Jul 8 - Bl Gregory Grassi and Companions
About 25,000 Catholics in China and 43 European missionaries won the martyr's crown during the so-called Boxer Persecution of 1900. The Boxers were a fanatical sect who hated all foreigners and especially the Catholic Church. With the approval of the empress dowager Tzu Chi, then ruling the Chinese Empire, they went about burning churches and murdering missionaries and their neophytes.
One of the principal promoters of the Boxer movement as the governor Yu Hsien who resided at Taiyuanfu, Shansi. In this city was also the residence of the Franciscan Bishop Gregory Grassi, vicar apostolic of northern Shansi, and his coadjutor, Bishop Francis Fogolla. Here were also a seminary and an orphanage. The latter was conducted by Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary who had arrived only the previous year.
During the night of July 5, Yu Hsien's soldiers appeared at the Franciscan mission and arrested the two bishops, two fathers and a brother, and seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Five Chinese seminarians, and eight Chinese Christians who were employed at the mission were also apprehended. In prison they were joined by one more Chinese Christian who went there voluntarily.
Four days later, on July 9, 1900, all of them were taken before the tribunal of Yu Hsien, some of them being slashed with swords on the way. Yu Hsien ordered them to be killed on the spot, and an indescribable scene followed. The soldiers closed in on the prisoners, struck them at random with their swords, wounded them right and left, cut off their arms and legs and heads. Thus died the 26 martyrs of Taiyuanfu, of whom all except three belonged to the First Order and Third Order Regular and Secular of St. Francis. They were beatified on January 3, 1943.
Five of them are Franciscans. Besides Blessed Gregory Grassi, who was 68 years old, and Blessed Francis Fogolla, there were Blessed Elias Facchini, a priest from Italy, Blessed Theodoric Balat, a priest from France, and Blessed Andrew Bauer, a lay brother from Alsace.
The seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, the protomartyrs of their congregation and its first members to be beatified, are Blessed Mother Mary Hermine Givot from France, the superior, Blessed Mother Mary of Peace Giuliani from Italy, Blessed Mother Mary Clare Nanetti from Italy, Blessed Sister Mary of Ste. Natalie Kerguin from France, Blessed Sister Mary of St. Just Moreau from France, Blessed Sister Mary Amandine Jeuris from Belgium, and Blessed Sister Mary Adolphine Dierkx from Holland. All were between the ages of 25 and 35.
There were five Chinese seminarians, all of them Franciscan tertiaries, ages 16 through 22. There were six Tertiary laymen who had been employed at the episcopal residence and mission, ages 62 to 40. There were three laymen who were not Tertiaries, ages 29 to 46.
Fourteen of the martyrs were natives of China and 12 were Europeans.
Beatified at the same time as these martyrs and commemorated with them on this day are three other Franciscan martyrs who died as victims of the Boxers in the province of Hunan. All three were missionaries from Italy, a bishop and two priests.
1. There are times when martyrdom is a sacred duty. Thus the martyrs regarded it. They testified to the words of our Savior: "What does it profit a man if her gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?" (Matt 16:26). In order to save our soul for eternity, we, too, must be ready to sacrifice blood and life rather than separate ourselves from God and our Faith. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us" (2 Tim 2:12). -- Have you always taken eternity into account?
2. Martyrdom is a great grace. Many of us shudder when we hear an account of the gruesome tortures inflicted on the martyrs, and we ask in fear, "How could they endure it?" But why should we be afraid? On the one hand, God never asks the impossible of us. On the other, when the decisive moment comes, the same good God raises the soul to such heights of love that it cries out with St. Paul: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or persecution, or the sword? But in all these things we overcome because of Him who has loved us" (Rom 8:35-37). -- No one, including yourself, has reason to become fainthearted or to despair.
3. Martyrdom beings a superabundant reward. Christ has assured us: "Greater love than this no man has than that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Therefore, making the sacrifice of our life for our best Friend, Jesus, cancels all our sins and all the guilt of sin and takes us at once to heaven. That is why the martyrs said to their torturers, in the words of the Machabees: "You indeed destroy us out of this present life; but the King of the world will raise us up to life" (2 Mac 7:9). -- Always keep eternity and the bliss of eternity in mind, and everything will be easy.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who desires that all men be saved and come to the acknowledgement of truth, grant, we beseech Thee, through the intercession of Thy blessed martyrs Bishops Gregory, Francis, and Antonine, and their companions, that all nations may know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent, our Lord. Amen.
Jul 9 - St. Nicholas of Gorcum and Companions
There were especially two dogmas of the Faith that were attacked by the heretics of the 16th century: the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff. The Calvinists in Holland persecuted with relentless fury the confessors of the Catholic Faith. The holy martyrs gave their lives particularly in defense of these two fundamental doctrines.
When the Calvinists, who had set themselves against all ecclesiastical as well as civil authority, took possession of the city of Gorcum, they retained 19 of the clergy as prisoners, though they had promised to let the inhabitants depart from the town without being molested. There were four secular priests among the prisoners, four priests of other religious orders, and 11 Friars Minor of the convent at Gorcum. The latter were the guardian, Father Nicholas Pieck; his vicar, Father Jerome of Weert; Fathers Wilhad, an old man of 90; Theodoric of Emden; Nicaise Jonson, a learned theologian; Godfrey of Mervelan; Anthony of Weert; Anthony of Hornaer; young Father Francis Rod; and 2 lay brothers, Peter van Asche and Cornelius of Dorstat.
Cast into a filthy prison, they were cruelly treated during the first night by the drunken soldiers. They seemed to vent their hellish rage principally against the guardian, Father Nicholas. Taking the cord which he wore around his waist and putting it around his neck, they dragged him to the door of the prison and threw the cord across it in order to hang him at once. But as a result of pulling the cord back and forth against its weight, the cord tore, and Father Nicholas fell to the earth unconscious. In order to make sure that he was dead or just for the purpose of outrage, the persecutors took a burning candle and burned off his hair and eyebrows, applying the flame also to his nose and open mouth. With a parting laugh of derision, they then left the motionless body in order to torment the others. They struck the face of the aged Father Wilhad with savage blows, but each time he merely said, "Deo gratias! Thanks be to God!"
After the miscreants had departed, Father Nicholas regained consciousness, for he had only fainted. As soon as he was able to speak again, he encouraged his brethren, declaring that in defense of the Faith he was ready to undergo the same torments again, and even more cruel ones, if it so pleased God, and as often as it pleased God. "For" he said, "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us."
On the following day several attempts were made to cause the friars, and in particular their superior, to apostatize. The Calvinists opened a discussion with them about the Blessed Sacrament and the primacy of the pope. But the heretics soon found themselves cornered by the clear proofs advanced by the guardian and his brethren. They hoped to be able at least to deceive one of the lay brothers, but he answered very simply that he was in accord with everything that his guardian had said.
Meanwhile, the relatives of Father Nicholas, especially his two brothers, were making every effort to obtain his deliverance. But, like a good shepherd, the guardian declared: "I will not leave prison unless my brethren come with me, and even though there were only one detained, and he the lowliest of them all, I would remain her with him." When his brothers declared that one could renounce the primacy of the pop without denying God, he showed them that he who separates himself from the pope, separates himself from the Church; and that he who renounces the Church, renounces Christ the Lord. And then he spoke with holy zeal: "I would rather endure death for the honor of God than swerve even a hair's breadth from the Catholic Faith."
Eight days later the confessors were taken to Briel, where the Calvinist leader had his headquarters. He had them all hanged there on July 9, 1572. With Christ they shared the disgrace of shameful death, but at the same time also a glorious ascension.
In 1867, at the solemn celebration of the day on which the holy Apostles Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom, Pope Pius IX canonized the martyrs of Gorcum.
