Biographies of New Blesseds - 2007
The following Blesseds were beatified under Benedict XVI in 2007:
498 Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War
Basil Anthony Mary Moreau
Carmen of the Child Jesus
Lindalva Justo de Oliveira
Maria Luisa Merkert
Maria Maddalena Starace
Maria Rosa Pellesi
Marie-Celine of the Presentation
14 April 2007
Bl. Luigi Boccardo (1861-1936)
Diocesan Priest, Founder of the Order of Sisters of Christ the King
Luigi Boccardo was born on 9 August 1861 in Moncalieri, Italy. He was the seventh of nine children born to Gaspare Boccardo and Giuseppina Malerba. The firstborn of the family, Giovanni Ottavio, who at age 13 became Luigi's godfather, was to have a decisive role in his younger brother's future.
Although Luigi's parents were farmers, they took into consideration his desire to study and enrolled him with the Barnabite Fathers, where Giovanni had also studied. Influenced by his brother's good example and the religious atmosphere he encountered, Luigi thought he might want to be a priest. He received additional good example of dedication to God when his sister Giacinta entered a cloistered convent in 1874.
When Luigi expressed his desire to study for the priesthood, his parents were reluctant to comply, and it was his older brother Giovanni who again interceded for him, also taking upon himself the financial burden of all Luigi's seminary studies. The young man entered Turin's archdiocesan seminary in October 1875, and on 23 September 1877 received the clerical cassock.
It was at this time that he contracted a severe typhus fever which brought him to the brink of death. As a last resort to save his life he was given some water from Lourdes to drink. This event deepened within Luigi a filial devotion to the Mother of God, to whom he consecrated himself. On a holy card of the Blessed Virgin he wrote: "This is she who saved me and stole my heart".
In addition to the protection of the Virgin Mary, Luigi was once again in the good company of his brother Giovanni, who was assigned as spiritual director of the seminary philosophy students. Holy companions continued to surround him in the theological seminary, where he received spiritual direction from the future Bl. Giuseppe Allamano.
Luigi Boccardo was ordained a priest on 7 June 1884. He held a few temporary assignments, including parochial vicar in the parish where his brother, Fr. Giovanni Maria Boccardo, was assigned as parish priest at Pancalieri, Turin. During this time the area was struck with a cholera epidemic and Fr. Luigi again witnessed his older brother's virtuous life through the pastoral care he gave his flock.
In fact, as a result of the epidemic, which left several orphans and abandoned elderly in its wake, Fr. Giovanni founded a Congregation of Sisters to assist them, the Poor Sisters of St. Cajetan, which later became his younger brother's priestly responsibility.
New roads to travel
In 1886 Fr. Luigi was named vice-rector and spiritual director for the young priests at the Ecclesiastical Boarding School of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Turin, where he served for the next 30 years alongside the rector, Bl. Giuseppe Allamano. Fr. Luigi worked with patience and humility in the shadow of this holy man of God, taking on various tasks according to the needs of the institution.
The school was also a place where recently ordained priests, before being assigned as parochial vicars, came to study for two years to further their education, especially in moral theology. Most priests of the Archdiocese of Turin attended this formation school, and it was Fr. Luigi Boccardo who guided the overall formation of generations of diocesan priests.
On 9 January 1914, Fr. Luigi was appointed Superior General of the Congregation of the Poor Sisters, which had already spread to many parts of Italy. A new chapter thus began in his life, and rather than the relatively tranquil one he had enjoyed thus far, he had to adapt himself to frequent travel throughout Italy. Certainly the demands were many in directing an institute comprised of dozens of convents, several hundred Sisters and the thousands of sick, elderly, children and aging priests who received their care. It is equally certain that it required personal growth on his part, because most his life had been spent in a male seminary environment.
His ability proved great and earned him yet another burden, which he received in 1919. On 3 December of that year Fr. Luigi was appointed Director of the Institute for the Blind, begun some 25 years earlier and now in grave debt.
When space and distance constraints made it necessary to move the General House of the Poor Sisters of St. Cajetan, Fr. Luigi found a suitable site next to the Institute for the Blind in Turin. He took up residence there on 12 June 1928.
However, even in his new place of residence the prematurely aging and hunchback priest, who was never in the best of health, was not allowed to rest. For love of God and neighbour he acceded to the insistence of those who asked for a church to be built next to the Sisters' home. He then began work on the Shrine of Christ the King, which was consecrated on 24 October 1931,the first in Piedmont to spread this Papal devotion.
Constant Kingdom building
But even with all this, Fr. Luigi was not finished.
As spiritual director of the Institute of the Blind, which he saved from closing and actually made flourish, he met some people who wanted to consecrate their lives to God. While he tried directing them to monastic life, they were refused due to their blindness.
Taking all this to heart, he decided on 18 January 1932 to consecrate some of them to God with the title of "Sisters of Christ the King", thus becoming a contemplative branch of the Poor Sisters of St. Cajetan. The vesting of the first "Sisters of Christ the King" took place on 29 October 1932; their work was to pray for the Church, the Pope, priests and especially the most needy.
On 5 June 1934 Fr. Luigi celebrated his 50th anniversary of priesthood and enjoyed the well-deserved recognition and thanks of many. Among his accomplishments are the 1,027 letters gathered into seven volumes from 1901-36 addressed to lay people, priests and Religious and in which is expressed all the spirituality and trust in God of this humble priest who said of himself: "Three things I would never have thought of doing: writing books, founding a religious institute for women and building churches. And I have done all three!".
Fr. Luigi Boccardo celebrated his final Mass on 26 April 1936 at the altar of Our Lady of Good Counsel in the Shrine he built to Christ the King, and he died peacefully on 9 June of the same year.
15 April 2007
Bl. Maria Maddalena Starace (1845-1921)
Foundress of the Compassionist Sisters Servants of Mary
Costanza Starace was born at Castellammare di Stabia, Naples, Italy, on 5 September 1845, to Francesco Starace and Maria Rosa Cascone.
As a young girl she attended a boarding school run by the Daughters of Charity. This atmosphere prompted her to consecrate herself to the Lord. Poor health, however, required her to return to her family and continue her studies at home.
Along with her studies she also began to cultivate a strong prayer life. When her health stabilized she announced to her parents her desire to enter a cloistered religious community; they, however, remained opposed to it.
On 8 June 1867 she made her profession in the Third Order of the Servants of Mary, taking the name Sr. Maria Maddalena of the Passion. Bishop Francesco Petagna then asked her to direct the Daughters of Mary and teach the faith to the local children.
This experience coupled with the cholera epidemic that afflicted the area led the young Sister to found the Compassionist Sisters Servants of Mary in 1869; their charism: "to share the compassionate Jesus and the Sorrowful Mother, to assist one's neighbour in all his needs, spiritual or corporal".
Together with her love for Jesus Crucified, she also had a strong devotion to his Sorrowful Mother. Her rosary was her constant companion, praying it numerous times daily.
Throughout her life Sr. Maria Maddalena exercised the theological and cardinal virtues which enabled her to live in faith and abandoned to God's will in everything. She was known to exclaim: "The will of God is the only goal of my life", and "The will of God is my paradise".
The Lord permitted Sr. Maria Maddalena to undergo many physical and spiritual trials, which served to strengthen her faith and commitment to the work she had begun.
Prayer, work and holiness
For Mother Starace prayer was not something to relegate to a private sphere, but was the font from which daily activities flow. In her own role as Superior she testified: "Prayer is the only means to govern well".
She had a strong and clear sense of personal sanctification through the faithful execution of one's duties: "The world is not renewed when people conceive holiness as something different from fulfilling the duties of one's own state. The worker will be sanctified in his place of work, the soldier will become holy in the army. The patient will be sanctified in the hospital, the student through study, the farmer on the farm, the priest through his ministry, the administrator in his own office. Each step forward on the road to holiness is a step in the sacrifice of fulfilling one's own duty".
Her life of duty to God and neighbour came to its holy end on 13 December 1921 when she died of pneumonia. A spontaneous witness to her holy life immediately ensued.
Her process for Beatification began on 4 April 1939. On 7 July 2003, Pope John Paul II proclaimed her "Venerable", and on 21 October 2004 the miracle for her Beatification was approved.
21 April 2007
Bl. Francesco Spoto (1924-64)
Martyr, Priest, Superior General of the Missionary Servants of the Poor
Francesco Spoto was born on 8 July 1924 in the small town of Raffadali, Agrigento, in Sicily, the first of three children. His parents educated him in a profound and genuine faith and transmitted to him a great sense of duty. His parents and teachers, who noticed in the boy a charitable, sensitive and conscientious character, were not surprised he developed a religious vocation.
