady's "messenger", Juan Diego received the grace of interior enlightenment and from that moment, he began a life dedicated to prayer and the practice of virtue and boundless love of God and neighbour. He died in 1548 and was buried in the first chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. He was beatified on 6 May 1990 by Pope John Paul II in the Basilica of Santa Maria di Guadalupe, Mexico City.
The miraculous image, which is preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, shows a woman with native features and dress. She is supported by an angel whose wings are reminiscent of one of the major gods of the traditional religion of that area. The moon is beneath her feet and her blue mantle is covered with gold stars. The black girdle about her waist signifies that she is pregnant. Thus, the image graphically depicts the fact that Christ is to be "born" again among the peoples of the New World, and is a message as relevant to the "New World" today as it was during the lifetime of Juan Diego.
30 July 2002
St Peter de Betancurt was born on 19 March 1626 at Chasna de Vilaflor on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. He died on 25 April 1667 in Guatemala City, Guatemala. His life, marked by a heroic holiness, is a shining testimony of faithfulness to the Gospel. Peter was a descendant of Juan de Betancurt, one of the Norman conquerors of the Canary Islands. His immediate family, however, was very poor and he started work as the shepherd of the small family flock. His parents raised him soundly in the faith, and his contact with nature nurtured his deeply contemplative soul. As a young boy, Peter learned to see God in everything around him.
When Peter heard about the miserable living conditions of the people of the "West Indies" (present-day America), he felt called to take the Christian message to this land. In 1650 when he was 23 years old, he left for Guatemala where a relative had already gone to become secretary of the Governor General. His funds ran out in Havana so Peter had to pay for his passage from that point by working on a ship which docked at Honduras from where he walked to Guatemala City. Peter was now so poor that he had to stand in line for his daily bread at the Franciscan friary, and it was here that he met Friar Fernando Espino, a famous missionary, who befriended him and remained his lifelong counsellor. He found Peter a job in a local textile factory. In 1653 Peter realized his ambition to enter the local Jesuit college in the hope of becoming a priest. He showed little aptitude for study which led him to withdraw. Here Providence once again helped him as he met Fr Manuel Lobo, S.J., who became his confessor.
Friar Fernando invited Peter to join the Franciscan Order as a lay brother, but Peter felt that God wanted him to remain in the world; and in 1655, he joined the Third Order of St Francis. From then on, Peter dedicated his time to alleviating the sufferings of the less fortunate in the midst of inexpressible toil and difficulty. He became the apostle to African-American slaves, the Indios subjected to inhuman labour, the emigrants, and abandoned children, with ever-expanding generousity and deep humility in total abandonment to God's will. Inspired by the charity of Christ, he became everything to everyone. In 1658 Peter was given a hut which he converted into a hospital for the poor who had been discharged from the city hospital but still needed to convalesce. It was called "Our Lady of Bethlehem". He also founded a hostel for the homeless, a school for poor and abandoned children, and an oratory. Peter received help for these foundations from both the civil and religious authorities. He begged for alms to endow the Masses celebrated by poor priests and also endowed Masses to be celebrated in the early hours so that the poor might not miss Mass. He had small chapels erected in the poor sectors where instruction was also given to children. Every year, on 18 August, he would gather the children and sing the Seven Joys of the Franciscan Rosary in honour of the Blessed Mother, a custom still continued today in Guatemala.
He was joined by men and women, who became the Bethlehemite Brothers and the Bethlehemite Sisters, and formulated a Rule that included the active apostolate of working with the poor, the sick, and the less fortunate, based on a life rich in prayer, fasting and penance. The Bethlehemite Congregation was thus established. Peter died on 25 April 1667, at 41 years of age. Throughout his life, the Child of Bethlehem was the focus of Peter's spiritual meditation. He was always able to see in the poor the face of "the Child Jesus", and to serve them devoutly. He is known as the "St Francis of the Americas".
19 May 2002
Saint Ignatius of Santhiá was born on 5 June 1686 in Santhiá, in the Vercelli region of Northern Italy and died in Turin on 21 September 1770. He was a Capuchin priest, who was faithful to the Franciscan spirit, especially by his obedience, simplicity and humility. He was renowned for his gift of spiritual direction and concern for the spiritual growth of the faithful. He was also called the "father of sinners and the lost" thanks to his particular ability to deal with the "spiritually sick".
He was baptized Lorenzo Maurizio, the fourth of six children of the upper-class Belvisotti family. He received his early education from a good priest, who inspired him and helped discern his call to enter the priesthood. In 1710 he was ordained a diocesan priest. After six years of priestly ministry, he joined the Capuchin Friars. At the time he suffered from the criticism of his family and parish who did not understand his decision. In the Capuchin Order Ignatius finally found the inner peace he had been searching for in the simplicity of Franciscan life.
Life of obedience
On 24 May 1717, he made his religious profession, and from that day he was like putty in the hands of his superiors. He began his spiritual journey being sent from one house to another in the Savoy region of Northern Italy. He was happy to be moved around out of obedience and honoured to be able to serve his brothers. He was completely at "God's disposition".
In 1727, Ignatius was sent to the convent in Torino-Monte, with the responsibility of prefect of the sacristy and confessor for the laity, a mission he was to fulfill for the last 24 years of his life when he returned to Turin after serving as master of novices and chief of chaplains for the army of the Kingdom of Savoy. In this ministry he showed his fatherly concern for others and the spiritual wisdom that is learned at the foot of the Crucified One. It was not long before religious, priests, the faithful and the most hardened sinners began coming to the monastery to make their confession and to receive spiritual direction.
Special forms of service
In 1731, he was sent to the monastery of Mondovì, where he was made master of novices and vicar of the monastery. He was in charge of the novitiate for 14 years and his only desire was to make the novices entrusted to his care true followers of Christ and obedient sons of St Francis. His teaching was founded on two pillars: divinely loving the novices and teaching by example more than by words. He was available at all hours of the day and night for novices in need of help and he knew each one of them, making their formation his top priority. In 1744 he had to leave the novitiate and go to Turin because he suffered from a mysterious eye ailment that led to near blindness. He was partially cured so that he could return to active ministry.
In 1743-1746, war broke out in the Piedmont. This also brought with it the influx of the wounded and an epidemic. The King of Sardinia-Piedmont, Charles Emmanuel III asked the Capuchins to provide medical and spiritual care for the hospitals. Fr Ignatius was made head chaplain and offered his assistance for two years in the hospitals of Asti, Vinovo and Alessandria, offering an example of tireless activity and piety, serving and healing in a spirit of genuine evangelical love.
When Piedmont was at peace, he returned once more to his convent in Turin-Monte where he would remain for 24 years as spiritual director and confessor. He visited the sick and begged for money and food for the needy. He died in Turin-Monte on 21 September 1770. He would often say: "Paradise is not made for slackers. Let's get to work!". To all people, religious brothers and laity, he taught the way of holiness and of abandonment in God's hands, by his example and by his words.
On 17 April 1966, Paul VI beatified Ignatius of Santhiá.
Amabile Wisenteiner was born on 16 December 1865, in Vigolo Vattaro in the region of Trent, Italy, and died on 9 July 1942 in Sao Paolo, Brazil. She is the first Brazilian saint. In 1890 she founded the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, who like their foundress are dedicated to serving the poor, young people, the sick and the elderly. She is renowned for her patience and humble obedience as she offered her sacrifice to Christ when in 1909 the Archbishop of Sao Paolo removed her from her office of Mother General assigning her for the remaining years as an ordinary sister for the care of the elderly poor.
In 1875, when she was ten years old, Amabile emigrated with her family to the State of St Catherine in Southern Brazil where they founded the town of Vigolo. Amabile began to work in the fields and in the mill run by her father to help her poor family. The Jesuit missionaries who took care of the immigrants encouraged her and her friend Virginia to follow Christ with their apostolic activity and to live religious life. With her friend Virginia, Amabile spent her free time teaching catechism to young girls and visiting the sick. When she was 15, Amabile and her friend moved to a small cottage near the chapel of St George at Vigolo to devote themselves to taking care of a woman dying of cancer. From this first step, her Jesuit directors eventually guided her and her friend to found a new religious order to take care of persons in need in the area. On 12 July 1890, Amabile with two friends, Virginia and Teresa Anna Maule, founded a new congregation, the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, which received episcopal approval in 1895. It was at this time that she took her religious vows and received the name "Pauline of the Suffering Heart of Jesus". With the foundation of the congregation in 1890, Amabile and Virginia moved to the small hospital of St Virgilio that they had opened the year before, to nurse the sick. A year later, in 1891, two benefactors built a bigger hospital. The new congregation grew, and the sisters dedicated themselves to assisting young orphans and the elderly in the hospital and in schools.
Trial of faith
In 1903 Sister Pauline was appointed Mother General "for life". At the request of the Archbishop of Sao Paolo, Mother Pauline left Nova Trento to take care of orphans, the children of former slaves, and the old and abandoned slaves in the district of Ipiranga of Sao Paolo. In 1909 Archbishop Duarte Leopaldo e Silva of Sao Paolo, to the great surprise of the Order, asked her to resign her office as Mother General and not be elected to office again. After serving as the superior of the congregation for 14 years, she was sent like an ordinary sister to work with the sick at "Santa Casa" and with the elderly at the Hospice of St Vincent de Paul at Bragança Paulista, deprived of any active role in the governance of her congregation. Although this was a great trial of faith for Pauline, she accepted the cross heroically, in a spirit of humility and obedience. The remaining years of her life were marked by prayer, service of the elderly and hidden suffering, all of which she accepted so that the Congregation might flourish and "Our Lord be known, loved and adored by all souls, in the whole world". It was precisely her love of God and union with him that sustained her supernatural gaze, as she also confided to her spiritual director Fr Luigi Maria Rossi, S.J.: "the presence of God is so intimate to me that it seems impossible for me to lose it; and such presence gives my soul a joy which I cannot describe". In 1918, with the permission of Archbishop Duarte, the Superior General was able to send her to the motherhouse of Ipiranga, where she remained until her death. Her service led her ever more deeply into the mystery of the suffering Heart of Jesus.
From 1938 onwards, she began to experience serious health problems due to diabetes. After two operations, first her middle finger, then her right arm were amputated. She spent the last months of her life totally blind. In her spiritual testament, she wrote; "I strongly recommend to you to practice among yourselves holy charity, especially towards the sick and the elderly.... Have great love for the practice of holy charity". She died on 9 July 1942 in Sao Paulo.
Her congregation today
Today, there are about 600 members of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in South America and Africa who carry out their service to the most needy and to those who live in situations of great injustice. On 19 May 1933, the Holy See granted the "Decree of Praise" to the Congregation of the Little Sisters acknowledging Pauline as Venerable Mother Foundress. During the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the foundation on 12 July 1940, Mother Pauline wrote her Spiritual Testament: "Be humble. Trust always and a great deal in Divine Providence; never can you let yourselves be discouraged, despite contrary winds. I say it again: trust in God and Mary Immaculate; be faithful and forge ahead". Pope John Paul II beatified St Pauline on 18 October 1991 in Florianopolis in the state of St Catherine in Brazil.
Saint Umile (Humble) da Bisignano (baptismal name, Luca Antonio Pirozzo) was born in Bisignano, Italy, to Giovanni Pirozzo and Ginevra Giardino on 26 August 1582. The city of Bisignano is in the region of Cosenza in Southern Italy. He died on 26 November 1637 in Bisignano. His name in religion, "Umile" (Humble), describes his entire life as a Franciscan. He practiced humility while possessing all kinds of wonderful mystical gifts like ecstasy and infused wisdom.
As a child, Luca was very religious, attending Mass every day and meditating on the Lord's Passion while at work in the fields. Among those of his own age he was a model of virtue, especially for his humility. In the acts of his process, someone recalled that, when he was on occasion slapped in the face, he humbly turned the other cheek.
When he was 18, he felt called to become a Franciscan but had to wait nine years before he was able to enter the novitiate. For the nine years he had to wait, he dedicated himself to a strict life of prayer and penance. Finally at 27, he was able to become a Friar Minor and was put under the direction of two holy friars: Fr Antonio of Rossano and Fr Cosimo of Bisignano. In 1610, after having to pass through much testing, he was able to make his religious profession.
Gifts of ecstasy and infused wisdom and knowledge
At once the friars realized that he was an "ecstatic friar" who from his youth had the gift of continual ecstasy. Around 1613 his ecstasies started to become public and this brought upon him a long series of tests and humiliations. The superiors had to test him to see if the gifts were from God or a fraud that the devil was producing.
Fra Umile knew that it is through humiliation that one grows in humility, and this is true of Fra Umile. Brother Umile "bowed his head" during this difficult period of misunderstanding and distrust, and this made his humility and holiness more evident to his religious brothers who grew to respect him as a wonderful example of deep holiness.
Tested by the Church, from theologians to the Popes of that time
Although Fra Umile was illiterate and a "slow learner", the brethren discovered that he had the gift of infused knowledge and became celebrated even by gifted theologians with his profound insights into Sacred Scripture and points of Catholic doctrine. For this supernatural "wisdom" he was "tested" by the Archbishop of Reggio Calabria, several groups of professors of theology, the Inquisitor in Naples. They realized that he always gave clear and precise replies to their questions. By his example, prayer and counsel, he assisted the General of the Order in visiting the provinces of Calabria and Sicily. His fame reached Rome and he enjoyed the confidence of Popes Gregory XV and Urbano VIII and helped them with his prayer and counsel. In Rome he lived many years at the convent of St Francis of Ripa and at St Isidore's.
Outstanding example of prayer, obedience and humility
In 1628, Fra Umile asked permission to become a missionary among unbelievers, but was denied approval and advised that he was to stay in Italy. He continued to be a shining example of virtue of prayer, obedience and humility. In the end he only wished to humble himself before God, considering his own unworthiness and sinfulness and taking on himself the sins of the human race: "Lord pardon my sins, make me love as I am obliged to love you. Pardon the sins of the human race and grant that they may love you as they are obliged to love you". "While all creatures praise and bless God, I am the only one that offends Him", he said to Pope Gregory XV when he asked permission to lead a more secluded, hidden life. On 26 November 1637 in Bisignano, where he spent his last years, Fra Umile died rapt in prayer, faithful to obedience, and filled with humility. He died just as he had lived.
He was beatified by Leo XIII on 29 January 1882.
Saint Benedetta Cambiagio Frasinello was born on 2 October 1791 in
Langasco (Genoa) Italy; she died on 21 March 1858 in Ronco Scrivia in
Liguria. She was wife, religious and foundress. She let the Holy Spirit
guide her through married life to the work of education and religious
consecration. She founded a school for the formation of young women and
also a religious congregation, and did both with the generous
collaboration of her husband. This is unique in the annals of Christian
sanctity. Benedetta was a pioneer in her determination to give a high
quality education to young women, for the formation of families for a
"new Christian society" and for promoting the right of women
to a complete education.
