April 3 - St. Benedict the Black 1526-1589
The parents of St. Benedict were Negroes from Africa, who had been brought as slaves to San Fratello, a village in Sicily. There they embraced the Christian faith, and lived so exemplary a life in the fulfillment of all their duties that their master granted Benedict, their eldest son, his freedom. From his youth, Benedict was especially God-fearing. He was austere towards his body, not only through constant labor, but also through various types of voluntary mortification. He served his former master for a wage, and when he had saved enough, be bought a pair of oxen, with which he plowed as a day laborer. Because of his black skin and his lowly origin, he was often mocked and despised by his fellow laborers. He became acquainted with some hermits who followed the rule of St. Francis, their life so attracted him that he sold his small possessions, gave everything to the poor, and also led the life of a hermit in the vicinity of Palermo. Until he was 40 years old he served God in this manner in the practice of every virtue and austerity. Then an order was issued by Pope Pius IV that all hermits following the rule of St. Francis should betake themselves to one of the convents of the order. Immediately Benedict went to the convent of the Friars Minor at Palermo, and there continued to perform his former pious exercises in addition to the heavy work which he gladly took upon himself. After the example of our holy Father St. Francis, he observed the forty days' fast 7 times a year, he slept only a few hours on the bare floor, and wore a very course habit. Poverty and chastity he loved and guarded most scrupulously.
Because he was a model for all the brethren of the convent, he was appointed their superior, even though he was only a lay brother without any schooling. His holy example, his humble charity and self-abnegation had the effect that not only did no one despise him in his office, but rather was he venerated by all, and the inmates of the convent advanced in all virtue during his administration. At the expiration of his term of office, he went back to his duties in the kitchen with greater joy than he had previously entered upon his duties as superior.
In his 63rd year he was attacked by severe illness, which he recognized as his last. With profound devotion he received the last rites of the Church, and departed this life on April 4, 1589, at the hour he had foretold. Several years later his body was found still incorrupt, and emitting a pleasant odor. Veneration for him soon spread from Palermo through Italy, to Spain and Portugal, even to Brazil, Mexico, and Peru. Pope Benedict XIV declared him blessed, and Pius VII solemnly placed him in the ranks of the saints in the year 1807.
GOD IS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS
1. Notice that in St. Benedict there is verified anew what Holy Scripture so often declares, that God is no respecter of persons. Benedict was a Negro, the son of a slave, but because he was a true servant of God, the Lord granted him eminent graces, and glorified him through the church. Should you happen to be lowly in position, unattractive in person, and receive little attention from people, do not let this cast you down. "In every nation (and in every position) he that fears Him, and works for justice, is acceptable to Him" (Acts 10:35). 2. Consider that the elevated position of a person has no value in the sight of God: it will only require a stricter account. A Christian, then, when he achieves power and distinction, must on that account fear God all the more. Consequently, St. Paul exhorts masters to have patience with their subjects, when he says, "Their Lord is also your Lord" (Eph 6:9): and he warns the mighty against the perpetration of every injustice, since "he who does wrong, shall receive for that which he has done wrongfully" (Col 3:25). -- Have you perhaps allowed yourself to be misled into fearing God less because you happened to have a position of authority? 3. Consider that it should be with us even as it is with God; there should be no regard of persons. Truly, we must render respect towards everyone according to his vocation and position: "Honor to whom honor is due," says the Apostle (Rom 13:7), and St. Francis prescribes for his followers, "that they should approach everyone decorously as it is becoming." But where there is question of the salvation of souls or the purity of conscience, one may not allow oneself to be influenced by the position of the person or by any power in this world to depart even a finger's breadth from the right path. Neither may we despise a person because of his insignificant rank and unimportant appearance; under a poor garment there often beats a golden heart. As God, "who made the little and the great, also provides equally for all" (Wis 6:8), so ought we to render our love to all, since all are our brothers in the sight of the heavenly Father. May almighty God grant us among His benefits also the grace of this universal love!
