BIOGRAPHIES OF NEW BLESSEDS - 2004
The following Blesseds were beatified by John Paul II in 2004:
21 March 2004
Maria Candida of the Eucharist
Piety of the Cross
Matilde of the Sacred Heart
Bl. Luigi Talamoni (1848-1926)
Priest, Founder of the Congregation of the 'Misericordines' of St Gerard
Luigi Talamoni was born on 3 October 1848 in Monza, Italy, the second of six children to Maria Sala and Giuseppe Talamoni, a hatmaker.
As a young boy, Luigi went to daily Mass together with his father, where he exercised his "first ministry" as an altar server: it was his constant dream to someday become a priest.
Luigi was also sustained by his peers and received encouragement from the Barnabite Servant of God, Fr Luigi Villoresi, director of the Oratory of Carrobiolo in Monza. Here, the young boy received a Christian and human formation, and his vocation to the priesthood and sense of duty to help others matured through this daily contact, all under the guidance of Fr Villoresi.
'Seminary for the poor'
During the second war of independence in Italy, the Oratory of Carrobiolo became a "Seminary for the poor": young men who wanted to become priests but did not have the money for boarding and studies were able to live and study at Carrobiolo. They were taught by qualified professors who volunteered their service and together lived a simple community life while carrying out their pastoral work at the Oratory.
Example of silence, humility
It was at Carrobiolo that Luigi lived and studied until 1865, when he was transferred to the Theological Seminary of Milan. On 4 March 1871 he was ordained a priest and celebrated his first Mass at Carrobiolo.
He began his ministry as a teacher at St Charles College in Milan; a short time later he was transferred to the Archdiocesan Seminary, where he would remain until the end of his life.
During his years at the seminary, Fr Luigi was prone to "mistreatment" and was misunderstood by many of his students and priest-colleagues. The clergy at that time were divided between the "liberal" and the "traditional" priests, and Fr Luigi was considered by some to be "too strict". When certain seminarians "made fun" of him or he received some kind of humiliation from other priests, Fr Luigi always responded with silence and respect, patience and forgiveness.
Priestly ministry, 'political charity'
Fr Luigi's daily schedule was meticulously divided between his dedication to preparing lessons for the seminarians and duties at the Seminary, and his long hours given to hearing Confessions at the Cathedral. People in long lines would expectantly wait their turn to receive the sacrament of Penance through the hands of this "holy priest", discovering in him an "uncommon" divine wisdom.
Fr Luigi was also sought after to preach retreats for priests and to carry out parish missions in other dioceses of Northern Italy. Likewise, he was active in local politics, serving on the communal council of Monza (from 1893-1916 and then from 1923-1926), all as a means to fostering "political charity" and defending the rights and dignity of the poor.
Fr Luigi was particularly concerned with making house visits to the sick and elderly. To further this apostolate, on 25 March 1891, together with Maria Biffi Levati, he founded the "Congregation of the 'Misericordines' of St Gerard", a community of Sisters with the mission of visiting and assisting the sick and elderly. The Religious provided assistance to the ill persons especially during the night so that their family members could sleep and go to work the next day.
The spirit of the Institute, as defined by Fr Luigi and Maria Biffi, was to "provide charitable and maternal assistance to the sick, to have care over their souls and aid in their salvation... to bring the love of Christ into their homes". Fr Luigi would often recommend to the Sisters: "Be humble, docile and burn with love".
Until the end of his life, Fr Luigi continued to be faithful to his duties and teaching at the seminary, to his role as confessor at the Cathedral, and to the formation of the Misericordine Sisters through written correspondence and counsel.
Fr Luigi Talamoni died in Milan on 31 January 1926.
Bl. Maria Candida of the Eucharist (1884-1949)
Virgin, Professed Nun of the Order of Discalced Carmelites
Maria Barba was born on 16 January 1884 in Catanzaro, Italy, to Giovanna Florena, a noblewoman, and Pietro Barba, an appeals court judge.
Maria was a lively, energetic child, very sensitive towards others. In addition to her schooling, she also took piano lessons and displayed an unusual talent for music. When Maria was 2 years old, she moved with her family to Palermo, Sicily.
'Story of a Soul'
Maria lived a "carefree" youth up until age 15, at which time she received a special grace of conversion, an immediate "change" in her character and interests: her only desire after this time was to love God with all of her heart, and she felt called to dedicate herself completely to him in the Religious life.
Her family, however, did not agree with Maria's sudden "whim" and believed she was simply overcome by an initial spiritual fervour. Their opposition to her religious vocation forced her to wait 20 years before she could enter a religious community.
These years of waiting were ones of deep interior suffering for Maria and in the end bore witness to her remarkable strength of spirit and fidelity to God's call. Throughout this period of trial, she was constantly sustained by deep Eucharistic devotion, which became the centre of her life.
During all these difficulties, Maria also found comfort in reading Story of a Soul, the inspiring autobiography of the Carmelite nun Thérèse of Lisieux (beatified on 29 April 1923 and canonized on 17 May 1925 by Pope Pius XI), which provided renewed impetus for the direction of her life and drew her ever more deeply into the Teresian spirituality, nurturing her own desire to become a Carmelite.
Entry into Carmel
Five years after the death of her mother on 16 April 1920, Maria entered the Monastery of the Discalced Carmelites of Ragusa and received the name "Maria Candida of the Eucharist". On 23 April 1924 she made her solemn, profession, and six months later she was elected prioress of the Monastery.
For the first three years, she also served as mistress of novices and took the formation of the young Sisters most seriously. It caused great suffering for Mother Candida to see some Sisters taking their Rule "lightly", and one day she said to one of the nuns: "My daughter, why do you insult the Lord like this? Don't you realize that humanity needs you? Why do you let yourself to go off the path?".
As a result, Mother Candida taught the Sisters to live faithfully and coherently according to their Rule, that of the great Carmelite reformer of the 16th century, St Teresa of Avila.
She was also directly responsible for the expansion of the Discalced Carmelite Order in Sicily and founded the Carmel of Siracusa. Furthermore, she helped to secure the return of the male branch of the Order to Sicily.
Building Eucharistic spirituality
During the Holy Year of 1933, on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Mother Candida began to write a long and profound meditation on the Eucharist, fruit of personal experience and of the deepening of theological reflections based on those same experiences. In one of the most intense and profound pages of her work, Mother Candida wrote the following about the Blessed Virgin Mary, model par excellence of Eucharistic living:
"I want to be like Mary... to be Mary for Jesus, to take the place of his Mother. When I receive Jesus in Communion, Mary is always present. I want to receive Jesus from her hands; she must unite me with him. I cannot separate Mary from Jesus".
In 1947, Mother Candida was diagnosed with a tumour in her liver. After long months of painful suffering lived in resignation and peace, the Lord called Mother Maria Candida to himself on 12 June 1949. It was the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity.
Bl. Piety of the Cross (1842-1916)
Virgin, Foundress of the Congregation of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Tomasa Ortiz Real was born on 12 November 1842 in Bocairente, Valencia, Spain, the fifth of eight children to José and Tomasa Ortiz. As a child, she was known for her piety as well as her musical and acting talents.
When she made her First Holy Communion at 10 years of age, she received the grace to understand that Jesus was calling her to Religious life. This desire remained with her over the years, and after she completed her studies at Loreto College with the order of the Religious of the Holy Family of Burdeos, she asked to enter their novitiate.
Her father, however, considering Tomasa's young age and the political situation of the time, forced her to remain at home.
The 'Grace' of First Communion
Tomasa continued to grow spiritually and humanly, dedicating much of her time to prayer and to helping poor children, the sick and the elderly. She was earnestly searching out God's will and kept alive in her heart the grace she received on the day of her First Communion: to belong completely to God.
Although Tomasa tried on two occasions to enter the cloistered community of Carmelite nuns in Valencia, her health would not permit her to remain. She took this as a sign that God was not directing her to monastic life, and continued to pray for the light to understand his will.
It was after a mystical experience of the Sacred Heart of Jesus during prayer that Tomasa realized God wanted her to begin a new congregation, and to do this she sought guidance from her confessor, Fr Gualtero de Castro.
