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Jan 7 - Blessed Angela of Foligno 1248-1309

 

Angela was born in 1248 of a prominent family in Foligno, three leagues from Assisi. As a young woman, and also as a wife and mother, she lived only for the world and its vain pleasures. But the grace of God intended to make of her a vessel of election for the comfort and salvation of many. A ray of the divine mercy touched her soul and so strongly affected her as to bring about a conversion.

At the command of her confessor she committed to writing the manner of her conversion in eighteen spiritual steps. "Enlightened by grace," she wrote in this account. "I realized my sinfulness; I was seized with a great fear of being damned, and I shed a flood of tears. I went to confession to be relieved of my sins, but through shame I concealed the most grievous ones, but still I went to Communion. Now my conscience tortured me day and night. I called upon St. Francis for help, and, moved by an inner impulse, I went into a church where a Franciscan Father was then preaching.

"I gathered courage to confess all my sins to him, and I did this immediately after the sermon. With zeal and perseverance I performed the penance he imposed, but my heart continued to be full of bitterness and shame. I recognized that the divine mercy has saved me from hell, hence I resolved to do rigorous penance; nothing seemed too difficult for me, because I felt I belonged in hell. I called upon the saints, and especially upon the Blessed Virgin, to intercede with God for me.

"It appeared to me now as if they has compassion on me, and I felt the fire of divine love enkindled within me so that I could pray as I never prayed before. I had also received a special grace to contemplate the cross in which Christ had suffered so much for my sins. Sorrow, love, and the desire to sacrifice everything for Him filled my soul."

About this time God harkened to the earnest desire of the penitent: her mother died, then her husband, and soon afterwards all her children. These tragic events were very painful to her; but she made the sacrifice with resignation to the will of God. Being freed from these ties, she dispossessed herself of all her temporal goods with the consent of her confessor, so that being poor herself, she might walk in the footsteps of her poor Savior. She also entered the Third Order of St. Francis, and presently found herself the superior and guide of others who followed in her path. Many women joined her, even to the point of taking the three vows. She encouraged them in works of charity, in nursing the sick, and in going personally from door to door to beg for the needs of the poor.

Meanwhile, Angela became still more immersed in the contemplation of the Passion of Christ, and she chose the Sorrowful Mother and the faithful disciple John as her patrons. The sight of the wounds which her Lord suffered for her sins urged her to the practice of still greater austerities. Once our Lord showed her that His Heart is a safe refuge in all the storms of life. She was soon to be in need of such a refuge.

God permitted her to be afflicted with severe temptations. The most horrible and loathsome representations distressed her soul. The fire of concupiscence raged so furiously that she said: "I would rather have beheld myself surrounded with flames and permitted myself to be continually roasted that to endure such things." Still, she called out to God, "Glory be to Thee, O Lord! Thy cross is my resting place." These painful trials lasted over two years; but then the purified and tried servant of the Lord was filled with great consolation. She obtained a marvelous insight into divine things and was very frequently found in ecstasy. For many years Holy Communion was her only food, until at last, completely purified, she entered into the eternal joy of the Supreme Good on January 4, 1309.

Pope Innocent XII approved the continual devotion paid to her at her tomb in Foligno. He beatified her in 1693.

 

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, Thou sweetness of hearts and light of the inhabitants of heaven, who didst refresh Blessed Angela, Thy servant, with a marvelous insight into heavenly things, grant us through her merits and intercession so to know Thee upon earth, that we may be found worthy to rejoice in the vision of Thy glory in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jan 12 - Blessed Bernard of Corleone 1605-1667

 

Bernard was born on the island of Sicily in the year 1605. His father was a shoemaker and taught his son the ways of the trade. But it was difficult for the lively youth to interest himself in this work. Upon the death of his father, he immediately left the shop and, led by the love of adventure, he took up fencing. It was not long before he became quite adept at wielding the sword. His unusual corporal vigor qualified him to challenge any comer to a contest.

From then on he spent the greater part of his time in training and eagerly seized every opportunity to match swords with his hot tempered countrymen.

Although this manner of life led him far away from God, nevertheless many noble characteristics were perceptible in Bernard. In taking up any quarrel he liked to defend old people and other helpless and defenseless persons against violence. He frequently made devout visits to a crucifix that was highly honored by the people, and provided that a lamp be kept burning before it. Moreover, he cherished great devotion towards St. Francis. God and St. Francis soon led him to realize what a disorderly course he was pursuing.