ON THE PRIMACY OF THE POPE
1. Consider how Christ Himself established the primacy, that is, the supreme authority of the pope of Rome in the Church. He said to St. Peter: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt 16:18). And as the Church was destined to be founded on Peter, so did our Lord actually place him as chief shepherd over His flock with the words "Feed My lambs, " and "feed My sheep" (John 21:16-17). Peter was the bishop of Rome and died as such. The bishop of Rome that is to say, the pope, is therefore the successor of St. Peter, appointed by Christ as the supreme head of the Church. Whoever does not belong to his communion does not belong to the Church of Christ; he who separates himself from him, separates himself from the flock of Christ. That is why our holy martyrs preferred to suffer death rather than deny their allegiance to the pope of Rome. -- Thank God that you belong to this communion, and frequently assure our Lord that you would rather die than renounce the pope.
2. Consider the great benefits that accrue to us from communion with the pope. The supreme power of loosing and binding has been conferred upon him. It was to Peter that our Lord said: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever you shall bind on earth, it shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven" (Matt 16:19). Only those priests who are of the same communion as the pope can forgive us our sins. Moreover, it is through the pope that we are confirmed in the true teachings of Christ, for it was to Peter again that Christ said: "I have prayed for you that your faith fail not; and you being once converted, confirm your brethren (Luke 22:32). With the pope as the head, the unity of the Church is preserved, whereas those who separate themselves from him have been divided into a thousand sects. -- Acknowledge the pope, therefore, as the spiritual father of your soul, heed his word with childlike reverence, and pray earnestly for him who is solicitous for you and for all Christendom.
3. Consider how the power of the pope is attacked by those who have separated themselves from the Church. Not wishing to submit to his authority, they set about denying the validity of that authority. Hence, apostates are for the most part the most insolent enemies of the loyal children of the pope, as can readily be seen from the cruel tortures inflicted on the martyrs of Gorcum. The latter, however, gladly accepted all the torture and derision inflicted on them, even making the sacrifice of their lives to prove their fidelity to the Father of Christendom. Now they are partakers of the joys of eternity and are held in great esteem by the entire Catholic Church. -- When occasion presented itself, did you show similar courage and give proof of sincere adherence to the Vicar of Christ, or did you prove weak on such occasions? He who wishes to share the reward of the martyrs must also fight the good fight with them.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who did adorn the glorious struggle for the Faith which Thy holy martyrs Nicholas and companions endured with the laurel wreath of eternity, mercifully grant us through their merits, that we may do battle as they did on earth and so be made worthy to receive the crown with them in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Jul 10 - St. Veronica Giuliani 1660-1727
Veronica was born of devout parents at Mercatello in Italy. As a child she, too, was of a devout disposition, but inclined to be quite irritable, and, as she herself admits, would stamp her feet at the least provocation.
Her mother died when Veronica was only four years old. In her last moments she assigned each of her five children to one of the five wounds of Christ and bade them take their refuge there whenever they were troubled. Veronica was the youngest. She was assigned to the wound in the side of our Lord, and from that time on her heart became more tempered. Co-operating with the grace of God, her soul gradually went through a refining process by which she became an object of admiration in later years.
When Veronica came of age, her father believed she should marry, and so he desired her to take part in the social activities of the young people. But she had been made aware of another call, and she pleaded so earnestly with her father that, after much resistance, he finally permitted her to choose her own state in life.
At the age of 17, then, the young woman entered the convent of the Capuchin nuns at Citta di Castello in Umbria, where the primitive rule of St. Clare was observed. Imbued with sincere humility she considered herself the lowliest member of the community. At the same time she greatly edified all by her obedience and love of poverty and mortification. Sometimes she was favored with interior conversations and revelations. She resolved that she would reveal all such matters to her superiors and her confessor; she had neglected to do that when she was still in the world, and as a result she had often been misled by the father of lies.
When Veronica had spent 17 years in various offices in her community, she was entrusted with the guidance of the novices. She endeavored to imbue them with the spirit of simplicity and to lay a firm foundation for humility. She directed them to the truths of the Faith and the rules of the order as their safest guides on the way of perfection, and warned them against reading idly speculative books as well as against everything unusual.
Meanwhile, extraordinary things were beginning to happen to her. On Good Friday she received the stigmata, and later the Crown of Thorns was impressed on her head amid untold sufferings. After careful examination of the matters, the bishop sent a report to Rome. Then Rome appointed a commission, which was to put her humility to the severest test, in order to determine whether she was an imposter, a person deluded by the devil, or a person favored by God. She was deposed from her office as novice mistress, and deprived of every suffrage in the community. She was even imprisoned in a remote cell, no sisters were permitted to talk to her, and a lay sister who was made her warden was ordered to treat her like a deceiver. Finally, she was even deprived of holy Communion and was permitted to attend holy Mass only on Sundays and holy days near the door of the church.
At the conclusion of these trials, the bishop reported to Rome that she scrupulously obeyed every one of his ordinances, and showed not the least sign of sadness amid all his harsh treatment, but rather an inexpressible peace and joy of spirit.
The test had proved the admirable manifestations to be the work of God. But Veronica did not on that account deem herself a saint, but rather a great sinner, whom God was leading on the way to conversion by means of His holy wounds.
Having filled the office of novice mistress during a space of 22 years, Veronica was unanimously elected abbess. Only in obedience could she be prevailed upon to accept the responsibility.
Purified more and more by many sufferings, to which she added many austere mortifications, she went to her eternal reward on July 9, 1727, after spending 50 years in the convent. Because of her heroic virtues and the many miracles that were continually being worked at her tomb, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XVI in 1839.
ON THE MARKS OF HUMILITY
1. Consider the marks of humility as evident in the life of St. Veronica. She considered herself the lowliest of her sisters. He who is truly humble reflects upon his misery and weakness. He acknowledges that whatever good there is in him has been given to him by God, and that according to the measure of His gifts to him he ought to have achieved much greater perfection. Veronica, therefore, was sincere in believing that she was the least among her fellow sisters, just as St. Francis sis, and before his day St. Paul, who said: "Christ Jesus came into this world so save sinners, of whom I and the chief" (1 Tim 1:15). For the same reason, the humble man never rates his opinion over that of others, his merits above those of others, nor his abilities above other people's abilities. In his humility he considers others as being above him, and cheerfully takes the lowest place. -- Are these traits evident in you?
2. Consider how the humility of Veronica was tested by extraordinary humiliations. The evil spirit as well as our evil self-love can conjure up great things before a person, but neither of them can stand the test of humility. To endure humiliations is the way to humility and also an evidence of how much of it we possess. No matter how much they hurt human nature, the soul that wishes to become humble will say with the prophet: "It is good for me that thou hast humbled me" (Psalm 118:71). The more calmly and joyfully a person accepts humiliation, the greater progress has he made in humility. -- At what degree of humility have you arrived? Do you at least earnestly desire to acquire this virtue?
3. Consider that humility, which is the root of all other virtues, will also be evident in these virtues. If these virtues flourish and produce good fruit, it is a sure sign that humility is deeply rooted in the soul. There are especially three virtues that manifest the measure of our humility; they are patience, obedience, and mortification. The truly humble person calmly accepts adversities as his due; moreover, he is patient with himself and is not disturbed over his weakness and misery, which he has long since recognized. He takes pleasure in being guided by obedience and protected against his own frailty. And because he recognizes that he has been guilty in more points than one, he seeks to make satisfaction by penance and mortification. St. Veronica regarded the stigmata as a penance for her sins. We who are sinners can hope to participate in her glory only through the performance of works of penance.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O Lord Jesus Christ, who did glorify St. Veronica by the marks of Thy suffering, grant us the grace to crucify our flesh and thus become worthy of attaining to the joys of eternity. Who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.