Third Order Carmelite
In March 1884, with the authorization of the Bishop, Tomasa and three of her companions began living together as the "Community of the Third Order of Our Lady of Mt Carmel", establishing their residence near Alcantarilla. Tomasa took the name "Piety of the Cross" and together with her Sisters, she began to assist the sick and orphaned children in a small, nearby hospital.
With the entry to the Community of other young women, the living quarters became too small and Sr Piety of the Cross decided it was necessary to open another community in Caudete.
Man cannot destroy God's work
It was not long, however, before a certain "tension" grew between the two communities of Alcantarilla and Caudete, and in August, the Sisters in Caudete went to "claim" those of Alcantarilla in order to begin their own institute, leaving Sr Piety alone with one other resident, Sr Alfonsa. This was an extremely dark moment for Sr Piety, but she lived it in prayer and faith, saying that "if this is God's work, man can do nothing to destroy it".
In this time of trial and desolation, Sr Piety sought light and discernment from Bishop Bryan y Livermore, who suggested that she and Sr Alfonsa participate in a month-long spiritual retreat at the Salesian Convent of the Visitation in Orihuela, and during it to consider a new foundation. This retreat helped Sr Piety understand much more fully the charism God had given her, and also inspired the name of the new congregation that she was to found, under the protection of St Francis de Sales.
Foundress of Salesian Order
On 8 September 1890, the "Congregation of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus" was born, with the mandate to help orphaned children, the sick and the elderly and thus "making known to men and women, especially the poor, the Father's Providential Love as it is manifested in the merciful Heart of Jesus on the Cross".
Mother Piety invited her "daughters" to "give good example, to teach the 'Our Father' to those who are unfamiliar with this prayer, to stretch out their hands to those who have fallen and to have charity for the entire world".
The Salesian Congregation grew rapidly, and Mother Piety, who did not attribute this foundation or her work to her "poor" efforts but to God alone, would often say: "I am poor and when I have nothing to give to the poor I give them my soul, my heart and my love, since love is worth much more than money offerings".
Mother Piety of the Cross died on 26 February 1916.
Bl. Matilde of the Sacred Heart (1841-1902)
Virgin, Foundress of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of the Church
Matilde Telléz Robles was born on 30 May 1841 in Robledillo de la Vera, Spain, the second of four children to Félix Telléz Gomez and Basilea Robles Ruiz. When she was 10, the family moved to Béjar where Matilde attended a private school while also receiving a solid Christian education at home from her parents.
Desire to live for God alone
When Matilde was still very young, she decided to give her life totally and forever to God, with the desire to win over as many hearts as she could for his Kingdom. She devoted much of her time to prayer and to the practice of virtue, and helped the poor and orphaned.
Matilde's father, on the other hand, wanted his daughter to marry and participate in social activities and functions, so he prevented Matilde from making her longed-for visits to church and dramatically reduced her prayer time. However, the young girl's love for God above all earthly pleasures was evident to everyone around her, and it was not long before her father finally consented to Matilde's desire to live for God alone, abandoning the idea that she get married.
The call to be a Foundress
Matilde was strongly assisted in her desire for prayer by the Association of the Daughters of Mary, of which she was later elected president, and she continued to help the poor and sick and to dedicate herself to prayer.
One day while deep in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament, Matilde felt called to begin a new religious institute that would be dedicated to Eucharistic Adoration and to helping the needy. Her spiritual director, Fr Manuel de la Oliva, approved this idea and with her father's permission, Matilde began the new foundation together with eight members of the Daughters of Mary.
The first foundation in Béjar
On 19 March 1975, Solemnity of St Joseph, when this group was to "officially" begin their new life together, only one young companion, María Briz, showed up at the house that had been prepared for them in Béjar. Although this was a great trial for Matilde, she placed her trust in God's Providence and did not succumb to discouragement; she instead went ahead with the foundation in Béjar, together with María Briz.
Matilde and María worked with orphaned children, the poor, the sick and shut-ins, and also opened a school for children. At home, their hours were spent in silence and prayer, especially in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.
Little by little, other young women asked to join them. A new foundation was also offered to them in the Province of Badajoz, where Matilde began a novitiate and opened a school for children, leaving the house in Béjar.
New Congregation is born
On 19 March 1884, Bishop Pedro Casas y Souto of Plasenda raised the institute to a Religious Congregation of Diocesan Rite, giving it the name: "Daughters of Mary, Mother of the Church". On 29 June 1884, Mother Matilde made her religious profession together with some of the other Sisters.
With an outbreak of cholera in 1885, Mother Matilde and her daughters put their lives at the service of the sick and their families. Shortly thereafter, Sr María Briz, Mother Matilde's faithful companion, died of contagion. She was 33 years old.
Expansion, new foundations
Notwithstanding the difficulties, initial hardships and misunderstandings, the new Congregation continued to grow.
In 1889 a new foundation was opened in Cáceres, and others were later opened in Trujillo, Almendralejo, Los Santos de Maimona, Villaverde de Burguilios and again in Béjar.
Mother Matilde attentively looked after the new communities and each one of her daughters with great care, teaching the Sisters complete trust in God's Providence and a sense of responsibility and charity towards the poorest of the poor. She was a "reference point" not only for the Congregation, but also for townspeople and even strangers.
On 15 December 1902, after many years of hard work, deprivation and fatigue, Mother Matilde suffered a stroke. She died two days later, on 17 December, at 61 years of age.
25 April 2004
Alexandrina Maria da Costa
María Guadalupe García Zavala
Laura Montoya Upegui
Eusebia Palomino Yenes
Bl. Alexandrina Maria da Costa (1904-1955)
Laywoman, member of the Union of Salesian Cooperators
Alexandrina Maria da Costa was born on 30 March 1904 in Balasar, Portugal. She received a solid Christian education from her mother and her sister, Deolinda, and her lively, well-mannered nature made her likeable to everyone.
Her unusual physical strength and stamina also enabled her to do long hours of heavy farm work in the fields, thus helping the family income.
When she was 12, Alexandrina became sick with an infection and nearly died; the consequences of this infection would remain with her as she grew up and would become the "first sign" of what God was asking of her: to suffer as a "victim soul".
The consequences of sin
When Alexandrina was 14, something happened that left a permanent imprint on her, both physically and spiritually: it gave her a face-to-face look at the horror and consequences of sin.
On Holy Saturday of 1918, while Alexandrina, Deolinda and a young apprentice were busily sewing, three men violently entered their home and attempted to sexually violate them. To preserve her purity, Alexandrina jumped from a window, falling four metres to the ground.
Her injuries were many, and the doctors diagnosed her condition as "irreversible": it was predicted the paralysis she suffered would only get worse.
Until age 19, Alexandrina was still able to "drag herself" to church where, hunched over, she would remain in prayer, to the great amazement of the parishioners. With her paralysis and pain worsening, however, she was forced to remain immobile, and from 14 April 1925 until her death — approximately 30 years — she would remain bedridden, completely paralyzed.
Alexandrina continued to ask the Blessed Mother for the grace of a miraculous healing, promising to become a missionary if she were healed.
Little by little, however, God helped her to see that suffering was her vocation and that she had a special call to be the Lord's "victim". The more Alexandrina "understood" that this was her mission, the more willingly she embraced it.
She said: "Our Lady has given me an even greater grace: first, abandonment; then, complete conformity to God's will; finally, the thirst for suffering".
Mission to suffer with Christ
The desire to suffer continued to grow in her the more her vocation became clear: she understood that she was called to open the eyes of others to the effects of sin, inviting them to conversion, and to offer a living witness of Christ's passion, contributing to the redemption of humanity.
And so it was that from 3 October 1938 until 24 March 1942, Alexandrina lived the three-hour "passion" of Jesus every Friday, having received the mystical grace to live in body and soul Christ's suffering in his final hours. During these three hours, her paralysis was "overcome", and she would relive the Stations of the Cross, her movements and gestures accompanied by excruciating physical and spiritual pain. She was also diabolically assaulted and tormented with temptations against the faith and with injuries inflicted on her body.
Human misunderstanding and incredulity were also a great cross for her, especially when those she most expected would "assist" her — members and leaders of the Church — were adding to her crucifixion.