Bernard had been challenged to a sinful duel, in the course of which he wounded his opponent mortally. In order to escape from his avengers, he sought refuge in flight. In this extremity, as so frequently happens, grace knocked at his heart. Bernard heeded the call. He acknowledged his godless and dangerous conduct for what it was, bewailed it bitterly, and resolved upon a complete change of sentiments.

In order to atone for his sins, he begged for admission among the Capuchins as a lay brother, and on December 13, 1632, he was invested with the holy habit. If in the past Bernard had yielded his bodily members to wayward purposes, he now used them as an atoning sacrifice unto salvation. Seven times a day he scourged himself to the blood. His sleep was limited to three hours on a narrow board, with a block of wood under his head. He fasted for the most part on bread and water. If anything delicious was placed before him, he would carry the food to his mouth so as to whet his appetite, and then lay it down without having tasted it. In spite of his austere life, he still undertook the most unpleasant and annoying tasks as being his due.

Almighty God showed how agreeable to Him was the penitential life Bernard was leading; he favored him with extraordinary graces, particularly with ardent devotion at prayer. Bernard cherished special love for our Blessed Lady, and encouraged others to do the same. Often our Lady appeared to him and placed the Divine Child in his arms. Moreover, she gave him knowledge of the day of his death four months in advance. He died at Palermo on January 12, 1667.

Attracted by the fame of his sanctity, there gathered for his burial so many people who raised their voices in praise of the deceased, that it was less a funeral cortege than a triumphal procession. Numerous miracles occurring at his grave promoted the cause of his beatification by Pope Clement XIII in the year 1767.

 

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst permit Blessed Bernard, Thy confessor, to distinguish himself by heroic charity and admirable penance, grant us, through his intercession, that we may love Thee with our whole heart and bring forth fruits worthy of penance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jan 14 - Blessed Odoric Matiussi of Pordenone 1265-1331

 

Odoric was born of noble parents in the year 1265 at Pordenone in Friuli. He entered the Franciscan Order in the convent of Udine when he was only 15 years old. He felt himself called by God to be a missionary, and so prepared himself for his vocation by a strict life of penance, intimate union with God in solitude, and earnest application to study.

Ordained a priest, he labored as a zealous and forceful preacher of penance. The people came from great distances to hear his sermons and through him to be reconciled to God in the tribunal of penance. But soon his vast field of labor no longer satisfied his burning zeal. He was desirous of winning souls for God in the distant heathen countries and, if God so wished it, even to shed his blood for Christ. IN 1296 he went as a missionary to the Balkan Peninsula, and then to the Mongols in southern Russia.

In the year 1314 he sailed for the Orient. From Constantinople he crossed the Black Sea and landed at Trebizond, whence he travelled and preached in Armenia, Media, and Persia. In all these countries the Franciscans had founded mission centers.

With an Irish confrere, Friar James, he sailed to India and the islands of Ceylon, Sumatra and Java. He then pushed forward to China, and preaching Christ crucified as he went his way, he finally arrived at the capital, Cambalac, now called Peiping. There he met the great apostle of China, the Franciscan friar John of Montecorvino, who had been appointed archbishop of Cambalec in 1307.

After three years of fruitful labor in Cambalec, Odoric resolved to go to Europe and submit a report of his 15 years of apostolic labor to the then reigning pontiff John XXII, in the hope of securing fresh recruits for the apostolate. He traveled through China and central Asia, and returned to Italy in the year 1330, 65 years old, and emaciated by incessant toil and sufferings of various kinds, so that none of his brethren recognized him.

Reaching Pisa, he fell ill, and, as has been recorded, it was revealed to him that he should go to his native town and repair to the convent at Udine. At Padua he rested several days, and, at the command of his superiors, dictated an account of his apostolic journeys to Brother William. In this account the humble son of St. Francis says nothing of the hardships and dangers that he encountered; but his associates report that he suffered torment from evil spirits and wicked men, from wild animals, from hunger and thirst, and from heat and cold. Once he was seized by cruel heathens and tortured nigh unto death, when our Savior and the Blessed Mother appeared, consoling and strengthening him.