Call to marriage, then to religious life
From her parents Benedetta received a Christian formation that rooted in
her the life of faith. Her family settled in Pavia when she was a girl.
When she was 20 years old, Benedetta had a mystical experience that gave
her a profound desire for a life of prayer and penance, and of
consecration to God. However, in obedience to the wishes of her parents,
in 1816, she married Giovanni Frassinello and lived married life for two
years. In 1818, moved by the example of his saintly wife, Giovanni
agreed that the two should live chastely, "as brother and
sister" and take care of Benedetta's younger sister, Maria, who was
dying from intestinal cancer. They began to live a supernatural
parenthood quite unique in the history of the Church.
Congregation founded by wife, who is supported by her husband
Following Maria's death in 1825, Giovanni entered the Somaschi Fathers
founded by St Jerome Emiliani, and Benedetta devoted herself completely
to God in the Ursuline Congregation of Capriolo. A year later she was
forced to leave because of ill health, and returned to Pavia where she
was miraculously cured by St Jerome Emiliani. Once she regained her
health, with the Bishop's approval, she dedicated herself to the
education of young girls. Benedetta needed help in handling such a
responsibility, but her own father refused to help her. Bishop Tosi of
Pavia asked Giovanni to leave the Somaschi novitiate and help Benedetta
in her apostolic work. Together they made a vow of perfect chastity in
the hands of the bishop, and then began their common work to promote the
human and Christian formation of poor and abandoned girls of the city.
Their educational work was of great benefit to Pavia. Benedetta became
the first woman to be involved in this kind of work. The Austrian
government recognized her as a "Promoter of Public Education".
She was helped by young women volunteers to whom she gave a rule of life
that later received ecclesiastical approval. Along with instruction, she
joined formation in catechesis and in useful skills like cooking and
sewing, aiming to transform her students into "models of Christian
life" and so assure the formation of families.
Benedictine Sisters of Providence
Benedetta's work was considered pioneering for those days and was opposed
by a few persons in power and by the misunderstanding of clerics. In
1838 she turned over the institution to the Bishop of Pavia. Together
with Giovanni and five companions, she moved to Ronco Scrivia in the
Genoa region. There they opened a school for girls that was a refinement
on what they had done in Pavia. Eventually, Benedetta founded the
Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of Providence. In her rule she
stressed the education of young girls. She instilled the spirit of
unlimited confidence and abandonment to Providence and of love of God
through poverty and charity. The Congregation grew quickly since it
performed a needed service. Benedetta was able to guide the development
of the Congregation until her death. On 21 March 1858 she died in Ronco
Her example is that of supernatural maternity plus courage and fidelity
in discerning and living God's will.
Today the Benedictine Nuns of Providence are present in Italy, Spain,
Burundi, Ivory Coast, Peru and Brazil. They are at the service of young
people, the poor, the sick and the elderly. The foundress also opened a
house of the order in Voghera. Forty years after the death of Benedetta,
the bishop separated this house from the rest of the Order.The name was
changed to the Benedictines of Divine Providence who honour the memory
of the Foundress.
She was beatified by John Paul II on 10 May 1987.
Saint Alphonsus of Orozco was born in 1500 in Oropesa (Toledo), Spain, and died on 19 September 1591 in Madrid. He entered the Augustinian Order, was ordained as priest, and lived his vocation, faithful to the Augustinian way of life, to contemplative prayer, and devoted to those in need. He had an ability to preach and write for the people of his time. He was capable of remaining "poor and simple" when moving among the ruling elites, offering to them an example of holiness in his love of God and neighbour. We can sum up the life of St Alphonsus with the words of St Paul: "I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some" (I Cor 9,22).
Alphonsus of Orozco was born to fervent Catholic parents, who gave him the name "Alphonsus" in honour of St Idlephonsus of Toledo, who was the great defender of the virginity of Mary, Mother of God. In his youth he studied music, which he loved passionately his entire life. When his parents sent him to study at the University of Salamanca, he was attracted by the example of sanctity of life of the Augustinian friars who lived in the city, and in 1523 he made his religious profession in the hands of the prior, St Thomas of Villanova.
After being ordained a priest, he was made a "preacher" of the Order. From 1537-1557, he was appointed prior in many places, and, despite his own austere way of life, he governed his brothers with gentleness and understanding. In 1547 he tried to go to Mexico as a missionary, but a severe attack of arthritis forced him to turn back when he reached the Canary Islands. In 1554 while he was superior at Valladolid, he was named royal preacher by the Emperor Charles V, an appointment confirmed by Philip II.
All things to all men
Alphonsus made it his mission to be approachable by everyone, especially by the poorest of the poor. He served the poor in their spiritual and material needs. His concern for his neighbour in need manifested his inner passion for suffering humanity whom he visited in hospitals and prisons. He was also able to move among the ruling nobility without giving up his poor and simple lifestyle. He had the extraordinary gift of serving people everywhere without distinction. Great persons of the world of culture and of the ruling family gave testimony for his process of canonization such as the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia and the writers Lope de Vega and Francisco de Quevedo. His letters showed the breadth of his contacts.
Despite the great esteem in which he was held, he was not confirmed in grace nor was his spiritual life easy.
For many years he suffered from scruples. In his Confessions, he revealed that, during the period of his formation, he felt strongly tempted to abandon religious life, drawn by a desire for freedom and for a natural love, and suffering a great deal from the solitude and the rough ways of religious life.
He wrote in Latin and in Spanish. His ascetical and mystical works reflect the sensitivity of the Counter Reformation, his outstanding and deep love of Our Lady. His works reflect his contemplative spirit and his profound understanding of Holy Scripture. His works include: "The Art of Loving God and Neighbor", "Garden of Prayer and Mountain of Contemplation", and works on the Blessed Virgin Mary. He was devoted to his order, and had a great interest in its history and spirituality. He wrote a commentary on the Rule and an Instruction for the Religious. He wished to instill a love for the order and a desire to imitate the holy founder, St Augustine, and the saints and blesseds of the Order by writing "The Chronicle of the Glorious Father and Doctor of the Church St Augustine, the Saints and Blesseds, and Doctors of the Order". Although as a royal preacher, he was not under the jurisdiction of his superiors, he renounced special privileges, prefering to live as a simple friar under full obedience and with full participation in community life. He died in Madrid on 19 September 1591. During his life, he founded two convents for Augustinian friars and three for Augustinian nuns, a sign of his great love for the contemplative life.
He was beatified by Leo XIII on 15 January 1882. His mortal remains are to be found in the Monastery of the Augustinian nuns in Madrid named after our saint, St Alphonsus of Orozco.
25 November 2001
Joseph was born in Turin, Italy on 26 December 1844 and was ordained in
1888. He entered the diocesan seminary of Asti when he was 12 years old,
but left after completing his philosophical studies. Suffering from
typhoid fever in 1863, he vowed to the Virgin Mary that he would return to
the Seminary if he regained his health. In fact, in 1888 he completed his
theological studies and was ordained a priest, attributing his healing to
Our Lady of Consolation. He was chosen by the bishop to be his secretary
and chancellor of the curia. At the same time he dedicated himself to
instructing young workers in the faith, and invited other young priests to
join him in the task. In 1878, he founded the Congregation of the Oblates
of St Joseph with the first four brothers, dedicated to educating youth
and to the missions. The Congregation in a short time spread all over
Italy, to the Philippines, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and North
America. Everywhere the Oblates took care of the Italian immigrants. From
the beginning, he taught his Oblates that "noise does no good, good
makes no noise", and "say little and work hard". In 1888 he
was appointed Bishop of Acqui, where he served until his death in 1895. He
devoted his life to apostolic and charitable work, establishing a small
college for vocations among the poor and founding an orphans' hospital. He
died while visiting Savona for the centenary of St Philip Neri. Throughout
his life, Joseph had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother and taught
those entrusted to his care always to "look to Mary and remain
constantly with her", and to "ask her for the grace of being
able to imitate her; not only her sublime virtues, but the humble, hidden
virtues that are proper to Mary...". He is remembered in Acqui as a
bishop who was remarkable for being the humble servant of all, but not
afraid to use his authority when it was necessary. He died 30 May 1895 and
his mortal remains are venerated today in the mother house of the
Leonie Aviat was born in Sézanne, in the region of Champagne, France,
on 16 September 1844. She attended school at the Monastery of the
Visitation in the city of Troyes, where Mother Marie de Sales Chappuis,
the superior, and Fr Louis Brisson, the chaplain, exerted a decisive
influence on her. Having thus been formed at the school of St Francis de
Sales, she prepared herself for the mission with which she was to be
entrusted: the foundation of a congregation committed to the Salesian
spirituality and to the evangelization of young workers. In 1858, Fr
Brisson, a zealous apostle and a forerunner of the great social movement
that developed at the end of the 19th century, had opened a centre,
"The Works of St Francis de Sales" where he welcomed young girls
working in the textile mills in order to impart to them a complete
education, both human and Christian. In 1866 Leonie Aviat joined Brisson
who found in her an incomparable coworker, recognizing her vocation to the
consecrated life. Fr Brisson and Sr Aviat placed the budding congregation
under the patronage of St Francis de Sales, and adopted completely the
spirituality and the educational principles of the holy Bishop of Geneva.
Sr Francis de Sales along with several others made her vows on 11 October
1871. In 1872, she became the first Superior General of the Institute.
Under her guidance, the community grew in numbers, and developed the
social apostolate. The apostolate of the Oblate Sisters extended to all
social classes, and to all forms of education. In 1893, after a period of
effacement, which brought to light her humility, Mother Frances de Sales
was again elected Superior General, an office she held until her death. In
1904, she had to cope with the persecution of the religious orders in
France due to the laws that allowed the government to seize the property
of the religious congregations. While maintaining the establishments that
could be maintained in France, she transferred the Motherhouse to Perugia
(Italy). On 19 March 1911, Pope St Pius X gave the final approval of the
Constitutions of the Institute. In the early years of the Congregation,
she had sent sisters to Mexico and in mission countries. In 40 years the
Congregation became world wide. On 10 January 1914 she died in Perugia. To
her last breath, she remained faithful to the resolution she had taken at
the time of her profession: "To forget myself entirely". To her
daughters she left, for all time, the very Salesian precept; "Let us
work for the happiness of others".
Maria Crescenzia Hoss was born in Kaufbeuren, Bavaria, in the Diocese of Augsburg on 20 October 1682, the seventh of the eight children of Matthias Hoss and Lucia Hoermann. In 1703, in spite of family difficulties and the superior's reluctance, she was admitted to the Franciscan Tertiaries of Mayerhoff where she was professed in 1704 and remained until her death.
From 1709 to 1741 with the election of superiors who were favourably disposed to her, she fulfilled the most important positions of the monastery: porter, novice mistress, and superior with the greatest dedication and generosity. She was novice mistress from 1726 to 1741. In 1741 sister Maria Crescenzia was elected superior of the community and, despite her attempts to refuse the post, was forced to accept the task. To her sisters she recommended observing silence, recollection, and spiritual reading, especially the Gospels. The teacher of their religious life had to be Jesus on the Cross.
Maria Höss was also a prudent and wise counsellor to all who turned to her for strength and comfort, as can be seen from her numerous letters.
In her three years as superior of the community of Mayerhoff she became its second foundress. She justified her selectivity regarding vocations saying, "God wants the convent rich in virtue, not in temporal goods". The principal points of her program for the renewal of the house were: unlimited trust in divine providence, readiness in the acts of the common life, love of silence, devotion to Jesus crucified, and devotion to the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother.
She died on Easter in 1744 and her mortal remains are still very much
venerated in the chapel of her monastery.
Paula was born in Arenys de Mar, Spain, on 11 October 1799.
Paula remained an orphan after the death of her father when she was ten years old, and began working alongside her mother as a lace-maker in order to pay for the education of her younger brothers. Although she lived in turbulent times and experienced family problems, she was inspired by a peaceful presence.
Throughout her youth, Paula carried on an intense apostolic work in her parish as a catechist, and shared her love and devotion to Mary. Her heart went out to the young girls who suffered from ignorance, fear, and poverty.
In 1829 she opened her first school in Figueras and attracted her students by teaching them the fine art of lace-making to help them earn a living. She educated them in the Faith and in devotion to Mary. "I want to save families teaching children the love of God" sums up her mission.
On 2 February 1847 Paula and three companions made their religious profession according to the charism of St Joseph Calasanz, with the name of the Daughters of Mary, Sisters of the Pious Schools. She was the novice mistress for many years.
Although she was never elected Superior General, and for a time was removed from the direction of the Congregation, she continued to open new schools and be a good influence for the formation of young sisters. "In all things do the will of God", she taught repeatedly. In 1860 Pius IX approved the Congregation and in 1887 Leo XIII gave definitive approval to the Rule.
The Congregation spread through Europe, to Asia, Africa and America and is now at work in 16 countries. When in 1874 persecution against priests and religious was threatened, Paula realized that in order to save her community, she would have to leave Olesa.
Dressed in secular clothes, she led her sisters to their community in Esparaguera and then returned to Olesa, not wanting to abandon the school and her students.
Her strong spirit of fortitude overcame the dangers, and she remained there among the people. The saint spent her life in the education and integral formation of girls, women and the family.
She ended her long life at 6 p.m. on 26 February 1889, with a final prayer to Our Lady, "Mother, my Mother".
Her mortal remains are venerated in the chapel of Olesa in the Diocese of Barcelona.
Today, the Sisters of the Pious Schools foster in society and in the family an esteem for the dignity of woman and a concern for the Christian education of youth.
10 June 2001
St Bernard of Corleone, baptized Philip, was the third of six children of Leonardo and Francesca Latini of Corleone, Sicily. Leonardo owned a small vineyard, but little more. Philip received no formal education. He did, however, learn the cobbler's trade; and when his father died, he plied that trade to support his mother as well as himself.
When young Philip was growing up, his hometown was garrisoned by mercenary troops hired by Spain, which then ruled Sicily. From these swashbucklers, the young citizen learned a more dubious skill, immensely popular in the 17th century, swordsmanship. Indeed, he acquired the reputation of being the best blade in Sicily. This talent, however, he used only defensively: on behalf, for example, of the women and poor peasants often abused by the local soldiery.
Swordplay was nevertheless not the safest nor most Christian of skills. One of the military in Corleone was always trying to provoke Philip to duel. On one occasion, when he did cross swords, he wounded this enemy badly. To escape prosecution, he invoked the right of sanctuary, fleeing to the local church for shelter until the coast was clear. He stayed inside the church for a week. During that period of forced inactivity, he had a chance to ask himself where his combative lifestyle was leading him.