Jul 12 - Bl John Wall and John Jones
John Wall, in religion Father Joachim of St. Anna, was the fourth son of Anthony Wall of Chingle (Singleton) Hall, Lancashire. He was born in 1620, and when very young, was sent to the English College at Douai. From there he proceeded to Rome, where he was raised to the priesthood in 1648. Several years later he returned to Douai and was clothed in the habit of St. Francis in the convent of St. Bonaventure. He made his solemn profession on January 1, 1652. So great was the estimation in which he was held by his brethren, that within a few months he was elected vicar of the convent, and soon after, master of novices.
In 1656 he joined the English mission, and for 12 years he labored on Worcestershire under the names of Francis Johnson or Webb, winning souls even more by his example than by his words. At Harvington to this day the memory of Blessed Father Johnson is cherished, and stories of his heroic zeal are recounted by the descendants of those who were privileged to know and love the glorious martyr.
Some of the charges raised against Father Wall when he was captured, were that he had said Mass, heard confessions, and received converts into the Church. He was accidentally found, in December 1678, at the house of a friend, Mr. Finch of Rushock, and carried off by the sheriff's officer. He was committed to Worchester jail, and lay captive for five months, enduring patiently all the loneliness, suffering, and horrors of prison life, which at that time were scarcely less dreadful than death itself.
On April 25, 1679, Father John was brought to court. His condemnation was a foregone conclusion. He was sent back to prison till the king's further pleasure concerning him should be known; and for another four months he languished in captivity. It was during this period that he was offered his life if he would deny his faith, "But I told them," said the martyr, "that I would not buy my life at so dear a rate as to wrong my conscience."
One of Father Wall's brethren in religion, Father William Levison, has the privilege of seeing the martyr for the space of four or five hours on the day before his execution. Father William tells us: "I heard his confession and communicated him, to his great joy and satisfaction. While in prison he carried himself like a true servant of his crucified Master, thirsting after nothing more than the shedding of his blood for the love of his God, which he performed with a courage and cheerfulness becoming a valiant soldier of Christ, to the great edification of all the Catholics, and admiration of all the Protestants."
Father Wall's martyrdom took place on Red Hill, overlooking the city of Worcester, on August 22, 1679. His head was kept in the convent at Douai until the French Revolution broke out and the community fled to England. What became of it, then, is not known. The Catholics of Worcester found consolation in remarking, as a proof of his sanctity, that his grave always appeared green, while the rest of the churchyard was bare. A large crucifix was raised in the little Catholic churchyard at Harvington to the memory of this saintly son of St. Francis, Father Joachim of St. Anna.
Father Joachim of St. Anna was beatified under the name of Blessed John Wall, December 15, 1929, together with a fellow Franciscan, Father Godfrey Maurice Jones, and 134 companions.
ON THE VALUE OF THE SOUL
1. The human soul bears the stamp of nobility. God created the universe with one word. "Let it be made," He said, and it was made. But for the creation of man the Holy Trinity holds, as it were, a consultation: "Let us make man to Our own image and likeness" (Gen 1:26). And according to His image and likeness God created man. "Remember, O man," St. Bernard cries out, "your dignity!" Your soul is the image of God. Therefore the Holy Spirit warns us: "Keep your soul and give it honor according to its desert" (Eccli 10:31). Do not let material baubles dim the image of God that is in you,, nor let the evil spirit mar it. -- Have you preserved this image in yourself?
2. The soul has been bought at a great price. Jesus Christ came down from heaven, led a poor life here on earth for 33 years, endured untold pains, and finally shed His precious blood on the cross to redeem the souls of men. The church reminds us of this when she teaches us to pray in the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus: "Through Thy labors, through Thy fainting and weariness, through Thy agony and passion, through Thy cross and dereliction, deliver us, O Jesus!" But if Jesus did so much to save the souls of men, what sacrifice can be too great in our effort to save our souls? Ought we not, according to the admonition of the Apostle (Heb 12:4), strive against sin even unto blood?
3. The value of the soul surpasses that of all created things. Christ said: "What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?" (Matt 16:26). The soul outweighs all the things of earth, all treasures, honors, riches. Blessed John strove for a correct appreciation of material things, which are valueless when compared with our immortal souls. -- Have you always manifested this correct appreciation and given evidence of it in your action?
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who did marvelously create human beings, and still more marvelously redeem them, grant us Thy grace that with the knowledge Thou has given us, we may resist sinful desires and deserve to attain eternal bliss. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
July 13 - Blessed Angelina of Marsciano
Angelina was born in 1374 in the palace of her father, the duke of Marsciano, near Orvieto in the Papal States. Her devout mother was much pleased to note how the conduct of her child corresponded with the name she bore, little angel. The first words she uttered were the holy names of Jesus and Mary. She delighted in building little altars, which she decorated tastily, and around which she would gather other girls of her age to pray and sing.
Angelina lost her mother when she was but 12 years of age. Her attachment to Jesus Christ then became more intimate and she vowed perpetual chastity. But she had scarcely reached the age of 15 when her more worldly-minded father told her that he wanted her to marry the duke of Civitella. But Angelina declared that she wished no other than her heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.
The duke was filled with rage at her opposition. He gave her one week to decide, threatening to dispatch her with his sword if she persevered in her refusal. Angelina increased her prayers and penitential austerities, pleading with her Lord Jesus Christ, with the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, and the virgin disciple St. John to help her preserve the virginity she had vowed.
Then an interior voice prompted her to yield to her father's wishes and assured her that God would not forsake her. And God did help. Angelina's husband turned out to be a devout Christian, and, heeding her expostulations as well as her wishes, consented to live with her in perfect continence.
Two years after their marriage her husband died, and the young widow now devoted herself entirely to works of piety and charity. Together with several young women of the vicinity she entered the Third Order of St. Francis, and with them she undertook to care for the sick, the poor, the widows and orphans, and endeavored to win sinners back to the path of righteousness.
Angelina possessed the special gift of awakening in others a love for virginity. Many young women from some of the most distinguished families among the nobility, following her example, left their families and entered various convents. This aroused the ill-will of many people, and Angelina was severely criticized. Some even accused her of being a heretic and a disturber of the peace, saying that she condemned the married state and was disrupting the foremost families of the land. For this reason she was accused before the king of Naples.
The king invited the young duchess to appear before him. Angelina, having received from God knowledge of the king's intentions, appeared before him and his court carrying burning coals in the folds of her cloak. She exposed the king's secret intention of having her burned as a heretic, and disturber of the peace, showed how the coals she had brought had not injured her in any way, and declared herself ready to die upon the coals if it could be proved that she was guilty of the crimes with which she was charged. She attested that she had never condemned the married state, but that she had given due praise to the state of virginity. Struck by the miracle as well as by the words she uttered, the king dismissed Angelina with great respect.
A few days later she raised to life a young man, scion of one of the most prominent families. As a result, she was showered with honors from every quarter of the city. In order to elude them, she went into seclusion in her palace. But several young women of prominent families found their way to her there, and she was again accused before the king, who now banished her and her companions from the kingdom.
The little congregation praised God for the persecution that the world was heaping on it, and then repaired to Assisi. There Angelina was instructed in a ecstasy to go to Foligno, where God would take care of her. In this city she was cordially received by the inhabitants, who evinced great willingness to help build a convent for her and her companions.
There she established a community whose members took solemn vows and lived according to the rule of the Third Order. The Apostolic See sanctioned this sisterhood of the Third Order Regular, and confirmed the election of Angelina as the first superioress although she was then only 20 years old.
Later Angelina founded 15 other convents of the same type in various towns of Italy, and Pope Martin V appointed her abbess general in the year 1428. This office she administered until her death on July 14, 1435.