Having arrived at Udine after a wearisome journey, Odoric patiently awaited death in the convent where he had once received the holy habit. After making a general confession and receiving the last sacraments he departed this laborious life and entered into eternal rest on January 14, 1331.

Moved by the many miracles that were wrought at the tomb of the great missionary, Pope Benedict XIV, in the year 1775, approved the veneration which had been paid to Blessed Odoric. In the year 1881 the city of Pordenone erected a magnificent memorial to its distinguished son.

 

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who, in order to lead the nations of the East to the bosom of the Church, didst equip Blessed Odoric with invincible strength of soul, graciously look upon all those who are still blinded by the deceptions of hell, that by his glorious merits they may be delivered from their darkness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Jan 16 - St. Berard and Companions d. 1220

 

When our holy Father St. Francis learned by divine revelation that God had called him and the members of his order not only to personal perfection but also for the salvation of the souls of others, he entertained an ardent desire to convert the Mohammedans, whose inroads at that time frequently endangered Christian countries and the Christian Faith. While he himself and a companion traveled to the Orient in order to approach the Sultan, he sent 6 of the brethren to the Mohammedans in the West; Votalis, Berard, Peter, Accursius, Adjutus, and Otho. On the journey, Vitalis, the superior, fell sick in Spain, and when his illness refused to mend, he submitted to the will of God and remained behind, while he permitted his brethren under the guidance of Berard to proceed.

At Seville, in southern Spain, which the Mohammedans occupied at the time, they preached fearlessly in the mosque that the teaching of Mohammed was falsehood and deceit, and that salvation could be found only in the Faith of Christ. Burning with rage, the Mohammedan ruler, who had been listening to them, ordered that their heads be cut off at once. But his son, who was with him, appeased the anger of his father, and at his suggestion the friars were permitted to sail across the sea to Morocco.

This was quite in accordance with their wishes, since there among the Saracens they were right in the midst of the Mohammedan people. Coming upon a group of Saracens, Berard, who had a good command of the Arabic language, began at once to preach the Faith of Christ to them. On another day when King Miramolin and his suite appeared on the scene, he again fearlessly preached the doctrine of Christ and called Mohammed an imposter. The king gave orders that Berard and a his companions should be expelled from the country; but they escaped from their guards and returned a second and then a third time. Then it happened that on their way through the desert they came upon the royal army, which was nearly perishing because of thirst and could find no water anywhere. Berard prayed, struck his staff upon the ground, and at once a spring bubbled forth, which refreshed and saved the entire army.

More gently disposed because of this miracle, the king ordered the brethren to appear in his presence, and promised them wealth, positions of high honor, and all the conveniences of life if they would remain with him and become Mohammedans. But the champions of the Faith answered: "We despise all those things for the sake of Christ." They proceeded to urge upon the king the necessity of his conversion to their Faith. Stung by disappointment as well as by their audacity, Miramolin then seized his sword and split the head of every one in turn. Thus they obtained the martyr's palm on January 16, 1220. Pope Sixtus IV canonized them in 1481 after many miracles had occurred through their intercession.

 

Jan 24 - St. Francis de Sales 1567-1622

The city of Geneva in Switzerland is situated at the western end of the 45 mile long lake of the same name, near the French boundary. In the 16th century the Dukedom of Savoy lost this city, as well as the province of Vaud on the north side of the lake and that of Chablais on the south side, to the Calvinists of Switzerland. By giving up his claim to Vaud, the duke of Savoy finally regained Chablais; but the people of the latter province had meanwhile become fanatical Calvinists. The bishop of Geneva resided at Annecy, some 20 miles south of Geneva.

A prominent noble family of Savoy, at this time was that of De Sales; and St. Francis de Sales, who was born in 1567 at the Chateau de Sales, near Annecy, became its most illustrious member. His father had the title to the Signory of Nouvelles by inheritance and that of Boisy by marriage. At baptism, St. Francis de Sales received St. Francis of Assisi together with St. Bonaventure as his patron saints; and after he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Geneva, he had himself enrolled in the Archconfraternity of the Cord of St. Francis. He was not a Franciscan Tertiary, but a member of the Third Order of the Minims, founded by St. Francis de Paul. However, he accepted affiliation to the First Order of St. Francis from the Capuchins in 1617; and his spirit undoubtedly has a close kinship with that of the Seraphic Saint. He once told the Capuchins that he belonged to the Franciscan Order by special ties; and in 1609, the holy bishop, girded with the cord, preached a beautiful sermon and took part in the traditional procession of the Archconfraternity. The Portiuncula Chapel at Assisi was especially dear to him because of the great spiritual favors he received there. At Evian, on the south shore of Lake Geneva, St. Francis of Assisi appeared to him and said: "You desire martyrdom, just as I once longed for it. But, like me, you will not obtain it. You will have to become an instrument of your own martyrdom."