By the time he emerged and vindicated his innocence, Philip had decided to make amends by entering the religious life. On 13 December 1631, at the age of 27, he entered the Capuchin Franciscan order at Caltanisetta, Sicily, as a lay brother, receiving the religious name of Bernard. The changing of his name was accompanied by a substantial change in lifestyle: he who was used to responding to provocations with the sword became a meek friar who responded to provocations with silence or by saying: "May it be for love of God".
The way in which Bro. Bernard strove particularly to make amends for his violence towards others was in directing his violence against himself. For even slight faults of uncharity in the religious community, he treated his own flesh unmercifully. But along with this stern self-discipline, he advanced by giant steps in his prayer life. Many spiritual gifts were reported of him as time passed: prophecies, wonders, miracles.
Among the more genial graces bestowed on Bro. Bernard was the ability to heal animals. In a truly Franciscan spirit, he felt loving kinship with all lesser animals. He was sad to see them in pain, for, as he said, they could not speak in order to tell human beings of their illnesses, and there were no doctors to prescribe for them or medicines to cure them. Because of the reputation Bernard acquired of curing animals, owners of all sorts of lesser creatures brought them to this "supernatural veterinary". He would usually say the Our Father over them, and then lead them three times around the cross that stood in front of the Capuchin church. "He cured them all", says his biographer. Still more remarkably, he is reported, while on his deathbed, to have "bequeathed" this special grace of healing upon another Franciscan who had been his associate and admirer.
Bernard of Corleone was a "modern" saint. Yet every now and
then, even in contemporary sophisticated times, God sometimes raises up
people that seem to be "throw-backs" to the remarkable saints of
earlier Christianity. Their savage means of self-discipline remind us of
those practised by the hermit saints of the fourth century. Their sense of
kinship with lesser animals reminds us of the crystalline sense of
communion with all creation that characterized St Francis of Assisi. Now,
Satan detests self-discipline and discourages any true love of creation,
so people like St Bernard of Corleone are his most dangerous enemies, and
those whom they inspire are already beyond his seductions. Bro. Bernard
Latini of Corleone spent his last years in deep inferiority, faithful to
prayer and to Christ crucified, and died at Palermo, Sicily, on 12 January
1667, at the age of 62. This uneducated cobbler and swordsman, who had
gone on to triumph in the duel against himself, was declared
"blessed" on 15 May 1768 by Pope Clement XIII.
St Teresa Verzeri lived in the first half of the 1800's when her native city of Bergamo was under foreign domination. It was a time of violent political, social and religious upheaval. Jansenism was rampant and, as a result of the French Revolution, liberalism and nationalism were emerging. In these trying times for the Church and its people, Teresa was an instrument of God's providence in fulfilling his designs. In the ranks of the founders/foundresses of the 1800's, she is a spiritual guide, an apostle and a great teacher.
St Teresa Verzeri was born in Bergamo on 31 July 1801. She was the firstborn of seven children of the noble family of Antonio Verzeri and the Countess Elena Pedrocca-Grumelli. Her brother, Girolomo, was Bishop of Brescia for 33 years.
Teresa learned to know and love God deeply from her mother, a profoundly Christian woman. Mons. Giuseppe Benaglio, Vicar General of Bergamo and member of the Apostolic College, who was already the spiritual guide of the family, became her confessor and spiritual director, continuing in that role for almost 30 years.
When she was still young, Teresa entered the Benedictine Monastery at Santa Grata in Bergamo. Following a long and difficult search for God's will, under the purifying influence of grace, she left the monastery and returned to a place called Gromo in Upper Bergamo, where there was a school in which she had already taught poor girls. It was there on 8 February 1831 that Teresa, together with Mons. Benaglio and four other companions, began the Institute of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In those times, so torn by social and political upheavals in Italy and in the Church, Teresa Verzeri and Mons. Benaglio were contemplatives in action. Rooted in Christ, they wanted to respond in a new way to the emerging crises of the times. In the early 1800's people found it difficult to recognize and accept the spirituality of the Sacred Heart. On the one hand the Enlightenment writers wanted a rational explanation for everything; on the other hand, the Jansenists could not imagine a loving and trusting relationship with God. Nevertheless, these two persons were able to found a Congregation named for the Sacred Heart. This is the reason they gave for the title: "So that saying or hearing this name may continually bring to minds and hearts the imitation of the Sacred Heart, who is all love for God and neighbour".
Teresa, becoming thus mother and foundress of the new Institute, dedicated herself from the very beginning with her companions to a variety of apostolates: "education of youth of middle and lower classes, houses for orphans, the abandoned, the destitute and the endangered; schools, catechism classes, spiritual exercises, activities for youth and help for the sick".
Mons. Benaglio, speaking to the Countess Carolina Suardo, one of Teresa's companions in the little school of Gromo, who would later become the foundress of the Congregation of the Good Shepherd, said: "You know the shining character of this daughter. All her qualities are useful for the successful outcome of the projects she has undertaken: lively spirit, talent, a loveable character, courage and perseverance in following an enterprise, humility without airs or servility, firmness without mood swings or stubbornness". Together with her companions, she opened two schools in the city: one for the upper class, the other for poor children in Gromo which she bought and enlarged. She developed two types of education: one for the wealthy and the other for working class girls.
Despite a thousand difficulties and ecclesial conflicts, Teresa did everything she could so that these institutions and the congregation would grow. Between 1831-32, she opened houses in Lombardy, Venice, the Tyrol, Parma, Piacenza and in the Papal states. In the midst of these activities, she dedicated herself with energy to obtain religious and civil approval for the Institute of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She drafted the Constitutions in 1841 and obtained their approval during her stay in Rome in 1847.
After a life of intense self-sacrifice, Teresa Eustochia Verzeri died in Brescia on 3 March 1852 at 51 years of age. She left a rich record of her human and spiritual experience and of the spirit and norms that guide the religious and apostolic life of her congregation.
Today the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus number about 700 sisters who carry on their mission in four continents. They seek to live concretely the missionary call heard by Teresa who desired to be present everywhere "to labour in the vineyard of the Heart of Jesus". In today's reality, they express this desire with a "new creativity in charity, not only by ensuring that help is effective, but also in getting close to those who suffer".
Challenged by this necessity, the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in the different places where they are present, have initiated new forms of charity such as a centre for street children in the Republic of Central Africa, a mission for the poorest people of the forest in India, being part of an intercongregational mobile team which supports the poorest natives in their everyday lives in the Amazon region in Brazil, and, in Italy, on the outskirts of Rome, helping women in difficulty.
Wherever they are today, the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus strive to be the presence of the pierced Heart of Christ who still suffers in so many brothers and sisters, in so many forms of poverty and exclusion. They strive to be all things to all people to gain all for the Heart of Jesus, as Teresa always desired.
St Agostino Roscelli was born in Casarza Ligure, Italy, on 27 July 1818. His materially poor family was an example of faith and Christian virtue. An intelligent and sensitive, but reserved child, Agostino helped care for the family's sheep. The natural surroundings and the silence of the mountains opened his soul to a close relationship with God.
During a parish mission in May 1835, he felt called to the priesthood. Financial problems made it difficult for him to pursue his studies in Genoa, but his tenacity and intense prayer, combined with the aid of generous people, supported him.
Ordained on 19 September 1846, he was appointed curate of St Martin d'Albaro. Then, in 1854, he was entrusted with pastoral care of the Church of the Consolation where he spent countless hours in the confessional. A sister who knew him wrote, "People of every condition and class confidently came to that priest. Enclosed for four or five hours between the two grates, ignoring the cold, the heat, the fatigue, he was always serenely ready to welcome all with delicate goodness, with unaltered patience, with lively and penetrating attention, with the most appropriate words for each one". Among these there were many young people who confided their sufferings to him and sought his advice.
Seeing the need, he set up his first residential centre in Genoa for the moral, intellectual and professional training of young women who were in danger of starvation or falling into prostitution because they had no support. The centre met with immediate success and the seed was planted here for the future religious congregation which Fr Roscelli in his characteristic reserve and humility dismissed as too grand for him. As it happened, God was to try him through many trials before the congregation's birth.
In 1874 he was appointed chaplain of the provincial orphanage, where he served for 22 years. Here he baptized 8,484 newborn babies and spent himself with a father's love to reconcile their teenage mothers through the sacrament of Penance. If this were not enough along with his work in the parish, he also served as a prison chaplain, caring particularly for those condemned to death. In 1876, with the encouragement of Pope Pius IX and Archbishop Magnasco, he realized his dream: he founded the Institute of Sisters of the Immaculate to care for the residential women's centres he had established.
In spite of being immersed in the most intense apostolic activity, Fr Roscelli never neglected his prayer life. He was always busy, but he knew how to find many hours to pass in front of the Tabernacle. "Prayer was his life ... Whoever wanted the Founder had to seek him in the Chapel. In the long hours (even whole nights) of his prayer, it was his custom to lean on his left knee, his kneeler shows a groove in the wood in that part". Fr Roscelli's apostolic activity was truly fruitful because it flowed from a genuine mystical and contemplative life. After many trials he completed his offering at the Motherhouse on 7 May 1902.
The first group of Sisters of the Immaculate went overseas to Argentina in 1914. Today the Congregation continues to thrive serving children, the disabled and the elderly. In the words of St Agostino, "The charity which Christ commanded excludes no one, nor does it ever let itself be stopped, whatever obstacles it may encounter".
Too often we forget that there are other rites within the Catholic Church besides the Roman Rite. St Rafqa Petronilla Shabaq al-Rayès (also known as Rafka, Rebecca, Pierina, or Boutrosiya) is God's gift to the universal Church from the Maronites, who hale from Lebanon. Rafqa, like the bride in the Song of Songs, listened to her Beloved's call: "Come from Lebanon, my promised bride, Come from Lebanon, come on your way.... My sister, my promised bride; a garden enclosed, a sealed fountain ... fountain of the garden, well of living water, streams flowing down from Lebanon!" (cf. Sg 4,1-15).
Pierina, the only child of Mourad Saber Shabaq al-Rayes and his wife Rafqa Gemayel, was born in Himlaya, Lebanon, on 29 June 1832, and was named after St Peter on whose feast she was born in the land of the Phoenicians. This blind seer, known as the "Little Flower of Lebanon", the "Purple Rose", and the "Silent, Humble Nun", related the story of her life to her mother superior, under obedience, months before her death.
Life in Lebanon was not easy even in the 19th century and was made more difficult for Pierina by the death of her mother when she was six years old. She worked as a house maid in Syria for four years (1843-1847) and a few years later (1853) entered the Marian Order of the Immaculate Conception as a postulant at the convent of Our Lady of Liberation in Bikfaya. St Maron's Day, 9 February 1855 she was received as a novice and took the name Anissa (Agnes). Five years later she witnessed the massacre of Christians in Deirel-Qamar. In 1871, her order was united with that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to form the Order of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Each nun was given the choice of entering the new order, another existing order, or being dispensed from her vows.
Throughout her life, Rafqa was gifted with extraordinary revelations by voices, dreams, and visions. In 1871, she went to St George's Church in Batroun to pray about the future of her vocation. That night she dreamt that St Anthony the Hermit told her to become a nun in the Baladiya Order of the Maronites. At the age of 39 (12 July 1871), she responded to the dream by entering the ascetic Baladiya Order at the cloistered convent of St Simon in El-Qarn, where she was known as Boutrosiya from Himlaya. She made her perpetual vows and received the veil from Father Superior Ephrem Geagea al-Bsherrawi on 25 August 1873, and took the name Rafqa (Rebecca).
As a member of an ascetic order, in 1885, Rafqa asked our Lord to let her share in His suffering. From that night on her health began to deteriorate. She was soon blind and crippled and still she imposed greater penances upon herself, such as eating only the leftover scraps of food. She continued to share in the prayers of the community and its work by spinning wool and knitting stockings.
Rafqa suffered for 17 years as a blind paralytic and, by 1907, was totally paralyzed and in constant pain. By uniting her suffering with Christ's she was able to bear all with joy, without complaint. Her pain was continuous night and day, yet the other sisters never heard her murmuring or complaining. She often told them that she thanked God for her sufferings, "... because I know that the sickness I have is for the good of my soul and His glory" and that "sickness accepted with patience and thanksgiving purifies the soul as fire purifies gold".
A few years before she died, Mother Ursula noticed that Rafqa seemed to be suffering much more than usual and, touched by pity for the poor sister, asked her, "Is there anything else you want from this world? Have you never regretted the loss of your sight? Don't you sometimes wish you could see this new convent with all the natural beauties that surround it — the mountains and rocks, and the forests"?
Sr Rafqa answered simply, "I would like to see just for an hour, Mother — just to be able to see you".
"Only for one hour?" asked the Superior. "And you would be content to return to that world of darkness?"
"Yes", replied the invalid.
Mother Ursula shook her head in wonder and began to leave Rafqa's cell. Suddenly, the paralyzed nun's face broke into a beautiful smile and she turned her head toward the door. "Mother", she called, "I can see you!"
The Superior turned around quickly and saw the glow on Rafqa's face. That alone was enough to tell her that her daughter was not teasing, but she wanted to be certain that the phenomenon was actual and not just a trick of the mind of the poor nun who had been blind for so many years.
Desperately trying to conceal her emotions, she walked back to the bedside.
"If it is as you say", she queried, "tell me what is lying on the wardrobe". Sr Rafqa turned her face toward the little closet and answered, "The Bible and the Lives of the Saints" — she could hardly contain her excitement. But, she reasoned, perhaps Rafqa knew that these were the only two books in her cell as she had no need for others and the sisters who read to her usually only used these two titles — knowing that the invalid loved them best.
Another test would have to be tried and this time, witnesses were called in to testify to the miracle.
There was a lovely multi-coloured cover on Rafqa's bed. Mother Ursula called her attention to it and began to point to the colours one by one, asking the newly-sighted nun to call out the names of the colours as she pointed to them. The three sisters who assisted the Superior in the test verified that Sr Rafqa named each colour correctly.
As she had requested, though, this new sight lasted only for one hour during which time she conversed with Mother Ursula and looked around her cell, at her sisters, and through the window to catch glimpses of the beauties outside.
Four days after her death on 23 October 1914, her superior, Sr Doumit, experienced the first of many miracles wrought at the intercession of St Rafqa, who was beatified on 17 November 1985.
St Luigi Scrosoppi, native of Udine, (b. 4 August 1804 d. 3 April 1884) was the youngest child of Antonia and Domenico Scrosoppi. Luigi had two older brothers; Carlo Filaferro, born from his mother's first marriage, who was 18 years older than Luigi, and Giovanni Battista born in 1803.