In 1936 the parish priest presented Francesco to Fr Vitale Bruno, vicar general of the Missionary Servants of the Poor, who came to his hometown to promote vocations. Francesco returned with him to Palermo and entered the Congregation's seminary at the age of 12.
The young boy proved himself to be humble and tenacious, with a lofty sense of responsibility and duty. It was, in fact, his tenacity and determination that gained him the nickname "the rock" by his superiors and fellow companions.
During his seminary years his passion for study also grew, which served as a solid preparation for Religious life and for the priesthood.
Francesco considered culture not as an end in itself, but as a means of service in response to the Great Commandment of love of God and neighbour. As a priest, he once advised a young man studying for the priesthood: "Prepare yourself for the priesthood with St Thomas, with St Augustine and with the other Holy Fathers, who besides a solid dogmatic-moral culture, can give you a solid spiritual formation and introduce you to the practice of virtues and the apostolate" (Letter to Dolcimascolo, 30 May 1962).
On 1 November 1940, Francesco made his first profession, decisively marking the beginning of his passion to follow the Lord in the footsteps of his Congregation's holy Founder, Bl. Giacomo Cusmano, becoming his faithful imitator and interpreter.
He was ordained a priest on 22 July 1951. A few weeks prior to his ordination he confided to his cousin, who was also a priest: "Reflecting on the grave responsibility with which I will be invested, a sense of trepidation pervades me..." (Letter to Cufaro, 14 June 1951).
Fr Francesco was a reserved and quiet priest. His love for his family, in particular his mother for whom he showed a tender affection and deep respect, for his brothers in community and for all those to whom he dedicated himself, was strong and constant.
Fr Francesco Spoto lived during four Pontificates: Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII and Paul VI. He was born and raised during 20 years of Fascism and witnessed the birth of the Italian Republic, the post-war reconstruction, mass emigration and the beginning of the era of "well-being".
More than once he was exposed to the ugly side of humanity with bloodshed in Africa (1936), Spain (1939) and the Second World War (1939-45).
In addition to Fascism, his era was dominated by totalitarian systems such as Marxism and Nazism, and also saw Italy's imperialistic dreams fade to nothing.
In this confusing and sorrowful time this young priest made the Church both his anchor and compass.
During the General Chapter of 1959 he was elected Superior General at the young age of 35, which required the Holy See's dispensation in order for him to assume this role. Fr Francesco's election by his Brothers, who loved and esteemed him, did not change his strong, sincere and humble attitude.
In this new responsibility as Superior General he developed and strengthened his Congregation with his characteristic sense of determination and duty.
He carried out this role both as a father and a brother, caring for his confreres, watching over their prayer life and observance of the rule and their relationships within and without the community.
The road to martyrdom
On 4 August 1964 Fr Spoto departed for Biringi, today's Democratic Republic of the Congo, to support his Brothers and to share their burden in the mission. The ex-Belgian colony, which gained its independence in 1960, was experiencing turbulent, unstable times.
Even with the presence of United Nations peacekeeping forces, the first Minister, Patrice Lumumba, a pro-Communist, was challenged and assassinated. Lumumba's young recruits, known as "Simba" or "lions", took up the cause of their assassinated leader with a persecution of white civilians and clergy, considering them enemies of the people because of their imperialistic and colonial roots.
Within this difficult context Fr Francesco was well aware of the dangers that awaited him.
By November of 1964, he and three Brothers were forced to leave their mission and go into hiding to avoid the "simba-guerrillas" who were trying to kill them. In this anguishing situation his sense of sacrifice was even more acute, perfecting his will to offer his life so that his Brothers might be saved.
The four fugitives spent each night in a different hut, often hungry, cold and soaked by the constant rain. They continued their flight, in constant fear of being caught and killed. Their only comfort was the Crucifix they carried with them.
On 21 November 1964, Fr Spoto used a pencil stub to write in his pocket diary: "Today is the anniversary of our Religious Congregation: it is the day of our religious profession. On our knees, in our hut, before the Crucifix we renew the offering of our consecration to God with religious vows, our strength and courage in the difficult trial".
Fr Francesco was captured on 11 December 1964; the Brothers in hiding heard him say in French to his captors: "I am Francesco Spoto, an Italian national". Moments later the sound of a gunshot rang out.
The diary of Fr Spoto was continued by Fr Ruggiero, who wrote: "Then Bro. Corrado said to me, 'Let us run. They have killed Fr Spoto: you run faster at least to give him absolution'" (Diary of Fr Ruggiero, 21 December 1964).
The Brothers found their Father General exhausted by the blows the Simba had inflicted upon him. Fr Francesco was groaning from the painful chest wounds he had received.
In the midst of such agony, he still had the state of mind to ask about the two Simba who had attacked him and said: "Do not harm them. If someone hurts you, you must forgive him. Even if they [the Simba] harmed me, do not kill them in my name" (cf. V. Bertolone, E il mandorlo fiori, tracce del "Volto" in Padre Francesco Spoto, Rome, 1999, p. 217).
His Brothers made a stretcher with tree branches and rags and carried their Father General to a "safer" location.
Fr Ruggiero's diary then gives this eloquent witness: "Father goes from bad to worse. He is surprised that I cry. 'Why do you cry?', he asks. 'How can I help crying seeing you like this'. 'But why do you not want to resign yourself to the will of God? How often have I told you that the Lord wants me, has called me; that red shirt that Fr Giacomo Cusmano desired, the Lord has kept for me; you must not cry, you must pray much for the Congregation'. Then he gave me his Crucifix and said to me: 'If you survive, take it to my mother and tell her not to cry'" (21 December 1964).
These words express the profound depths of the communion of Saints in which Fr Francesco already lived. The "red shirt" refers to the desire of his holy Founder to die a martyr's death for those who still did not know Jesus Christ.
After receiving the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, Fr Francesco Spoto died on 27 December 1964. He was buried near the hut where he had been a guest. In 1967, his remains were entombed in the parish Church of Biringi, and in 1984 they were brought to the Church of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus in Palermo, Italy.
On 16 December 1992 his process for Beatification was opened.
29 April 2007
Bl. Maria Rosa Pellesi (1917-72)
Religious of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Christ
Bruna Aldina Maria Pallasi was born on 11 November 1917 at Prignano sulla Secchia, Italy, the last of nine children. Good humour and sweetness, joy and peace marked her early years as well as a later courtship that seemed to pave the way for the earthly "happily ever after".
But the lasting courtship to which she ,gave her heart was tinged with a pre-sentiment of suffering.
During Bruna's late teens two of her sisters-in-law died, leaving six children, all under 4 years of age. Without hesitation, she assumed her share of responsibility for their growth and development. Leaving these nieces and nephews to enter the convent was a heart-rending experience. Only by responding to a higher love could she make such a choice.
On 27 August 1940, at age 22, she joined the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Christ, at that time known as the Franciscan Sisters of Sant'Onofrio. She was in religious formation from 1940 to 1942, cultivating the interior life in the hope of a future harvest..
On 25 September 1942, Sr. Maria Rosa of Jesus made her first vows in Rimini, and was then transferred to Sassuolo to teach in an elementary school.
She thus spent the war years of 1942 to 1945 working in the education apostolate, while also fighting her own ego; she did the latter by toiling without sparing herself. If her fellow Sisters showed their concern for her non-stop efforts, she would respond: "Do not worry. I come from the country; I am used to it".
Living for the Beloved
After this three-year assignment, Sr. Maria Rosa was transferred in May 1945 to Ferrara to work in the parish elementary school. In July of that year she, opened a nursery school, but by 5 September 1945 she had to be admitted to the local hospital for tuberculosis.
She remained hospitalized until 15 November, when she was transferred to the "Pineta" sanatorium in Gaiato which, unknown to her, would be her next "three-year assignment".
In December of 1948 she left the "Pineta" sanatorium only to enter another one in Bologna, this time definitively.
She thus spent 22 years at home, two years in religious formation and three years in pastoral service in her religious community. The second half of her life was spent in a sanatorium.
That meant passing 27 years living in a few square meters: in front of the same window, the same view, the same mountain to close the horizon. She battled each day with her own health, which was continually slipping away, with lungs that would not breathe, a heart that tired easily and aches that tiredness paralyzed. Add to this the ongoing suffering and painful treatments that increased her trials but never solved the problems. This was her life.
As the years passed her clinical situation worsened. For relief it was necessary to continuously extract the pleural fluid from that "inexhaustible font" she carried within herself. Once, the needle broke and after useless attempts to extract it, it remained splintered within her from that day, 28 October 1955, for the next 17 years to the end of her life.