When she realized that her death was close at hand, she expressed the wish to make a general confession. She received the last sacraments with great devotion, and assembled her spiritual daughters about her for the last time. She admonished them always to remain faithful in observance of the rule and gave them her blessing. She was them rapt in ecstasy, during which this faithful bride of Christ was admitted to the eternal joys of Paradise. Pope Lei XII in 1825 confirmed the devotion paid to her from time immemorial.
THE CROSS LEADS TO SUCCESS
1. The works of God are usually opposed by the world. The apostles experienced that in propagating the Christian Church. Many saints experienced it in their various undertakings. Angelina experienced it in too in an exceptional measure. But it did not frighten her. It assured her all the more that her undertaking was the work of God and that He would assist her. How frequently also in our day do young people experience this opposition when they desire to enter a certain state of life. How often do souls who are urged to undertake a good work for the cause of God experience the same opposition. Do not allow yourself to become discouraged by such opposition and difficulty. It is a sign that you are undertaking a work that is pleasing to God. Call upon Him in your trial. He has promised to assist you: "I am with him in his trouble; I will deliver him and I will glorify him" (Psalm 90:15).
2. Consider that even in the life of the ordinary Christian, the cross is the only road on which he can arrive at salvation. "By the cross," says Thomas a Kempis, "you shall go into life everlasting. Dispose and order all things according as you will, and you will still find something to suffer, and so you shall always find the cross. If you carry it unwillingly, you make it a burden to yourself, and nevertheless you must bear it. If you fling away one cross, without doubt you will find another, and perhaps a heavier. If you carry the cross willingly, it will carry you, and bring you to your desired end, where there will be an end to the suffering." -- Who, then, should not be willing to walk the way of the cross courageously?
3. Consider that the souls who are guided by the Holy Spirit must tread the way of the cross throughout life. In the case of Angelina, when persecution from without ceased, she took upon herself the cross of penance and self-abnegation, adopting a very strict rule of life in a convent. Christ says to all: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23). You cannot be admitted to Christ in heaven if you are not willing to renounce your will and carry the daily cross of fidelity to Christian duty. May the virtues and the intercession of Blessed Angelina give us the necessary strength!
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who did adorn Blessed Angelina with the special gifts of humility and charity, and did increase Thy Church by the founding of a new congregation, mercifully grant that we may follow her virtuous example and may thus arrive at eternal joy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Jul 14 - St. Francis Solano 1549-1610
Francis Solano was born in 1549 at Montilla in the beautiful province of Andalusia, of distinguished and very devout parents. At the special request of his mother, he received the name of Francis in baptism, because she ascribed the fortunate delivery of the child to the intercession of the Seraphic Founder to whom she had recommended herself in her distress.
The boy grew to be a joy to his parents. While he was pursuing his studies with the Fathers of the Society of Jesus, his modesty, gentleness, and piety merited the esteem of his teachers as well as the friendship of his fellow students.
At the age of 20 he entered the Friars Minor. It was necessary to check his zeal rather than to stimulate it, for he knew no bounds in the practice of the strictest penitential exercises. In everything he chose the worst for his own use and spent the greater part of the night in prayer.
After he completed his studies and was ordained to the priesthood, he evinced tireless zeal for souls. The heroic sacrifices he made during an epidemic were especially admirable. He cared for the corporal and spiritual needs of the sick without any fear of infection. He became afflicted with the malady, but was miraculously restored to health. On every hand the name of Father Francis was spoken with the greatest reverence, and he was regarded as a saint. Such veneration offended his humility, and he requested his superiors to send him to the missions in Africa. But another field of mission activity was assigned to him.
Since the discovery of the New World by Columbus, the sons of St. Francis had been active in preaching the Gospel in America. The fearless missionaries advanced farther and farther in their effort to bring the message of salvation to the savage Indians.
In 1589 Father Francis was sent to South America with several members of his order. The provinces of Tucuman (Argentina), Gran Chaco (Bolivia), and Paraguay fell to his lot. He encountered countless hardships; nevertheless he began his mission activities with glowing zeal. He approached the Indians so courteously and kindly that they rejoiced at his very appearance. God Almighty assisted him in an extraordinary way. He learned the difficult language of the Indians in a very short time, and he was understood wherever he went, even in those places which he visited for the first time.
God also gave him marvelous power over hearts. Once when he was in the city of La Rioja, a horde of thousands of armed Indians approached in order to slay all Europeans and Christianized Indians. Francis went out to meet them. His words at once disarmed them. All understood what he said although they spoke different languages. They begged him for instructions, and 9,000 were baptized.
Francis would lay his mantle on roaring streams and sail across on it to the opposite shore. He placed his cord around the neck of a mad bull that had everybody in a panic, and led it away as though it were a lamb. Once when a swarm of wild locusts came up and hovered like a black cloud over the fields of the poor Indians, threatening to devastate the entire harvest, he commanded that none of them should alight but that they should depart to the mountains; at once they withdrew. Such miracles and benefits opened to him the hearts of all; they loved and revered him as their common father.
During the holy season of Christmas, he assembled his Indians around the crib, and taught them to sing the most beautiful hymns to the Christ Child, and he himself accompanied them on the violin. He often cheered the sick with song and music. Once he was seen sitting under a tree, playing his beloved violin, and the birds flocked about him and sang along.
After Father Francis had labored 12 years among the Indians, and had won an uncounted number of heathens to Christendom, he was called to the city of Lima in Peru. There Christianity had been established for a longer time, and many Spaniards lived there. But much wantonness and immorality prevailed in this large city. One day, led by divine inspiration, St. Francis passed through the town the way the prophet Jonas once did at Ninive, and proclaimed to the inhabitants the judgements of God if they would not be converted. They were all seized with fear. They called aloud upon God for mercy, and desired the holy sacrament of Penance. The worst sinners publicly declared their determination to reform. The saint thanked God for these fruits of grace, and in devout hymns at her altar gave praise to the Mother of Mercy.
He had labored untiringly for the salvation of souls in South America for twenty years, when God called him to Himself on the feast of his special patron, St. Bonaventure, July 14, 1610. The viceroy and the most distinguished persons of Lima bore the body of the poor Friar Minor to the grave. Almighty God glorified him after death by many miracles, especially in favor of sick children; yes, even dead children were restored to life at his grave. Pope Benedict XIII canonized him amid great solemnity in the year 1726.
CONCERNING SACRED SONG
1. Consider how St. Francis Solano softened the savage spirit of the Indians and made it receptive for Christian teaching by means of spiritual song. Singing exercises a powerful influence on the mind. Not only the words but the very melody has its effect. It affects the heart and inclines the mind, according to the character of the melody, to be worldly and sensual, or Christian and devout. When David, who later composed the psalms for the Israelites to sing, played on his harp for Saul, the evil spirit, who frequently plagued the latter, departed. -- Your mind, too, can be attuned to what is Christian and devout by sacred song. What kind of song has hitherto given you the greatest pleasures?
2. Consider that the Church has used vocal music made in her services from the earliest time, in order to glorify God on the one hand, and on the other, to edify the faithful. Thus the Apostle admonishes us: "Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God" (Col 3:16). The Israelites also sang at the command of God, and they were instructed to know their song by heart (Deut 31:19). The angels sang their song of peace at the birth of Christ, and the blessed will join the choir of heaven in singing God's praise throughout eternity. We should, therefore, have a high regard for the Church's sacred song, encourage it as much as possible, and cheerfully join in the singing ourselves. -- Do you do that?