When Luigi was only 12, the Friuli region, which the year before had experienced severe drought and very poor harvests, had too much rain, preventing the ripening of the crops. Because of food shortages, many people emigrated from the hilly regions of Friuli to the city in search of food. The fate of so many poor people who suffered hunger, sickness, and even death, made a deep impression on Luigi.
In November 1816, after confiding in his parents, Luigi entered the seminary where his brother Giovanni Battista was studying. During this time, Luigi attended the church of St Mary Magdalen, where his step-brother Fr Carlo (an Oratorian priest) and other priests of the Oratory were ministering to every kind of person in need. While helping his step-brother, Carlo, in his work for orphan girls at the Casa delle Derelitte (House of the Destitute), he felt drawn to the Oratorian way of life.
In 1826 Luigi was ordained deacon, and, on 31 March 1827, he was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Udine. Fr Luigi began his priestly ministry in the church of St Mary Magdalene and took humility as the theme of his first homily. As a young priest, Fr Luigi was very involved in preaching and in the education of the children at the "House" run by Fr Carlo.
However, Luigi contemplated entering the Capuchin Order. He was fascinated by the ideals of St Francis of Assisi: his love of poverty and humility and the ideal of community life but gave up the idea for two reasons. He could not leave his step-brother alone nor could he abandon the orphan girls in the "House" which was in critical shape for lack of funds. The young priest chose to devote himself completely to the benefit of abandoned children, the poorest of the poor.
At the beginning of 1829, Fr Carlo invited Luigi to take charge of the House for the Destitute. Luigi had been forced to go begging for funds. The people were generous and gradually he was able to ensure that the orphans had enough food.
But soon a larger "House" was needed, and again Luigi went out and begged for materials. In 1836 the large building was completed much to the surprise of the people of Udine.
The same year, Friuli was badly hit by cholera. The first victims were the poor and the orphans. The boys were accommodated in an orphanage run by Fr Francesco Tomadini, whereas the girls were given refuge in the new House for the Destitute.
On 1 February 1837, nine women, united around Fr Carlo and Fr Luigi, chose to live a life of poverty and total dedication and gave the House of the Destitute stability. They were simple young teachers already trained in a life of sacrifice and poverty, to assist the girls, but it was not until 25 December 1845 that the young women, who became the nucleus of the Sisters of Providence of St Cajetan Thiene, with the authorization of the Bishop, took the religious habit with the promise to serve Jesus in His members.
The Oratory of Udine had been supressed by Napoleon in 1810 but was re-established in 1842 with Fr Carlo being elected provost. On 26 May 1846, Fr Luigi, desiring to live his vocation more intensely, became an Oratorian and in 1856 became the provost. From this position, Luigi could launch the works that he and Carlo had planned, a Rescue Home and a School for the deaf and dumb. They gradually re-established common life for the Oratorian fathers. In 1866 the Law of Suppression enacted by the new Italian state took effect and in 1867 the Oratory was once again suppressed.
Towards the end of 1883 Fr Luigi's health deteriorated. He was suffering from pemphigus, a skin disease which produced blisters and which destroyed his body like leprosy. During this time Luigi went through a period of trial and spiritual dryness, and only found comfort in prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Having told his sisters not to "be afraid of anything because it is the Lord who started our religious family", Fr Luigi's final and definitive encounter with Jesus took place Thursday night, 3 April 1884, feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows.
1 October 2000
Over a 300-year period, 120 missionaries and Chinese believers gave their lives in fidelity to Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church
From the earliest beginnings of the Chinese people (sometime about the middle of the third millennium before Christ), religious sentiment towards the Supreme Being and diligent filial piety towards ancestors were the most conspicuous features of their culture, which had existed for thousands of years.
This note of distinct religiousness is found to a greater or lesser extent in the Chinese people of all centuries up to our own time, when, under the influence of Western atheism, some intellectuals, especially those educated in foreign countries, wished to rid themselves of all religious ideas, like some of their Western teachers.
In the fifth century the Gospel was preached in China, and at the beginning of the seventh century the first church was built there. During the T'ang dynasty (618-907) the Christian community flourished for two centuries. In the 13th, thanks to the understanding of the Chinese people and culture shown by missionaries like Giovanni da Montecorvino, it became possible to begin the first Catholic mission in the Middle Kingdom, with the episcopal see in Beijing.
It is not surprising, especially in, the modern era (i.e., since the 16th century, when communications between the East and West became more frequent) that there was on the part of the Catholic Church a longing to take the light of the Gospel to this people in order to enhance their treasure of cultural and religious traditions, so rich and profound.
And so, beginning with the last decades of the 16th century, various Catholic missionaries were sent to China: people like Matteo Ricci and others were chosen with great care, keeping in mind their cultural abilities and their qualifications in various fields of science, especially astronomy and mathematics, in addition to their spirit of faith and love. In fact, it was thanks to this and to the missionaries' appreciation of the remarkable spirit of research shown by the studious Chinese that it was possible to establish very useful collaborative relationships in the scientific field. These relationships served in turn to open many doors, even those of the Imperial Court, and this led to the development of very useful relations with various people of great ability.
The quality of the religious life of these missionaries was such as to lead not a few people at a high level to feel the need to know better the Gospel spirit that animated them and then to be instructed in the Christian religion. This instruction was carried out in a manner suited to their cultural characteristics and way of thinking. At the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th, there were numerous people who, having undergone the necessary preparation, asked for Baptism and became fervent Christians, while always preserving with just pride their Chinese identity and culture.
Christianity was seen in that period as a reality that did not oppose the highest values of the traditions of the Chinese people, nor place itself above these traditions. Rather, it was regarded as something that enriched them with a new light and dimension.
Thanks to the excellent relations that existed between some missionaries and the Emperor K'ang Hsi himself, and thanks to the services they rendered towards re-establishing peace between the Tsar of Russia and the "Son of Heaven", namely the Emperor, the latter issued in 1692 the first decree of religious liberty by virtue of which all his subjects could follow the Christian religion and all the missionaries could preach in his vast domains.
In consequence, there were notable developments in missionary activity and the spread of the Gospel message; many Chinese people, attracted by the light of Christ, asked to receive Baptism.
Unfortunately, however, the difficult question of "Chinese rites" greatly irritated the Emperor K'ang Hsi and prepared the persecution. This persecution, strongly influenced by the one in nearby Japan, to a greater or lesser extent, open or insidious, violent or veiled, extended in successive waves practically from the first decade of the 17th century to about the middle of the 19th. Missionaries and lay faithful were killed and many churches destroyed.
It was on 15 January 1648 that the Manchu Tartars, having invaded the region of Fujian and shown themselves hostile to the Christian religion, killed St Francis Fernández de Capillas, a priest of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans). After having imprisoned and tortured him, they beheaded him while he recited with others the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary.
St Francis Fernández de Capillas has been recognized by the Holy See as the protomartyr of China.
Towards the middle of the following century (the 18th) another five Spanish missionaries, who had carried out their activity between 1715 and 1747, were put to death as a result of a new wave of persecution that started in 1729 and broke out again in 1746. This was in the era of the Emperor Yung-Cheng and his son, K'ien-Lung.
St Peter Sans i Jordá, O.P, Bishop, was martyred in 1747 at Fuzou.
All four of the following were killed on 28 October 1748:
St Francis Serrano Frias, O.P., priest
A new period of persecution of the Christian religion occurred in the 19th century.
While Catholicism had been authorized by some emperors in the preceding centuries, Emperor Kia-Kin (1796-1821) published instead numerous and severe decrees against it. The first was issued in 1805. Two edicts of 1811 were directed against those Chinese who were studying to receive sacred Orders, and against priests who were propagating the Christian religion. A decree of 1813 exonerated voluntary apostates from every chastisement, that is, Christians who spontaneously declared that they would abandon their faith, but all others were to be dealt with harshly.
In this period the following underwent martyrdom:
St Peter Wu Guosheng, a Chinese lay catechist. Born of a pagan family, he received Baptism in 1796 and passed the rest of his life proclaiming the truth of the Christian religion. All attempts to make him apostatize were in vain. The sentence having been pronounced against him, he was strangled on 7 November 1814.
Following him in fidelity to Christ was St Joseph Zhang Dapeng, a lay catechist and merchant. Baptized in 1800, he had become the heart of the mission in the city of Kony-Yang. He was imprisoned, and then strangled to death on 12 March 1815.
In this same year (1815) there came two other decrees, by which approval was given to the conduct of the Viceroy of Sichuan who had beheaded Bishop Dufresse, of the Paris Foreign Missions Society, and some Chinese Christians. As a result, there was a worsening of the persecution.
The following martyrs belong to this period:
St Gabriel Taurin Dufresse, M.E.P., Bishop. He was arrested on 18 May 1815, taken to Chengdu, condemned and executed on 14 September 1815.
St Augustine Zhao Rong, a Chinese diocesan priest. Having first been one of the soldiers who had escorted Bishop Dufresse from Chengdu to Beijing, he was moved by his patience and had then asked to be numbered among the neophytes. Once baptized, he was sent to the seminary and then ordained a priest. Arrested, he had to suffer the most cruel tortures and then died in 1815.
St Francis Mary Lantrua, O.F.M. (John of Triora), priest. Put in prison together with others in the summer of 1815, he was later condemned to death and strangled on 7 February 1816.
St Joseph Yuan Zaide, a Chinese diocesan priest. Having heard Bishop Dufresse speak of the Christian faith, he was overcome by its beauty and then became an exemplary neophyte. Later, he was ordained a priest and, as such, was dedicated to evangelization in various districts. He was arrested in August 1816, condemned to be strangled and was killed in this way on 24 June 1817.
St Paul Liu Hanzuo, a Chinese diocesan priest, killed in 1819.
St Francis Regis Clet of the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians). After obtaining permission to go to the missions in China, he embarked for the Orient in 1791. Having reached there, for 30 years he spent a life of missionary sacrifice. Upheld by an untiring zeal, he evangelized three immense provinces of the Chinese Empire: Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan. Betrayed by a Christian, he was arrested and thrown into prison where he underwent atrocious tortures. Following sentence by the emperor, he was killed by strangling on 17 February 1820.
St Thaddeus Liu Ruiting, a Chinese diocesan priest. He refused to apostatize, saying that he was a priest and wanted to be faithful to the religion that he had preached. Condemned to death, he was strangled on 30 November 1823.
St Peter Liu Wenyuan, a Chinese lay catechist. He was arrested in 1814 and condemned to exile in Tartary, where he remained for almost 20 years. Returning to his homeland, he was again arrested and was strangled on 17 May 1834.
St Joachim Hao Kaizhi, a Chinese lay catechist. He was baptized at the age of about 20. In the great persecution of 1814 he had been taken with many other faithful and subjected to cruel torture. Sent into exile in Tartary, he remained there for almost 20 years. Returning to his homeland, he was arrested again and refused to apostatize. Following that, and the death sentence having been confirmed by the emperor, he was strangled on 9 July 1839.
St Augustus Chapdelaine, M.E.P., a priest of the Diocese of Coutances. He entered the seminary of the Paris Foreign Missions Society and embarked for China in 1852. He arrived in Guangxi at the end of 1854. Arrested in 1856, he was tortured, condemned to death in prison and died in February 1856.
St Laurence Bai Xiaoman, a Chinese layman and unassuming worker. He joined St Chapdelaine in the refuge that was given to the missionary and was arrested with him and brought before the tribunal. Nothing could make him renounce his religious beliefs. He was beheaded on 25 February 1856.
St Agnes Cao Guiying, a widow, born into an old Christian family. Being dedicated to the instruction of young girls who had recently been converted by St Chapdelaine, she was arrested and condemned to death in prison. She was executed on 1 March 1856.
Three catechists, known as the Martyrs of MaoKou (in the province of Guizhou) were killed on 28 January 1858, by order of the Mandarin of MaoKou:
St Jerome Lu Tingmei
All three had been called on to renounce the Christian religion and, having refused to do so, were condemned to be beheaded.
Two seminarians and two lay people, one of whom was a farmer, the other a widow who worked as a cook in the seminary, suffered martyrdom together on 29 July 1861. They are known as the Martyrs of Qingyanzhen (Guizhou):
St Joseph Zhang Wenlan, seminarian
In the following year, on 18 and 19 February 1862, another five people gave their lives for Christ. They are known as the Martyrs of Guizhou:
St John Peter Néel, a priest of the Paris Foreign Missions Society
In the meantime, some incidents occurred in the political field that had notable repercussions on the life of the Christian missions.
In June 1840 the Imperial Commissioner of Guangdong, rightly wishing to abolish the opium trade that was being conducted by the British, had more than 20,000 chests of this drug thrown into the sea. This had been the pretext for immediate war, which was won by the British. When the war came to an end, China had to sign in 1842 the first international treaty of modern times, followed quickly by others with America and France. Taking advantage of this opportunity, France replaced Portugal as the power protecting the missions. A twofold decree was subsequently issued: one part in 1844, which permitted the Chinese to follow the Catholic religion; the other in 1846, which abolished the old penalties against Catholics.
From then on the Church could live openly and carry out her missionary activity, developing it also in the sphere of higher education, in universities and scientific research.
With the multiplication of various top-level cultural institutes and thanks to their highly valued activity, ever deeper links were gradually established between the Church and China with its rich cultural traditions.
This collaboration with the Chinese authorities further increased the mutual appreciation and sharing of those true values that must underpin every civilized society.
And so passed an era of expansion in the Christian missions, with the exception of the period marked by the disaster stemming from the uprising of the "Society for Justice and Harmony" (commonly known as the "Boxers"). This occurred at the beginning of the 20th century and caused many Christians to shed their blood.
It is known that mingled in this rebellion were all the secret societies and the accumulated and repressed hatred against foreigners in the last decades of the 19th century, because of the political and social changes following the Opium War and the imposition of the so-called "unequal treaties" on the part of the Western powers.
Very different, however, was the motive for the persecution of the missionaries, even though they were of European nationality. Their slaughter was brought about solely on religions grounds. They were killed for the same reason as the Chinese faithful who had become Christians. Reliable historical documents provide evidence of the anti-Christian hatred which spurred the Boxers to massacre the missionaries and the local faithful who had adhered to their teaching. In this regard, an edict was issued on 1 July 1900 which, in substance, said that the time of good relations with European missionaries and their Christians was now past: that the former must be repatriated at once and the faithful forced to apostatize, on penalty of death.