An investigation conducted by the Curia of Braga resulted in a circular letter written by the Archbishop which contained a series of "prohibitions" regarding Alexandrina's case. It was the result of a negative verdict made by a commission of priests.
In addition and by way of spiritual comfort, after her spiritual director, a Jesuit priest who had helped her from 1934 to 1941, stopped assisting her, a Salesian priest, Fr Umberto Pasquale, came to her aid in 1944.
Nourished only by the Eucharist
On 27 March 1942, a new phase began for Alexandrina which would continue for 13 years and seven months until her death. She received no nourishment of any kind except the Holy Eucharist, at one point weighing as few as 33 kilos (approximately 73 pounds).
Medical doctors remained baffled by this phenomenon and began to conduct various tests on Alexandrina, acting in a very cold and hostile way towards her. This increased her suffering and humiliation, but she remembered the words that Jesus himself spoke to her one day: "You will very rarely receive consolation... I want that while your heart is filled with suffering, on your lips there is a smile".
As a result, those who visited or came into contact with Alexandrina always found a woman who, although in apparent physical discomfort, was always outwardly joyful and smiling, transmitting to all a profound peace. Few understood what she was deeply suffering and how real was her interior desolation.
Fr Pasquale, who stayed close to Alexandrina throughout these years, ordered Alexandrina's sister to keep a diary of her words and her mystical experiences.
In 1944, Alexandrina became a member of the "Union of Salesian Cooperators" and offered her suffering for the salvation of souls and for the sanctification of youth. She kept a lively interest in the poor as well as in the spiritual health of those who sought out her counsel.
'Do not offend Jesus anymore!'
As a "testimony" to the mission to which God had called her, Alexandrina desired the following words written on her tombstone: "Sinners, if the dust of my body can be of help to save you, come close, walk over it, kick it around until it disappears. But never sin again: do not offend Jesus anymore! Sinners, how much I want to tell you.... Do not risk losing Jesus for all eternity, for he is so good. Enough with sin. Love Jesus, love him!".
Alexandrina died on 13 October 1955. Her last words: "I am happy, because I am going to Heaven".
Bl. María Guadalupe García Zavala (1978-1963)
Virgin, Co-Foundress of the Handmaids of St Margaret Mary and the Poor
MaríaGuadalupe GarcíaZavala was born on 27 April 1878 in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico, to Fortino Garcia and Refugio Zavala de García.
As a child she was known for her piety and made frequent visits to the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan, which was located next to the religious goods shop run by her father. Her love for God was particularly demonstrated in her love for the poor.
'No' to matrimony, `yes' to Jesus
With uncommon transparency and simplicity, Maríatreated everyone with equal love and respect.
Although as a young woman she planned to marry Gustavo Arreola, she suddenly broke off her engagement when she was 23 years old. The reason: María"understood" that Jesus was calling her to love him with an undivided heart as part of the religious life, and she fully believed that she was called to do this by giving assistance to the poor and sick.
Foundress of the 'Servants'
When Maríaconfided to her spiritual director, Fr Cipriano Iñiguez, her "sudden change of heart", he told her that for some time he had the inspiration to found a religious congregation that would provide assistance to the hospitalized. He invited Maríato join him in this foundation.
The new Congregation, which officially began on 13 October 1901, was known as the "Handmaids of St Margaret Mary (Alacoque) and the Poor".
'Poor with the poor'
Maríaworked as a nurse, giving assistance to the first patients that were welcomed into "their hospital". Regardless of the poverty and lack of material goods
of the patients, compassion and care for the physical and spiritual well-being of the sick were the primary concerns, and Maríagave of herself wholeheartedly to carry out this task of love.
Sr Maríawas named Superior General of the quickly-growing Congregation, and taught the Sisters entrusted to her, mostly by means of her example, the importance of living a genuine and joyful exterior and interior poverty. She was convinced that it was only through loving and living poverty that one could be truly "poor with the poor".
Indeed, Mother Maríawas known for her simplicity, humility and willingness to accept all that came from the hand of God.
In times of "dire straits", Mother Maríaasked her spiritual director for permission to go begging in order to collect money for the hospital. Together with other Sisters, she would seek offerings until the needs of the hospital and patients were met, and would ask no more than was necessary.
The Sisters also worked in parishes to assist the priests and to teach catechism.
Risking life to help those hiding
From 1911 until 1936, the political-religious situation in Mexico became uneasy and the Catholic Church underwent persecution. Mother Maríaput her own life at risk to help the priests and the Archbishop of Guadalajara to "go into hiding" in the hospital.
She did not limit her charity simply to helping the "righteous", but also gave food and care to the persecutors who lived near the hospital; it was not long before they, too, began defending the sick in the hospital run by the Sisters.
The last two years of Mother María'slife were lived in extreme suffering because of a grave illness, and on 24 June 1963, she died at the age of 85.
During the lifetime of the foundress, 11 foundations were established in the Republic of Mexico.
Today, the Congregation has 22 foundations and is present in five different Nations: Mexico, Peru, Iceland, Greece and Italy.
Bl. Augusto Czartoryski (1858-1893)
Priest of the Salesians of Don Bosco
Augusto Czartoryski was born on 2 August 1858 in Paris, France, the firstborn son to Prince Ladislaus of Poland and Princess Maria Amparo, daughter of the Duke and Queen of Spain. The noble Czartoryski Family had been living in exile in France for almost 30 years, in the Lambert Palace. Here, with the hope of restoring unity in Poland, they continued to direct activities between their fellow Polish countrymen and the European chancellery.
Plans for a future Prince
It was already planned that Augusto would be a future "reference point" for this restoration and would carry on the "Czartoryski" name. God's designs, however, were to unfold differently.
When Augusto was 6, his mother died of tuberculosis; the disease was also transmitted to him, and for the rest of his life he would be plagued by ill health. Although he had to make "forced pilgrimages" with his father to Italy, Switzerland, Egypt and Spain in search of a cure, he never regained his health.
As he grew up, Augusto felt that he was not meant for the life of nobility, and one day, when he was 20 years old, he wrote to his father: "I confess to you that I am tired [of all the parties]; they are superficial entertainments that cause me anguish and I feel myself 'forced' to make acquaintances with others at these banquets".
Augusto already received spiritual direction from his tutor, Joseph Kalinsowski, who would later become a Carmelite, and who, before leaving for Carmel in 1877, wrote to Prince Ladislaus to suggest that it would be wise, considering the boy's love for God, to entrust him to the direction of a priest.
Encounter with Don Bosco
Prince Ladislaus accepted the counsel given by Augusto's tutor, and Fr Stanislaus Kubowicz began to guide him. Augusto was already feeling more and more called to religious life and was hoping for a clearer indication of what God wanted from him: this "decisive event" took place when he was 25 and met Don Bosco, founder of the Salesians.
When Don Bosco came to Paris and celebrated Mass in the family chapel of the Lambert Palace, Augusto saw in this holy founder and teacher the "father of his soul" and guide for his future. While Augusto remained quiet and withdrawn in the face of matrimony plans made for him by his father, he had no intention of continuing the "noble line". Indeed, after his first encounter with the Salesian saint, he was more resolute than ever to answer God's call by becoming a Salesian.
When his father gave him permission, Augusto would travel to Turin to meet with Don Bosco and participate in spiritual retreats. He became comfortable with the "poverty" of the Salesian Oratory and was not disturbed by his frequent ill health or his father's opposition; he instead saw God's hand in all these circumstances.
He would say: "If God wants this, all will go well since he can take away every obstacle. If he does not want this, then neither do I".
A 'Prince' for God's Kingdom
Don Bosco was somewhat reluctant to accept Augusto into the Salesian community: it took Pope Leo XIII to remove his doubts when he gave Augusto this message: "Tell Don Bosco that it is the Pope's will that he receives you among the Salesians".
Don Bosco replied: "Well then, my dear son, I accept you. From this moment, you are a part of the Salesian Family and I desire that you belong here until you die".
In 1887 he began his novitiate under the guidance of Don Giulio Barberis. The young man had to overcome many "habits" and adjust to community life, schedule, frugal meals and other sacrifices. All this he did with great serenity and abandonment to God.