Her extraordinarily prolonged "Way of the Cross", although marked by solitude and suffering, became her canticle of divine mercy through her union with the One for whom she had left everything. Her broad smile was constant, natural and sincere, the result of the divine life within her. Regarding her failing health she would say, "In recompense, my heart sings and I am very happy".
Between the operations and treatments that marked her long illness, Sr. Maria Rosa made three pilgrimages to Lourdes and two solemn acts of consecration of herself to the Mother of God, the latter on 16 July 1946 and 8 December 1961.
She celebrated her 25th anniversary of religious life on 4 October 1967 as well as her 25th anniversary of Marriage to the Cross on 1 September 1970,. after a quarter of a century in the sanatorium.
On 6 November 1972 she was transferred to the community of her first assignment in Sassuolo. She died there on 1 December 1972.
6 May 2007
Bl. Carmen of the Child Jesus (1834-99)
Foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart
Maria Carmela González Ramos García Prieto was born at Antequera, Málaga, Spain, on 30 June 1834 to a Christian family, the sixth of nine children. She received the Sacrament of Baptism the day after her birth.
From her childhood she was loved for her goodness and kindness, her generous heart and peaceful attitude, her intelligence and lively character, and her ability to participate in the life of the household.
The family atmosphere during her childhood also fostered the development of a spiritual sensitivity, and the young girl quickly became known for her intense devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and especially to the Eucharist. She also bore a great love for the poor, whom she visited and assisted.
Till death do us part
At 22 years of age, certain she was doing the will of God, Maria Carmela married Joaquím Muñoz del Caño. This was the beginning of a long and difficult period in which she proved the magnitude of her heart and her strength, sustained by an intense faith and heroic charity.
Her patience as a spouse and her prayers and penance for 20 years were finally rewarded when her husband asked her to pardon him for his dissolute life.
Four years of "new life" confirmed the authenticity of Joaquím's conversion and were a fitting preparation for his departure from this earthly life. With the death of her husband her mission as a wife came to its close. Carmen became a widow at the age of 47.
Her great spirit, love for the needy and apostolic zeal led her to seek the Lord's will for her life and how "to teach souls to know and love God".
This childless widow who saw in the neighbouring children an image of the Child Jesus was profoundly struck by their lack of means, culture and faith.
Guided by her spiritual director, a Capuchin priest by the name of Fr. Bernabé de Astorga, she open a little school in her home. Some young women who shared her concern for these children's situation joined her good work and thus the seeds of Mother Carmen's future Religious Congregation were sown.
A new chapter and state of life
On 8 May 1884, she and her first companions reached the Convent of Our Lady of Victories. This was the first step in the founding of the new Congregation of the Third Order Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, today known as the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Hearts.
Mother Carmen, as everyone called her, in her life as head of the Congregation had to face great difficulties and trials, calumny, opposition from within and without the Institute. She lived these and other problems with humility, charity and forgiveness.
The mysteries of Bethlehem, Calvary and the Eucharist were the living font from which her spirit drew encouragement and enlightenment.
Mother Carmen saw the growth of her Congregation throughout Spain in Andalucía, Castilla and Cataluña. During her lifetime the 11 houses she opened served not only as centres of education but also as nursery schools, evening classes for workers and rest homes to care for the sick.
Most important of all, her goal to "teach souls to know and love God" was accomplished.
At age 65, on 9 November 1899, Mother Carmen died at Antequera, her birthplace and the city of her earthly pilgrimage.
Bl. Carmen González Ramos García Prieto is held up by the Church as a shining example of Christian life. She was an upright woman who knew how to put into practice all the talents she received from the Lord in the various stages of life as a single woman, married woman, widow and Religious.
She was proclaimed Venerable by Pope John Paul II on 7 April 1984. On 26 June 2006 Pope Benedict XVI promulgated the Decree recognizing the miraculous healing of Sr. Maria José Rodríguez, who without medical treatment experienced the disappearance of a large tumour in 1991.
27 May 2007
Bl. Charles Liviero (1866-1932)
Bishop, Founder of the Little Servants of the Sacred Heart
Charles Liviero was born at Vicenza, Italy, on 29 May 1866. When he was still very young his father, a railroad worker, was transferred to Monselice in the Padua Province. There Charles attended elementary and junior high school, and in October 1881 he entered the seminary of Padua.
On 30 November 1888 he was ordained a priest at the young age of 22.
Shortly after his ordination Fr. Liviero was sent to Gallio, Vicenza, to teach youth who were discerning a vocation to the priesthood.
In 1890 he became parish priest at Gallio, where he worked for 10 years.
The dedicated priest was quick to put his human and spiritual gifts at the service of others in order to alleviate the various hardships of the faithful entrusted to his care.
During his first assignment as parish priest he instituted a number of social programmes, including the Catholic Agricultural Workers Society, a nursery school and the Mutual Aid Society.
In 1900 he was transferred to Agna nella Bassa Padovana, Padua, an area that was undergoing harsh economic conditions. In this new environment he continued his social assistance initiatives with the establishment of a nursery school, another Mutual Assistance Society, an Oratory, a Christian workers association and a young women's work-training school.
Fr. Charles also took up the difficult battle against the prevailing anticlerical mindset of the day, which led his parishioners to nickname him the "hammer of socialism".
His valuable apostolic work gained him the recognition of his superiors and on 6 March 1910 he was consecrated Bishop of Citá di Castello, a historic city in the Province of Perugia. His episcopal coat of arms bore the motto: "In Caritate Christi", for it was from the source of Christ's love that he drew his love for others and for his ministry.
With the humility which comes from truth, he said or himself, "You have in me a Father who loves you".
Loving with the Heart of Christ
In his Diocese, however, he met with contempt for the Church, and the young Bishop employed all his ardour — he was 44 years old at the time of his episcopal consecration — and strong convictions to rectify the situation.
The diocesan seminary soon began to flourish. Fortunately, the initial hostility that "welcomed" him transformed into admiration for the numerous spiritual and charitable works he established in the fields of education, health care and housing.
In 1910, during his first year as a Bishop he founded a Catholic elementary school. Two years later he established a Catholic press.
In 1915 he founded the Sacred Heart Home for the education of poor and orphaned youth; in 1919 the "Catholic Bookstore" opened which offered a circular library, and in 1920 a student hostel was opened, also dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Five years later, a diocesan home for the care of orphans suffering from tuberculosis and rickets was established in Pesaro. In 1931 a cinema was opened. He also founded an information bulletin for his diocesan priests.
Founder of Religious Sisters
To assist his charitable works for orphans and casualties of the First World War, Bishop Liviero founded in 1915 a Congregation of Sisters, the Little Servants of the Sacred Heart. The order's charism, which focused on charitable works toward the "little ones" and the poor, was approved in 1916.
The Sisters' ability to generously dedicate themselves to various Christian charities flowed from their desire to imitate Jesus, meek and humble of heart, and from contemplation of his Sacred Heart. Thus, the Order was a simple and joyful presence among members of the Mystical Body of Christ whom they served.
This holy Bishop's dedicated pastoral work was cut short by a serious automobile accident on 24 June 1932; he was hospitalized in Fano, where he died on 7 July 1932.
Charles Liviero was born poor, knew the voice of the poor, heard their voices in prays; and kept them as his focus in building the Kingdom of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He was open to ail people from every walk of life, whom he helped and loved with the heart of a father.
The cause for the Beatification of Bishop Charles Liviero was opened on 5 August 1976.
15 September 2007
Bl. Basil Anthony Mary Moreau (1799-1873)
Founder, Congregation of the Holy Cross
Basil Anthony Mary Moreau, the ninth of 14 children, was born during the French Revolution on 11 February 1799 in Laigné-en-Belin, Sarthe, France, to a poor but pious family. In 1814 he entered St. Vincent's Major Seminary in Le Mans run by the Sulpician Order, which greatly influenced his spirituality.
On 12 August 1821 he was ordained a priest at age 22. An exception was made for this early ordination to compensate for the large number of priests killed curing the French Revolution.
In 1823 he became professor of philosophy at the minor seminary of Tessa. Then in 1825 he taught at St. Vincent Seminary and later became the vice-rector and spiritual director.
Much of Fr. Moreau's work aimed to repair the damage cone by the French Revolution, first by giving the seminarians a solid formation, and second by preaching popular missions to the faithful.
Recognizing the laity's pastoral needs, Fr. Basil organized the Auxiliary Priests of Le Mans in 1833 to assist diocesan clergy with their heavy pastoral burdens.