As a result, several missionaries and many Chinese were martyred. They can be grouped together as follows:
a) Martyrs of Shanxi, killed on 9 July 1900, who were Friars Minor (Franciscans):
St Gregory Grassi, Bishop
b) Martyrs of Southern Hunan, who were also Franciscans:
St Anthony Fantosati, Bishop (martyred on 7 July 1900)
To the martyred Franciscans of the First Order were added seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, of whom three were French, two Italian, one Belgian and one Dutch:
St Mary Hermina of Jesus (in the world: Irma Grivot)
Of the martyrs belonging to the Franciscan family, there were also 11 Secular Franciscans, all Chinese;
St John Zhang Huan, seminarian
To these are joined a number of Chinese lay faithful:
St James Yan Guodong, farmer
When the Boxer uprising, which had begun in Shandong and then spread through Shanxi and Hunan, . also reached south-eastern Tcheli, which was then the Apostolic Vicariate of Xianxian in the care of the Jesuits, the Christians killed could be counted in the thousands.
Among these were four French Jesuit missionaries and at least 52 Chinese lay Christians: men, women and children - the oldest of them being 79, while the youngest were aged only nine. All suffered martyrdom in July 1900. Many of them were killed in the village church of Tchou-Kia-ho, where they had taken refuge and were praying together with the first two of the missionaries listed below:
St Leo Ignatius Mangin, S.J., priest
The names and ages of the Chinese lay Christians were as follows:
St Mary Zhu née Wu, aged about 50
The fact that this considerable number of Chinese lay faithful offered their lives for Christ together with the missionaries who had proclaimed the Gospel to them and had been so devoted to them is evidence of the depth of the link that faith in Christ establishes. It gathers into a single family people of various races and cultures, strongly uniting them not for political motives but in virtue of a religion that preaches love, brotherhood, peace and justice.
Besides all those already mentioned who were killed by the Boxers, it is necessary also to remember:
St Alberic Crescitelli, a priest of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions of Milan, who carried out his ministry in southern Shanxi and was martyred on 21 July 1900.
Some years later, members of the Salesian Society of St John Bosco were added to the considerable number of martyrs recorded above:
St Louis Versiglia, Bishop
They were killed together on 25 February 1930 at Li-Thau-Tseul.
When the family took a trip to the western United States, Katharine saw the plight and destitution of the Native Americans. This experience aroused her desire to do something specific to help alleviate their condition. This was the beginning of her lifelong personal and financial support of numerous missions and missionaries in the United States. The first school she established was St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico (1887).
Later, when visiting Pope Leo XIII in Rome and asking him for missionaries to staff some of the Indian missions that she as a lay person was financing, she was surprised to hear the Pope suggest that she become a missionary herself. After consultation with her spiritual director, Bishop James O'Connor, she made the decision to give herself totally to God, along with her inheritance, through service to Native Americans and African Americans.
Her wealth was now transformed into a poverty of spirit that became a daily constant in a life supported only by the bare necessities. On 12 February 1891 she professed her first vows as a religious, founding the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, whose dedication would be to share the message of the Gospel and the life of the Eucharist among Native Americans and African Americans.
Always a woman of intense prayer, Katharine found in the Eucharist the source of her love for the poor and oppressed and of her concern to reach out to combat the effects of racism. Knowing that many African Americans were far from free, still living in substandard conditions as sharecroppers or under-paid menials, denied the education and constitutional rights enjoyed by others, she felt a compassionate urgency to help change racial attitudes in the United States.
The plantation at that time was an entrenched social institution in which people of colour continued to be victims of oppression. This was a deep affront to Katharine's sense of justice. The need for quality education loomed before her, and she discussed this need with some who shared her concern about the inequality of education for African Americans in the cities. Restrictions of the law also prevented them from obtaining a basic education in the rural South.
Founding and staffing schools for both Native Americans and African Americans throughout the country became a priority for Katharine and her congregation. During her lifetime, she opened, staffed and directly supported nearly 60 schools and missions, especially in the West and South-West United States. Her crowning educational achievement was the establishment in 1925 of Xavier University of Louisiana, the only predominantly African American Catholic institution of higher learning in the United States. Religious education, social service, visiting in homes, hospitals and prisons were also included in the ministries of Katharine and her sisters.
In her quiet way, Katharine combined prayerful and total dependence on divine Providence with determined activism. Her joyous incisiveness, attuned to the Holy Spirit, penetrated obstacles and facilitated her advances for social justice. Through the prophetic witness of Katharine Drexel's initiative, the Church in the United States was able to become aware of the grave domestic need for an apostolate among Native Americans and African Americans. She did not hesitate to speak out against injustice, taking a public stance when racial discrimination was in evidence.
For the last 18 years of her life she was rendered almost completely immobile because of a serious illness. During these years she gave herself to a life of adoration and contemplation, as she had desired from early childhood. She died on 3 March 1955.
Bakhita was not the name she received from her parents at birth. The fright and the terrible experiences she went through made her forget the name her parents gave her. Bakhita, which means "fortunate", was the name given to her by her kidnappers.
Sold and resold in the markets of El Obeid and Khartoum, she experienced the physical and moral humiliations and sufferings of slavery. In the Sudanese capital, Bakhita was bought by an Italian consul, Callisto Legnani. For the first time since the day she was kidnapped, she realized with pleasant surprise that no one used the lash when giving her orders; instead, she was treated with love and cordiality. In the consul's residence Bakhita experienced peace, warmth and moments of joy, even though veiled by nostalgia for her own family whom, perhaps, she had lost forever.
The political situation forced the consul to leave for Italy. Bakhita asked and obtained permission to go with him and a friend of his, a certain Mr Augusto Michieli. On their arrival in Genoa, Mr Legnani, at the request of Mr Michieli's wife, agreed to leave Bakhita with them. She followed the new "family", which settled in Zianigo, near Mirano Veneto,
When their daughter Mimmina was born, Bakhita became her babysitter and friend. The acquisition and management of a large hotel in Suakin on the Red Sea forced Mrs Michieli to move to Suakin to help her husband. Meanwhile, on the advice of their administrator, Mimmina and Bakhita were entrusted to the Canossian Sisters of the Institute of Catechumens in Venice.
It was there that Bakhita came to know about God, whom "she had experienced in her heart without knowing who he was" since she was a child. "Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself: Who could be the Master of these beautiful things? And I felt a great desire to see him, to know him and to pay him homage...".
After several months in the catechumenate, Bakhita received the sacraments of Christian initiation and was given a new name, Josephine. It was 9 January 1890. She did not know how to express her joy that day. Her big and expressive eyes sparkled, revealing deep emotions. From then on, she was often seen kissing the baptismal font and saying: "Here, I became a daughter of God!".
When Mrs Michieli returned from Africa to take back her daughter and Bakhita, the latter, with unusual firmness and courage, expressed her desire to remain with the Canossian Sisters and to serve that God who had shown her so many proofs of his love. The young African, who by then had come of age, enjoyed the freedom of choice which Italian law guaranteed.
Bakhita remained in the catechumenate where she experienced the call to be a religious and to give herself to the Lord in the Institute of St Magdalene of Canossa. On 8 December 1896 Josephine Bakhita was consecrated forever to God, whom she called by the sweet name of "the Master!". For the next 50 years this humble Daughter of Charity, a true witness to the love of God, lived in the Schio community, involved in various services: cooking, sewing, embroidery and attending to the door.
When she was on duty at the door, she would gently lay her hands on the heads of the children who daily attended the Canossian schools and caress them. Her amiable voice, which had the inflection and rhythm of the music of her country, was pleasing to the little ones, comforting to the poor and suffering and encouraging to those who knocked at the institute's door.
Her humility, simplicity and constant smile won the hearts of all the citizens. Her sisters in the community esteemed her for her constantly sweet nature, exquisite goodness and deep desire to make the Lord known. "Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know him. What a great grace it is to know God!", she said.
As she grew older she experienced long, painful years of sickness. Mother Bakhita continued to witness to faith, goodness and Christian hope. To those who visited her and asked how she was, she would respond with a smile: "As the Master desires". During her agony, she relived the terrible days of her slavery and more than once begged the nurse who assisted her: "Please, loosen the chains ... they are heavy!".
It was Blessed Mary who freed her from all pain. Her last words were: "Our Lady! Our Lady!", and her final smile testified to her encounter with the Lord's Mother.
Mother Bakhita breathed her last on 8 February 1947 at the Canossian convent in Schio, surrounded by the sisters. A crowd quickly gathered at the convent to have a last look at their "Mother Moretta" and to ask for her protection from heaven. The fame of her sanctity has spread to all the continents and many receive graces through her intercession.
Josephine Bakhita was beatified on 17 May 1992.
It was some time before her vocation matured. In 1860 she was actually on the point of entering the contemplative Conceptionists of Aranjuez, but was prevented by a serious bout of typhus.
In the ensuing months she felt sure that the Lord was calling her to an active form of religious life, and so entered the Institute of the Servants of Mary, recently founded in Madrid by St Soledad Torres Acosta. However, as the time of her profession approached, she was beset with grave doubts. She unburdened herself to various confessors and their advice prompted her to feel that she was indeed mistaken.
Through her contact with Archbishop Claret and conversations with St Soledad Torres Acosta, she reached the decision to leave the Institute of the Servants of Mary and to found a new religious family whose exclusive aim would be the care of the sick in hospital and at home. She shared this same ideal with three other Servants of Mary, who, with permission from the Archbishop of Toledo, left the institute with her.
The new Institute of the Servants of Jesus of Charity was founded in Bilbao in 1871, and Mother María Josefa was superior for the next 41 years. She made grueling journeys to visit the communities, until a long illness confined her to the house in Bilbao. Obliged to stay in bed or seated, she then followed events in the various communities in Spain and abroad through an abundant and valuable correspondence. When she died after a long illness on 20 March 1912, there were 43 houses with more than 1,000 sisters.
Her holy death had a great impact on Bilbao and beyond. She was buried in the municipal cemetery of Bilbao, but by 1926 the fame of her holiness had spread, and her mortal remains were transferred to the motherhouse, where they are still preserved in the chapel.
The contemporary accounts of eyewitnesses record that St María Josefa had great love for the Eucharist and the Sacred Heart, adored the mystery of Redemption and shared intimately in the sufferings of the crucified Christ. She was totally dedicated to nursing the sick in a contemplative context.
The particular hallmark which Mother Josefa imprinted on the Institute of the Servants of Jesus reflects her inner experience as a soul consecrated to the charitable service of neighbour, especially the sick, with a contemplative approach. Her ideas are clearly expressed in the Directorio de Asistencias, which she herself wrote. She says that Servants of Jesus provide a far greater blessing for the sick than that of missionaries, who with their preaching call those who have strayed back to the path of life. In his article Beata María Josefa del Corázon de Jesús, Fr Pablo B. Aristegui cites her words: "Do not believe, sisters, that caring for the sick consists only in giving them medicine and food; there is another kind of care which you should never forget, that of the heart which seeks to adapt to the suffering person, going to meet his needs" (Mensajero, 1992, p. 97).
Since Mother María Josefa's death to this day, the Servants of Jesus have continued their service, generously giving themselves to the sick, like their foundress. Today, in addition to Spain, the 1,050 religious of the Institute of the Servants of Jesus are present in Italy, France, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, Columbia, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Paraguay and the Philippines.
25 MEXICAN MARTYRS
From 1926 on, a more ferocious religious
persecution began with the expulsion of foreign priests and the
closing of private schools and some charitable associations. A group
of lay people formed an organization called the “League for the
Defence of Religious Freedom” and, without involving the hierarchy,
took up arms in a guerrilla war known as the "Cristero
The lay people sought the support of their pastors,
some of whom were hostile to the movement, but others provided
spiritual support for their flocks despite the dangers that they knew
During the years of this cruel persecution
numerous priests and lay people gave their lives for the Catholic faith.
Of these 25 were beatified on 22 November 1992: 22 priests and three
young laymen who accompanied their pastors to their martyrdom. All were
assassinated by the State authorities without any trial; almost all were
tortured and executed in the same place where they had been arrested
during the night, for fear of the violent reaction of the faithful.
He was hanged from an oak tree on 26 June 1927.
Fr Rodrigo Aguilar Alemán
was born on 13 March 1875 in Sayula, Jalisco. After responding three
times to the question, "Who lives?", with the answer,
"Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe!", he was hanged
from a mango tree on 28 October 1927.
Fr Jenaro Sánchez Delgadillo
was born on 19 September 1876 in Zapopan, Jalisco. Saying to his
executioners: "I forgive you; may God my Father also forgive you,
and may Christ the King live forever!", he was hanged on 17 January
1927 with such intensity that his head hit the branch of the tree.
Manuel Morales was born on
8 February 1898 in Mesillas, Zacatecas. A faithful husband and the
father of three children, he tried to intercede for the release of Fr
Balls, but was killed as well on 15 August 1926.
Fr Mateo Correa Magallanes
was born on 23 July 1866 in Tepechitlan, Zacatecas. When threatened with
death if he would not reveal what he heard in confession, he said:
"You can do it, but don't forget that a priest must keep the secret
of confession. I am willing to die". He was shot on 6 February
In November 1905, longing to consecrate her life to
God, she and other girls asked Fr Antonio González for spiritual
direction. He suggested that she and three other Daughters of Mary make
a retreat at San Sebastián Analco, Guadalajara. After the retreat, the
call to religious life became clear and definite. Among the various
possibilities, she preferred to join a community of pious women who
since 1886 had run a little hospital for poor people. They had received
official ecclesiastical approval and their own rule. The future Bishop
of Colima, Fr Atenógenes Silva, had been their founder and was their
spiritual director for many years. They had chosen the title of
Daughters of the Sacred Heart, and Miss Aguirre Sofía (later Sr
Doloritas) was their Superior.
The saint entered religious life on 8 December
1905. In 1910 she privately took the three vows and in 1912 was
appointed vicar. In 1921 she was elected Superior. That same year Bishop
Miguel de la Mora of Potosí invited the new Superior to write the
Constitutions for a real religious community, as a step towards getting
approval as a congregation. The saint was reluctant, citing her
ignorance and incompetence in such matters. But in the end she accepted.
From 1921 to 1924, with the help of Mons. Atenógenes Silva and other
priests, she drew up new Constitutions with three chapters.
With alms and donations a residence was built for
the sisters in 1922, since other young candidates were asking to join
the new institute. Meanwhile the whole of Mexico was in utter confusion
because of the religious persecution undertaken by the Government. They
searched everywhere for priests, arrested Bishops and confiscated
Catholic schools and ecclesiastical property. The
saint, with courage and intelligence, succeeded in saving, even in
strengthening, the institute. In 1930 Archbishop Francisco Orozco y
Jiménez gave his approval to the Constitutions.
From 1921 until 1954, the saint was Superior
General of the institute, giving witness to all by her good example. She
tried to make her feelings those of the Heart of Jesus. She loved the
Church and showed great respect and obedience to the Pope and Bishops.