3. Consider the qualities that singing must possess so that it may serve the purpose for which it is intended. It must be devout,since it should be a prayer, exalted prayer. But just as a prayer said without devotion does not reach the heart of God, so it is with thoughtless singing, no matter how loud we may shout in the process. Moreover, our singing should be intelligible, so that the words may serve to edify. The Apostle says: "I will sing with the spirit, I will sing always with the understanding" (1 Cor 14:15). In singing we should also keep in unison with the other voices, otherwise it will not foster devotion but rather disturb it. Whoever cannot sing in harmony should remain silent. Also, whoever believes he has an exceptionally good voice should not try to outsing the other singers; that may easily result from vanity, and then the devil rather than God is made to rejoice. If, however, like St. Francis, you employ vocal music for the sole purpose of honoring God, of edifying yourself and your neighbor, you will surely obtain grace and mercy for yourself and many others.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who through St. Francis Solano did lead many of the nations of America to the bosom of Thy holy Church, turn away Thine anger from us through his intercession and merits, and in Thy mercy impart to the nations who still do not know Thee the fruits of Thy holy name. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
July 15 - St. Bonaventure 1221-1274
Next to God we owe a debt of gratitude to St. Francis for the great Doctor of the Church and minister general of the Franciscan order.
Bonaventure was born at Bagnorea in the Papal States in 1221, and was given the name John in baptism. As a child of four years he became seriously ill and was given up by the physicians. Then his mother hastened to St. Francis, who was preaching in the vicinity just then, and begged him to come and heal her child. The saint acceded to her request; he prayed over the child, and immediately he was cured. St. Francis is said then to have uttered the prophetic words: "O buona ventura - O blessed things to come!" For that reason the child was called Bonaventure.
Endowed with most remarkable gifts of nature and grace and reared in the fear of God, Bonaventure entered the Order of St. Francis as a young man. Completing his year of probation with honor, he continued his studies under the great Alexander of Hales. The latter did not know what he should admire most, the talent or the virtues of the young religious. He used to say it appeared that Adam had not sinned in this young man.
During his student years, Bonaventure devoted many an hour to the contemplation of Christ's suffering and he was a zealous client of our Blessed Lady. It is reported that once when Bonaventure abstained from holy Communion for several days from a sense of humility, an angel placed the consecrated Host on his tongue. After his ordination to the priesthood he devoted himself with extraordinary zeal to the salvation of souls.
Because of his extensive and profound knowledge, he was appointed professor of theology at the University of Paris at the early age of 27. Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas, of the Order of St. Dominic, at that time shed the greatest luster on that institution. Garson, the great chancellor, remarked that the University of Paris had perhaps never had a greater teacher than Bonaventure. He grasped theology with his heart as well as with his mind, and it shed its radiance on his conduct as well as his words.
St. Thomas once visited him while he was engaged in writing the life of St. Francis. He found Bonaventure raised in ecstasy above the earth. Reverently he withdrew, saying to his companion: "Let us leave a saint to write about a saint." On another occasion Thomas asked St. Bonaventure from which books he obtained his unparalleled knowledge. Bonaventure pointed to the crucifix as his library.
In 1257, when Blessed John of Parma resigned the office of minister general, Bonaventure was unanimously chosen, at the recommendation of Blessed John, to fill this position. He governed the order for 18 years, and regulated everything that pertained to convent life and the external activity of the friars with such circumspection or prudence that he has quite generally been considered the second founder of the order.
Both by word and deed he defended the order against great and learned opponents. Franciscan convents had already been established in all parts of the world; Bonaventure divided them now into provinces. He also composed ordinances for the faithful observance of the rule which formed the basis for all future constitutions of the order. At the same time he patiently gave audience to the simplest brother and sometimes performed some of the lowliest duties in the convent. He prescribed that the Angelus bell be rung daily in all Franciscan churches. This beautiful custom soon spread throughout the Catholic world.
In spite of all the duties of this important position, the saint still found time to preach and to write books of great learning and holy unction. He had steadfastly declined all ecclesiastical distinctions. in 1273, however, Pope Gregory X obliged him to accept the bishopric of Albano and the dignity of the cardinalate. The pope himself consecrated him bishop and then entrusted him with the direction of the Council of Lyons. To the great satisfaction of the pope and the fathers of the Council, the schismatic Greeks also attended this assembly. At their arrival Bonaventure delivered an address, which he opened with the text: "Arise, O Jerusalem, and stand oh high: and look about towards the east, and behold thy children gathered together from the rising to the setting sun." (Bar. 5:5). Due to his efforts, the Orientals were reunited to the Church of Rome.
Worn out by the heavy strain, he fell ill after the third session. The end came very rapidly; the pope himself administered extreme unction. With his eyes directed toward the crucifix, Bonaventure died during the night between the 14th and 15th of July, 1274. Seldom if ever was there a grander funeral. The pope and all the members of the Council attended.
Sixtus IV canonized him in 1482. Sixtus V gave him the title of Doctor of the Church in 1587. Because of the ardent love which marks his writings, he is called the Seraphic Doctor.
ON THE LOVE OF GOD
1. Let us give our thoughts to what the Seraphic Doctor says on the love of God. He tells us that it should be the aim of our lives, according to the words of our Lord: "This is the greatest and the first commandment: You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind" (Matt 22:387-38). Not as though the love of God were the only virtue and that we need not concern ourselves about any other, but without the love of God the other virtues are not true virtues and cannot lead to salvation. Moreover, the other virtues derive their luster and strength from the love of God, as material things do from the sun. -- Unless your industry, temperance, charitable activity, and even your piety are enlivened and filled with the love of God, they are worthless. Have you given this sufficient consideration in the past?
2. Consider that the love of God is of such inestimable value because it excludes all sin. "To love God," says the Seraphic Doctor, "means to wish God well. But every sin is something evil, an offense against God. Hence, sin cannot co-exist with the true love of God." The more perfect your love of God is, the more you will abstain from sin. It is, of course, true that the perfect love of God, which implies that all our acts and desires are directed towards God alone, is not possible here upon earth; it will constitute our bliss in eternity. Nevertheless, even here on earth the love of God must exclude everything that is displeasing to God. -- If you still fall into many sins, is it due to the fact that you do not love God enough?
3. Consider whence St. Bonaventure derived his ardent love of God. It was from keeping his eyes on the crucifix and meditating on the sufferings of Christ. "The wounds of Jesus," he said, "are arrows that wound the hardest hearts, and flames that kindle the coldest souls." Whoever truly contemplates our suffering Savior on the cross can hardly yield to sin. The love of Him who loved us to such great lengths must of necessity fill us with zeal to avoid whatever displeases Him and to make our hearts agreeable to Him. May the powerful intercession of the great Doctor of the Church assist us in following his words and example.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who did give the holy confessor and bishop Bonaventure to the Church as an admirable teacher, mercifully grant that she may merit at all times to have him for her intercessor. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
July 15 - Most holy Sepulchre of our Lord Jesus Christ
It was on July 15, 1099, that the First Crusade freed Jerusalem from the Saracens. Since 1917, the Franciscans, inasmuch as they are the custodians of the holy places, are privileged to celebrate this special feast of the Holy Sepulchre on July 15.
July 21 - St. Lawrence of Brindisi 1559-1619
Lawrence was one of the greatest ornaments of the Capuchin Order, and deserved well of both Church and State at the beginning of the 17th century. He was born at Brindisi in the kingdom of Naples in 1559.
From his tenderest years he evinced rare gifts of nature and grace. In remembrance of Jesus in the Temple at 12 years of age, a custom prevails in Italy at Christmas time permitting boys to preach in public. Lawrence was only six years old when he preached in the cathedral of his native town with such force and point that his audience was deeply affected and many entered upon a more Christian life.
Lawrence entered the Capuchin friary at Verona when he was only 16 years of age. He distinguished himself from the very beginning as a model of perfection. He was punctual at all the community exercises, perfect in his submission to superiors, and full of respect and charity towards his brethren.