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst enrich St. Benedict, Thy confessor, with heavenly gifts, and didst permit him to be distinguished in the Church through miraculous signs and virtues, grant us, we beseech Thee, that through his merits and intercession we may receive Thy benefits. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
April 16 - Marie Bernarde Soubirous 1844-1879
Born at Lourdes, France, on January 7, the oldest child of miller Francis Soubirous and his wife, Louise, she was called Bernadette as a child, lived in abject poverty with her parents, was uneducated, and suffered from asthma. On February 11, 1858, while collecting firewood on the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes, she saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in a cave above the riverbank. Her report provoked skepticism, but her daily visions of the Lady drew great crowds of people. Despite great hostility on the part of the civil authorities, she persisted in her claims, and on February 25 caused a spring to flow where none had been before. On March 25, the vision told her it was the Immaculate Conception and directed her to build a chapel on the site. In 1866, she became a Sister of Notre Dame at Nevers, and she remained there until her death on April 16. She was a member of the Confraternity of the Cord of St. Francis. She was received into this pious society after she had become a religious sister. Lourdes soon became one of the great pilgrimage centers of modern Christianity, attracting millions of visitors. Miracles were reported at the shrine and in the waters of the spring, and after painstaking investigation the apparitions were ecclesiastically approved. Bernadette was canonized in 1933 by Pope Pius XI.
From Dictionary of Saints by John Delaney
Apr 17 - St. Benedict Joseph Labre 1748-1783
In St. Benedict Joseph Labre there was realized the full meaning contained in the words of God: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the prudence of the prudent I will reject" (1 Cor 1,19). His entrance into the world took place at Amettes, France. He was the first-born of parents who were favored by God with 15 children.
It appears that the spirit of God, which moved him strangely throughout life, came over him at the age of 16, for, from that time forward, he lost all inclination to continue his studies. For that reason, too, his training for the priesthood, which his reverend uncle so earnestly desired, came to naught.
Because of poor health and lack of knowledge he was refused admission also among the Carthusians and the Cistercians. Then it was that he was interiorly instructed to imitate the life of St. Alexis, leave his native town, and his parents, live on alms, and visit the great shrines as a pilgrim. From that day on his soul was flooded with great peace.
His food was composed of the leavings that fell from the tables of others. Alms that had been given to him he gave to the poor. The rags of this beggar of the Lord covered a heart that glowed with love of God and neighbor, and the tenderest devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Mother of God. At Assisi he was received into the Confraternity of the Cord of St. Francis. He has been the pride of that pious society ever since.
His repulsive exterior caused him more pain than it did others, indeed, his sensitiveness on the subject was his most poignant suffering. He used to say: "Our comfort is not in this world." In Rome he was called the poor man of the Forty Hours' Devotion. On the day of his death, April 16, 1783, he dragged himself to a church in Rome and prayed there for two hours until he collapsed. He was carried into a near-by house, where he died that night most peacefully.
Immediately after his death the people proclaimed him a saint. The guardians of Christian morals, Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII, have proposed the beggar Benedict as an example to a generation steeped in materialism. The former beatified him, the latter proclaimed him a saint of the Church.
ON THE CONFRATERNITY OF THE CORD
1. How did this confraternity originate? It is well known that St. Francis of Assisi girded himself with a coarse cord in remembrance of the cord with which our dear Lord was girded. St. Dominic, the very close friend of our holy Father St. Francis, requested and obtained from the latter his cord and thereafter wore it steadfastly. This custom was soon imitated by many of the faithful. So it was that the Franciscan Pope Sixtus V established the Archconfraternity of the Cordbearers of St. Francis in the Franciscan basilica at Assisi in 1585. He, and other popes as well, enriched the confraternity with privileges and indulgences.
2. What obligations did the members of the confraternity assume? They were supposed to recite daily six Paters, Aves, and Glorias (five in honor of the Five Wounds of Jesus, one for the intention of the Holy Father to gain the indulgences). Then, too, they wore the blessed cord. Moreover, on the feasts of St. Francis, St. Clare, St. Anthony, and the Stigmata of St. Francis, they received the General Absolution, or the so-called indulgenced blessing, and on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Papal Benediction. There were, therefore, only a few obligations imposed upon the members of the Confraternity of the Cord, but the favors conferred were great.