Priests were her favourites; she prayed for them and helped seminarians
to the best of her ability. She took special care of the sisters in
formation. She gave them the example of her deep love for the Lord, the
poor and the sick, her special devotion to the Holy Eucharist, the
Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, and the careful observance of
the vows and the rule. By her humility she was an example of fidelity to
the Gospel, to the Church and to one's vocation.
His first years of priesthood were filled with
activity and apostolic zeal. He was an eloquent orator, promoted the
catechesis of youth and efficiently discharged important
responsibilities in the diocesan curia, which he was forced to give up
because of illness. The new Bishop entrusted him with the care of two
small churches located on the outskirts of the city: El Calvario and
Santo Niño. This appointment was a hard blow for the young priest. It
hurt his pride, but he decided to follow Christ in obedience, silently
suffering this humiliation.
One day he unexpectedly witnessed a horrible scene:
some pigs were devouring two abandoned newborns. Shocked by that
terrible sight, he felt called by God to start
a home for the poor and abandoned. After receiving
the Bishop's authorization, he went to work and on 13 December 1885,
accompanied by four brave young women, he founded the Sacred Heart
Shelter on the summit of El Calvario. This is also the start of the
new religious family of the "Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
and of the Poor".
It was the beginning of a long, constant ascent of self-giving to God in his brothers and sisters, marked by sacrifice and self-denial, joy and suffering, peace and disappointment, poverty and misery, honours and calumnies, friendships and betrayals, obedience and humiliation. His life was very afflicted, but the tribulations and difficulties could not dampen the ardent soul of an apostle of Gospel love. In his short life (1851-1904) he founded schools, hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages and a home for rehabilitating women. Shortly before his holy death on 20 September 1904 in Puebla de los Angeles, he took his religious family to the difficult mission among the Tarahumara Indians in northern Mexico. His fame of sanctity spread rapidly among the People of God, who asked for his intercession. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 6 May 1990.
30 April 2000
ST. MARY FAUSTINA KOWALSKA was born on 25 August 1905 in Głogowiec, Poland, to a poor, religious family of peasants, the third of 10 children. She was baptized with the name Helena in the parish church of Swinice Warckie. From a very tender age she stood out because of her love of prayer, work, obedience and her sensitivity to the poor. At the age of nine she made her First Holy Communion and attended school for three years. At the age of 16 she left home and went to work as a housekeeper in Aleksandrów, Lódz and Ostrówek in order to support herself and to help her parents.
At the age of seven she had already felt the first stirrings of a religious vocation. After finishing school, she wanted to enter the convent but her parents would not give her permission. Called during a vision of the suffering Christ, on 1 August 1925 she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy and took the name Sr Mary Faustina. She lived in the congregation for 13 years, residing in Kraków, Płock and Vilnius, where she worked as a cook, gardener and porter.
Externally, nothing revealed her rich mystical interior life. She zealously performed her tasks and faithfully observed the rule of religious life. She was recollected, yet very natural, serene and full of kindness and disinterested love for her neighbour. Although her life was apparently insignificant and monotonous, she hid within herself an extraordinary union with God.
It is the mystery of God's mercy, which she contemplated in the word of God as well as in her everyday activities, that forms the basis of her spirituality. The process of contemplating and getting to know the mystery of God's mercy helped to develop within Sr Mary Faustina the attitude of childlike trust in God and of mercy towards her neighbour. "O my Jesus, each of your saints reflects one of your virtues; I desire to reflect your compassionate heart, full of mercy; I want to glorify it. Let your mercy, O Jesus, be impressed upon my heart and soul like a seal, and this will be my badge in this and the future life" (Diary 1242). Sr Faustina was a faithful daughter of the Church. Conscious of her role in the Church, she cooperated with God's mercy in the task of saving lost souls. At the specific request of the Lord Jesus and following his example, she made a sacrifice of her own life for this very goal. Her spiritual life was also distinguished by a love of the Eucharist and a deep devotion to the Mother of Mercy.
The years she spent in the convent were filled with extraordinary gifts, such as revelations, visions, hidden stigmata, participation in the Passion of the Lord, bilocation, the reading of human souls, prophecy and the rare gift of mystical espousal and marriage. Her living relationship with God, the Blessed Mother, the angels, the saints, the souls in purgatory — with the entire supernatural world — was as real for her as the world she perceived with the senses. In spite of being so richly endowed with extraordinary graces, Sr Mary Faustina knew that they do not in fact constitute sanctity. In her Diary she wrote: "Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God. These gifts are merely ornaments of the soul, but constitute neither its essence nor its perfection. My sanctity and perfection consist in the close union of my will with the will of God" (Diary 1107).
The Lord Jesus chose Sr Mary Faustina as the apostle and "secretary" of his mercy, so that she could tell the world about his great message. "In the Old Covenant", he said to her, "I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to my people. Today I am sending you with my mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my merciful Heart" (Diary 1588).
The mission of Sr Mary Faustina consists in three tasks:
— reminding the world of the truth of our faith revealed in the Holy Scripture about the merciful love of God towards every human being;
— entreating God's mercy for the whole world and particularly for sinners, among others through the practice of new forms of devotion to the Divine Mercy presented by the Lord Jesus, such as: the veneration of the image of the Divine Mercy with the inscription: "Jesus, I trust in you"; the feast of the Divine Mercy celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter; chaplet to the Divine Mercy and prayer at the Hour of Mercy (3 p.m.). The Lord Jesus attached great promises to the above forms of devotion, provided one entrusted one's life to God and practised active love of neighbour;
— initiating the apostolic movement of the Divine Mercy, whose task is to proclaim and entreat God's mercy for the world and to strive for Christian perfection, following the precepts laid down by Sr Mary Faustina. The precepts in question require the faithful to have an attitude of childlike trust in God, expressed in fulfilling his will, and an attitude of mercy toward one's neighbour. Today millions of people throughout the world are involved in this Church movement: it includes religious congregations, lay institutes, religious, confraternities, associations, various communities of apostles of the Divine Mercy, as well as individuals who take up the tasks which the Lord Jesus communicated to them through Sr Mary Faustina.
Sr Mary Faustina's mission was recorded in her Diary, which she kept at the specific request of the Lord Jesus and her confessors. In it she faithfully wrote down all of the Lord's wishes and described the encounters between her soul and him. "Secretary of my most profound mystery", the Lord said to Sr Faustina, "know that your task is to write down everything that I make known to you about my mercy, for the benefit of those who by reading these things will be comforted in their souls and will have the courage to approach me" (Diary 1693). Sr Mary Faustina's work sheds light on the mystery of the Divine Mercy. It delights not only simple, uneducated people, but also scholars, who look upon it as an additional source of theological research.
Sr Mary Faustina, consumed by tuberculosis and innumerable sufferings, which she accepted as a voluntary sacrifice for sinners, died in Kraków at the age of 33 on 5 October 1938, with a reputation for spiritual maturity and a mystical union with God. Her reputation for holiness grew, as did the devotion to the Divine Mercy and the graces received from God through her intercession. Pope John Paul II beatified Sr Faustina on 18 April 1993. Her mortal remains rest at the Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Kraków-łagiewniki.
21 November 1999
The martyrs canonized on 21 November were nine Brothers of the Christian Schools and a Passionist priest. Eight of these brothers formed a community that ran a school in Turon, in the mining valley of Asturias in north-eastern Spain; they were martyred in 1934. The ninth brother was from Catalonia and was martyred in 1937 near Tarragona. The Passionist priest had come to the school in Turon, to hear the children's confessions. The Church honours them because they remained faithful to their consecration, even to the point of giving their lives for the faith and their evangelizing mission. For the most part they were young religious: four were under 26 and the eldest was barely 46.
The martyrdom of the nine religious of Turon, did not happen unexpectedly. Freemasons and communists wanted to seize power in Spain at all costs and destroy the religious traditions of the country. They fostered a hate campaign against the Church, aimed particularly at priests and religious, resulting in ferocious massacres.
Asturias was a mining region with many immigrants leading a hard life, uprooted from their familiar surroundings and traditions. The campaign against the middle class and the Church found a sympathetic audience. At dawn on 5 October 1934, a group of rebels forced their way into the brothers' school in Turon, The brothers and the Passionist priest were imprisoned in the "People's House", while awaiting a decision from the Revolutionary Committee. Under pressure from extremists, the. Committee, decided to condemn them to death: the religious had a notable influence in the country because a great many people sent their children to the brothers' school.
In the early hours of 9 October the little group was taken to the cemetery, where a large grave was already prepared: the condemned persons were lined up in front of it. Two rifle salvos ended their earthly life. Their serenity in facing death made an impression on their executioners, which some of them acknowledged afterwards.
A show trial condemned him to death and he was shot on 16 January 1937. The squad was three metres away, but at the first salvo no bullet hit him. After the second salvo the brother was still standing. The terrified militiamen dispersed, while their leader, blaspheming, discharged his pistol at the brother's temple. His dying words were: "My friends, to die for Christ is to reign!".
After a short time Fr Thomas heard of the hermitages that were beginning to bloom in the order and the intention of the superiors of the Roman Province to establish one at the friary in Civitella (today Bellegra). His request was accepted, and the young friar thus knocked at the door of the poor friary in 1684, saying: "I am Fr Thomas of Cori, and I have come here to become holy!". He was anxious to live the Gospel radically in the spirit of St Francis.
From then on, Fr Thomas lived at Bellegra until death, with the exception of six years in which he was guardian of the friary in Palombara, where he established a hermitage modeled on the one in Bellegra. He wrote the Rule first for one and then for the other, observing it scrupulously and strengthening by word and example the new institution of the two hermitages.
St Thomas of Cori was not so much a man who prayed as a man who became prayer. This dimension animated the entire life of the hermitage founder. The most obvious aspect of his spiritual life was the centrality of the Eucharist, seen in his intense celebration of Mass and in his silent adoration during the long nights after the Divine Office had been celebrated at midnight. His life of prayer was marked by persistent aridity. The total absence of sensible consolation in prayer lasted for a good 40 years, but he was always serene and absolute in living the primacy of God.
St Thomas did not close himself up in the hermitage, forgetting the good of his brothers and sisters or the heart of the Franciscan vocation, which is apostolic. He was deservedly called the Apostle of Sublacense (the Subiaco region): he traversed the area, tirelessly preaching the Gospel, administering the sacraments and working miracles, a sign of the presence of the kingdom. His preaching was clear and simple, convincing and strong. He lived the Franciscan vocation in lowliness and a concrete option for the poorest.
St Thomas of Cori was a very gentle father to his brothers. To those who resisted his will to live the Franciscan ideal radically, he responded with patience and humility. He had understood well that all true reform begins with oneself.
Rich in merits, he fell asleep in the Lord on 11 January 1729.
God's call came early, on: faithful to his conscience, he gave up a good position in a bank and volunteered as a stretcher-bearer for the soldiers wounded on the battlefield at Magenta.
Attracted by the spirit of dedication and self-denial which he discovered in the Brothers of St John of God, at the age of 19 he sought entry into the Hospitaller Order, taking the name Benedict and consecrating himself to God and to the care of the sick.
At that time Spain, the cradle of the Hospitaller Order, was embroiled in political strife and St John of God's work was practically dead. It needed new fervour, and so Benedict Menni was sent there in 1867. There he performed his two great works: he restored the Order of St John of God and founded the Congregation of the Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Only a few months after his arrival in Spain he set up his first children's hospital in Barcelona (1867), marking the beginning of his extraordinary work of restoration, which he was to carry through over the next 36 years. From the start, thanks to his commitment to his vocation, numerous generous followers joined him, and it was through them that he was able to guarantee continuity to his new Hospitaller institutions in Spain, Portugal and Mexico
When he arrived in Granada (1878), Benedict Menni came in contact with two young women, Maria Josefa Recio and Maria Angustias Gimenez, who set up a new women's hospital specifically for psychiatric care in 1881. It was at Ciempozuelos, Madrid, that the motherhouse of the Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was founded. Six words summarize their identity in the Hospitaller service: "pray, work, endure, suffer, love for God and silence".
The new institution soon spread to Europe and Latin America, and later to Africa and Asia. At the present time the sisters are present in 24 countries, with over 100 Hospitaller centres.
Benedict Menni's work spread to the whole order when he was appointed Apostolic Visitor (1909-11) and later Prior General (1911), which he had to resign one year later for reasons of health and as a result of misunderstandings. He spent the last two years of his life in humility and purification, and died a holy death at Dinan, France, on 24 April 1914.
His mortal remains are venerated under the high altar in the Founders' Chapel at the Hospitaller Sisters' motherhouse. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 23 June 1985.
16 June 1999
ST. KINGA On Wednesday morning, 16 June, Pope John Paul II traveled from Krakow to Stary Sacz for the canonization of Bl. Kinga, daughter of the King of Hungary and Princess of little Poland. Known for her generosity to the poor, she founded the Poor Clare monastery in Stary Sacz.
18 April 1999ST. MARCELLIN JOSEPH BENOIT CHAMPAGNAT was born on 20 May 1789 in Marlhes, France. He was the ninth child of a very Christian family, from whom he received his basic education. When he was 14, a priest passing through the village helped him to see that God was calling him to the priesthood. Marcellin, whose formal schooling was practically non-existent, began to study because "God wills it!". The difficult years he spent in the minor seminary in Verrieres were a time of real human and spiritual growth.
Among his companions in the major seminary of Lyons were Jean-Marie Vianney, the future cure of Ars, and Jean-Claude Colin, who was to become the founder of the Marist Fathers. He joined a group of seminarians whose goal was to found a congregation bearing Mary's name for the re-Christianization of society. Deeply aware of the cultural and spiritual poverty of the children of the countryside, Marcellin felt a strong urge to include a branch of brothers for the Christian education of young people. The day after their ordination on 22 July 1816, these priests consecrated themselves to Mary and put their project under her protection.
Marcellin was sent as curate to the parish of La Valla. His simple direct style of preaching, his deep devotion to Mary and his apostolic zeal made a profound impression on his parishioners.
On 2 January 1817 Marcellin brought together his first two disciples; the congregation of the Little Brothers of Mary, or Marist Brothers, was born in poverty, humility and total trust in God under Mary's protection. While still carrying on his parish ministry, he went to live with his brothers, whom he trained and prepared for their mission as Christian teachers, catechists and educators of young people. Marcellin turned these uncultured country lads into generous apostles.
He lost no time in opening schools. Vocations arrived and the first little house, even though enlarged by Marcellin himself, was soon too small. There were many difficulties. The clergy in general did not understand what this inexperienced young priest with no material resources was trying to accomplish. However, the nearby villages continually requested brothers to see to the Christian education of their children.
Freed from his parish duties in 1825, he devoted himself totally to his congregation: the spiritual, pedagogical and apostolic formation and guidance of his brothers, visits to the schools and the opening of new ones.