When his novitiate was over, he continued to pursue his studies. He was very successful in the study of philosophy and theology, and acquired so thorough a command of foreign languages that he was able to preach in French, Spanish, German, Greek, and even in Hebrew. He ascribed his success not so much to his talents as to the special help he received from Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, whom he honored with tender devotion.
With such accomplishments Father Lawrence started out on a highly fruitful missionary life. At first he visited the various cities in Italy; Venice, Pavia, Verona, Padua, Naples, where his labors were blessed with remarkable success. He was then called to Rome, where he was entrusted with the conversion of the Jews. His thorough knowledge of the Hebrew language won for him the esteem of the rabbis, and his gentle manner led many an Israelite to baptism.
In 1598 Father Lawrence was sent to Germany with eleven other friars to establish Capuchin convents there and to counteract the heresy of Luther, which was at that time gaining a foothold in Austria.
Emperor Rudolph II entrusted to our saint the task of organizing a crusade against the Turks, who were threatening to invade the whole Christian Occident. Father Lawrence, who loved seclusion, was now obliged to visit the principal cities of Germany to negotiate the cause with the princes, and preach it to the people. Due to his wisdom and holiness, which almighty God permitted him to manifest in astonishing ways, his efforts proved successful.
While he was saying holy Mass in Munich in the chapel of the duke of Bavaria, our Lord appeared after the elevation in the form of a resplendent Child, who lovingly caressed the saint. Frequently he was so affected during the celebration of holy Mass that he shed copious tears. Altar linens thus moistened with his tears were later used on the sick, and they were cured as were the faithful by the kerchiefs of St. Paul.
Father Lawrence was made the chief chaplain of the powerful army of Archduke Matthias, which went to Hungary in 1601 to war against the Turks. Although quite crippled with rheumatism, he mounted his horse and, crucifix in hand, rode at the head of the troops to the battlefield. The first sight of the enemy was most discouraging, for their position was so favorable and their number so superior that the most stout-hearted officers despaired of victory. But in the name of the God of battles Father Lawrence promised victory to the Christians and inspired them all with fiery courage. The enemy was completely routed.
Lawrence now returned to Italy where he hoped he might again serve God in his beloved solitude. But the general chapter of the order elected him vicar general. He was obliged in obedience to accept this heavy burden. In this high office he proved a charitable and vigilant pastor to his brethren. When his term expired, the pope again sent him to Germany, this time on an errand of peace, to reconcile the Archduke Matthias with his brother, the emperor. Again he was successful.
After he returned to Italy, the kingdom of Naples, his native land, was in need of his services. This kingdom which at that time belonged to Phillip III of Spain, was governed by a viceroy who cruelly oppressed the people. The only hope lay in presenting the people's grievances to the king through Father Lawrence. The latter sympathized with the people and journeyed to Spain, only to learn that the king was then in Portugal. So on he went to Lisbon, where he pleaded the people's cause and obtained the dismissal of the viceroy.
But this errand of charity cost Lawrence his life. He fell very ill at Lisbon. He knew that his end was drawing near and told his companions so. After devoutly receiving the last sacraments, he fell into ecstasy, during which he went to the sweet embrace of his Lord on the feast of St. Magdalen, July 22, 1619. Pope Pius VI beatified him in 1783, and on December 8, 1881, Pope Leo XIII canonized him. In December 1958 Pope John XXIII signed a decree declaring St. Lawrence to be a Doctor of the Church.
ON THE GUIDANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
1. Consider that St. Lawrence was not swayed by natural inclinations, but steadily followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit. By nature he inclined toward a life of seclusion, but amid the circumstances of the time, the Holy Spirit and the injunctions of his superiors called him to engage in active life. The blessing that rested on all his undertakings was proof that the Spirit of God was guiding him. -- Do you permit yourself to be led by the Spirit of God, or do you follow your own inclinations? If you earnestly desire to be guided by the Spirit of God, ask it of Him in prayer. "Your Father from heaven will give the good Spirit to them who ask Him" (Luke 11:13).
2. Consider that we need the Holy Spirit in everything we undertake. He must counsel us both as to what ought to be done and how we should go about it and how we should plan it in order to achieve our goal. The fact the Lawrence was filled with the Spirit of Counsel enabled him to act so promptly and decisively. We are often so irresolute and fickle and permit every new momentary impression to unsettle us because we so rarely ask the Spirit of Counsel to assist us. All men need the Holy Spirit, and for that reason the Wise Man prayed: "Who shall know Thy thought except Thou give wisdom and send Thy Holy Spirit from above to teach the things that please Thee?" (Wisdom 9:17). -- On important occasions say the Veni Creator devoutly.
3. Consider how the Holy Spirit of God guided St. Lawrence in carrying out his undertakings. The Spirit of Strength enabled him to disregard bodily suffering and overcome all hardships. How readily we turn aside from our good purposes because of a few difficulties! "The spirit, indeed, is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt 26:41). We experience this only too often. And yet, "the Spirit helps also our infirmity" (Rom 8:26). If we are strengthened by Him, we shall also be able to accomplish what the saints accomplished. If weakness and indolence beset you, so that you would like to give up your good resolutions, call upon the Holy Spirit to give you His grace and strengthen your infirmity, to make such sacrifices as St. Lawrence made.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst give to St. Lawrence, Thy confessor, the Spirit of Counsel and Strength to enable him to engage in the most difficult undertakings for the honor of Thy name and the salvation of souls, grant, that by the same Spirit, we may perceive what we should do and through his intercession accomplish what we have perceived. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
July 23 - Bl Cunegunda 1224-1292
The royal dynasty of Hungary in the 13th century has presented the church with a galaxy of saintly women. Among the most brilliant we find Kinga (or Cunegunda), daughter of King Bela IV, and niece of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Other aunts of this saint were St. Hedwig and Blessed Agnes of Prague. Blessed Yolande and the Dominican St. Margaret were her sisters. St. Elizabeth of Portugal and Blessed Salomea were her cousins once removed, and she was the aunt of the holy bishop Louis.
Kinga was born in 1224, and from her birth seemed destined far more for heaven than for earth. As an infant she was heard to say distinctly, "Hail, Queen of Heaven, Mother of the King of Angels!" When she was carried to church, she would keep her eyes raised to heaven during the holy sacrifice if the Mass and would bow her little head whenever she heard the holy names of Jesus and Mary. On Wednesdays and Fridays she would take food but once a day.
Kinga was only 15 when at her parents' request she gave her hand in marriage to Boleslaus, duke of Cracow, who later became king of Poland. The angelic virgin, however, spoke to her spouse so convincingly of the excellence of virginity, that he resolved to embrace a life of continence. Later they made a vow of perpetual chastity before the bishop of Cracow, and persevered in it for forty years of their married life. For this reason history has surnamed Boleslaus the Chaste, while the Church has conferred the title of virgin on Kinga.
At the same time Queen Kinga occupied herself with all the duties of a true mother. She took upon herself the care of her sister Yolande, who was then only 4 years old, and reared her in true holiness. Faithfully imitating her aunt St. Elizabeth, she evinced a truly maternal solicitude for the poor and the oppressed, and visited the sick in the hospitals, nursing them with the tender care of a sister of mercy.
As the first lady of her country, the constant object of her care was the welfare of her people. At that time Poland was suffering from a scarcity of salt. In answer to the prayers of the queen, valuable salt mines were discovered which not only provided for the wants of the Polish people but permitted considerable quantities of salt to be exported. Desirous of increasing the number of heavenly patrons of her kingdom, she obtained from the Holy See the canonization of St. Stanislaus, bishop of Cracow, and of her aunt St. Hedwig, duchess of Silesia. She and her husband established several convents as sanctuaries of prayer for the welfare of the country.