When his father came to try to convince him to return home and accept his nobility as "Prince", he refused. On 24 November 1887, the day of his vesting in the hands of Don Bosco, the holy founder whispered into Augusto's ear: "Courage, my prince! Today we have conquered, and I can also say with great joy that one day when you become a priest you will do much for your Country".
One year as Christ's priest
Don Bosco died two months later. Augusto's health was also worsening and his father continued to try to dissuade him from becoming a priest, using his ill health as an "excuse".
When Prince Ladislaus asked the "help" of Cardinal Parocchi to dismiss him from the Saiesians, Augusto wrote: "In full liberty I made my vows and I did this with great joy of heart. From that day I continue to live in the Congregation with an immense peace of spirit, and I thank the Lord for allowing me to know the Salesian Family and for having called me to become a Salesian".
On 2 April 1892 he was ordained a priest by the Bishop of Ventimiglia, Although Prince Ladislaus was not present at the Ordination, a month later, coined by the entire family in Mentone, he reconciled himself with his son's decision and renounced his own dreams of prestige and nobility for Augusto.
Fr Augusto died on 8 April 1893 in Alassio, where he lived his year as a priest, occupying a room which looked out onto the courtyard where the children of the Oratory played. He was 35 years old.
Bl. Laura Montoya Upegui (1874-1949)
Virgin, Foundress of the Missionaries of Mary Immaculate and St Catherine of Siena
Laura Montoya Upegui was born on 26 May 1874 in Jericó, Antioquia, Colombia, the second of three children to Juan de la Crux Montoya and Dolores Upegui.
When Laura was only 2 years old, her father was killed defending his Country, and the family was left in extreme poverty after all their goods were confiscated. At such a time of deep misery and loss, Laura's mother gave an example of Christian forgiveness and fortitude that would remain impressed in her young daughter's mind and heart forever.
Childhood suffering, divine help
Following her father's death, Laura was sent to live with her grandmother. She suffered greatly from misunderstandings and the lack of affection, feeling she had been left "orphaned".
However, she accepted with love the sacrifices and loneliness she experienced and sought refuge in God.
As she grew older, she was especially sustained by meditation on Sacred Scripture and the strength she received from the Eucharist.
When Laura was 16, her mother decided that her daughter needed to help the family in its financial difficulties and told her to apply to become a teacher. Although Laura was culturally and academically "ignorant", having grown up without a formal education, she asked to enter the "Normale de Institutoras" of Medellín to receive training to become an elementary school teacher. She was accepted and stood out for her high marks among the students.
Called to 'teach Christ'
Laura began teaching in different parts of Antioquia. She did not limit herself to educating the students simply in academic knowledge, but sought to diffuse Gospel teaching and values.
She also felt called to the religious life, her heart set on God alone, and dreamed of one day becoming a cloistered Carmelite nun; at the same time, though, she felt growing within her the desire to spread the Gospel to the farthest corners of the earth, to those who had never met Jesus Christ.
She was ready to renounce her own "dream" of Carmel to be open to God's project, if his will was otherwise.
'An Indian with the Indians'
At one time during her teaching career, Laura felt decidedly drawn to helping the Indian population in South America and wished to insert herself into their culture, to "become an Indian with the Indians to win them all for Christ". Recognizing their dignity as human beings in an epoch when they were considered by many as "wild beasts", Laura wanted to destroy this racial discrimination and to personally sacrifice herself in order to bring them Christ's love and teaching.
On 14 May 1914, she left Medellín together with four other young women and headed to Dabeiba to live among the native Indians. This new religious family, assisted by the Bishop of Santa Fe de Antioquia and known as the "Missionaries of Mary Immaculate and St Catherine of Siena", was thought by some to be nothing more than a family of "religious goats", who were heading off into the wilderness to give the "beasts" a living Gospel catechism.
Laura, however, cared little for public opinion, even if some of the comments made came right from within the Christian community itself.
Pedagogy of love
Mother Laura composed for her "daughters" a directory and other writings (her Autobiography among them) to help them understand better their call to serve God among the Indians, and to live a balance between apostolic and contemplative life. She taught by example the "pedagogy of love" as the only way to teach the Indians, the way which allowed access into their heart and culture to bring them Jesus Christ.
Mother Laura died on 21 October 1949 in Medellín, after a long and painful illness. The last nine years of her life were lived in a wheelchair, where she continued to teach by example, word and writing. Today her Missionary Sisters work in 19 countries throughout America, Africa and Europe.
Bl. Eusebia Palomino Yenes (1899-1935)
Virgin, Professed Sister of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians
Eusebia Palomino Yenes was born on 15 December 1899 in Cantalpino, Spain, one of four children to Agustin Paiomino and Juana Yenes. Her father worked as a seasonal farmhand, and during winter months when there was no work, he was forced to travel to nearby villages to beg for food, with the little Eusebia at his side. Overjoyed to be in her father's company, she was too young to understand his humiliation in asking for "a loaf of bread, for the love of God".
When Eusebia was 8 years old, she made her first "encounter" with Jesus in the Eucharist and felt called to belong forever and completely to him. A short time later; she was forced to leave school and work to help the family.
Although she was young, she showed unusual maturity in caring for other young children, and when she was 12 she went to Salamanca with her older sister and worked as a nanny. Her love for God continued to grow and was expressed so well through the care she gave to the children.
Daughters of Mary
Every Sunday afternoon, Eusebia went to the Oratory at the "Sancti Spiritus" School run by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians; here she got to know the Sisters. Noting her maturity and responsibility, they asked if she could volunteer her time to help them.
She was immediately available to begin her "mission" and helped the Sisters in the kitchen, collecting firewood, cleaning the school, accompanying the students and running errands. She was always ready to "give a hand" and to transmit a joyful and simple spirit of service to those around her.
'Something deeper' in Eusebia
The students perceived that in Eusebia there was "something deeper" behind her habitual smile and simple way, and they found "excuses" to be with her, receiving counsel and comfort through her words and by her presence. But more than words, it was her life and simple way that spoke to the girls.
Although Eusebia's secret desire was to become a "Daughter of Mary", she did not ask to enter the Congregation because she was afraid she would be refused due to lack of money, resources and education.
She hoped, however, that "if I carry out well my duties here, for love of the Blessed Virgin, one day I will be her daughter in the Congregation". She confided this desire on one occasion to a visiting superior, who told her to "worry about nothing". In name of the Mother General, she accepted Eusebia.
On 5 August 1922 Eusebia began her novitiate and made her religious profession two years later, when she was transferred to the house of Valverde del Camino in southwestern Spain.
Not up to expectations
Upon her arrival the first day, she was openly derided by the youngsters of the school and oratory: she was "little, pale and ugly, with hands that are too big... plus, she has a dumb name", and obviously not what they expected.
Sr Eusebia, however, who felt like a "queen" living forever in the mansion of Jesus her King, remained indifferent to the unkind remarks. She began the next day to "roll up her sleeves" and to carry out her assigned duties: the kitchen, the laundry, answering the door, working in the garden and keeping company with the children at the oratory,
It was not long before the children were "taken up" by the stories she would tell them of the lives of the saints and of missionaries as well as anecdotes of St John Bosco; Sr Eusebia had an excellent memory and the gift of storytelling. Little by little, those who at first had judged and criticized her felt that there was something truly special about the nun and that she really cared about them.
Even outside of the oratory, the parents of the children, other adults and youth, seminarians and even priests sought out her "spiritual counsel". Although Sr Eusebia had no education in theological doctrine, her heart was full of God's wisdom and she made time for everyone.
Victim for the salvation of Spain
In the beginning of the 1930s, tensions and persecutions against the Catholic Church began in Spain, and Sr Eusebia once again made herself "available" to help. This time, she offered herself as a victim to God for the salvation of Spain.
Her offer was accepted and in August 1932 a mysterious illness struck her. Doctors were unable to diagnose this disease which was causing the limbs of her body to wind up, turning her into a "ball of yarn". Her asthma, which had always been "mild", had now worsened and added to her suffering.
Although the pain was excruciating, Sr Eusebia was always a gentle channel of joy and peace, treating those around her with great respect and appreciating those who took care of her.
Sr Eusebia died on 10 February 1935.