"To make Jesus Christ known and loved" is the brothers' mission. Marcellin taught his disciples to love and respect children, and to give special attention to the poor, the most ungrateful and the most neglected, especially orphans. In 1836 the Church recognized the Society of Mary and entrusted it with the missions of Oceania. Marcellin took his vows as a member of the Society of Mary, and sent three brothers with the first missionary Marist Fathers to the islands of the Pacific.
A lengthy illness steadily took its toll on his robust constitution. Worn out by his labours, he died at the age of 51 on 6 June 1840.
Having terminated his military service, he resumed his studies. One very cold night in 1897, as he was returning home from a visit. to the sick, he found a boy crouching on the doorstep of his house; he had run away from the Gypsies. Fr Calabria picked him up, took him in, kept him in his house and shared his room with him. It was the beginning of his work for orphaned and abandoned boys.
A few months later he founded the Pious Union for Assistance to the Sick". These were only the beginnings of a life marked by charity. "Every instant of his life was a personification of St Paul's marvellous hymn on charity", wrote a Jewish woman doctor in her Lettera Postulatoria to Paul VI about Fr Calabria. She had been in hiding from Nazi-Fascist persecution in one of his religious institutes.
After being ordained a priest on 11 August 1901, he was appointed confessor of the seminary and curate of St Stephen's Church. He devoted himself to hearing confessions and to charitable works, helping the poor and marginalized.
In 1907 he was appointed vicar of St Benedict "al Monte". On 26 November 1907 he founded the "Casa Buoni Fanciulli". The following year it moved definitively to Via San Zeno in Monte, today their motherhouse.
The Lord also sent him lay people wishing to offer their lives to the Lord. With this handful of men totally given to God in the service of the poor, he revived the apostolic spirit of the Church in Verona. This nucleus of men was the foundation of the Congregation of the Poor Servants of Divine Providence, approved by the Bishop of Verona on 11 February 1932 and receiving pontifical approval on 25 April 1949.
Immediately after the diocesan approval, the Congregation spread to various parts of Italy—serving the poor, the abandoned and the marginalized. It also extended its works to the elderly and to the sick. In 1910 he founded the female branch, which later became a congregation of diocesan right on 25 March 1952 with the name of Poor Sister Servants of Divine Providence; on 25 December 1981 it obtained pontifical approval.
He became a prophetic voice. Bishops, priests, religious and the laity found in him a sure guide for themselves and their projects. He understood that even the laity could be involved in this radical spiritual renewal and in 1944 founded the "Family of Extern Brothers", made up solely of laymen.
On the eve of his death he made his last act of charity, offering his life to God for the dying Pope Pius XII. The Lord accepted this offer, for while he was dying, the Pope mysteriously and unexpectedly recovered and lived for another four years. Fr Calabria died on 4 December 1954.
She worked in the fields and looked after the animals, thus attending school very irregularly. At the age of seven she went to work with other children, transporting sacks of stones and sand for construction of the road from Orvinio to Poggio Moiano. At 12 she left with other young "seasonal workers" who went to Tivoli during the winter months for the olive harvest. Precociously wise, Livia took moral and religious responsibility for her young companions.
An attractive young woman, Livia nevertheless chose Christ as her Spouse. To those who tried to dissuade her by saying she was running away from hard work, she replied: "I wish to choose a congregation in which there is work both day and night". After an initial disappointment, the Superior General of the Sisters of Charity of St Joan Antida Thouret let her know that she was expected at their generalate.
Livia was 22 when she arrived in Rome at Via S. Maria in Cosmedin. A few months as a postulant and novice were enough to prove that the young girl had the makings of a Sister of Charity, that is, of a "servant of the poor" in -the tradition of St Vincent de Paul and St Joan Antida. On receiving the habit she was given the name of Agostina.
Sr Agostina was sent to Santo Spirito Hospital, where 700 years of glorious history had led it to be called "the school of Christian charity". Following the saints who had preceded her, including Charles Borromeo, Joseph Calasanctius, John Bosco and Camillus de Lellis, Sr Agostina made her personal contribution and In this place of suffering gave expression to heroic charity.
The atmosphere in the hospital was hostile to religion. The Capuchin Friars were expelled, the crucifix and all the other religious signs were forbidden. The hospital even wanted to send the sisters away but was afraid of becoming unpopular. Instead, their lives were made "impossible" and they were forbidden to speak of God.
But first in the children’s' ward and later in the tuberculosis ward, a place of despair and death, where she caught the mortal contagion of which she was miraculously healed, Sr Agostina showed an extraordinary dedication and concern for each sick person, even the most violent, like Giuseppe Romanelli.
How many times she offered Romanelli to Our Lady! He was the worst of them all, the most vulgar and insolent, especially towards Sr Agostina, who was more and more attentive towards him and welcomed his blind mother with great kindness when she came to visit. When, after the umpteenth provocation at the expense of the women working in the laundry, the director expelled him from the hospital, he sought a target for his fury and poor Agostina was the victim. "I will kill you with my own hands. Sr Agostina, you only have a month to live!", were the threats he sent to her in little notes.
Romanelli was not joking, but Sr Agostina was prepared to pay the price for love with her own life. When Romanelli caught her unawares on 13 November 1894 and cruelly stabbed her before she could escape, her lips uttered nothing but invocations to the Virgin Mary and words of forgiveness.
11 October 1998
ST. TERESA BENEDICTA of the CROSS, Edith Stein, was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland), on 12 October 1891, the youngest of 11, as her family was celebrating Yom Kippur, that most important Jewish festival, the Day of Atonement. "More than anything else, this helped make the youngest child very precious to her mother". Being born on this day was like a fore-shadowing to Edith, a future Carmelite nun.
Edith's father, who ran a timber business, died when she had just turned two. Her mother, a very devout, hard-working and strong-willed woman, now had to look after the family and their large business. However, she did not succeed in keeping up a living faith in her children. Edith lost her faith in God. "I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying", she said.
In 1911 she enrolled at the University of Breslau to study German and history, but her real interest was philosophy and women's issues. She became a member of the Prussian Society for Women's Suffrage. "When I was at school and during my first year at university", she wrote later, "I was a radical suffragette. Then I lost interest in the whole issue. Now I am looking for purely pragmatic solutions".
In 1913 Edith Stein transferred to Gottingen University, to study under Edmund Husserl. She became his pupil and teaching assistant, and he later tutored her for a doctorate. At the time, anyone who was interested in philosophy was fascinated by Husserl's new view of reality. His pupils saw his philosophy as a return to objects: "back to things". Husserl's phenomenology unintentionally led many of his pupils to the Christian faith. In Gottingen Edith Stein also met the philosopher Max Scheler, who turned her attention to Roman Catholicism. Nevertheless, she did not neglect her studies and took her degree with distinction in January 1915.
"I no longer have a life of my own", she wrote at the beginning of the First World War, having taken a nursing course and gone to serve in an Austrian field hospital. This was a hard time for her, as she looked after the sick in the typhus ward, worked in an operating theatre and saw young people die. When the hospital was closed in 1916, she followed Husserl as his assistant to Freiburg, Germany. where she received her doctorate summa cum laude in 1917, after writing a thesis on "The Problem of Empathy".
Her first encounter with the Cross and its power
During this period she went to Frankfurt cathedral and saw a woman with a shopping basket going in to kneel for a brief prayer. "This was something totally new to me. In the synagogues and Protestant churches I had visited people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was
something I never forgot". Towards the end of her dissertation she wrote: "There have been people who believed that a sudden change had occurred within them and that this was a result of God's grace". How could she come to such a conclusion?
Edith Stein had been a friend of Husserl's Gottingen assistant, Adolf Reinach, and his wife. When Reinach died in Flanders in November 1917 Edith went to Gottingen to visit his widow. The Reinachs had converted to Protestantism. Edith felt uneasy about meeting the young widow at first, but was surprised when she actually met a woman of faith. "This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it ... it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me - Christ in the mystery of the Cross". Later, she wrote: "Things were in God's plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that - from God's point of view - there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God's divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God's all-seeing eyes".
In autumn 1918 Edith Stein left her job as Husserl's teaching assistant. She wanted to work independently. It was not until 1930 that she saw Husserl again after her conversion, and she talked with him about her faith, as she would have liked him to become a Christian too. Then she wrote down the amazing words: "Every time I feel my powerlessness and inability to influence people directly, I become more keenly aware of the necessity of my own holocaust".
Edith Stein wanted to obtain a professorship, a goal that was impossible for women at the time. Husserl wrote the following reference: "Should academic careers be opened up to women, I can recommend her wholeheartedly", Later, she was refused a professorship on account of being Jewish.
Baptized on the feast of the Circumcision
Back in Breslau, Edith Stein began to write articles about the philosophical foundation of psychology. However, she also read the New Testament, Kierkegaard and Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises. She felt that one could not just read a book like that, but had to put it into practice.
In the summer of 1921 she spent several weeks in Bergzabern at the country estate of Hedwig Conrad-Martius, another of Husserl's students. Hedwig had converted to Protestantism with her husband. One evening Edith picked up an autobiography of St Teresa of Avila and read this book all night. "When I had finished the book, I said to myself: this is the truth". Later, looking back on her life, she wrote: "My longing for truth was a single prayer".
On 1 January 1922 Edith Stein was baptized. It was the feast of the Circumcision of Jesus, when Jesus entered into the covenant of Abraham. Edith Stein stood at the baptismal font, wearing Hedwig Conrad-Martius' white wedding cloak. Hedwig was her godmother. "I had given up practising my Jewish religion when I was a 14-year-old girl and did not begin to feel Jewish again until I had returned to God". From this moment on she was continually aware that she belonged to Christ not only spiritually, but also through blood. On the feast of the Purification of Mary another day with an Old Testament connection - she was confirmed by the Bishop of Speyer in his private chapel.
After her conversion she went straight to Breslau: "Mother", she said, "I am a Catholic". The two women wept. Hedwig Conrad-Martius wrote: "Behold, two Israelites in whom there is no guile!" (cf. Jn 1:47).
Immediately after her conversion she wanted to join a Carmelite convent. However, her spiritual mentors, Vicar General Schwind of Speyer and Erich Przywara, S.J., stopped her from doing so. Until Easter of 1931 she taught German and history at the Dominican Sisters' school and teacher-training college at St Magdalen's Convent in Speyer. At the same time she was encouraged by Archabbot Raphael Walzer of Beuron Abbey to accept extensive speaking engagements, mainly on women's issues. "During the time immediately before and quite some time after my conversion I ... thought that leading a religious life meant giving up all earthly things and having one's mind fixed on divine things only. Gradually, however, I learnt that other things are expected of us in this world ... I even believe that the deeper someone is drawn to God, the more he has to 'go beyond himself' in this sense, that is, go into the world and carry divine life into it".
She translated the letters and dairies of Cardinal Newman from his pre-Catholic period as well as Thomas Aquinas' Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate. The latter was a very free translation, for the sake of dialogue with modern philosophy. Erich Przywara also encouraged her to write her own philosophical works. She learnt that it was possible to "pursue scholarship as a service to God". To gain strength for her life and work, she frequently went to the Benedictine monastery of Beuron to celebrate the great feasts of the Church year.
In 1931 Edith Stein left the convent school in Speyer and devoted herself to working for a professorship again, this time in Breslau and Freiburg, though her endeavours were in vain. It was then that she wrote Potency and Act, a study of the central concepts developed by Thomas Aquinas. Later, at the Carmelite convent in Cologne she rewrote this study to produce her main philosophical and theological study, Finite and Eternal Being. But by then it was no longer possible to print the texts.
She successfully combined faith and scholarship
In 1932 she accepted a teaching post in the Roman Catholic division of the German Institute for Educational Studies at the University of Munster, where she developed her anthropology. She successfully combined scholarship and faith in her work and teaching, seeking to be a "tool of the Lord" in everything she taught. "If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to him".
In 1933 darkness broke out over Germany. "I had heard of severe measures against Jews before, but now it dawned on me that God had laid his hand heavily on his people, and that the destiny of these people would also be mine". The Nazis' Aryan Law made it impossible for Edith Stein to continue teaching. "If I cannot go on here, then there are no longer any opportunities for me in Germany", she wrote. "I had become a stranger in the world".
Archabbot Walzer of Beuron now no longer stopped her from entering Carmel. While in Speyer, she had already taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. In 1933 she met the Prioress of the Carmelite convent in Cologne. "Human activity cannot help us, but only the suffering of Christ. It is my desire to share in it".
Edith Stein went to Breslau for the last time, to say goodbye to her mother and her family. Her last day at home was her birthday, 12 October, which was also the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Edith went to the synagogue with her mother. It was a hard day for the two women. "Why did you become acquainted with 'it [Christianity]?", her mother asked. "I don't want to say anything against him. He may have been a very good person. But why did he make himself God?". Edith's mother cried. The following day Edith was on the train to Cologne. "I did not feel any passionate joy. What I had just experienced was too terrible. But I felt a profound peace - in the safe haven of God's will". From now on she wrote to her mother every week, though she never received any replies. Instead, her sister Rosa sent her news from Breslau.
'A very poor and powerless little Esther'
Edith Stein entered the Carmelite convent of Cologne on 14 October and was clothed in the habit on 15 April 1934. The Mass was celebrated by the Archabbot of Beuron. Edith Stein was now known as Sr Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. In 1938 she wrote: "I understood the Cross as the destiny of God's People, which was beginning to be apparent at the time (1933). I felt that those who understood the Cross of Christ should take it upon themselves on everybody's behalf. Of course, I know better now what it means to be wedded to the Lord under the sign of the Cross. However, one can never comprehend it, because it is a mystery". On 21 April 1935 she took her temporary vows. On 14 September 1936 the renewal of her vows coincided with her mother's death in Breslau. "My mother held on to her faith to the last moment. But as her faith and her firm trust in her God ... were the last thing that was still alive in the throes of her death, I am confident that she will have met a very merciful judge and that she is now my most faithful helper, so that I can reach the goal as well".
When she took her perpetual vows on 21 April 1938, she had the words of St John of the Cross printed on her devotional picture: "Henceforth my only vocation is to love". Her final work would be devoted to this author.
Edith Stein's entry into the Carmelite Order was not escapism. "Those who join the Carmelite Order are not lost to their near and dear ones, but have been won for them, because it is our vocation to intercede with God for everyone". In particular, she interceded with God for her people: "I keep thinking of Queen Esther who was taken away from her people precisely because God wanted her to plead with the king on behalf of her nation. I am a very poor and powerless little Esther, but the King who has chosen me is infinitely great and merciful. This is a great comfort" (31 October 1938).