When King Boleslaus died in 1279, the people of the kingdom strove in vain to make Queen Kinga retain the reins of government. The humble virgin replied that it was her intention to retire from the world and consecrate herself wholly to Jesus Christ. She and her sister Yolande, who had been left a widow some months before, received the habit of St. Clare in the convent at Sandek. When she entered the monastery, which she herself had founded, she said to the abbess and the sisters, "Forget what I once was; O come only to be your servant." It became her greatest pleasure to do the most menial tasks.
Almighty God tested her humility by permitting her to become the object of suspicion. She bore the trial heroically, and was then vindicated by miracles.
Kinga was elected abbess, and in this capacity governed her daughters with great prudence and maternal charity. Her community was suffering from a scarcity of water. She pleaded with God to come to her assistance. Then she went to a neighboring brook and with her staff traced the course that it should henceforth follow. The water flowed obediently to her monastery.
In her last illness she was favored with the most intimate union with her Divine Bridegroom. When she had received the last sacraments and her sorrowing daughters were reciting the prayers for the dying, she suddenly exclaimed: "Make room, do you not see our Father Francis coming to assist me?"
It was on the 24th of July, 1292, that her virginal soul took its flight to heaven. Fragrant odor filled her cell, and her face became marvelously beautiful. Numberless miracles occurred at her tomb. Devotion to her was approved by Pope Alexander VIII in the year 1690; and with the approval of Pope Clement XI she was chosen in 1715 as the special patron of the Poles and Lithuanians.
Consider that Holy Writ frequently mentions the kinship of holy persons. Anna, the pious mother of the prophet Samuel, is thus honorably mentioned, the ancestors and defendants of the Patriarch Isaac are spoken of in terms of praise, and we read of the parents of John the Baptist: "They were both just before God, walking in all the commandments and justifications of the Lord without blame" (Luke 1:6). As St. Ambrose puts it, the glory of the saints lies also in this - that they were not necessarily the first to practice virtue, but rather that virtue was at home in their families. And so the kinship of Blessed Kinga reflects credit upon glory by her own virtuous conduct. -- Will your family have reason to be proud of your virtues?
2. Consider how disgraceful it is if a member of a virtuous family strays and walks the way of evil. Such a person dishonors the whole relationship, and his own shame is the greater in as far as he departs from the virtuous path of his relatives. David's son Absolom, who was beset with the ambition to rule, was a strain on the family name. Dina, the daughter of Jacob, brought disgrace and suffering to her father and brothers. The evil repute of such persons clings to them for all times. -- Carefully avoid everything that may bring disgrace on you and your family.
3. Consider that we should be concerned, like Blessed Kinga, to imitate the virtues of our relatives and preserve the honor of our family. She imitated her sainted aunt Elizabeth in caring for the poor and sick. She reared her own sister in sanctity and obtained the honors of the altar for her saintly relative Hedwig. -- Do you, too, endeavor to imitate those of your relatives who have distinguished themselves by virtue, thus setting a good example to the younger members of your relationship? If you are a Tertiary and a member of the Franciscan family, you are related to Blessed Kinga and all the saints of the three orders. As Christians, we are, according to the words of the Apostle, "fellow citizens with the saints and the domestics of God" (Eph 2:19). -- Male a sincere effort to live in a manner worthy of such kinship.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst bestow on Blessed Kinga the blessings of Thy sweetness and didst preserve her virginity even in the married state, grant, we beseech Thee, that by her intercession we may ever adhere to Thee in a chaste life, and by imitating her arrive safely in Thy presence. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
July 23 - St. Bridget of Sweden 1302-1373
Bridget was born about the year 1302 in Sweden, and belonged to an illustrious as well as pious family. Shortly after her birth Bridget lost her saintly mother. Her father then undertook to raise her with the aid of an aunt. As a very young girl she manifested a decided inclination for things spiritual. At the age of ten God favored her with a vision of the Crucified. The thought of the unspeakable torments which our Lord endured on Calvary affected her so deeply that she shed copious tears, and from that moment the sacred Passion was the subject of her meditation.
She wished to consecrate her virginity to the Lord, but obedient to the wish of her father she married Prince Ulf, a young man of solid virtue and in every way deserving of her. Both joined the Third Order in order to strengthen themselves in the works of piety and the practice of penance. God blessed their marriage with eight children, and Bridget made it her sacred duty to raise them in the fear of God. Among her charities there stands out especially her service to the poor and the infirm; she waited on them with great care, sometimes even washing their feet and kissing them.
During the return journey from Compostela, where they visited the grave of the Apostle St. James, Ulf fell seriously ill at Arras. St. Denis then appeared to Bridget at night and assured her that her husband would recover. He also foretold events which would take place in their lives. Ulf soon afterwards entered the Cistercian monastery of Alvastra, where he died in the odor of sanctity in 1344.
Bridget now divided her estate among her children and the poor, clothed herself in a coarse garment with a cord for a girdle, and began to lead a very austere life. She built a convent for nuns at Vadstena and gave them the rule of St. Augustine, thus founding the Order of Our Savior. She spent two more years partly at Vadstena and partly at Alvastra, where her husband had died. Then, at God's command, she went to Rome, where she practiced the virtues in a high degree. She labored much for the return of the papacy to Rome, and was charged by God to deliver several messages to Popes Innocent VI, Urban V, and Gregory XI.
In 1371 she made a visit to the Holy Land in compliance with a command from our Lord. There He bestowed on her extraordinary graces and imparted to her a knowledge of His sacred mysteries. Upon her return to Italy she was stricken with a grievous illness, which afflicted her for an entire year. Having foretold the day of her death, she passed into the joys of eternity on July 23, 1373, at the age of 71 years. She was laid to rest in the Poor Clare convent of St. Lawrence in Panisperna. The following year her body was removed to the convent at Vadstena in Sweden. Many miracles were wrought at her intercession, and Pope Boniface IX canonized her.
ON THE FREQUENT REMEMBRANCE OF CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS
1. Love and compassion urged St. Bridget to meditate continually on the sufferings of Christ. Similar sentiments should urge us to do likewise. If you were in straitened circumstances because of a great debt, and were suddenly assisted by a wealthy gentleman who not only stood surety for you but even paid your entire debt, you would never forget that man. Well, your soul was condemned to eternal damnation because of the debt you contracted by your sins. Then the Son of God not only stood surety for you with our heavenly Father, but by His bitter suffering and death on the Cross He paid off your entire debt. Imitate St. Bridget and keep the remembrance of this grace ever before your mind. "Forget not the kindness of your surety, for he has given his life for you" (Eccli 29:20).
2. Consider how useful it is to think of the sufferings of Christ. There is no better consolation amid the sufferings of life. Are you being ridiculed and persecuted, have you been laid low by painful illness, is your soul worried and sorrowful, then look at your suffering Savior. Contemplate Him from the time He suffers the agony in the garden until He draws His last breath on the cross. What you are suffering, He endured in far greater measure and - what is most consoling - His suffering has obtained for you the necessary strength to bear your sufferings patiently and with merit. His death has effected our redemption, so that in time of direct need, when our soul is oppressed because of the sins we have committed, we may look up with confidence to our suffering Savior. "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just, and He is the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2:1-2). -- Have you always had recourse to your suffering Savior?
3. Consider the manner in which we should recall our Savior's sufferings. St. Bridget's humility, poverty, and austerity prepared her for the grace by which our Lord, so to say, planted His cross in the very center of her heart. The proud, those who consider themselves better than the rest of men, those who are inclined to men, form no part of the group that stands on Calvary. They may grasp the meaning of Christ's Cross and sufferings, but the remembrance of it does not abide with them nor does it produce salutary fruit. Imitate the virtues of St. Bridget, and the sufferings of Christ will also bring consolation to your soul and a foretaste of the joys of eternity.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O Lord, our God, who through Thine only begotten Son didst reveal heavenly secrets to Blessed Bridget, grant that, through her loving intercession, we Thy servants may rejoice and be happy in the revelation of Thine eternal glory. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
See also: http://www.olisfo.cqc.com/cal.htm
July 24 - Bl Louise of Savoy 1461-1503
On the feast of the Holy Innocents in the year 1461, a daughter was born to Blessed Amadeus, duke of Savoy. She was to become more distinguished in the world for her innocence and sanctity than for the nobility of her birth. This daughter was Blessed Louise.