In 1835 Bishop Jean-Baptiste Bouvier asked Fr. Moreau to assist the Congregation of the Brothers of St. Joseph (established in 1820 at Ruillé-sur-Loir), whose Founder. Canon Jacques-François Dujarié, was no longer able to direct the Order due to illness.
After attempting to govern the communities separately, Fr. Moreau united the Congregation of the Brothers of St. Joseph and the Society of Auxiliary Priests of Le Mans into one religious institute, which became the Congregation of Holy Cross on 1 March 1837 with a "Fundamental Pact of Union".
On 15 August 1840 Fr. Moreau pronounced his perpetual vows in the presence of Bishop Bouvier, and was followed by several of his first associates. His relationship with Bishop Bouvier was often tried by differing viewpoints on now best to revitalize the faith and administer the Congregation following the Revolution.
Fr. Moreau's allegiance to Rome did not allow him to share the Gallican sympathies of the local Ordinary. Therefore, when it would have been possible for the Congregation of Holy Cross to apply for Pontifical approval, thus significantly reducing Bishop Bouvier's authority over the Order. it did not receive his needed support.
This was an opportunity for Fr. Moreau to practice the Congregation's special vow of obedience and respect to the hierarchy. In fact, Pontifical approval was granted only after Bishop Boulvier's death in 1854.
In 1841 Fr. Moreau founded the Marianites of Holy Cross to be housekeepers in the schools staffed by Holy Cross priests and Brothers, but the Sisters' activity soon expanded to include other apostolates and missionary work.
Missions: expansive and costly
Although Fr. Moreau wanted to include the Marianite Sisters in the Holy Cross Congregation, the Holy See excluded them from the definitive Decree of approval .hat was granted on 13 May 1857. Instead, they were to be governed separately. Nonetheless, the two institutes carried out much of their apostolic activities as a united effort.
Another trial came with the expansion of the Order at a time when poor means of communication left room for individualistic governance by the communities located far from France.
Such was the case with the community founded in 1842 in Indiana. U.S.A.. by Fr. Edward F. Sorin. The local Bishop, grateful for apostolic assistance in his huge Diocese, entrusted Fr. Sorin with an Indian mission and broad jurisdiction. The priest rushed into building projects without the necessary approval and sent the bills to the Motherhouse in France.
In fact, Fr. Moreau's forbearance with his confrere, Fr. Sorin, brought the unforeseen fruit of the Order's first university in the U.S.A.: Notre Dame University.
Fr. Moreau suffered much due to the internal strife that developed within the male and female branches, especially with those in the U.S.A. This eventually led to the U.S.A. Sisters breaking with their French origins and associating with Fr. Sorin.
Fr. Basil spent his last years in a house owned by the Marianite Sisters, who continued to provide for his daily meals and needs. During this time he preached retreats and missions and substituted for parish priests.
While replacing a priest at Yvre l'Eveque in December 1872, Fr. Moreau became ill. and after his return to Le Mans, he died on 23 January 1873 at age 73.
In 1955 his cause for Beatification was introduced and on 12 April 2003 Pope John Paul II proclaimed him Venerable.
16 September 2007
Bl. Stanislaus Papczyński (1631-1701)
Founder for the Congregation of Marian Clerks of the Immaculate Conception
Stanislaus Papczyński was born on 18 May 1631 at Podegrodzie, Poland, in times of great upheaval. He was a lively, enterprising boy who tended his father's sheep with care. Initially, he had difficulty with his studies but diligently persevered. He graduated from both Piarist and Jesuit Colleges. His parents had hoped he would marry, but he announced his intention to dedicate himself totally to the service of God.
On 2 July 1654 he entered the Piarist Order founded by Fr. Joseph Calasanctius in 1957 (also known as The Order of the Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools [Sch. P]) and took the religious name of Stanislaus of Jesus-Mary. He made his religious profession on 22 July 1656 and was ordained a priest on 12 March 1661.
While still a seminarian he taught rhetoric using a textbook that he wrote, "The Messenger of the Queen of Arts", for which he received great praise.
Fr. Stanislaus was also valued as a confessor and for his sermons to the intellectual elite. Due to his influential contacts, his Order requested that he seek support for Fr. Calasanctius' cause to raise him to the honour of the altars.
Despite his academic and pastoral success, Fr. Papcyński experienced an uneasy period concerning his vocation. He called this time "a lengthy martyrdom" which he spent in frequent meditation on the Passion of Christ.
A pilgrimage of faith to new life
Fr. Papczyński requested an indult in 1669 and at that time he made an oath in the presence of his Piarist Superiors: "I offer and consecrate to God... as well as to the Mother of God, the ever-Virgin Mary conceived without sin, my heart, my soul and my body, leaving absolutely nothing for myself... I vow to serve them zealously, in chastity, to the end of my life, in the Society of Marian Clerks of the Immaculate Conception, which by the grace of God I wish to found".
Until that time all religious Orders in Poland had been founded abroad, so it was doubtful that a commoner like Fr. Stanislaus would find approval for this new Society. But his trust in God was rewarded with support for his plan from the Bishop of Poznań, Poland.
In September, 1671 he took the white habit in honour of the Immaculate Conception and prepared the future Order's Statutes or "Rule of Life".
Two years later, near Skierniewice, he founded the Institute's first house, which he called a "Retreat House", with a small group of hermit companions. On 24 October 1673, when the local Bishop made a canonical visitation, their "Rule of Life" was approved. The Marians consider this date as the beginning of their Order.
On 21 April 1679 the Institute became an Order of Diocesan Right and worked to spread devotion to the Immaculate Mother of God and to assist souls in Purgatory, especially those who were unprepared for death. This apostolate responded to Poland's needs, sorely tried by wars and the plague.
Eventually, the hermitical lifestyle became more apostolic with emphasis on teaching the truths of the faith. Fr. Papczyński also stressed the importance of preaching and pastoral care in the Sacrament of Confession. To address the vice of drunkenness he imposed abstinence from vodka on his Order.
In 1690, wishing to entrust the Order to the Holy See, the Founder set out on foot at the age of 60 to seek Papal approval in Rome. Upon his arrival Fr. Stanislaus discovered that the Holy See was sede vacante; consequently, he compensated by establishing a "spiritual affiliation" of the Marians with several other Orders.
In 1699, too elderly to make the journey, Fr. Stanislaus again sought Papal approval by sending to Rome his confrere, Fr. Joachim Kozlowski, as his delegate. Fr. Kozlowski approached the reformed Franciscan Minors in Rome for the "Rule of Ten Virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary", which included the Marians's legal dependence on this Order.
Pope Innocent XII approved the document presented by the General of the Franciscans in 1699: the Marians became an Order with solemn vows, although they remained dependent on the Franciscans for some time.
After more than 30 years of foundation, Fr. Papczyński pronounced his solemn vows on 6 June 1701 and then received the profession of the other Marians. The result: the first Polish Order of Apostolic Right of male religious in Poland's history.
Having completed the work God entrusted to him, Fr. Papczyński died just a few months later on 17 September 1701 in Gora Kalwaria, Poland.
On 13 June 1992 Pope John Paul II declared him venerable.
Bl. Marie-Celine of the Presentation (1878-97)
Religious Sister of the Order of Poor Clares of Talence
Jeanne-Germaine Castang was born on 23 May 1878 at Nojals, east of Bergerac de Périgord, France. She was the fifth of 11 children born into an impoverished but deeply religious family. Her father's relatives were landowners and her mother's, notaries. She was a pretty, resourceful child with her own strong character but who already showed an inclination to the consecrated life.
Poliomyelitis, which struck at the age of 4, left her with only one sound leg and a permanent limp. This disability did not affect her piety nor deter her from assisting at home, especially after her elder sister's admission to the Order of St. Joseph at Aubenas and later, after the premature death of her mother in December 1892, while caring for her eldest brother who had tuberculosis. During that period she slept on the floor beside her brother's bed and it was probably then that she herself contracted the disease.
Fulfilment of a childhood vocation
Jeanne-Germaine attended the local school run by the Sisters of St. Joseph in Nojals. Here, she grew in faith and despite her young age became known for her devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament. It is likely that here too, the seeds of her vocation flourished.
Her father was unsuccessful with the grocery store-café he had opened in Nojals. Thus, the family was forced to move from their home to a damp, dilapidated barn. They were so poor that Jeanne-Germaine was obliged to beg for food, going from one farm to the next despite the festering sore that had developed on her paralysed foot.