On 9 November 1938 the anti-Semitism of the Nazis became apparent to the whole world. Synagogues were burnt and the Jewish people were terrorized. The Prioress of the Cologne Carmel did her utmost to take Sr Teresa Benedicta of the Cross abroad. On New Year's Eve 1938 she was smuggled across the border into the Netherlands, to the Carmelite convent in Echt. This is where she wrote her will on 9 June 1939: "Even now I accept the death that God has prepared for me in complete submission and with joy as being his most holy will for me. I ask the Lord to accept my life and my death ... so that the Lord will be accepted by his people and that his kingdom may come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world".
In Echt, Edith Stein hurriedly completed her study of "The Church's Teacher of Mysticism and the Father of the Carmelites, John of the Gross, on the Occasion of the 400th Anniversary of His Birth, 1542-1942". In 1941 she wrote to a friend, who was also a member of her order: "One can only gain a scientia crucis (knowledge of the cross) if one has thoroughly experienced the cross. I have been convinced of this from the first moment onwards and have said with all my heart: 'Ave, Crux, Spes unica' (I welcome you, Cross, our only hope)". Her study on St John of the Cross is entitled: Kreuzeswissenschaft "The Science of the Cross".
Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo on 2 August 1942, while she was in the chapel with the other sisters. She was to report within five minutes, together with her sister Rosa, who had also converted and was serving at the Echt convent. Her last words to be heard in Echt were addressed to Rosa: "Come, we are going for our people".
Together with many other Jewish Christians, the two women were taken to a transit camp in Amersfoort and then to Westerbork. This was an act of retaliation against the protest letter written by the Dutch Catholic Bishops against the pogroms and deportations of Jews. Edith commented: "I never knew that people could be like this, neither did I know that my brothers and sisters would have to suffer like this.... I pray for them every hour. Will God hear my prayers? He will certainly hear them in their distress". Prof. Jan Nota, who was greatly attached to her, wrote later: "She is a witness to God's presence in a world where God is absent".
On 7 August, early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. It was probably on 9 August that Sr Teresa Benedicta of the Gross, her sister and many others of her people were gassed.
When Edith Stein was beatified in Cologne on 1 May 1987, the Church honoured "a daughter of Israel", as Pope John Paul II put it, "who during the Nazi persecution remained united, as a Catholic, in fidelity and love to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ, and, as a Jew, to her people.
10 June 1997
ST. JOHN OF DUKLA (1414-1484) was born to middle-class family of Dukla, a small town in Galicia. As a young man he lived as a hermit in his native town and later joined the Conventual Franciscans (1440-1463). While a Conventual he served as a preacher and local superior. In 1463 he joined the Observant Franciscans, who were known in Poland as Bernardines. He spent the rest of his life as a Bernardine, preaching to German burghers in what is now Lviv, Ukraine. A model of patience and charity, he continued to preach and hear confessions even after losing his sight. He died in Lviv in 1484 and was buried there in the order's church. In 1945 his body was taken first to Rzeszow and then to Dukla. Beatified in 1733, the canonization process was halted due to the partition of Poland (feast day 10 July).
8 June 1997
ST. HEDWIG of ANJOU (1374-1399), Queen of Poland, was born in Hungary to Louis, King of Hungary and Poland, and Elizabeth, Princess of Bosnia. After her father's death in 1382 she was chosen, with the consent of the Polish nobility, for the throne of Poland, as her older sister Maria was destined for the Hungarian throne. Crowned Queen of Poland at the age of 10 (1384), she was married at the age of 12 (1386) to Grand Duke Jogaila (Jagiello in Polish) of Lithuania, on condition that he and his nation would convert to the Christian faith. She was not only the King's wife, but had a chancellery of hew own and actively participated in the life of the enormous Polish-Lithuanian State. In 1397 she received permission from Pope Boniface IX to establish the Theology Faculty of the University of Krakow. She founded several hospitals and defended the rights of peasants against the Polish magnates. A woman of extraordinary piety and kindness, she died on 17 July 1399. Her cultus was approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1979 (feast day 17 July).
2 June 1996
ST. EDIGIO MARIA of ST JOSEPH was born into a poor family in Taranto, Italy, on 16 November 1729 and was baptized Francesco Antonio Pontillo. His father, died when he was 18, leaving him to provide for the family.
Despite his responsibilities, in 1754 he joined the Alcantarine Franciscans in Galatone, Lecce, Italy. He made his religious profession in 1755 and was sent as a cook to the friary in Squinzano. While staying a few days at the monastery of Capurso near Bari, he was assigned to St Paschal's Hospice, Naples, where he remained for 53 years, alternately serving as cook and porter, and begging for alms, to the edification of all but especially to the poor who flocked to the friary for help and whom, with Franciscan concern and active charity, he devoted all his energy to serving.
Bro. Edigio Maria's mission was marked by so many miracles that, while he was still alive, he earned the popular title "Consoler of Naples".
"Love God, love God", he would repeat to all he met on his daily pilgrimage through the streets of Naples. The noble and learned used to enjoy. talking to this Franciscan, whose words were simple but imbued with faith. The sick found in him the strength and counsel to bear their sufferings. The poor, the outcasts and the exploited discovered God's merciful face in this humble man who begged for alms.
His life was essentially contemplative and he would spend nights in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He had a special love for the Redeemer's birth and professed a tender devotion for Our Lady, Mother of God, and for the saints. His "contemplation in action" was precisely what enabled him to see his brethren's suffering and misery and made him burn with tenderness and love.
He died in the odour of sanctity on 7 February 1812, the First Friday of the month, as the bells of the Franciscan church pealed their invitation to venerate the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God in the Virgin Mary's womb.
Proclaiming God's love of man was the mission Providence had given this humble Franciscan in a social context torn by fighting and discord. In him the Father showed forth his love for the outcast and the forsaken. He bore witness to love in his simple words, and especially in his poor and joyful life, which strengthened his brethren in the certainty that God is alive and active among his people. His heroic virtues were declared by Pius IX in 1868 and he was beatified by Leo XIII in 1888.
He was ordained a priest in 1826 and became responsible for the seminarians formation. When his brother died on his voyage to the missions in China, Jean-Gabriel asked to replace him.
He arrived in China in August 1835. After getting his bearings in Macao, he made a long trip by canoe, on foot and on horseback to Nanyang, Hunan, where he concentrated on learning Chinese.
After five months, when he was already at ease with the language, he began his ministry, visiting the small Christian communities. He was then transferred to Hu-pei, in the region of the lakes formed by the Yang Tze River.
A persecution of Christians broke out unexpectedly in 1839. On 16 September that same year, Fr Jean-Gabriel was arrested by a group of soldiers, who by using threats forced a catechumen to reveal the missionary's hiding place. Totally defenceless and at the mercy of wardens and judges, the missionary's sad Calvary began. He was subjected to a string of trials and endless questioning. He was pressed to betray his companions in the faith but he stood firm and said nothing.
The missionary was obliged to suffer deeply for his fidelity to Christ: he was hung by his thumbs and beaten mercilessly with bamboo rods. His cruelest judge was the viceroy, who turned brutally against him, personally beat him and finally condemned him to death by strangulation.
The emperor's approval was required, but the war between China and the English prevented the emperor from taking any benevolent step. Thus, on 11 September 1840 an imperial legate arrived with the decree confirming the sentence.
That same day the missionary was taken to a hill called the "Red Mountain". There, while they executed the outlaws, Jean-Gabriel meditated and prayed, inspiring admiration in all those present. When his turn came, they lashed him to a cross, put a rope round his neck and strangled him.
Many of the circumstances of his martyrdom closely resemble those of the passion and death of Christ, such as his betrayal, his imprisonment, his death on a cross and even the time of day. He was a faithful witness and disciple of Christ throughout his life.
Fr Jean-Gabriel Perboyre was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 10 November 1889.
Aged 17, he worked selling cloth in his native town but later left home to live as a hermit. After a year seeking his vocation in prayer, he consecrated himself totally to God and took the name of "John the Sinner", by which he was later known. He then began to care for the elderly poor and begged alms for their maintenance.
In 1566 he moved to Jerez de la Frontera, and at the Royal Prison worked for the poor whom he tended in a room next to the chapel of La Virgen de los Remedios.
When the number of sick increased, he sought to enlarge the premises, but was prevented from doing so by the local confraternity. So he set up a hospital next to the Church of San Sebastian to care for the neediest sick and convalescents, the incurables and those too proud to beg. As they increased in number, his new hospital, named Our Lady of Candlemas, came into being.
Admired by all in Jerez, John the Sinner continued his charitable activities. In 1574 he sent the town council a petition calling for greater concern for the sick, forced onto the streets during a widespread epidemic.
His dedication to the sick was accompanied by an equally intense prayer life. 'God and the poor were his raison d'etre, the focus of his life. He was also famous for his outstanding devotion to the Eucharist. Hearing of St John of God's work in Granada, he visited it and joined it in 1574, applying specific aspects of its rule to his own hospital and way of life. His exemplary devotion attracted others and his work spread.
Witnesses claim that he lived in extreme austerity while caring for his poor. He possessed almost nothing, slept on a mat and ate frugally. His charitable work also extended to ill soldiers from the port of Cadiz and he cared for the prostitutes of Jerez.
In the spring of 1600 a plague epidemic broke out in Jerez. Unstinting in his efforts for the victims, John the Sinner finally fell prey to it. He offered himself to God as a victim of atonement so that it would end, convinced that "no one has greater love than he who gives his life for those he loves". He died a week after falling ill on Saturday, 3 June 1600 at the Candlemas Hospital. He was buried without pomp in the hospital courtyard.
Pope Pius VI proclaimed his heroic virtues in 1775, and Pius IX celebrated his beatification in 1853.
3 December 1995
ST. CHARLES JOSEPH EUGENE de MAZENOD was born in Aix-en-Provence on 1 August 1782, the eldest of the three children of Rose Joannis and Charles Antoine de Mazenod, President of the State Audit Board of Provence. He was baptized on 2 August. Eugene had a happy childhood. All seemed peaceful, but a revolution was brewing and broke out in 1789. When he returned from Paris, where he had been a deputy to the Estates General on 13 December 1790 President de Mazenod was forced to flee to Nice, still part of the Italian duchy of Savoy. He was joined there a few months later by his family.
Their emigration to Italy lasted 10 years. In Turin for two years, Eugene studied at the school for nobles. In Venice, where they stayed for four years, the president and his brothers had to resort to trade in order to survive, while Eugene had the good fortune to be educated by an excellent priest, Fr Bartolo Zionelli. In 1797 Napoleon's troops invaded the Republic. The de Mazenods fled to Naples where Eugene spent a year of boredom and forced idleness. On the other hand, the three years they spent in Palermo enabled him to make friends with rich and noble Italian and French families, and especially with the family of the Duke of Cannizzaro.
In 1802 the young man returned to France. He was soon disappointed with his town and his post-revolutionary homeland. He found material and moral decadence everywhere.
After several years of a personal crisis, in 1805 Eugene began to be interested in the life of the "neglected Church". He taught the catechism and engaged in prison work. On Good Friday 1807, at the foot of the crucifix he shed "bitter tears" over his past life and human ambitions and decided to become a priest. He studied at the seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Paris from 1808 to 1812.
When he returned to his home town, Aix, he began his ministry by preaching in Provencal during Lent 1813 to workers and the poor. He later founded the Christian youth association of Aix, which in a few years numbered 400 young people. He also carried his ministry in the prison, where in 1814 he contracted typhus and for a few months hovered between life and death.
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
The Emperor fell in 1814. The political restoration also brought a movement of religious renewal. Together with a few priests, in 1816 Eugene began to preach missions in the rural parishes of Provence where religious ignorance was most common. The congregation developed rapidly and in 1826 was approved by Pope Leo XII. While continuing to preach missions in the Dioceses of southern France and then all over France, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate became missionaries abroad. In 1841 they went to England and Canada, where in 10 years they founded missions from the Atlantic to the Pacific, especially among the American Indians of the North-West and Oregon. In 1847 they went to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and in 1849 to South Africa. The founder and Superior General governed his congregation firmly but kindly. He wrote hundreds of letters requiring that the Rule be observed; he guided the superiors and encouraged the fathers and brothers. At his death in 1861, his institute included 6 Bishops and 414 professed religious.
Diocese of Marseilles (1823-1861)
In 1823 the Diocese of Marseilles, which had been joined to that of Aix during the Revolution, was restored with the appointment of Bishop Fortune de Mazenod. The prelate was approaching the age of 75, and accepted the office on condition that his nephew be Vicar General. Reorganization of the Diocese soon began and the projects were beginning to bear fruit when the Revolution of July 1830 broke out. It lasted for several years and was radically anticlerical, causing great harm to the Church.
In 1837, Eugene was appointed Bishop of Marseilles. In 25 years, he transformed the Diocese, creating 23 new parishes and building or repairing about 50 churches. He also started work on the construction of the cathedral and shrine of Notre-Dame de la Garde, which dominates the city. Thirty-three religious congregations were welcomed to the Diocese: nine male, and 24 female. The Bishop sought to be close to the people, and was available to visitors every day for four hours. He visited all his parishes every year, preaching in Provencal. He regularly administered the sacrament of Confirmation to adults in his chapel, and for this reason also visited the sick at home. He celebrated all ordinations personally and made a day of recollection every time with the ordinands. He supervised the seminaries, and the number of priests increased from less than 200 to over 400.
Illness and death
In 1856, Napoleon III named the Bishop of Marseilles a Senator of the Empire, and in 1859 proposed him as a Cardinal to Pope Pius IX. Illness overtook him unexpectedly at the peak of his activity, in January 1861. In just a few months a tumour took him from his Diocese and from his institute. He was still conscious when he received viaticum and the sacrament of the sick. In his agony, he told those who were with him: "If I start to fall asleep, awaken me; I want to die knowing that I am dying". He gave up his soul to God on 21 May 1861.
Fr Nicola Ferrara, O.M.I.
16 June 1993
He was put in charge of catechesis in the city of Tortosa. At that time the Church in Spain, as in many parts of Europe, was under attack from anti-clerical forces; Enrique did not ignore the attacks but confronted them, teaching the faith to seminarians, children and families.
In 1873 he founded the Association of Young Catholic Daughters of Mary and Saint Teresa of Jesus, calling young women in the secular state to perform a Christian apostolate in their own environment. In 1876 he founded the Josephine Sisterhood, the "Little flock of the Child Jesus", and the Society of St Teresa of Jesus, which was dedicated to Christian education for all. Christian education, he said, is the only thing that can transform society, drawing it to Christ. The Society of St Teresa of Jesus grew quickly and extended to Portugal and Latin America. However, in 1895 a misunderstanding with the superior general of the community he had founded caused him to leave the city; he went to the Franciscan friary of the Holy Spirit in Gilet, near Valencia, where he was given hospitality. He died there several months later, on 27 January 1896.
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