The echo of voices of the townspeople of Valverde could be heard following her departure: "A saint has died".
Bl. Nemesia Valle (1847-1916)
Virgin, Professed Sister of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St Joan Antida Thouret
Giulia Valle was born in Aosta, Italy, on 26 June 1847. Her father was a businessman and her mother ran a milliner's shop, assuring material well-being to Giulia and her younger brother, Vincenzo.
When Giulia was 4 years old, her mother died, and she and her brother were sent to live with relatives: first, on their father's side of the family in Aosta and then on their mother's side in Donnas. They were home schooled by a priest-friend of the family, who also prepared them to receive the sacraments.
The desert of loneliness
When she was 11, Giulia was sent to a boarding school run by the Sisters of Charity in Besancon, France. While the separation from her family caused her great suffering, the loneliness she experienced deepened her "bonds of friendship" with God and her total dependence on him. In Besancon, she mastered French, deepened her social graces and developed a sensitive kindness towards all.
Five years later, Giulia returned to Aosta. Her father had remarried and now lived in Pont saint Martin, and her brother, Vincenzo, had gone off on his own, telling no one of his whereabouts.
This was a great trial that heightened Giulia's feeling of solitude; but it also increased her sensitivity to those who experienced the same loneliness and suffering, and to show them kindness and concern.
'Jesus, empty me of myself'
At that time, a community of Sisters of Charity settled at Pont saint Martin and Giulia felt drawn to enter the Order, wishing to dedicate herself totally to God and others. On 8 September 1866, she entered the novitiate at the Monastery of Santa Margherita in Vercelli. This was the beginning of a deeper relationship with God and a more profound self-knowledge.
Giulia understood that she must be open to whatever God would ask of her, and from the beginning of religious life, her constant prayer became: "Jesus, empty me of myself, let me be clothed in you. Jesus, for you I live and for you I die...".
After completing her novitiate, she was clothed in the religious habit and received a new name, Nemesia, after a third-century African martyr. She was assigned to St Vincent's Institute in Tortona where there was an elementary school, courses in culture, a boarding school and an orphanage. She taught at the elementary school and also taught French to the upper classes.
The heart of Sr Nemesia
Here, Sr Nemesia was present wherever humble work was waiting to be done, wherever there was suffering to alleviate and wherever hardship prevented serene relationships. There was a place in her heart for everyone. Her reputation became repeated often on the lips of the people of the town: "Oh, the heart of Sr Nemesia!".
When she was appointed community superior at age 40, Sr Nemesia was disturbed, but one thought consoled her: being a superior entails "serving"; hence, she would be able to give of herself totally and thus face the new challenge. She outlined her programme in these words:
"Keep a quick pace without looking back, and concentrate on the one goal: God alone! To him the glory, to others joy; it is for me to pay the price and never to make others suffer. I shall be very strict with myself and full of charity to others; love freely given is the only thing that endures".
Methodology of novice mistress
On the morning of 10 May 1903, the orphans and boarding-school girls found a message for them from Sr Nemesia: "I am leaving happy, I entrust you to Our Lady... I will be with you at every moment of the day".
She set off alone to Borgaro where a new province of the Sisters of Charity had been opened. She had been assigned as novice mistress to the new candidates there.
Sr Nemesia's formation method was based on goodness, which teaches sacrifice out of love, as well as patience, which knows how to find the right way to reach each person according to her temperament.
The provincial superior disagreed with this approach and advocated a rigid method. Such a difference of views gave rise to serious disputes which led to reprimands and humiliations, all accepted by Sr Nemesia in silence and with a smile as she continued in her responsibilities.
Sr Nemesia's journey was nearing its end. Thirteen years had passed since her arrival in Borgaro. About 50 novices learned from her to walk the path of the Lord. She had given her all, and the Lord was now also asking her to "leave her novitiate" to others.
Sr Nemesia died on 18 December 1916. The prayer she had made her own from the start, "Jesus, empty me of myself, let me be clothed in you...", accompanied her throughout her life, and at the end she was able to say: "I am no longer for anyone".
Her self-emptying was complete.
5 September 2004
Pere Tarrés i Claret
Bl. Pere Tarrés i Claret(1905-1950)
Medical Doctor, Priest
Pere (Peter) Tarrés i Claret was born on 30 May 1905 in Manresa, province of Barcelona, Spain, to Francesc Tarrés Puigdellívol and Carme Claret Masats. His parents were deeply religious, which was a positive influence for his two sisters, Francesca and Maria, who both entered the convent.
Pere had a very joyful and open spirit and loved nature and helping others. As a boy, he assisted at the local pharmacy and the shop owner, Josep Balaguer, encouraged him to continue his studies in medicine.
'Federation of Young Christians'
In 1921 Pere transferred to Barcelona to study; he made the decision to follow his dream and one day become a doctor to help others.
During these years of study, Pere received spiritual direction from Fr Jaume Serra, a priest who encouraged him to enter the "Federation of Young Christians of Catalonia". This organization, which met regularly at the Oratory of St Philip Neri, worked for a renewal of the Christian spirit within society.
Pere was appointed President of the Federation, and with his openness and enthusiasm he knew how to give extraordinary "vigour" to the group. He was a beacon of good example for others, and his zeal motivated him to travel the roads of Catalonia in his little automobile (which he called his "instrument of work") as a lay missionary.
He spoke openly of God, the Church and Christian living to the youth and those who were gathered along the streets; he also assisted in the formation of new Federation groups.
His "secret" in the spiritual life was Eucharistic devotion and filial love towards the Mother of God.
Pere maintained a written correspondence with many members of the Federation (of whose federal council he was later appointed vice-president) and wrote articles that were published in the Federation's weekly paper.
In addition to his work within this group, the young man was also involved in Catholic Action. In 1935 he was appointed vice-secretary of the new diocesan committee; he later became secretary of the archdiocesan committee, having received the recommendation of the Cardinal, Francesc Vidal y Barraquer of Tarragona.
A refugee in his own land
A year later, having earned his degree in medicine, Pere began his residency in Barcelona. Here, together with Dr Gerardo Manresa, he founded a medical clinic for all those who needed assistance but could not afford it.
As a doctor, Pere was exemplary in his charity and life of piety. He never lost his habitual joy and was always available to help and speak to those who needed him. During the Spanish Civil War (July 1936-April 1939), Pere lived as a "refugee" in Barcelona because the persecution of Christians forced many into hiding; during this time he prayed, read and studied.
In May 1938 he was forced to enter the Republican army to provide medical assistance; these were eight long months of suffering for Pere, and living through the horrors of war probed deep into his soul. Day after day he wrote about his life on the battle front in his "War Diary".
Call to the priesthood
The war experience and assistance given to the wounded and dying made Pere understand the necessity for "spiritual assistance", and he felt that God was calling him to be a "doctor of souls" by entering the priesthood. As a result, he entered the Seminary of Barcelona on 29 September 1939 and was ordained a priest on 30 May 1942.
Fr Pere began by serving as a parochial vicar at the Parish of St Stephen Sesrovile, and a year later he was sent to the Pontifical University of Salamanca to study theology.
After he earned his degree in 1944, Fr Pere returned to Barcelona where he dedicated much of his time to Catholic Action, as well as providing spiritual assistance to religious congregations and material and spiritual help to the sick, especially the poorest of the poor. He also served as the diocesan delegate for the Protection of Women and as spiritual director of the "Magdalen Hospital" for female prostitutes.
Fr Pere lived his days to the full and had little time for rest; nonetheless, he carried out all his activity in peaceful recollection and a prayerful spirit. Everyone who came into contact with him was left with the impression that he was a very holy priest who truly cared, sacrificing himself for the spiritual and physical well-being of all, particularly the most desolate.
At the beginning of 1950, Fr Pere noticed that his health was deteriorating; shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. He accepted his illness and offered it up for the sanctification of priests, resolved to die "as a good priest".
Fr Pere said that it was a "joy to have the possibility to be a priest and to die in a continual act of love and suffering... worthy of the Heavenly Father".
Fr Pere died on 31 August 1950 in the clinic that he founded. He was 45 years old.
