|By today's standards and most likely those of her day, the sanity of St. Rose of Lima would have been questioned. At least her behavior was judged to bestrange- she sought to suffer- because it made other people uncomfortable. The saints can do that to us, but Rose was at peace with God, regardless.
Born in Lima, Peru of Spanish parents, her life was one of penance and prayer. A very beautiful young woman, she resisted the efforts of her parents to have her marry. She even disfigured herself to appear unattractive. Her parents refused to allow her to enter religious life, and she obeyed them. But then she chose to live as are cluse in a garden shack practicing great austerity and spending long hours daily in prayer. She did become a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic.
The genuine holiness of Rose attracted many to her. One writer said of her that we should "remember the greatest thing about her; a love of God so ardent that it withstood ridicule from without, violent temptation, and lengthy periods of sickness." During her last years, even though she herself was ill, she cared for homeless children, the elderly, and the sick. She died at 31 in1617 and was canonized in 1671. She is regarded as the first saint of the Americas and is honored as the patroness of South America. The writings and spirituality of St. Rose reveal an appreciation of the role of suffering. She was willing to give up all for the love ofGod with an intensity that we must admire and with a dedication that we can imitate. St. Rose entered through the narrow door, a true disciple of Jesus!
|Giovanni Francesco Bernardone was born inAssisi (Italy) in 1182, the son of a well-to-do merchant.He learned his father's trade and became a skillful buyerand seller of cloth. At 20, he joined the Assisi army, indefeat he was taken prisoner. His release from prison wasfollowed by a year of serious illness during which hebegan to undergo a conversion of heart. Soon he heard aninner voice invite him to 'follow the master rather thanthe man." He returned to Assisi, gave up his former way oflife, and began to meditate and pray a great deal. Hedated his conversion from this period and in particularfrom his experience of meeting a leper while out riding.At first he backed away from the man, but then gave himsome money, kissing his hand as he did so. Francisreferred to this incident as the occasion when he "leftthe world." He visited the leper houses and the hospitalsoften, giving money and clothes to help the poor and sick.
While at prayer in the church of San Daminano outsideAssisi in 1205, Francis heard a voice from the crucifixsay to him three times, "Francis, go and repair my church,which is in ruins." Misunderstanding, he took the messageliterally, only to later learn that the Lord wanted him torebuild the Church which was experiencing scandal andheretical movements at the time.
Soon, in the presence of his father and the local bishop,Francis renounced his inheritance and stripped off hisclothing. He found a laborer's smock to wear, and thispublic renunciation of his inheritance and of the worldmarked his conversion to a life of poverty and dedicationof himself to God. He began to preach a simple message ofrepentance and peace. His impact was great, and within afew weeks, he was joined by a dozen or so disciples. Thusbegan the community of "lesser brothers,· known as FriarsMinor. He took his Rule to Rome to get officialrecognition, and in 1210 Pope Innocent Ill gave it verbalapproval. By 1220, the Order numbered about 5,000
For his part, Francis was totally committed to the Gospeland to the church. He responded totally to the Gospelcommand that preachers should take no possessions withthem, no money, not even shoes or a staff. He gave awayhis shoes, tunic, and staff and wore only the simple tunicand hood of the local shepherds, which he tied around hiswaist with a cord.
Francis loved all of God's creation, praising God inprayer and song for the gifts he discovered there. ButChrist was the center of Francis' life. He had ferventdevotion to the passion of Jesus, reverence for thehumanity of Christ in the crib, obedience to the church asthe official keeper of Christ's word, and adoration of theEucharist which was Christ's continued presence on earth.
Toward the end of his life, Francis would receive thestigmata, the marks of the wounds of his crucified Lord onhis hands, feet, and side; his final years were lived inmuch physical suffering. On October 3, 1226, Francisclosed his eyes on this life; in 1228, he was canonized asaint whose feast we celebrate each year on October 4.
|Born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195, St:Anthony was baptized "Fernando." He was educated bypriests of the local cathedral and, at 15 joined theCanons Regular of the Augustinians. After 8 or so years ofprayer and biblical studies, he was ordained. In a shorttime, he transferred to the Franciscans and took the name"Anthony.· His desire to be a missionary was complicatedby his poor health even at that early age
At attendance at an ordination, Anthony was prevailed uponto deliver the sermon. When the people heard him preach,they were so impressed that his career as a preacher wasunderway.
Anthony was assigned to preaching all over Italy and wassensationally successful. His sermons, noted for theireloquence, fire, and persuasiveness, attracted huge crowdswherever he appeared. His success as a convert-maker andconfessor was phenomenal. He settled in Padua after 1226;his bold and brilliant preaching, attacking corruption andwrongdoing wherever he saw them, completely reformed thecity. He worked to abolish debtors' prisons, helped thepoor, and worked ceaselessly and untiringly with heretics.