Unable to keep his family, her father left for Bordeaux in search of work; the family joined him later. Three of the children had died in Nojals; two others died in Bordeaux of TB and malnutrition. In 1892, Mr. Castang found a job as doorkeeper at a castle in La Réole and his family went to live there.
Jeanne-Germaine, however, remained in Bordeaux, where she had been taken in at the outset by the Sisters of Nazareth, with whom she stayed five years. She underwent surgery on her foot at the local paediatric hospital. With the Sisters she learned to sew and was prepared for her First Communion and Confirmation.
After her brother's death in 1893, Jeanne-Germaine desired to join her sister in the Order of St. Joseph at Aubenas. When she was refused due to her disability, as she had been earlier by the Poor Clares, she returned to the Sisters of Nazareth.
At this time, Jeanne-Germaine went for a walk with a friend who suggested she visit the Ave Maria Community of the Poor Clares at Talence, not far from Bordeaux; seeing beyond her handicap, the Mother Superior was able to discern her exceptional religious disposition.
So it was that on 12 June 1896, she was admitted to the Community in Talence (today incorporated into the Community of Poor Clares at Perpignan). Her father did not wish to lose his daughter, but agreed on condition that she send him a photograph. The following 21 November, she was clothed in the habit of the Second Order of St. Francis and took the name "Marie-Céline of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary".
Final vows on her deathbed
The relentless advance of the tuberculosis did not, stop her from fully immersing herself in the austere lifestyle of the contemplative nuns. Her love for God, the Church and her Sisters increased and she accepted with humility the supernatural manifestations of God's love.
When the Superior became aware of the deterioration of her health and called the doctor, it was too late. Sr. Marie-Céline was permitted to make her final vows on her deathbed; she died of tuberculosis of the bone on 30 May 1897 when she was only 19 years old.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Sr. Marie-Céline's burial place at the Convent of the Poor Clares of Talence became a pilgrimage destination; since June 2006, her mortal remains rest in the Parish Church of Nojals-et-Clottes, where she worshipped as a child.
The aura of holiness which had surrounded Sr. Marie-Céline in her lifetime soon led to the introduction of her cause of Beatification. Pope Pius XII decreed her heroic virtues on 22 January 1957 and in December 2006, Pope Benedict authorized the promulgation of a decree concerning a miracle attributed to her intercession.
This young nun who wrote: "I am determined to be a violet of humility, a rose of charity, and a lily of purity for Jesus", lives on as a model for all those who are ill or suffer from physical handicaps, poverty and' marginalization.
After her death, she appeared to many via fragrances, which earned her the nickname: "Saint of the Perfumes".
30 September 2007
Bl. Maria Luisa Merkert (1817-72)
Co-Foundress and first Superior General of the Congregation of St. Elizabeth
Maria Luisa Merkert was born on 21 September 1817 at Nysa in Slesia, Poland, then part of the Breslau Diocese and in German territory. Maria was the second daughter born to Anthony Merkert and Maria Barbara Pfitzner, from a strongly Catholic and middle-class family.
Maria's father died when she was just nine months old. Her mother educated Maria and her older sister Matilde in a spirit of faith and love and in the practice of authentic Christian values. Both daughters went to the local Catholic girls school. The religious atmosphere at home influenced the girls' formation and sowed the desire to serve the Lord in religious life and their neighbour through charitable works.
Maria assisted her mother during the illness prior to her death on 11 July 1842. This spurred her decision to serve the poor, the sick and abandoned. Two months later Maria, her sister Matilde and Frances Werner, on the advice of her confessor, joined Clara Wolff, a Third Order Franciscan, in her charitable work of serving the poor and sick in their homes.
Thus began the "Association of Sisters for the Assistance of Abandoned Sick, under the Protection of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus" on 27 September 1842. They prepared themselves for this step with an act of consecration to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, to which they remained wholeheartedly devoted. Fr. Francis Xavier Fischer gave them his blessing.
Maria dedicated herself to assisting the sick and poor and collected alms for their needs. On 31 July 1844 the first five Sisters signed the Statutes of the young Association, but by 8 May 1846 their number dropped to four with the death of Matilde Merkert, who had contracted typhus while caring for the sick.
Discerning the young Sisters' need for religious formation, Fr. Fischer encouraged them to enter the novitiate of the Sisters of Mercy of St. Charles Borromeo in Prague, and on Christmas Day 1846 they began this period of religious formation.
The original call takes root
On 30 June 1850, grateful for the formation they had received, Maria and Frances left the Sisters of Mercy to dedicate themselves to their original project of serving the homebound sick and needy.
On 19 November 1850, Feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, with full trust in God, the Sisters again took up their works of mercy at Nysa. They were known as the Grey Sisters of St. Elizabeth. One month later Maria submitted the names of her companions as well as the Association's Statutes to the local magistrate.
On an ecclesiastic level the Institute was approve. by Bishop Henry Forster of Breslau on 4 September 1859. The first General Chapter was held on 15 December 1859 and Maria Merkert was elected Superior General.
On 5 May 1860 Mother Maria and 25 Sisters professed the religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, along with a fourth vow to assist the poor and sick. The Motherhouse was built in Nysa during the years 1863 to 1865.
In 1887 the definitive approval as a Congregation of Pontifical Right was granted by Pope Leo XIII.
The life and work of Mother Maria Merkert was animated by a spirit of ardent charity for the suffering members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Her sequela Christi was marked by a radical and creative dedication to the sick and the most needy by putting into practice Jesus' words, "As you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40).
Mother Maria's maternal solicitude was also directed toward her Sisters, to whom she gave a lofty spiritual and moral formation characterized by a profound spirit of humility.
Mother Maria's generalate lasted 22 years, until her holy death on 14 November 1872 at the age of 55. During her lifetime approximately 500 Sisters joined the Congregation, which permitted her to enrich the Church with 90 religious houses in nine dioceses.
On 16 July 1964 her mortal remains were laid in the crypt of the Church of St. James in Nysa, and on 19 September 1998 they were translated to a side chapel of the same Church.
On 20 December 2004 Pope John Paul II declared her Venerable.
20 October 2007
Bl. Albertina Berkenbrock (1919-31)
Virgin and martyr
Albertina Berkenbrock was born on 11 April 1919 in São Luis, Imaruí, Santa Catarina, Brazil. She was baptized on 25 May 1919 and confirmed on 9 March 1925. She made her First Holy Communion on 16 August 1928.
Albertina grew up in a devout family. She willingly helped her parents at home and on the land.
At an early age she learned to pray with deep devotion and was strong in the practice of her Catholic faith. She spoke of her First Communion Day as the most beautiful day of her life and had special devotion to Our Lady and to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a model of purity and the Patron Saint of São Luís.
At school Albertina was a model for her peers and a cause of admiration to adults. Her teachers especially praised her spirituality and morals, superior to children of her age. She was a diligent student who knew her Catechism and kept God's Commandments.
At home, when her brothers teased and taunted her, as siblings do, she would not retaliate. With her Christian upbringing. even the childhood games she played reflected her deep religious sense. She played happily with the poorest children and shared her bread with them.
At home, she was especially loving to the children of an employee of her father; while unknown to her, that man would become her future assassin.
Like St Aloysius: death, yes; sin, no
His name was Maneco Palhoça but he was also known as lndalício Cipriano Martins or as Manuel Martins da Silva. Albertina often gave. food not only to his children but to him as well. Since Maneco was African and racism was still a grave social ill, the young girl's goodness was especially noteworthy.
One day when Albertina was searching for a runaway bullock she came across Maneco loading beans into his cart. When she asked him if he had seen the bullock he pointed in the wrong direction to entice her to a place where he could satisfy his lust without attracting attention.
Innocently, Albertina followed Maneco's directions and came to a wooded area. On hearing twigs cracking she turned, thinking it was the bullock, and found herself face to face with Maneco. She was petrified.
He informed her of his intentions but she firmly refused him. Albertina fought hard for her virtue. Even when he threw her to the ground. she did her best to cover herself. Furious at having been morally defeated by the young girl, Maneco grasped her by the hair and slit her throat with a knife.
Maneco tried to cover up his crime. He said he had discovered her body and accused a man called Joao Candinho of killing her, who protested his innocence in vain. But people became suspicious because when Maneco passed through the room where Albertina's body was laid out, witnesses said that every time he approached her body, blood would seep from the gash in her neck.
Two days later, the Prefect of Imaruí sent for João Candinho. The official took a crucifix and together with Candinho and others, went to Albertina's home. He placed the crucifix on her chest, ordered Joao Candinho to lay his hands on the crucifix and swear that he was innocent. It is said that at that very instant the wound in her neck stopped bleeding.