3. What was the spirit of the Confraternity of the Cordbearers? At their reception the members were admonished to be mindful of the bonds of our Lord Jesus Christ. The cord was for them a reminder of the fear of God, of temperance, and of purity. Finally, they considered themselves as joyfully bound to the commandments of God. Love of Christ and virtue and fidelity to God, that was the spirit of the Confraternity which the members fostered in imitation of St. Francis and under his guidance. It was, it seems, a preparatory school for the Third Order.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Thou, O Lord, didst permit St. Benedict Joseph, Thy confessor, to attach himself to Thee alone by zeal in humility and love for poverty; grant us, through his intercession and merits, to despise all that is material and ever to aspire to what is heavenly. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Apr 21 - St. Conrad of Parzham 1818-1894
Conrad, whose baptismal name was John, was the son of the devout and honest couple George Birndorfer and Gertrude Niedermayer. He was born on a farm near the town of Parzham in Bavaria in the year 1818. From his earliest years he gave indications of his future sanctity by his modesty and love of solitude. The fervor of his devotion was noticeable especially when he prayed in church, the distant location of which was no hindrance to his visiting it frequently even in inclement weather. He was inflamed with great love for the Blessed Virgin, and each day fervently recited the rosary. On feast days he frequently made a journey to some remote shrine of the Mother of God. During such pilgrimages, always made on foot, he was constantly engaged in prayer, and when he returned in the evening, he was usually still fasting.
Having spent his youthful years on the farm, closely united to God by means of interior union with Him, he decided at the age of 31 to bid farewell to the world. After disposing of a very large inheritance, he received permission to be admitted as a lay brother among the Capuchins.
Immediately after his profession he was sent to the convent of St. Anne in the city of Altoetting. This place is particularly renowned among all others in Germany for its shrine of the Mother of Mercy, and hundreds, even thousands of the faithful come there daily. Because of the great concourse of people in this city, the duty of the porter at the friary is a very difficult one. As soon as he arrived, this charge was given to Conrad, who retained it until his death. Diligent at his work, sparing in words, bountiful to the poor, eager and ready to receive and help strangers, Brother Conrad calmly fulfilled the task of porter for more than 40 years, during which time he greatly benefited the inhabitants of the city as well as strangers in all their needs of body and soul.
Among the virtues he practiced, he loved silence in a special way. His spare moments during the day were spent in a nook near the door where it was possible for him to see and adore the Blessed Eucharist. During the night he would deprive himself of several hours of sleep, to devote the time to prayer either in the oratory of the brothers or in the church. Indeed, it was quite generally believed that he never took any rest, but continually occupied himself in work and exercises of devotion.
On a certain feast day, when he had ministered to a large number of pilgrims, he felt his strength leaving him. He was obliged to manifest his weakness to his superior. Obedience sent him to bed. Only three days later, little children, to whom the news of Conrad's sickness had not been given lest they be over saddened, gathered as by instinct around the friary, reciting the rosary. As Blessed Father Francis had died to the music of the birds he loved, so his son died with the voices of the children, these lovely creatures of God, ringing in his ears. On April 21, 1894, the Capuchin porter heard the sound of the Bell for which he had so patiently waited. For the last time he ran to the Door. But this time the Door was literally his Christ.
His heroic virtues and the miracles he performed won for him the distinction to be ranked among the Blessed by Pope Pius XI in the year 1930. Four years later, the same pope, approving additional miracles which had been performed, solemnly inscribed his name in the list of saints.
ON COMBINING THE CONTEMPLATIVE WITH THE ACTIVE LIFE
1. Already as a child, little John gave evidence of his piety, but he was not petted and coddled on that account. There were other pieties to be practiced. He
was taught to help in the house or in the fields, and these tasks he undertook cheerfully, thus laying the foundation for his later years. When his parents died, he became the pillar of strength to
the bereaved family, and work on the farm could proceed because "Big John" was not merely able but eager to do more than his share in wresting a livelihood from the soil. In spite of his heavy labor,
he found ample time for pious practices. We read that he joined no fewer than nine pious associations. Each one seemed to speak to him of some element of Christian piety in which he could afford to
make progress. This is a direct challenge to men and women of the present generation who consider it burden enough to belong even to one pious society. -- Do you belong to these, or do you possess
the material out of which saints are made?