In 1231 , exhausted and plagued with dropsy, he died onthe way back to Padua in a Poor Clare convent just outsidePadua on June 13 at the age of 36. He was canonized thefollowing year and declared a Doctor of the Church by PopePius XII in 1946
Stories of the miracles St. Anthony wrought and of hispreaching prowess are legendary, and he was surely one ofthe greatest preachers in the history of the Church. Hiscontemporaries called him "Hammer of the Heretics" and"Living Ark of
the Covenant,• and he is known as 'Wonder Worker" for themiracles he wrought.
He is the patron of the poor and oppressed (alms given forhis intercession are called "St. Anthony's Bread"}, and heis probably most famous as the saint who is invoked whenone experiences the loss of an article.
| St. Aloysius was born of a princely familyOf Castiglione, Spain, in 1568. From his early years, hewas pious and already as a teenager, he was interested inthe revival of a true religious faith and practices.
Aloysius had opportunities to follow a military orpolitical career (he was a page in the court of the Medicis and Phillip II of Spain), but chose religious life, andat age 18, he entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).During his years of formation and preparation, hisspiritual director was another Jesuit saint, RobertBellarmine. The practice then, as now, was to combine theyears of study with some practical ministry experience. Hewas interested in instructing young people and was calledupon to care for the sick during the time of plague inRome. During the time of service, he became increasinglyweaker and died in 1591 at 23 years of age!
Even at such a young age, St. Aloysius exhibited greatstrength of character. He was a mature, intelligent, andremarkably decisive young man who was strong in hisreligious vocation. He was canonized in 1726 and declaredprotector of young students and later patron of Catholicyouth and of students in Jesuit colleges. If you ever findyourself in Spokane, Washington, be sure to visit GonzagaUniversity. Meanwhile, let us invoke St. Aloysius'sintercession for our young people, for all students, andfor ourselves that we might strive to be faithful to theGospel to which St. Aloysius Gonzaga committed his lifeand, intimately, in whose service, he gave his life!
|St. Cecilia is often pictured with amusical instrument -a small organ, a harp, or a viola. Shewas born in Rome in the 2nd Century during the time ofgreat persecutions. As a young girl she wanted to give herlife to God. Her parents forced her to marry a noblemannamed Valerian. In time, she converted him and his brotherTiburtius to the faith. All three of them died as martyrs.A legend says that Cecilia was struck three times on theneck with a sword
and lived for three days.
She asked the pope to make her home a church. St. Ceciliareminds us that the church has always recognized the valueof music and song she sang to the Lord in heart. Somethoughts and feelings are best expressed in music andsinging aloud!
|If he hadn't taken a trip with his bishop,Dominic would probably have remained within the structureof contemplative life; after the trip he spent the rest ofhis life being a contemplative in active apostolic work.
Born in old Castile, Spain, he was trained for thepriesthood by a priest-uncle, studied the arts andtheology, and became a canon of the cathedral at Osma,where there was an attempt to revive the apostolic commonlife of the "Acts of the Apostles."
On a journey to northern Europe with his bishop, he cameface to face with the then virulent Albigensian heresy atLanguedoc. The Albigensians (Cathari, "the pure") held totwo principles- one good, one evil- in the world. Allmatter is evil- hence they denied the Incarnation andsacraments. On the same principle they abstained fromprocreation and took a minimum of food and drink. Theinner circle led what must be called a heroic life ofpurity and asceticism not shared by ordinary followers.
Dominic sensed the need for the Church to combat theheresy, and was commissioned to be part of the preachingcrusade against it. He saw immediately why the preachingwas not succeeding; the ordinary people admired andfollowed the ascetical heroes of the Albigenes.Understandably, they were not impressed by the Catholicspokesmen who traveled with horse and retinues, stayed atthe best inns and had servants. Dominic therefore, withthree Cistercian, began itinerant preaching according. tothe gospel ideal. He continued this work for many years,being successful with the ordinary people but not with theleaders. . .
His fellow preachers gradually became a community, and in1215 he founded a religious house at Toulouse which was tobe the beginning of the Dominican order.
His ideal and that of his order, was to link organically alife with God, study and prayer in all forms, with aministry of salvation to people by the word of God. His1deal: contemplata tradere: "To pass on the fruits ofcontemplation" or 'to speak only of God or with God."