Bl. Alberto Marvelli (1918-1946)
Lay member of Catholic Action
Alberto Marvelli was born on 21 March 1918 in Ferrara, Italy, the second of six children to Luigi Marvelli and Maria Mayr. He was a lively child but also very thoughtful and reserved, most sensitive to the needs of others.
Growing up, Alberto was especially influenced by his mother, who was the "Good Samaritan" of the Marvelli family and always kept open house for the poor. It was not uncommon for Alberto to see half his meal disappear right before his eyes so it could be given to the hungry. "Jesus has come, and he is hungry", his mother used to say.
Together with the highly Christian education he received from his parents, Alberto learned to be a hard worker and to defend justice and truth according to the Gospel.
In June 1930 the Marvelli family moved to Rimini and Alberto began to attend the Salesian Oratory and Catholic Action group in the parish, where his faith was nurtured and sustained, increasing his awareness of his call to holiness. He would often say, "My programme of life is summed up in one word: holy".
Alberto was very athletic and loved all kinds of sports, especially bicycling; this was providential, because it enabled him to carry out his future apostolate and works of charity and assistance.
Catholic Action, life programme
In October 1933, following the unexpected death of his father on 7 March of that same year, Alberto began to keep a spiritual diary at age 15 in which he detailed his daily schedule: "I rise as early as possible each morning, as soon as the alarm rings; a half-hour of meditation every day, not to be neglected except for circumstances out of my control; half an hour at least dedicated to spiritual reading; Mass every morning and Holy Communion as regularly as possible; confession once a week normally and frequent spiritual direction; daily recitation of the Rosary and Angelus at noon".
When he was only 18, Alberto was elected president of Catholic Action. At Bologna University where he continued his studies, he was active in the Catholic organization, in addition to directing his Catholic Action group in Rimini. Every Saturday, upon returning home, he would give lectures, visit the poor and prepare programmes for the upcoming days. His primary concern was the plight of the poor.
Alberto graduated in 1941 with a degree in engineering and left immediately for military service, only to be exempted from it after a few months because two of his brothers were already in service.
Upon his return to Rimini, he was elected diocesan vice-president of Catholic Action. He began teaching in a high school, devoting his time to designing projects, to prayer (he was especially devoted to the Eucharist) and to helping the sick and poor.
A wartime hero of charity
During the Second World War, the Marvelli family was forced to move to Vergiano, seven kilometres from Rimini, because of the devastating air raids. After each bombing, however, at the risk of his own life, Alberto returned to the city to help the wounded, dying and homeless.
He gave to the poor what he had collected or bought with his own money: food, clothing, mattresses and blankets. Then, on his bicycle, he would carry what he could and distribute it to the needy. Sometimes he returned home without his shoes or even without a bicycle, all because he had given them to the neediest he met that day.
During the German occupation, Alberto was able to save many people from deportation to the concentration camps, courageously freeing them from the sealed carriages of the trains that were ready to leave the station of Santarcangelo.
Reconstruction, active in politics
After the liberation of Rimini on 23 September 1945, the Marvelli family returned to the city, now in ruins and without running water, electricity or sanitation.
The interim Authorities immediately entrusted Alberto with the allocation of housing. He proved to be an able administrator and a few months later became town councillor and a member of the Italian Society of Civil Engineers.
He also opened a soup kitchen and invited the poor to go to Mass and prayed with them, listening patiently to their troubles and worries, entrusting them all to God the Father. Alberto did not belong to any party at first, but joined the Christian Democrats after the war and became an active member of the Executive Committee. He understood politics as an important service of faith and justice to society.
He was one of the most popular candidates of the Christian Democratic Party and was respected by all, even by his political adversaries, the Communists, whose ideology he openly criticized; they acknowledged his honesty and profound dedication to the well-being of the community.
On the evening of 5 October 1946, as Alberto was cycling to attend a meeting for the local elections, for which he was a candidate, he was run over by an army truck and died a few hours later without regaining consciousness. He was 28 years old.
The scheduled elections were held as news of his death spread throughout the city, and many citizens decided to vote for him just the same. His mother, however, was elected in his place.
Bl. Pina Suriano (1915-1950)
Lay member of Catholic Action
Giuseppina Suriano was born on 18 February 1915 in Partinico, an agricultural centre in the Province of Palermo, Sicily, to Giuseppe and Graziella Costantino. She was always known as "Pina" and received the sacrament of Baptism on 6 March 1915.
Pina was particularly sensitive to the religious, loving atmosphere that permeated her home, and was most docile and obedient to her parents. Her calm spirit drew her to the simple things in life, and she perceived God's presence in everything around her.
Pina received her initial religious education from her parents and grandparents, and when she was four she began attending the nursery school directed by the Collegiate Sisters of St Anthony.
Early virtues, Catholic Action
In 1921 she went to public school in Partinico and was admired by her teacher for the virtues she demonstrated at such a young age. In 1922 Pina received her First Holy Communion and Confirmation, and the same year she entered the Catholic Action group.
When she was 12, Pina began to take an active part in parish and diocesan life and in Catholic Action. The parish became the "centre" of all of Pina's activities and she cooperated fully with the directives of her parish priest, Fr Antonio Cataldo. He was also her spiritual director and confessor.
From 1939 to 1948 Pina was secretary of Catholic Action, and from 1945 to 1948 she also served as president of Youth Catholic Action. In 1948 she began the Association of the "Daughters of Mary", of which she was president until her death.
Pina's involvement in Catholic Action served as her "spiritual foundation" and was vital to her apostolate. She always drew strength and inspiration from daily prayer and meditation, the sacraments, the Word of God and the teaching of the Church.
Outwardly peaceful and joyful, always ready to be at the service of her family, the parish and Catholic Action, Pina secretly suffered an unceasing interior martyrdom. She felt called to give herself entirely to God in the Religious life, but her desire was never to be fulfilled. Circumstances did not allow it: her mother was opposed to all of Pina's "religious activity", completely ostracizing the girl because she wanted her daughter to marry and settle down.
Pina once confessed: "The main reason why I give in to despair and cannot pull myself out of it is because of my vocation". Pina's vocation was not simply the fruit of her will and desire; she truly felt called to the Religious life and received spiritual direction which led her to understand that this was truly God's will.
Time and time again, Pina sought to embrace this life and understood that Jesus wanted her "all to himself" as "his bride". Her family, however, wanting her to marry, repeated that it was "better to have a dead daughter than one who was a nun".
Pina heroically accepted her failure to reconcile such contradiction, the inability to reach the goal to which she felt so called. She wanted to please God alone and resigned herself to live and accept this "dilemma" for love of her divine Spouse.
'Night of the soul'
Throughout her life, Pina kept a diary that revealed the "night of the soul" in which she was immersed up to her death. She once wrote: "Who can know of this drawn out and painful martyrdom I live and the tears I shed in silence? My soul cries out and is in danger of falling into a bottomless pit... it is a constant martyrdom of the heart". Pina also expressed the solitude that she experienced: "I feel alone and without help, human or divine, abandoned even by the One who is my entire life... I live in silence and do not answer back; I offer all this up to him".
It was clear, however, that Pina understood she was called to love: "Love for the Eucharist, love for the Cross, love for souls must be our ideal".
On 29 April 1932, with the permission of her spiritual director, Pina made a vow of chastity that she renewed every month. She tactfully declined the proposals of marriage that she received from those young men who were so impressed by her interior radiance and exterior beauty.
Finally, in February 1940, a ray of hope entered her soul when she received her parents' permission to enter Religious life. Saying goodbye to her family and companions of Catholic Action, she entered the Institute of the Daughters of St Anne in Palermo. But after only eight days she was forced to leave following a medical examination that revealed a heart problem. Pina continued to be a leader and reference point for Youth Catholic Action and the "Daughters of Mary", making it her aim to accept and transform all into love.
On Easter Tuesday, 30 March 1948, together with three other women, Pina offered herself as a victim for the sanctification of priests. She made this decisive sacrifice of her life in the hands of her parish priest, Fr Andrea Soresi. In early March of that year, the first signs of a violent form of rheumatic arthritis surfaced. Then on 19 May 1950, she suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack as she was preparing to go to Mass.
Giuseppina Suriano died at the age of 35.