2. As Brother Porter, St. Conrad merely continued to do what he had been taught to do in early life. Thought not a contemplative, he must attain to a contemplative's spiritual outlook whilst engaged in the busiest and most exacting services to others... A thousand times a day, perhaps, he must open the door and hold converse with strangers. Very well, he will see Christ in the busy world of men. He did not shrink away from the crowds. He spoke words of comfort to them and they went away solaced... At times he is wearied by the importunity of thoughtless people; he will them remember the weariness of his Lord. And so in the midst of his activities, he remained continually recollected in spirit with God. The religious whose life, like Brother Conrad's, is devoted in great part to external duties may take courage from this example of a fellow religious to learn how to use these very duties as stepping stones to God, the means "whereby he may enter into the inner life of the spirit." Let us thank Jesus that in His infinite love He has chosen us in preference to so may others, to combine the active life with the contemplative.
3. Considered in itself, the contemplative life is better and more perfect than the active. Christ Himself affirms this: Mary has chosen the better part. And St. Bernard, speaking of the active life, expresses himself as follows in his Sermons on the Canticle: God forbid that I should decry this kind of life, but still I would not say that it attains to perfect beauty. But the mixed life is preferable to the state of those who only lead the contemplative life. This is the opinion of the saints, especially St. Thomas, who wrote: As it is better to illuminate than merely to shine, so it is more perfect to give to others the fruits of our contemplation than merely to contemplate. And so when St. Francis wondered what was the will of God in this regard, he applied to Brother Sylvester to ask God to make His will known to him. He sent a similar message to St. Clare. Their prayers ended, both informed St. Francis that it was God's wish that he should devote himself to the mixed life of prayer and preaching. Brother Conrad shows us this type of life is possible both within and without the cloister. -- Have we reflected sufficiently on this in the past? Have we made the best use of the opportunities at our disposal to arrive at the perfection to which we have been called? If not, let us say in truth what St. Francis said in humility: Let us begin at last, my brethren, to serve the Lord our God, for hitherto we have done by little."
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH O God, who hast willed to open to Thy faithful the door of Thy mercy, we humbly beseech Thee, that through the intercession of Blessed Conrad, Thy confessor, Thou mayest bestow on us assistance for both time and eternity. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Apr 23 - Blessed Giles of Assisi d.1262
Two companions from Assisi had already joined St. Francis when Giles, a well-to-do young man of the town, heard about it. He repaired to the poor hermitage yard by Assisi, which the three occupied, and prostrate upon his knees, he begged St. Francis to accept him into his company. Francis presented him to the other two, saying: "See here a good brother whom almighty God has sent us." This was on April 23, 1209. On the same day, both went to Assisi, where Giles begged in God's name for a bit of cloth to make a habit. Giles divided his entire fortune among the poor. He was plain and simple in mind, of a mild temperament, but also full of power and energy when it served to accomplish anything good.
Recognizing humility as the necessary foundation for perfection, Giles sought humiliation and contempt, but fled from honors. Once when he was passing through the March of Ancona with the holy Founder and at some places special honor was shown to them, he said, "O my Father, I fear we shall lose the true honor if we are honored by men."
Giles entertained a great desire to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Places, and since Francis knew that he did much good everywhere by his holy example, he gladly granted his desire. The Apostle James at Compostela in Spain, then to the Holy Places of the Passion of Christ in Jerusalem. He also visited the sanctuary of the holy Archangel Michael on Mt. Gargano in Italy, and the town of Bari, there to honor St. Nicholas.
His whole appearance preached poverty, humility, and piety. He also utilized every opportunity to encourage penance and love of God. He endeavored to earn his livelihood mainly through manual work; whatever he obtained over and above his immediate needs, he at once gave to the poor; if he lacked necessities, he begged them for God's sake. Once a poor woman who was dressed in the barest necessaries asked Brother Giles for an alms. As he had nothing to offer her, he compassionately took off his capuche and gave it to her.