Maneco tried to flee but was arrested. He confessed to his crime as well as two other murders. He was tried, convicted and given a life sentence. In prison he admitted to his fellow prisoners that he murdered Albertina because she resisted his rape attempts.
This testimony from his own lips is fundamental for determining this as a true martyrdom. Albertina's reaction is unequivocal, since she preferred to die rather than to submit.
On the very day of Albertina's death, the young girl was popularly proclaimed a martyr because everyone who knew her could testify to her Christian upbringing, good behaviour, piety and charity. Her reputation as a martyr was confirmed when the local midwife who had examined her body stated that the attempted rape was not a success.
Shortly thereafter, people began speaking of graces received through Albertina's intercession.
She was buried in the cemetery at Sao Luis, but due to the fame of her martyrdom and the favours obtained through her intercession, her body was later placed in the Church of São Luís.
26 October 2007
Bl. Franz Jägerstätter (1907-43)
Layman and martyr
Franz Jägerstätter was born on 20 May 1907 in St. Radegund, Upper Australia, to his unmarried mother, Rosalia Huber, and to Franz Bachmeier, who was killed during World War I. After the death of his natural father, Rosalia married Heinrich Jägerstätter, who adopted Franz and gave the boy his surname of Jägerstätter in 1917.
Franz received a basic education in his village's one-room schoolhouse. His step-grandfather helped with his education and the boy became an avid reader.
It seems Franz was unruly in his younger years; he was, in fact, the first in his village to own a motorcycle. However, he is better known as an ordinary and humble Catholic who did not draw attention to himself.
After his marriage to Franziska in 1936 and their honeymoon in Rome, Franz grew in his faith but was not extreme in his piety.
Besides his farm work Franz became the local sexton in 1936 and bean receiving the Eucharist daily. He was known to refuse the customary offering for his services at funerals, preferring the spiritual and corporal works of mercy over any remuneration.
Obedience to God over man
In the mid to late 1930s, while much of Austria was beginning to follow the tide of Nazism, Franz became ever more rooted in his Catholic faith and placed his complete trust in God.
While carrying out his duties as husband and breadwinner for his wife and three daughters, this ordinary man began thinking deeply about obedience to legitimate authority and obedience to God, about mortal life and eternal life and about Jesus' suffering and Passion.
Franz was neither a revolutionary nor part of any resistance movement, but in 1938 he was the only local citizen to vote against the "Anschluss" (annexation of Austria by Germany), because his conscience prevailed over the path of least resistance.
Franz Jägerstätter was called up for military service and sworn in on 17 June 1940. Shortly thereafter, thanks to the intervention of his mayor, he was allowed to return to the farm. Later, he was active service from October 1940 to April 1941, until the mayor's further intervention permitted his return home.
He became convinced that participation in the war was a serious sin and decided that any future call-up had to be met with his refusal to fight.
"It is very sad", he wrote, "to hear again and again from Catholics that this war waged by Germany is perhaps not so unjust because it will wipe out Bolshevism.... But now a question: what are they fighting in this Country — Bolshevism or the Russian People?
"When our Catholic missionaries went to a pagan country to make them Christians, did they advance with machine guns and bombs in order to convert and improve them?... If adversaries wage war on another nation, they have usually invaded the country not to improve people or even perhaps to give them something, but usually to get something for themselves.... If we were merely fighting Bolshevism, these other things — minerals, oil wells or good farmland — would not be a factor".
Jägerstätter was at peace with himself despite the alarm he could have experienced witnessing the masses' capitulation to Hitler. Mesmerized by the National Socialist propaganda machine, many people knelt when Hitler made his entrance into Vienna. Catholic Churches were forced to fly the swastika flag and subjected to other abusive laws.
In February 1943 Franz was called up again for military service. He presented himself at the induction centre on 1 March 1943 and announced his refusal to fight, offering to carry out non-violent services: this was denied him.
He was held in custody at Linz in March and April, transferred to Berlin-Tegel in May and subjected to trial on 6 July 1943 when he was condemned to death for sedition. The prison chaplain was struck by the man's tranquil character. On being offered the New Testament, he replied: "I am completely bound in inner union with the Lord, and any reading would only interrupt my communication with my God".
On 9 August, before being executed, Franz wrote: "If I must write... with my hands in chains, I find that much better than if my will were in chains. Neither prison nor chains nor sentence of death can rob a man of faith and his free will. God gives so much strength that it is possible to bear any suffering.... People worry about the obligations of conscience as they concern my wife and children. But I cannot believe that, just because one has a wife and children a man is free to offend God".
Franz Jägerstätter, who would not bow his head to Hitler, bowed his head to God, and the guillotine took care of the rest. He was obviously called up to serve a higher order.
27 October 2007
Bl. Celine Borzęcka (1833-1913)
Foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Resurrection
Celine Chludzińska Borzęcka was born on 29 October 1833 in Antowil. Orsza (formerly Polish territory, today Belarus), to Ignatius and Petronella Chludzifiski, whose families were wealthy landowners. One of three children, she grew up in an environment of sound Catholic and patriotic traditions, and was home schooled, as was the custom of the time.
Celine's interior life developed early in response to a question she posed in prayer: "What do you want me to do with my life, Lord?". Although she had discerned a religious vocation, she met opposition; obedient to the will of her parents and counsel of her confessor, she married Joseph Borzęcka at age 20.
Celine Borzęcka, deeply loved by her husband, was in turn a loving and exemplary wife who shared responsibility for his estate and showed concern for the poor. She bore him four children, two of whom died in infancy. She educated her two surviving daughters, Celine and Hedwig, and her respect for God's work in every person's life led her to leave each daughter free to chose her own vocation in life.
In 1869, her husband, Joseph, suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed. To give him the best medical treatment possible Celine moved her family to Vienna. There she cared for her husband's physical and spiritual needs for the five years of his infirmity prior to his death in 1874.
After Joseph's death, Celine Borzęcka and her daughters travelled to Rome to broaden their spiritual and cultural horizons and for Celine to receive clarification on God's will in her life.
During this time, Celine met the Co-Founder of the Resurrectionists, Fr. Peter Semenenko, who had long-desired a female branch of the Congregation of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He became her spiritual guide and she drew from his spirituality what would become the motto of the Order she would found: Through the Cross and Death to Resurrection and Glory.
From the Cross to glory
In 1882 Celine Borzęcka her younger daughter Hedwig (her older daughter, Celine. had already married) and two other women began a life in community in Rome under the spiritual direction of Fr. Semenenko. Soon, however, the little flock was sorely tried with Fr. Peter's unexpected death in 1886. This led to conflicting opinions as to whether the new community should disband or join another Community.
Celine, however. remained firm in her conviction that God willed a new Congregation of women devoted to the Mystery of the Resurrection, thus living the personal, communal and apostolic dimensions of life through the power that comes from the Risen Lord.
With the help of friends, Celine Borzęcka opened her first afternoon school for girls in 1887. Here, Mons. Giacomo della Chiesa, the future Pope Benedict XV, whose parents lived nearby. served as chaplain and catechist.
After years of trial and suffering, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Resurrection was officially founded in Rome on 6 January 1891. On that date Celine and her daughter Hedwig, the CoFoundress, professed final vows as Sisters of the Resurrection while a number of other candidates professed temporary vows.
By the Fall of 1891 Mother Celine opened her first house near Wadowice, in Kęty, Poland. The new Congregation was thus beginning to accomplish its goal of renewing society through education. It began to grow and soon foundations spread to Bulgaria, the United States and other areas of Poland.
As Mother Celine advanced in years there was a general consensus that Mother Hedwig would take her place. But Mother Hedwig died suddenly on 27 September 1906 at the age of 43 in Kęty, Poland. Her own Mother bore this suffering heroically and told her Sisters that "a soul is able to endure everything for the love of Jesus".
Mother Celine continued to lead the Congregation and in 1911 convoked the first General Chapter. She was elected Superior General ad vitam. Her last years were spent in intense correspondence with and visitation to her Sisters, forming them in the Order's spirituality.
During her last days she often repeated: "Be saints", and when she was no longer able to speak she wrote: "In God there is happiness forever". She died on 26 October 1913 in Krakow.
28 October 2007
498 Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War [from 1936 to 1939]
With the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic on 14 April 1931, a growing anti-clerical attitude evolved into full-scale persecution of the Catholic Church in Spain. The Government, fearing the loss of popular support, refrained from intervening and was therefore an accomplice in the criminal acts.
In 1934, when the Catholic Political Party demanded representation in the Republican Government, leftist groups killed 34 priests, religious brothers and seminarians in the Asturias area.