3 October 2004
Anne Catharine Emmerick
Maria Ludovica De Angelis
Charles of Austria
Bl. Anne Catharine Emmerick(1774-1824)
Virgin, Autstinian Nun, Stigmatist
Anne Catherine Emmerick was born on 8 September 1774 in Flamesche, near Coesfeld, Germany, one of 10 children. Her parents, both peasants, were very poor and most pious.
Despite delicate health, Anne Catherine went to work on a nearby farm to help her family. Later, she learned to sew and worked as seamstress.
The young Anne Catherine loved to pray in the old church in Coesfeld and participate in Holy Mass. She was also especially drawn to the Way of the Cross.
Empathy, spiritual favours
Those who knew the girl were impressed by her deep understanding of the things of God and her wise counsel. By nature she was sensitive to the sufferings of others, and this quality flowed into her spiritual life, leading her to pray and suffer for the souls in Purgatory and the salvation of sinners.
Although Anne Catherine felt called to the Religious life, she was not admitted to a convent because she had no particular "gift" or "quality" to offer.
The Poor Clares of Münster finally agreed to accept her, on condition that she learned to play the organ. With her parents' permission, she went to stay with the organist's family in Coesfeld.
But Anne Catherine never found time to practice. The Söntgen family was so poor that she dedicated all her time to helping them. She even gave them the little money she had put aside to enter the convent.
Augustinian nun, silent suffering
In 1802, Anne Catherine, age 28, was accepted by the Augustinian convent at Agnetenberg. A year later she professed her vows and lived the religious life with such fervour that she was misunderstood by most of the nuns. This suffering she accepted in silence.
Although she suffered poor health and immense physical and spiritual pain known to her alone, she willingly performed the most burdensome tasks.
In 1811, the movement of secularization resulted in the suppression of the monastery, forcing the nuns to leave. Abb6 Lambert, a priest who had fled the persecution in France and was living in Dülmen, took on Sr Anne Catherine as a domestic.
Signs of a 'mysterious illness'
In a very short time, she became bedridden. By 1813 the stigmata appeared on her body, and it was not long before this "strange phenomenon" was known to all. The source of the pain that she had suffered all those years was now visible.
Dr Franz Wesener, a young doctor who for the next 11 years paid regular visits to Sr Anne Catherine, kept a diary of all of his encounters with the nun. He was impressed not only by this "mystical gift", but also by her concern for others and her patience and humility in suffering.
When she had the strength, she busily knitted for children, happy to help them, and received with kindness all the "curious visitors" who came to see her.
Due to its publicity, what Sr Anne Catherine dreaded most happened: an episcopal commission was sent to inquire into her life and the authenticity of these "signs". The examination was strict and humiliating, but the committee left convinced of the genuineness of the stigmata and the holiness of the "pious Beguine".
In 1819 the government also sent a committee of investigation. The nun was forcibly moved to a large room in another house, although seriously ill, and was kept under constant surveillance for three weeks. The commission departed without finding anything "suspicious".
At this time, the famous poet, Klemens Brentano, paid her a visit. To his great amazement, Sr Anne Catherine recognized him and told him that he had been pointed out to her as the man who would enable her to fulfil God's command, namely, to write down for the good of innumerable souls the revelations made to her.
Thus, for five years, they worked on recording her visions and revelations. Like so many others, the poet was won over by her evident purity, exceeding humility and patience in suffering.
'The Dolorous Passion'
In the summer 1823 Sr Anne Catherine's condition worsened but she continued to live her suffering united to that of Jesus. She had great devotion to Mary and prayed for the redemption of humanity. Dr Wesener recorded in his diary her express intention in this regard: "I have always asked God for the special gift to suffer and repair for those who, because of sin and weakness, are on the wrong road". On 9 February 1824, Sr Anne Catherine Emmerick died, and was buried in Dülmen.
In 1833 Klemens Brentano published "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Meditations of Anne Catherine Emmerick", which was followed by "The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary" in 1852.
Bl. Maria Ludovica De Angelis (1880-1962)
Virgin, Professed Sister of the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy
Antonina De Angelis was born on 24 October 1880 in San Gregorio, in Italy's Abruzzi region, the firstborn of eight children.
As a child, she was continually in contact with nature and was accustomed to working in the fields. She also learned from a very young age to be honest, sincere and hardworking, all of which she beautifully joined to a modest, simple demeanour.
Antonina was gifted with a great sensitivity to the needs and suffering of others and was very pious.
A calling to Religious life
In her heart, the young girl felt that God was calling her to the Religious life in the Institute of the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy, founded in Savona by Sr Maria G. Rossello, who died the same year that Antonina was born.
On 14 November 1904 she entered the Institute and was given the name "Sr Maria Ludovica". Exactly three years later she was sent to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where with quiet discretion she worked in the children's hospital where she was stationed.
Her 'programme': heart and soul
Notwithstanding a new culture and new language, Sr Maria Ludovica found it quite easy to understand others as well as to make herself understood. It was the charity of Christ that moved her; she did not "work" according to strategies or programmes but gave herself to God and others completely, heart and soul.
She began her service at the children's hospital in Buenos Aires as a cook and later was appointed the Superior of her Religious community. Under her guidance, the Religious "family" was united with the same purpose and ideal: the good of the children and undivided love for God.
Contemplative in action
Sr Maria Ludovica became a true instrument of God's love and mercy to those around her. With a peaceful spirit, strong determination and good will, her heart always focused on God and a perpetual smile on her face, she was truly a "contemplative in, action".
Those around her truly perceived the presence of God in her and of God's love for them through her.
Sr Ludovica's resolution was to "do good to every one, without discrimination". With her characteristic determination and trust in God's providence, she was able to get new operating and convalescent wards installed in the hospital and to obtain new medical equipment.
She also founded a convalescent hospital for Argentine children at Mar del Plata and was able to open a church. And in City Bell she started a farm so that the children could be provided with fresh produce.
For 54 years Sr Ludovica exercised her motherly care over the hundreds and hundreds of people of every age and social and cultural background who sought her counsel and comfort.
On 25 February 1962 Sr Maria Ludovica died, leaving a deep impression upon all those who knew her, especially the medical personnel with whom she had the most frequent contact and who were edified and inspired by her example.
As a testament to the esteem her colleagues had for her, the children's hospital was re-named in her honour after her death.
Bl. Charles of Austria (1887-1922)
King of Hungary
Charles of Austria was born on 17 August 1887 in the Castle of Persenbeug, located in Lower Austria. His parents were the Archduke Otto and Princess Maria Josephine of Saxony, daughter of the last King of Saxony. Emperor Francis Joseph I was Charles' great uncle.
Prophesy and prayer
Charles received a strong Catholic education and was sustained in his upbringing by the prayers of a group of persons who accompanied him from childhood, ever since a stigmatic nun first prophesied that he would undergo great suffering and that attacks would be made against him.
This is how the "League of Prayer of the Emperor Charles for the Peace of the Peoples" originated after his death; it became a prayer community ecclesiastically recognized in 1963.
Charles was personally devoted to the Holy Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and he cultivated the exemplary habit, following the example of his Master, of turning to prayer before making any important decision.
Happy marriage, King of Hungary
On 21 October 1911, Charles married Princess Zita of Bourbon and Parma. During their 10 years of outstanding Christian marriage, the couple was blessed with eight children. Even on his wife's deathbed, Charles declared to Zita: "I will love you for ever".
Charles became heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on 28 June 1914 following the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, an event which triggered the First World War. On 21 November 1916 he became Emperor of Austria upon the death of Emperor Francis Joseph. On 30 December of that year he was crowned apostolic King of Hungary.
Charles of Austria believed that his role as monarch and the office that he assumed was truly God's will for him, his path in order to follow Christ and to love and care for those under his reign, dedicating his very life to them.
Commitment to peace
As a result, he deliberately placed a commitment to peace, traditionally believed to be the most sacred duty of a king, at the centre of his preoccupations during the course of World War I.
As a noteworthy fact, he was the only political leader to support Pope Benedict XV's peace efforts during that war.
As far as domestic politics are concerned, despite the extremely difficult times, Emperor Charles initiated sweeping social legislation inspired by social Christian teaching.