In the year 1219, at the great chapter of 5,000 brothers, St. Francis commissioned Giles to go to Africa with several companions, to preach the gospel to the Mohammedans. But they did not achieve their purpose. As soon as they landed in Africa, the Christians there, who feared a general persecution, led them by force to another ship which brought them back to Italy.
At this time Brother Giles was sent to the quiet convent of Perugia, which remained his abode until his death. He lived practically only for God. Even at his work, thoughts of the last judgment, of eternity, and of the glory of heaven constantly occupied his mind. Once when two distinguished gentlemen asked him to pray for them, he said: "Oh you do not need my prayers." "Why not?" they asked. Giles answered, "You live among all the comforts of the world and still believe that you will get to heaven; but I, a poor human being, spend my days in labor and penance, and yet I fear I will be damned." When he reflected on the joys of heaven, he was beside himself with longing. Often when the children in the street called out to him the mere word "paradise," he was rapt in ecstasy.
Pope Gregory IX had heard of the contemplative gift of Brother Giles, and being just then in the neighborhood of Perugia, he sent for him. When the pope began to speak to Giles about divine and heavenly matters, Giles at once went into an ecstasy. When he came to again, he humbly begged the Holy Father's forgiveness -- it was his weakness, he said, that he was immediately beside himself. The pope required that he give him some good advice for the administration of his burdensome duties. Quite confounded, Giles excused himself saying that he could not advise the head of the Church. But when the pope commanded him in obedience, he said, "Holy Father, you must have two eyes in your soul. The right eye must be kept on heavenly things; the left one, on the things of this earth, which you must regulate."
St. Bonaventure considered himself fortunate to have lived at the time when he could still see and speak with Brother Giles. When he came to Perugia as provincial of the order, Giles said to him one day," My Father, God has accorded you great kindness, since you are so learned and can, therefore, serve God so perfectly; but we unlearned ones, how shall we correspond to the goodness of God and arrive at heaven?" The learned general of the order answered him: "My brother, in order to get to heaven, it suffices that one love God, and a poor unlearned woman can love God as well as, maybe even better than, a great theologian." Thereupon Giles ran out into the garden that led to the street, and filled with joy, cried aloud, "Come, ye simple and unlearned men, and ye poor women! You can love God as well as, and perhaps even more than, Brother Bonaventure and the greatest theologians."
A religious of great learning, who, however, was much troubled with doubts concerning the virginity of Mary, came to Brother Giles for advise. The holy brother cried out, as he struck the earth with a stick, "Yes! yes! She was a virgin before the birth of Jesus!" and immediately a beautiful lily sprouted forth. Giles struck anew and said, "She was a virgin during the birth," and again a lily sprouted forth. Then he beat a third time upon the earth, saying the words, "She was a virgin after the birth," and the third lily sprouted forth.
Finally, pure as a lily, the soul of Brother Giles went to the vision of things divine, which he had so often contemplated. He died on April 22, 1262, on the anniversary of his entrance into the order, to which he had belonged for 53 years. His grave in the Franciscan church at Perugia is highly venerated. Pope Pius VI sanctioned the veneration accorded him from time immemorial.
CONCERNING THE GOOD INTENTION
1. What the divinely enlightened brother said to the pope and observed so faithfully himself, we, too, must observe. The right eye of our soul must be directed to things of heaven, while the left eye looks at the things of this earth which we have to deal with, that is, amid all our occupations the higher regard of our soul should be directed towards God, so that we may do everything according to His good pleasure and with good intention. Yes, the Apostle warns us always to bear about in our hearts the best, the most perfect intention, which desires nothing but the honor of God: "whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31). If we do everything as God wants it, and because it pleases God, we thereby promote His honor. Have you always been thus minded at your work?