Following the elections of February 1936 and the victory of the Popular Front Party, violent acts were perpetrated as churches were set afire, crucifixes destroyed, parish priests driven away and funerals forbidden.
In July the military rose up against the Popular Front Government, which called upon working-class organizations to bear arms in response. One of the greatest persecutions of the Catholic Church since the Roman Empire then ensued, more devastating than even the French Revolution.
From 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939 Spanish soil was stained by the blood of martyrs. The number of Catholics killed has been estimated at almost 10,000.
Among them are 12 Bishops, 4,148 diocesan priests and seminarians, 2,365 men religious, 283 women religious and thousands of laity.
Those killed in hatred of the Faith with Decrees promulgated from 22 June 2004 to 1 June 2007 include:
—Luke of St Joseph, O.C.D. (José Tristany Pujol), priest of the Discalced Carmelites, † 20 July 1936, 13 Confreres and a Seminarian;
—Bro. Leonard Joseph, F.S.C. (Jose María Aragonés Mateu), of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, † 9 August 1936, and 43 Brothers;
—Apolonia of the Most Blessed Sacrament, C.C.V. (Apolonia Lizarraga), Carmelite Sister of Charity, † 8 September 1936, and Four Carmelite Sisters, † 1936-37;
—Bro. Bernard, F.M.S. (Plácido Fábrega Juliá), Marist Brothers of the Schools, † 5 October 1934;
— Victor Chumillas Fernández, O.F.M., priest of the Order of Friars Minor; † 16 August 1936, with 21 Confreres;
—Antero Mateo Garcia, father of a family, Third Order Dominican; † 8 August 1936, with 11 Companions, Second and Third Order Dominicans;
—Cruz Laplana y Laguna, Bishop of Cuenca, † 9 August 1936, and Fernando Español Berdié, priest, † 7 August 1936;
—Narciso de Esténaga y Echevarría, Bishop of Cuidad Real, † 22 August 1936, and Four Diocesan Priests, Five Christian Brothers and a Layman;
—Liberio Gonzalez Nombela, priest, † 18 August 1936, and 12 Companions of the diocesan clergy;
—Eusebio of the Child Jesus, O.C.D. (Ovidio Fernández Arenillas), priest; † 22 July 1936, and 15 Confreres;
—Felix Echevarria Gorostiaga, O.F.M., † 21 September 1936, arid Six Confreres;
—Teodosio Rafael, F.S.C. (Diodoro López Hernández), Religious; † 6-7 August 1936, and Three Confreres;
—Bonaventura García Paredes, O.P., priest of the Friars Preachers † 12 August 1936, and 37 Confreres;
—Miguel Léibar Garay, S.M., priest of the Society of Mary, † 28 July 1936; and Three Confreres, † 1936;
— Simon Reynés Solivellas, M.SS.CC., † 23 July 1936, arid Three Confreres, Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary; Two Franciscan Sisters Daughters of Mercy, and Prudence Canyelles y Ginestá, laywoman † 1936;
—Celestin Joseph Alonso Villar, O.P., † 18 August 1936, and Nine Confreres, † 1936;
—Angel María Prat Hostench, C.M.I., of the Carmelite Order, † 29 July 1936, and 16 Companions, † 1936;
—Enrique Sáiz Apariclo, S.D.B., priest, † 2 October 1936, and 62 Companions of the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco, † 1936-37;
—Mariano of St. Joseph Altolaguirre y Altolaguirre, S.T. (Santiago), † 26 July 1936, and Nine Companions of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity, † 1936-37;
—Eufrasio of the Child Jesus, O.C.D. (Eufrasio Barredo Fernandez), professed priest of the Order of Discalced Carmelites; † 1934;
—Lawrence, F.M.S. (Mariano Alonso Fuente), Virgil (Trifón Lacunza Unzu) and 44 Marist Brothers, † 1936;
—Enrique lzquierdo Palacios, O.P., and 13 Confreres Friars Preachers, † 1936;
—Ovid Bertrán, F.S.C. (Esteban Anunciabay Letona) and Four Christian Brothers; and José María Cánovas Martínez, diocesan priest, † 1936;
—Maria of Mount Carmel, Maria Rosa and Magdalena Fradera Ferragutcasas, C.M.F., Religious, Daughters of the Most Sacred and Immaculate Heart of Mary, † 27 September 1936;
— Avelino Rodriguez Alonso, O.S.A. professed priest of the Order of St Augustine, and 97 Confreres and Six Companions of the diocesan clergy, † 1936;
Manuela of the Heart of Jesus, (A.A.S.C.) (Manuela Arriola Uranga) and 22 Companions Adorers of the Most Holy Sacrament arid of Charity, † 1936.
11 November 2007
Bl. Zepherin Namuncurá (1886-1905)
Seminarian for the Society of St. Francis de Sales
Zepherin Namuncurá was born in Chimpay, Argentina, on 26 August 1886, the eighth of 12 children to Manuel Namuncurá and Rosario Burgos. His father was the Mapuche Chief of the Araucanian-speaking Indians of the Argentine Pampas. This tribe was particularly known for its fierce resistance to encroaching European domination.
Three years prior to Zepherin's birth, a decisive battle took place in which his mother and four siblings were captured along with approximately 2,000 Indians. At this point surrender was the only alternative to extermination.
Arbitration with the Argentine Government gave the Indians their tribal lands and granted their chief, Manuel Namuncurá, the role of colonel in the Argentine army.
In 1894 the treaty was modified to their disadvantage, secluding them to a valley high up in the snowy Andes Mountains.
In order to maintain leadership among the Araucanian People his father destined Zepherin to be raised in the "white man's religion", and on Christmas Eve 1887, he was baptized by a Salesian missionary, Fr. Dominic Milanesio, his father's friend.
Colonel Manuel entrusted the toddler to the priest in the hope that his son's association with the colonists would prove beneficial for the Araucanian People.
A boy destined for service
In 1897 Colonel Namuncura exercised his right as part of the Argentine army to have his now 11-year-old son enrolled in military school at El Tigre. His father hoped that learning Western military tactics would later serve the futureleadership position to which Zepherin was slowly being groomed.
But being the only native Indian in the school Zepherin found himself mistreated by the other students and he soon fell ill.
Fr. Milanesio interceded and had the boy transferred to the Salesian mission school in Buenos Aires. When asked what he liked most about his new school, the "Little Chief" replied: "The Church and the food".
At times, teachers reported that the young Zepherin appeared to be daydreaming during class, but his gaze was actually fixed on Our Lord in the tabernacle which he could see across the hall in the school chapel.
On 8 September 1898 he received his First Holy Communion, and in 1899 he was confirmed.
As an adolescent Zepherin developed a well-rounded personality, enjoying his studies. sports and his classmates' friendship. He was known to play card tricks for them or teach them archery.
He exercised true Christian meekness and never retaliated when friends' insensitivity hurt his feelings.
Once when asked what human flesh tasted like, his only reply was a large tear.
Zepherin loved the Blessed Mother and prayed the Rosary as his favourite devotion. Often he could be found praying before the Blessed Sacrament, where his desire to bring his people the true religion increased.
Some of his classmates instinctively compared him with St. Dominic Savio, who was a student of St. John Bosco and on whom the students were encouraged to model their behaviour.
The aim: spiritual leadership
As his studies drew to an end Zepherin announced his wish to study for the priesthood. The Salesian superior, Bishop Antonio Cagliero, helped him enter the minor seminary at Viedma. There he organized a procession in honour of Our Lady of Mercy on 24 September 1903.
The following day he woke up coughing and vomiting blood, clear signs of tuberculosis. He was admitted to the hospital and his time there was passed in a spirit of prayer mixed with patience, gratitude and obedience.
Evidently he had taken to heart the words of a missionary priest who told him to "serve God with joy".
In April 1904 when Bishop Cagliero was appointed Archbishop and summoned to Rome he invited Zepherin to accompany him. He hoped a change of climate would prove beneficial to the young man's health without disrupting his studies for the priesthood.
They arrived in Turin on 19 July 1904. Zepherin continued his studies but his health did not improve.
As a result he was moved to Villa Sora, the Salesian Institute in Frascati near Rome, with the hope that the warmer and drier air would be good for his health.
This holy seminarian's short stay in Turin, however, had made a lasting impression on his rector, who later said he had "a heart of gold and sees no evil in anyone.... He loves God like we love our mothers".
A personal highlight in this seminarian's short life was his trip with Archbishop Cagliero to an Audience with Pope Pius X on 27 September 1904.