We celebrate the feast of St. Dominic on August 8.
|In her short life Elizabethmanifested such a great love for the poor and sufferingthat she has become the patroness of Catholic charitiesand of the Franciscan Third Order. The daughter ofthe King of Hungary. Elizabeth chose a life of penance andasceticism when a life of leisure and luxury could easilyhave been hers. This choice endeared her in the hearts ofthe common people throughout Europe
At age 14. Elizabeth was married to Louis of Thuringia (aGerman principality). whom she deeply loved. and borethree children. Under the spiritual direction of aFranciscan friar, she led a life of prayer. sacrifice andservice of the poor and sick. Seeking to become one withthe poor. she wore Simple clothing. Daily she would takebread to hundreds of the poorest in the land who came toher gate. Alter six years of marriage, her husband died onthe Crusades. His family looked upon her as squanderingthe royal purse, and mistreated her. finally throwing herout of the palace .. The return of her husband's alliesfrom the Crusades resulted in her being reinstated, sinceher son was legal heir to the throne.
In 1228 Elizabeth joined the Third Order of St Frances.spending the remaining few years of her life caring forthe poor in a hospital which she founded in honor of St.Frances. Her health declined and she died before her 24thbirthday in 1231. Her great popularity resulted in hercanonization four years later' Elizabeth understood wellthe lesson Jesus taught when he washed his disciples' feetat the Last Supper: the Christian must be one who servesthe humblest needs of others, even if one serves from anexalted position. Of royal blood, Elizabeth couldhave lorded it over her subjects. Yet she served them withsuch a loving heart that her brief life won for her aspecial place in the hearts of many. Elizabeth is also anexample to us in her following the guidance of a spiritualdirector. Growth in the spiritual life is a difficultprocess. We can play games very easily if we do not havesomeone to challenge us or share experiences so as to helpus avo1d pitfalls. Let the example of Elizabeth of Hungarymotivate us to use our g1fts (and everything has beengiven to us as a gift) in the service of others.
|St John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesusand his forerunner. Of all the saints who grace oursanctuary. John. son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, is theonly one to die before the death and resurrection ofJesus, the only one whose birth announcement isfound in Scripture.
We know a lot about John: we need only take our Bible andopen to Chapter One of the Gospel according to Luke. Therewe will find the announcement of his birth, his firstencounter with Jesus while both of them were yet in theirmothers' wombs, his naming.
Fear descended on all in the neighborhood. throughout thehill country of Judea when these happenings began to berecounted to the last detail. All who heard stored thesethings in their hearts saying. 'What will this child be?"and "Was not the hand of the Lord upon him?"
And later in this same chapter. we read. "The child grewup and matured in spirit.He lived in the desert until theday when he made his public appearance in Israel: aprophet to Israel . .. God's spokesman. Indeed, thehand of the Lord was upon him! And through him, the handof God would be upon many.
Jesus is thought by many to have been a disciple of John.He certainly heard of him and listened to him. Werecall that he came to the Jordan and was baptized byJohn. since Johns preaching called for a baptism ofrepentance and a tuning from sin. Obviously, Jesus wasbaptized for a different reason: "We must do this if wewould fulfill all of God's demands.'' (Mt 3:15)
In the Gospel according to John. John the Baptist "was aman sent by God, who came as a witness to the light... butonly to testify to the light, for he himself was not thelight. And so John testified to the light. proclaiming atone point. "Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes awaythe sin of the world!" In his final testimony, Johnwould say, "He must increase, while I must decrease."
John remained faithful to his role as the one chosen topoint out the Messiah, the promised one of God. Inhis. preaching John, like Jesus confronted the evil of hrstime. This fidelity to the prophetic call brought him intoconflict with the rulin power as he criticized Herod forliving with his brother's wife. This led to hisimprisonment and eventual death by execution at therequest of Herod's wife's daughter, who asked for the headof John the Baptizer on a platter.
Prophets often meet an untimely and violent death. John'sdeath would be an omen to Jesus of what lie in store forhim for he would be faithful to his call to be theFather's son and a suffering servant. As John gave hislife in service to the Father, so we are encouraged tooffer our lives to the Father, through the Son in the HolySpirit. Through John's perseverance! in the face ofpersecution, not losing heart but trusting in God who hadcalled him, we are reminded again of Jesus' words intoday's Gospel. Through our prayer relationship. ourpersevering and not losing heart, we, too willincrease and the Lord will increase in us!
|Born in Gascony, France. in 1581. Vincentde Paul grew to become a man known for his love for thesick and the poor. As a boy, he helped with the chores onhis fa1her's farm. tending sheep and caring for the otheranimals. Later. his father sent h1m to school where hestudied to become a priest, with little more ambition thanto have a comfortable life. However, the deathbedconfession of a dying servant of Countess de Gondi openedVincent's eyes to the crying spiritual needs of the peasantry of France.
Countess de Gondi persuaded her husband to endow andsupport a group of able and zealous missionaries who wouldwork among the poor, the vassals and tenants. and thecountry people in general. Vincent was too humble toaccept leadership at first but after working for some timein Paris among Imprisoned gally slaves, he returned to bethe leader of what is now known as the Congregation of theMission, or the .Vincentians. These priests,with vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability,were to devote themselves entirely to the people insmaller towns and villages.