2. Consider how precious in the sight of God our dealings become through our good intention. In order to make our good intention most perfectly, we should unite it with that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The first thing in the morning it is well to make the intention which Pope Leo XIII prescribed for the members of the Apostleship of Prayer, offering up all our works, prayers, and sufferings of the day, and everything else we do, for the purpose with which the Son of God, Jesus Christ, offers Himself to the heavenly Father in all the holy Masses of the day. What value our works must thereby acquire in the sight of God! United with the sacrifice of His Divine Son, they appear as a part of the holy sacrifice of His Divine Son, they appear as a part of the holy Sacrifice itself, and as He once assured St. Gertrude, God hardly knows how to reward such gifts sufficiently. Should that not inspire us never to forget this good intention and to renew it often during the day?
3. Consider how a good and pure intention in our actions preserves us in tranquility of heart and interior peace. That is it, in fact, that makes so many people restless and tortures them at their work but the thought of what people will say about them, or what success they will have in the eyes of the world. "If God were always the only object of our desires we should not easily be disturbed," says Thomas a Kempis (1.14). Let people think of us what they may, and let us not be fearful about the results which so often are not in our control. Doing what is assigned to us, and directing our whole intention towards God, we shall always preserve interior peace.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst deign to raise Thy blessed confessor Giles to the height of extraordinary contemplation, grant through his intercession that in our actions we may always direct our intention to Thee, and through it arrive at the peace which surpasses all understanding. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Apr 24 - St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen 1577-1622
Born at Sigmaringen of prominent family in the principality of Hohenzollern, in the year 1577, St. Fidelis received the name Mark in baptism. He was fortunately endowed both by nature and by grace, so that while he progressed in learning, he made still greater progress in virtue and piety. When he had completed his studies in philosophy and jurisprudence at the University of Freiburg in Breisgau, the parents of several young noblemen were looking for a tutor who would accompany their sons on a tour through the various countries of Europe. The professors at the university drew their attention to Mark, who qualified for the position by his moral as well as by his mental gifts. Mark accepted the position, as a result of which he spent 6 years traveling. To the young men who had been entrusted to him he pointed out, not only everything that was noteworthy from a worldly point of view, but he led them also to the practice of Christian virtue. He himself was to them an exemplary model, since in all the vicissitudes of these 6 years they never saw him get angry.
Upon his return, Mark followed the profession of a lawyer. He was soon much in demand because of his ability. But when he noticed that many lawyers, corrupted by money, did violence to justice, and that an attempt was being made to lure him also into that course, he gave up the dangerous career.
He had an elder brother among the Capuchins; and he, too, joined them in the year 1612. At his investiture he received the name Fidelis, the faithful one, and in his address, the superior applied to him the words of Holy Writ: "Be thou faithful until death, and I will give thee the crown of life." (Apoc 2, 10). The words were destined to be a prophecy concerning the new candidate in the order. After Fidelis had completed his studies in theology and had received holy orders, he preached the word of God with great zeal. Meanwhile, he was a model in all the conventual practices, and evinced such wisdom that a few years later the superiors appointed him guardian.
In this position he strove earnestly to promote in his subjects religious perfection, tolerating no violation of it. But he was stricter with himself in this regard than with any of his brethren; towards all the others he cherished truly maternal solicitude and charity. Whenever the salvation of a soul was concerned, no sacrifice was too great. When he was guardian at Feldkirch, a pestilential disease raged among the soldiers there; at once Father Fidelis betook himself to them and tendered them every possible service.
In the year 1622, the Congregation of the Propaganda, which had just been founded by Pope Gregory XV, established a mission for the Grisons in Switzerland, to check the pernicious inroads of the Calvinists and Zwinglians. Father Fidelis was named the head of this mission. For a long time he had been begging God daily at holy Mass to grant him the grace to shed his blood for the Faith; now his prayer was about to be heard. Since Fidelis had the happiest results from the very first months of his mission activity, the rage of the heretics rose to great heights; his death was resolved upon. Fidelis was so convinced of it that on the morning of April 24th at Sevis he prepared himself for his last moments. Then he mounted the pulpit. During the sermon a band of armed heretics pressed into church. They dragged him down from the pulpit, and inflicted so may blows and cuts on him that he died at their hands.
God almighty glorified His martyr by many miracles, whereupon Pope Benedict XIV solemnly entered his name in the register of saints in 1746.
FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH
1. Consider how the holy martyr Fidelis remained true to his Lord and God throughout life. The fidelity which he vowed in baptism, he kept in all the circumstances and manifold dangers to which he was exposed. Not his youthful years at the university, not his many years of travel all over Europe, not the allurement of money in his position as a lawyer, not human respect while he was a superior of his convent, not danger to his life during the pestilence, not certain death from fanatical heretics, could make him waver in the fulfillment of his duties, in his fidelity to God. He was faithful unto death, therefore he also obtained the glorious crown of eternal life. -- Let us rejoice with him and wish him happiness.
2. We, too, would like to obtain the crown; but that will be the lot of only faithful combatants. "For he is not crowned except he strive lawfully" (2 Tim 2:5). You promised to do that in baptism as did St. Fidelis; at your first Holy Communion you solemnly renewed the promise. How do you keep it? Do you remain faithful to God in all things? In the dangers of youth? Amid unusual circumstances, for instance while traveling? Against the lure of money? Against the fear of displeasing men? In dangers of life? Even when certain death is imminent? Fortunate he who at the end of his life can say with the Apostle: "I have kept the faith" (2 Tim 4:7). For then there will also be a crown laid up for him. 3. Consider the means that will preserve us faithful unto death. It is firm and lively faith, and strong and fervent love of God. Faith enlightens us to acknowledge that everything else is as nothing compared with God and eternity: love strengthens us to suffer everything rather than displease our Lord and God. May the veneration and intercession of St. Fidelis obtain for us an increase in both these virtues.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst vouchsafe to enkindle in St. Fidelis the seraphic fire of charity, and didst adorn him with the palm of martyrdom and of astounding miracles in the propagation of the true Faith, so strengthen us by Thy grace in faith and in charity that we may merit to be found faithful in Thy service unto death. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
April 28 - Blessed Luchesio (Lucius)
Luchesio Modestini was a merchant in the little town of Poggibonzi in Tuscany. More than most merchants, he was so entirely and solely concerned with material success that he was generally reputed to be an avaricious man. His wife, Buonadonna, was of a similar disposition. Then the grace of God touched the husband. He realized how foolish it is to strive only for worldly goods, of which he could take nothing with him to eternity, meanwhile forgetting about his soul's salvation, as he had, unfortunately, been doing until then. He began to practice works of mercy and to perform his religious obligations with fidelity; he succeeded in winning his wife over to a similar outlook on life.
Since they had no one to care for but themselves, and Luchesio feared that in conducting his business he might relapse into covetousness, he gave up his business entirely. He and his good wife divided everything among the poor and retained for themselves only so much acreage as would suffice for their support. Luchesio tilled this with his own hands.
About this time St. Francis came to Tuscany. After his sermon on penance, hosts of people desired to leave all and enter the convent. But the saint admonished them calmly to persevere in their vocation, for he had in mind soon to give them a special rule according to which they could serve God perfectly even in the world.
At Poggibonzi Francis visited Luchesio, with whom he had become acquainted through former business transactions. Francis greatly rejoiced to find this avaricious man so altered, and Luchesio, who had already heard about the blessed activities of Francis, asked for special instructions for himself and his wife, so that they might lead a life in the world that would be pleasing to God.
Francis then explained to them his plans for the establishment of an order for lay people; and Luchesio and Buonadonna asked to be received into it at once. This, according to tradition, they became the first members of the Order of Penance, which later came to be called the Third Order, (and then Secular Franciscan Order).
If Luchesio and Buonadonna were really the first Tertiaries, they must have become such not long after St. Francis founded his First Order in 1209. The first simple rule of life, which St. Francis gave to the first Tertiaries at that time, was supplanted in 1221 by one which Cardinal Ugolino prepared in legal wording. And in the same year Pope Honorius III approved this rule verbally. For this reason the year 1221 is often given as the date of the founding of the Third Order of St. Francis.