By March of 1905 Zepherin's health had deteriorated to the point of requiring hospitalization at the "Fatebenefratelli" Hospital on Rome's Tiber Island. Even with the horrible pain and alarming weight loss, he always had a smile and kept his same gentle and patient spirit.
Zepherin Namuncurá died on 11 May 1905 and was buried in Rome.
Later, through the insistence of his compatriots, to whom he had sought to bring the Gospel, his body was returned to Argentina in 1924 and buried at the Salesian School of Fortin Mercedes.
He was declared Venerable by Pope Paul VI in 1972. On 6 July 2007 Pope Benedict XVI promulgated the decree concerning a miracle attributed to his intercession.
18 November 2007
Bl. Antonio Rosmini (1797-1855)
Priest, Founder of the Institute of Charity
Antonio Rosmini was born on 24 March 1797 to Pier Modesto and Giovanna dei Conti Formenti di Rive at Rovereto, a very "Italian" town although part of the Austrian Empire since 1509. He was baptized the following day and received his early education locally.
In 1816 he enrolled at the University of Padua, Italy, where he received doctorates in theology and canon law. After his studies he returned to Rovereto to prepare for Holy Orders.
In February 1820 he accompanied his sister, Margherita, to Verona where the Marquess Maddalena of Canossa (now Blessed) had founded a religious institute. During the visit Maddalena invited him to found a male religious institute as a twin to her own institute. While the young man politely declined, her invitation in time proved prophetic.
Antonio was ordained a priest on 21 April 1821 at Chioggia, Italy. In 1823 he travelled to Rome with the Patriarch of Venice. who arranged an audience for him with Pope Pius VII. In that audience the Pontiff encouraged him to undertake the reform of philosophy.
In 1826 he went to Milan to continue his research and publish the results of his philosophical studies. He wrote on many subjects, including the origin of ideas and certitude, the nature of the human soul, ethics, the relationship between Church and State, the philosophy of law, metaphysics, grace, original sin, the sacraments and education.
On Ash Wednesday, 20 February 1828, Fr. Rosmini withdrew to write the Constitutions of the budding Institute of Charity, in which he incorporated the principle of passivity (to be concerned with one's personal sanctification until God's will manifests itself to undertake some external work of charity) and the principle of impartiality (to free one of any personal preference in assuming a work of charity).
To assure himself of God's will in his philosophical and foundational work. Rosmini went to Rome a second time, in November 1828, and there received Pope Leo XII's support. On 15 May 1829 he met with the new Pope, Pius VIII, who confirmed his double mission as philosopher and founder.
During this visit to Rome, Fr. Rosmini published "Maxims of Christian Perfection" and "Origin of Ideas", winning the admiration of many scholars.
Fidelity amid controversy
By 1832 the Institute of Charity had spread to Northern Italy and by 1835 it reached England, where the community enjoyed substantial growth. In England the Rosminians are credited with introducing the use of the Roman collar and cassock and the practice of wearing the religious habit in public. They were known for preaching missions, the practice of the Forty Hours, May devotions, the use of the scapular, novena celebrations, public processions and the blessing of throats on the feast of St. Blaise.
Pope Gregory XVI approved the Constitutions of the Institute of Charity on 20 December 1838. On 25 March 1839 vows were taken by 20 Italian and 6 British priests. On 20 September 1839 Fr. Rosmini was appointed provost general for life.
This happy period of growth and apostolic success, however, was tempered by opposition to his intellectual and philosophical writings from 1826 until his death.
Primarily his "Treatise on Moral Conscience" (1839) led to a sharp, 15-year controversy which required more than one Papal injunction to silence the "Rosminian Question". Another important, controversial work was "The Five Wounds of the Church" (1832).
Fr. Rosmini found himself wedged between the obligation to renew Catholic philosophy and finding his works on the Index. But his obedience to the Church was admirable: "In everything, I want to base myself on the authority of the Church, and I want the whole world to know that I adhere to this authority alone" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Note on the Force of the Doctrinal Decrees", L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 25 July 2001, p. 9).
To close the issue definitively, the Pontiff submitted all Rosmini's works to examination by the Congregation of the Index. On 3 July 1854, it was decreed: "All the works of Antonio Rosmini-Serbati that have recently been examined are to be dismissed, and this examination in no way detracts from the good name of the author, nor of the religious Society founded by him, nor from his life and singular merits towards the Church" (R. Malone, "Historical Overview of the Rosmini Case", ORE, 25 July 2001, p. 10).
Less than a year after this Decree Fr. Antonio Rosmini died on 1 July 1855 at Stresa, Italy, at age 58.
2 December 2007
Bl. Lindalva Justo de Oliveira (1953-93)
Martyr, Religious Sister of the Society of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul
Lindalva Justo de Oliveira was born on 20 October 1953 at Sitio Malhada da Areia, in a very poor area of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. Lindalva's father, João Justo da Fé, a farmer, was a widower. His second marriage was to Maria Lúcia de Oliveira. Little Lindalva was the sixth of 13 children born to the couple. Lindalva was baptized on 7 January 1954.
Her family was not well-off, but rich in the Christian faith. João moved his family to Açu so his children could attend school, and after many sacrifices he was able to buy a house where the family still resides today.
Besides following her mother's good example, Lindalva demonstrated a natural inclination toward the poorer children and spent much time with them.
At age 12, Lindalva received First Holy Communion, and during her school years she was always happy to help the less fortunate. Later, while living with her brother, Djalma, and his family in Natal, she received an administrative assistant's diploma in 1979.
From 1978 to 1988 she held various jobs in retail sales and as a cashier at a petrol station, sending some of her salary home to help her mother. Lindalva found time to visit the local home for the elderly every day after work.
In 1982, as she lovingly assisted her father in the last months of his terminal illness, she reflected seriously on her life and decided to serve the poor. She then enrolled in a nursing course, but also enjoyed those things typical of young people: building friendships, guitar lessons and cultural studies.
In 1986 she participated in the vocational initiatives of the Daughters of Charity. After she received the Sacrament of Confirmation in 1987, Lindalva applied for admission to the Daughters. On the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, 11 February 1988, she entered the postulancy and edified her companions with her joy and genuine concern for the poor.
Her character was marked by a sweet disposition but also by truth. In a letter to her alcoholic brother, Antonio, she wrote: "Think about it and reward yourself. I pray for you very much and I will continue to pray and if necessary I will do penance so that you are able to fulfil yourself as a person. Follow Jesus, who fought until death for the life of sinners and gave his own life, not as God but as man, for the forgiveness of sins. We must seek refuge in him; only in him is life worth living". A year later her brother quit drinking.
Suddenly on Calvary with Jesus
On 29 January 1991 Sr Lindalva was assigned 40 elderly male patients in the municipal nursing home in Salvador da Bahia. She undertook the more humble tasks and sought out those who suffered the most and cared for their spiritual and material well-being by encouraging their reception of the sacraments. Sr Lindalva would sing and pray with them, and she even took her driving test so she could take them out for rides.
During January of 1993, a certain Augusto da Silva Peixoto, a 46-year-old man with an irascible character, managed to be admitted to the facility through the recommendation of another even though he had no right to be there. Sr Lindalva treated him with the same courtesy and respect as the other patients, yet he became enamoured of her.
She prudently distanced herself from him and was cautious in his regard. Nonetheless, he explicitly declared his lustful intentions towards her. A simple solution would have been for Sr Lindalva to leave, but her love for the elderly caused her to declare, "I prefer to shed my blood than to leave this place".
By 30 March Augusto's advances became so insistent and frightening that she sought the help of a health-care official to restrain this unruly patient. Although he promised to improve his attitude and behaviour, he harboured hatred and vengeance that developed into a murderous plan.
On 9 April 1993, Good Friday, Sr Lindalva took part in the parish Way of the Cross at 4:30 in the morning. By 7 a.m. she was back at work to prepare and serve breakfast as she did every day. As she served coffee from behind a table, Augusto approached and thrust a fishmonger's knife above her collar-bone.
Sinking to the ground, she cried "God protect me" several times. Patients ran for cover. Enveloped in an insane rapture while holding up her body, Augusto stabbed her 44 times shouting, "I should have done this sooner!".
He then suddenly became calm, sat down on a bench, wiped the knife on his trousers, threw it on the table and exclaimed: "She did not want me!", and turning to the doctor, said, "You can call the police, I will not run away; I did what had to be done".
The next day, Holy Saturday, Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, O.P., Primate of Brazil, celebrated the 39-year-old Sister's funeral and commented: "A few years were enough for Sr Lindalva to crown her Religious life with martyrdom".
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Various dates, 2007
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