Thanks to his personal life and convictions, the transition to a new order at the end of the conflict was made possible without a civil war; he was, however, sent into exile.
The Pope, who feared the rise of communist power in central Europe, expressed the wish that Charles of Austria re-establish the authority of his Government in Hungary; but two attempts failed, and Charles wished above all to avoid the outbreak of a civil war.
A king in exile
Charles was thus exiled to the island of Madeira. Since he considered his duty to be a mandate from God, he could not and would not abdicate his office.
Reduced to poverty, he lived with his family in a very old house that was reportedly constantly damp. Due to this fact, Charles became gravely ill, but accepted this as a sacrifice for peace and the unity of his peoples.
The exiled King endured his suffering without complaint. In a true example of Christian commitment, Charles forgave all those who had conspired against him, dying on 1 April 1922 with his eyes fixed on the Blessed Sacrament.
On his death bed he repeated the motto of his life: "I strive always in all things to understand, as clearly as possible, and follow the will of God, and this in the most perfect way".
Bl. Peter Vigne (1670-1740)
Priest, Founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament
Peter Vigne was born on 20 August 1670 in Privas, France, one of five children born to a textile merchant, Peter Vigne, and to Frances Gautier. Two of his sisters died while they were still infants.
True presence of Jesus
Well-instructed in the faith and mature for his age, when he was only 11 years old he was chosen by the parish priest to act as a witness, signing the parish register for baptisms, marriages or deaths.
Towards the end of his teenage years, Peter's life was suddenly transformed by a new awareness of the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
He received the grace to understand deeply that Jesus gave his life completely for love of us in his passion, death on the Cross and Resurrection, and continues to give himself to us in the Eucharist.
From that moment, Jesus Christ became the centre of his life and key to his faith, and he thus strongly felt called to become a priest.
In 1690 he entered the Sulpician Seminary in Viviers, and was ordained a priest on 18 September 1694 in Bourg Saint Andeol by the Bishop of Viviers. He was first sent as a curate to Saint-Agrève, where for six years he exercised his priestly ministry with great care and dedication.
Daily discernment and the passing of time led Fr Vigne to understand that he was called to "something more". His desire to work as a missionary among the poor was thus central to his decision in 1700 to join the Vincentians in Lyons.
Popular missions and the poor
Here he received a solid formation in conducting "popular missions", and with his fellow priests he began visiting towns and villages in the work of evangelization.
When he was 36, Fr Vigne understood that God wanted him to leave the Congregation in order to dedicate himself to helping the poor living in the countryside. He therefore became an "itinerant missionary", applying his own pastoral methods while submitting his ministry to the authorization of his hierarchical superiors.
For more than 30 years the dedicated priest tirelessly travelled the French roads of Vivarais and Dauphiné by foot or on horseback, regardless of the weather conditions. He preached, visited the sick, taught catechism and administered the sacraments.
Fr Vigne taught the faithful how to pray and spoke of the role of Mary, the "Beautiful Tabernacle of God among men".
In 1712 he came to Boucieu-le-Roi, where the terrain of the countryside favoured the erection of a Way of the Cross. With the help of parishioners he constructed a Via Crucis with 39 Stations throughout the village and countryside, teaching the faithful to "follow Jesus".
Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament
Boucieu-le-Roi became his home, and here he gathered a small flock of faithful women to accompany the pilgrims on the Way of the Cross and help them to pray and meditate.
On 30 November 1715, Fr Vigne founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. He clothed seven young women in the Religious habit and gave them the cross. They previously had led the pilgrims and for months had felt called to share a life of prayer and charity.
Their task, at the priest's invitation, was to assure continuous adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
And so it was that on 8 September 1722, the first "Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament" professed their vows.
Fr Vigne was also eager to help young people grow in their faith and Christian values, and thus opened schools and even established a school for training teachers.
Whenever he was in Lyons on business, Fr Vigne sought support and counsel from his former seminary tutors, the priests of Saint Sulpice, and from his confessor and spiritual director. Drawn by the Eucharistic spirituality of the "Priests of the Blessed Sacrament", founded by Mons. d'Authier de Sisgaud, he was accepted as an associate member of this society in 1724.
Giving without counting the cost
While Fr Vigne continued to accompany his young Congregation (who not only taught in the schools he founded but also served the sick in hospitals), he also dedicated himself to apostolic works and to writing books on spirituality.
When he was 70, the effects of exhaustion became evident. While preaching at Rencurel in the Vercors Mountains on 8 July 1740, Fr Vigne became seriously ill and died shortly after.
His remains lie in his beloved Boucieu.
Bl. Joseph-Marie Cassant (1878-1903)
Priest, Trappist Monk
Joseph-Marie Cassant was born on 6 March 1878 at Casseneuil, Lot-et-Garonne, France, the second child of a well-to-do family of fruit growers. He received a solid Christian education from his parents and later from the La Salle Brothers at their boarding school in his hometown.
Forgetful, small, weak, clumsy
Joseph-Marie was a vulnerable boy; his poor memory made study difficult, and his frail constitution tended to make him clumsy and "inefficient" in his work.
Such difficulties were an obstacle to his earnest desire to become a priest, and although Fr Filhol, the parish priest, agreed to help the boy with his studies, his "intellectual inability" still prevented him from entering the minor seminary.
It soon became clear, however, that Joseph-Marie was drawn to an enclosed life of silence, recollection and prayer, and so Fr Filhol suggested that he consider becoming a Trappist monk.
The 16-year-old boy agreed and after a trial period he entered the Cistercian Abbey of Sainte-Marie du Désert in the Diocese of Toulouse, on 5 December 1894.
A monk and his 'spiritual father'
The novice master, Fr André Mallet, was a true man of God, and understood the needs of souls, especially those of Joseph-Marie. From their very first meeting he said to the young man: "Only trust and I will help you to love Jesus!".
The monks of the community welcomed Joseph-Marie and admired his docility, happiness and child-like innocence.
Well aware of his own failings, Brother Joseph-Marie did not "close in on himself" but humbly accepted his condition. His inmost desire was to one day become a priest, and he believed that if it was God's will, he would overcome any difficulties.
Scruples, fear of abandonment
Fr André was a great help and support for Joseph-Marie, who was very sensitive and anxious; he needed continual reassurance and always "feared" being abandoned by his "spiritual father". Although "weak" in many areas, Joseph-Marie had the strength of character to persevere despite these obstacles.
He was determined to do everything purely for love of God, and always felt the need to read and write, jotting down important passages, prayers and reflections to direct him on this path.
Fr André taught his young disciple the "way of Jesus' heart", an unceasing call to live the present moment with patience, hope and love. Joseph-Marie's personal motto became: "All for Jesus, all through Mary".
On 24 May 1900 Joseph-Marie made final vows. Shortly thereafter, he undertook theological studies in preparation for the priesthood. He viewed all this primarily in relation to the Eucharist, the living presence of Jesus among us.
Studying caused him great humiliation, especially since his professor, a fellow monk, "lacked understanding" towards Joseph-Marie and his sensitivity, making him suffer greatly.
To Joseph-Marie's own amazement, he passed his examinations and was ordained a priest on 12 October 1902.
'Fulfilment' and illness
Great was his joy at finally becoming a priest and fulfilling his vocation. Not long after ordination, however, he began to show symptoms of well-advanced tuberculosis: the young priest had never spoken of his pain until it was impossible to hide it any longer.
In spite of a seven-weeks stay with his family at his Abbot's request, his health continued to deteriorate. The young priest returned to the monastery, where he was much loved, but he was soon sent to the infirmary.
Here, his physical pain worsened due to the infirmarian's negligence — the same monk who had been his professor of theology.
Throughout this exterior and interior "Calvary", Fr André was beside him, becoming more and more his spiritual aid and support, "helping him to love Jesus". Fr Joseph-Marie would say to Fr André: "When I can no longer celebrate Mass, Jesus can take me from this world".
Early in the morning of 17 June 1903 Fr Joseph-Marie Cassant died at the age of 25. He had spent 16 quiet years at Casseneuil and nine years in the monastery doing simple things such as prayer, study and work.
He lived his "ordinary" life in an extraordinary way, for love of God alone.
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