>From childhood she showed a marked love for prayer and retirement. On the vigils of the feasts of our Lady she fasted on bread and water. In compliance with the wish of her mother, a sister of King Louis IX of France, Louise wore costly garments and jewelry as was becoming her princely rank; but underneath them she wore a garment of haircloth, and she always looked upon her external finery as a reminder to adorn her soul with virtues.
Louise possessed such innocent simplicity that pride and vanity were wholly foreign to her. Still with the simplicity of a dove she also combined great prudence in evading the dangers of a life at court, to which she was exposed.
She had already decided to consecrate herself to God in the state of virginity, when her uncle and guardian, the king of France, desired her to marry the prince of Chalon. Louise believed that God was thus manifesting His will in her regard; and so she gave her hand to the virtuous young prince.
He was pleased to note how her example and authority checked the excessive luxury and the frivolous customs prevailing at court. Not only did she reform the habits of the ladies of the court, but even the men were won over to a Christian life. If anyone of them was caught cursing or using unbecoming language, she required him to do penance by giving alms for the poor. She and her husband attended the dances and plays that were given, but never took part in them themselves. They went there only to prevent anything disorderly. She is reported to have said what St. Frances de Sales said at a later date: "Dances and plays are like mushrooms, of which the best are not worth much."
When she was but 27 years old, Louise lost her devoted husband. She declined all offers of a second marriage, even those coming from the most honorable suitors. She wished now to live in retirement and very simply, and to devote herself to works of penance, piety, and Christian charity. She used her great wealth in carrying out an extensive program of charity.
There were no children to claim her maternal care; and since she desired to live in close union with God, she entered the convent of the Poor Clares at Orbe after overcoming great obstacles. Here the princess was a model to all in humility, poverty, and self-abnegation. She observed all the precepts of the rule and of obedience most conscientiously, and was always very grateful for any reprimands she received. She fostered a tender devotion to the sufferings of Christ and to our Blessed Lady, from whom she sometimes received special favors.
A serious illness seized Louise when she was 42 years old. After she had received the last sacraments with great devotion, her death agony began, but she was still able to pronounce the words from the Office of Our Lady:
O Fount of Mercy, Mother mine,
Through whom God sends us grace divine,
Free me from sin, and lend thy aid
When death's dark hour makes me afraid.
Then she surrendered her pure soul into the hands of her Creator on July 24, 1503. God glorified her by many miracles, and so Pope Gregory XVI confirmed her
veneration in 1839. ON FAITHFUL FULFILLMENT OF THE DUTIES OF OUR STATE
1. In every station in life, as daughter, wife, widow, and religious, Blessed Louise distinguished herself as a model of virtue. That is why she merits such great praise. In the sight of God the true worth of a man depends on the fidelity he manifests in fulfilling the duties of his state of life, and God's judgement will also be in accordance with that standard. It is related of a confessor of Emperor Charles V that, after the latter had confessed his personal sins, the confessor said to him: "That was the confession of Charles; not let the emperor confess." The Eternal Judge will surely require an accounting of you also in accordance with your vocation; and when He says, "Give an account of your stewardship" (Luke 16:3), it will, without doubt, mean an account of your vocation, your work, the office you help while here on earth. May you then stand the test as Blessed Louise did. -- Examine yourself now in these matters.
2. Consider that each station in life has its peculiar dangers, and that many a vocation involves greater hardships than the one you have embraced. Innocence and simplicity alone are not always sufficient, but we must add to these virtues prudence, foresight, and constancy. But no matter how great the hardships, a Christian may never despair. Where human strength seems insufficient, God will come to the assistance of him who does what he is able to do. "He is faithful who has called you, who also will do it" (1 Thes 5:24). In His wisdom God lets storms come upon us in order to test our fidelity, but He never tries us beyond measure. He "will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able, but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Cor 10:13). -- Was perhaps lack of trust in God the reason why you have become weak and unfaithful in the past?
3. Consider the means that must be employed in every state of life for the faithful fulfillment of our duties. To know our duties well and to have the necessary strength to fulfill them, we must apply the religious means at our disposal: daily prayer, listening to the Word of God, and the frequent reception of the sacraments. To overcome our own personal indolence and the opposition of fallen nature, we must deny ourselves, according to the words of our Lord: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily" (Luke 9:23). Finally, it is necessary that we keep before our eyes the first and greatest commandment: To love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. This will help you to be faithful to your duty in every station in life, like Blessed Louise, so that you, too, may one day hear the words of the Lord: "Because you have been faithful over a few things, I will place you over many things; enter you into the joy of your Lord" (Matt 25:23).
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst raise up in Blessed Louise a remarkable model of virtue in every position of life, grant us, that in every state to which Thou dost call us, we may follow her example and may deserve to attain to Thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
July 27 - Bl Mary Magdalen Martinengo 1687-1737
Blessed Mary Magdalen came from a prominent family of Bresica. Even as a child she took special delight in the austerities of religious life. Despite many difficulties that confronted her, she joined the daughters of St. Clare when she was only 17 years of age. The young nun soon distinguished herself by her modesty, patience, and cheerful obedience. The hours prescribed for prayer and meditation, as well as the visits to our Lord in the tabernacle, were the most delightful hours of her day.
Her sympathy for our suffering Savior was so deep that she was often found kneeling like one devoid of life. As novice mistress, and later as abbess, she guided the sisters to great sanctity by her admirable example and loving gentleness.
The fame of her sanctity caused many lay persons to appeal to her for consolation and advice. On such occasions she manifested the special gifts God had given her to encourage disheartened souls, to reconcile such as were at variance with each other, and to bring sinners back to the path of duty. Not seldom she read the innermost thoughts of others and foretold future events.
Exhausted by her labor and austerity more than by age, she died on July 27, 1737, in the 50th year of her saintly life. Pope Leo XIII beatified her.
ON THANKSGIVING AFTER HOLY COMMUNION
1. Consider that it is proper to make thanksgiving after Communion, for in holy Communion we have been favored by a distinguished Visitor. The words which were written by the Evangelist then apply to us: "This day is salvation come to this house" (Luke 19:9). For this reason Blessed Mary Magdalen found it a trying duty to leave the house of God after holy Communion. -- What can you say of your thanksgiving? Let it not be said of you as it was of Judas: "He, therefore, having received the morsel, went out immediately" (John 13:30).
2. At this thanksgiving we should offer ourselves wholly to our Savior. After every holy Communion we should say: "What shall I render to the Lord for all the things that He has rendered to me?" (Psalm 115:3). Since God has sacrificed Himself entirely for our salvation, we should be willing to make a complete sacrifice of ourselves for His sake. Let us, therefore, consecrate to Him our hands and feet, our eyes and ears, our mind and our whole heart to be spent only in His service. That will please Him and draw down on us great blessings. -- Never forget to offer this oblation to your God.
3. Moreover, let us use this time of thanksgiving to offer our petitions to the Lord. St. Theresa says: "The moments after holy Communion are the most precious moments of our life." Let us use them in placing our needs before our dear Lord. Let us above all use them, according to the example of Blessed Mary Magdalen, to pray for the conversion of sinners. -- At every holy Communion remember that a great privilege has been accorded you.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who hast given us in the virgin Mary Magdalen an example of innocence and mortification, grant that we may renounce all worldly desires and come to Thee by the way of truth and justice. Through Christ our 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