Later, Vincent established confraternities of charity forthe spiritual and physical relief of the poor and sick ofeach parish. From these with the help of St. Louise deMarillac, came the Sisters of Charity, 'whose convent isthe sickroom, whose chapel is the parish church, whosecloister is the streets of the city." He organized therich women of Paris to collect funds for his missionaryprojects, founded several hospitals, collected relieffunds for the victims of war, and ransomed more than 1200galley slaves from North Africa. He was zealous inconducting retreats for clergy at a time when there wasgreat laxity, abuse, and ignorance among them. He was apioneer in clerical training and was instrumental inestablishing seminaries.
Most remarkably, Vincent was by temperament a veryirascible person - even his friends admitted it! He saidthat, except for the grace of God, he would have been"hard and repulsive, rough and cross.· But he became atender and affectionate man, very sensitive to the needsof others.
Pope Leo XIII made St. Vincent the patron of allcharitable societies. Outstanding among these is theSociety of St. Vincent de Paul, founded in 1833 by admirerFrederic Ozanam, and still a strong force in the Churchand world in the battle against poverty and thedegradation and dehumanization it brings. Vincent died onSeptember 27, 1660, and was canonized in 1737.
|St. Peter, Apostle, is as famous a figurein the Christian Scriptures as anyone - except, of course- for Jesus and perhaps St. Paul. Most of what we knowabout this fisherman-become-apostle we know from thebiblical accounts. The scriptural accounts show Peter asthe leader of the apostolic community, the one who seemsto have been the first to respond to Jesus' questions andoften enough, a person who was very capable of saying theright thing but unable to remain true to his commitment.We are all too familiar with his actions on the nightbefore Jesus died. We need to be as familiar with hisrepentance for those actions, too.
In the 21st chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus passes on toPeter the role of shepherding the flock. In the 16thchapter of Matthew's Gospel, Jesus calls Peter "Rock" andchooses him as the rock on which he will build his church.
In the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles,immediately after the descent of the Spirit on thedisciples, Peter, the fear-filled man who denied Jesus,began to publicly proclaim his name and the truth of hisresurrection. He became the leader that Jesus hadchosen him to be ... a servant leader who was nowempowered by the Spirit to risk his life for the sake ofthe name · Jesus."
Peter is acknowledged as the first bishop of Rome and,therefore, as the first Vicar of Christ, and,consequently, the first pope. And so whenever we thinkabout St. Peter, it would be appropriate for us to offer aspecial prayer for his successor as Bishop of Rome,presently Pope John Paul II. May the Lord bless hisministry to the church and to the world, a ministry whichis rooted in service modeled after Jesus, the GoodShepherd, whose mission it was is to bring "good tidingsto the poor."
|Once upon a time there was a man namedSaul. One day, Saul witnessed the stoning of a Christiannamed Stephen, "a man filled with faith and the HolySpirit." Like his Master, the crucified and Risen Lord,Stephen was accused of blasphemy by the religious leadersof Jerusalem. His sentence: death by stoning. Those whostoned Stephen laid their cloaks at Saul's feet. Indeed,"Saul concurred in the act of killing
After that, a great persecution of the Church in Jerusalembegan. "Saul began to harass the Church; he entered houseafter house, dragged men and women out, and threw theminto jail." Eventually Saul went to the high priest toreceive letters of permission to enter the synagogues inDamascus and arrest and bring to Jerusalem anyone he mightfind, man or woman, living according to the "new way."
On the road to Damascus, a light from the sky suddenlyflashed about Saul. He fell to the ground, at the sametime, heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why do youpersecute me?" To Saul's question, "Who are you, sir?" thevoice replied, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. • Thus begins the new life of Saul of Tarsus: Paul, Apostleto the Gentiles!
Saul had set out, in complete faith that he was in theright, to destroy the followers of the "new way," theChurch. God would take that zeal for righteousness, thatsingle-hearted desire, and redirect it to the service ofthis very "new way' he sought to destroy. Saul becamePaul, messenger of the Gospel, Apostle to the Gentiles,builder of the Church!
Paul receives from God the mandate to be the missionary tothe non-Jewish world, the Gentiles. We know, as hiswritings testify, that he was dauntless in this mission.He came to know this Risen Lord and to place his entirelife at his disposal. He would preach the Gospel whetherconvenient or inconvenient. And he would, like his RisenLord, lay down his life for his sheep. Paul, Apostle tothe Gentiles, was a pastor, a shepherd, after the heart ofJesus. May his writing, his love for the Lord, his desireto spread the Gospel of truth and life, his invitation tofaith, inspire us and help us to be aware of the God oflight who speaks to us "on the road" "on the way!"