After Luchesio had put on the gray garment of a Tertiary, he rapidly advanced toward perfect holiness. He practiced penitential austerities, often fated on bread and water, slept on the hard floor, and at his work bore God constantly in his heart. His generosity to the poor knew no bounds, so that one day there was not even a loaf of bread for his own household. When still another poor man came, he asked his wife to look whether there was not something they could find for him. That vexed her and she scolded him severely; his mortifications, she said, had well nigh crazed him, he would keep giving so long that they themselves would have to suffer hunger. Luchesio asked her gently to please look in the pantry, for he trusted in Him who had multiplied a few loaves for the benefit of thousands. She did so, and the marvel of it! The whole pantry was filled with the best kind of bread. From that time on Buonadonna vied with her husband in doing good.
When a plague raged in Poggibonzi and the surrounding places, Luchesio went out with his laden donkey, to bring the necessaries to the sick. When he did not have enough to supply all, he begged for more from others in behalf of the distressed.
Once he carried a sick cripple, whom he had found on the way, to his home on his shoulders. A frivolous young man met him, and asked him mockingly, "what poor devil is that you are carrying there on your back?" Luchesio replied calmly. "I am carrying my Lord Jesus Christ." At once the young man's face became distorted, he cried out fearfully, and was dumb. Contritely he cast himself on his knees before Luchesio, who restored his speech to him by means of the Sign of the Cross.
The time had come when the faithful servant of God was to receive the reward for his good works. When he lay very ill, and there was no hope for his recovery, his wife said to him, "Implore God, who gave us to each other as companions in life, to permit us also to die together." Luchesio prayed as requested. and Buonadonna fell ill with a fever, from which she died even before her husband, after devoutly receiving the holy sacraments. Luchesio passed away with holy longing for God on April 28, 1260. At his grave in the Franciscan church at Poggibonzi many miracles have occurred. His continuous veneration as Blessed was approved by Pope Pius VI.
CONCERNING IMPERISHABLE TREASURES
1. Christ our Lord says in His Gospel: "The kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant seeking good pearls. Who when he had found one pearl of great price, went his way, and sold all that he had, and bought it" (Matt 13:45-46). Such a merchant was Blessed Luchesio, since, having been enlightened by grace, he found the costly pearl of true godliness. Then he desisted from his covetous chase after perishable goods, gave them up in order to inherit imperishable treasures, which now delight him in his beatitude with God, and will be his eternal joy. May we, too, find this costly pearl!
2. Consider what folly, on the other hand, it is to strive after temporal goods as is done by so many people. They place their body and soul in danger; they have troubles here on earth and hereafter. The body is exposed to fatigue, hardships, privations, and even danger to life; through falsehood and deceit, through disregard of the commandments of God and of the Church, the soul becomes laden with much guilt. And in the end, what does man achieve with the temporal goods he has acquired? "As he came forth naked from his mother's womb, so shall he return, and shall take nothing away with him of his labor" (Eccl 5:14). Must the same judgement perhaps be passed concerning your endeavors?
3. Consider that not everybody in this world can act as did Blessed Luchesio. Not everyone is free of obligations toward others, who are perhaps entrusted to his temporal care, nor has everyone the grace and the vocation for such extraordinary virtues. If anyone believes himself called by God in that way, he should seek counsel with his spiritual director. But everyone can and should strive, while following his occupation and business, to gather at the same time eternal and imperishable goods. He can do that if he conducts his temporal business as the special vocation assigned to him by God to acquire a livelihood for himself and his family; if through it he endeavors to be of service to his fellowmen; if he tries to promote Christian morality according to the best of his power, himself setting the good example; if, finally, he does not endeavor greedily to hoard what he acquires, but uses it well, gladly sharing it with those in need. "Blessed is the rich man who is found without blemish; and who has not gone after gold, nor put his trust in money nor in treasures" (Eccl 31:8).
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who in the plentitude of Thy mercy didst call Blessed Luchesio to penance and didst permit him to shine by the merits of piety and liberality, grant us at his intercession, that in imitation of his example, we may produce worthy fruits of penance, and through works of piety and charity merit forgiveness. Through Christ or Lord. Amen.
from THE FRANCISCAN BOOK OF SAINTS
edited by Marion Habig, ofm
Copyright 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Officers as of 1/10/2016
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS*
Donna Haro, OFS
Councillors at Large:
* eff. 1/1/2018
Fred Schaeffer, OFS