From early youth, St. Francis de Sales had a great desire to devote himself entirely to the service of God, although his father had other plans for him. With the pious Abbe Deage as his tutor, Francis was a student at the University of Paris from his 14th to his 20th year; and after studying jurisprudence at the University of Padua for 4 more years, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Law. In 1593 he finally obtained the consent of his father to enter the sacred ministry; and since he had devoted much time to the study of theology during his student years, he was ordained a priest 6 months later.

Not long afterwards he volunteered for the difficult and dangerous task of leading the people of the province of Chablais back to the fold of the Church. Several times he miraculously escaped death at the hands of assassins. But he persevered in his heroic and patient efforts, and after 4 years succeeded in converting a large number of Calvinists. In 1599 he was appointed coadjutor to his bishop; and in 1602 he became bishop of Geneva, a position which he filled in an exemplary manner for 20 years. St. Francis de Sales has rightly been styled "the Gentleman Saint" because of his wonderful patience and gentleness. He always tempered his unflagging zeal by imperturable meekness and kindness. He is a model for every priest and bishop. Though a learned man, he insisted on simple catechizing and preaching and himself set the example. The people came in crowds to hear him preach, not only in Savoy, but also in various cities of France. He began his writing career as a missionary to the Calvinists, by preparing leaflets explaining the principle doctrines of the Church as opposed to the errors of Calvinism. His best known works are: Philothea, or Introduction to a Devout Life and Theotimus, a treatise on the love of God. At Dijon, in 1604, he became acquainted with St. Jane de Chantal, for whom and through whom he founded the nursing/teaching order known as Visitation Nuns. He died at Lyons on Dec 28, 1622, was beatified in 1661, canonized in 1665, and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1877. He is the special patron of Catholic journalists and the Catholic press.

 

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Oh God, by whose gracious will Blessed Francis, Thy confessor and bishop, became all things unto all men for the saving of their souls: mercifully grant, that, being filled with the sweetness of Thy love, we may, through the guidance of his counsels and by the aid of his merits, attain unto the joys of life eternal. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jan 27 - St. Angela Merici 1470-1540

 

Angela Merici was born in the year 1470 at Decenzano, northern Italy, on the banks of Lake Garda. Even as a child she served God very fervently. She so loved modesty and purity of heart that she was quite generally venerated as a little saint in her native town.

When she was in her 13th year she entered the Third Order of St. Francis, and soon afterward took the vow of perpetual chastity, renounced all her possessions, and wished to live only on alms. Along with this she practiced great austerities, slept on the bare earth, and fasted continuously on bread and water. Sometimes holy Communion was her only food over a period of several days.

When she was 23 years old, Angela was praying one day in a secluded place, and there she had a vision of a friend who had died a short while before. Her friend prophesied that Angela would be the foundress of a religious institute which would be devoted to the education of youth, and destined to do an unlimited amount of good for the kingdom of God. That proved to be a great incentive for Angela, not only to lead a life of contemplation, but also to serve her fellowmen in active work.

She gathered about her a group of young women, and together they went out to give religious instruction to little children, to help the poor, and to care for the sick. Often there were great sinners among those to whom she ministered, and in such cases she did not cease instructing, entreating, and encouraging them until they were reconciled with God and began to lead a new life.

Her saintly conduct and the profound knowledge she had, concerning even the most difficult questions of theology, caused her to be greatly respected by high and low and to be regarded as a saint. In order to escape such honor, Angela left her native town of Decenzano in 1516, and went to Brescia, where a wealthy but pious merchant offered her a house. There she lived absorbed in God until the year 1524.

At that time Angela was seized with an ardent desire to visit the Holy Land, just as our holy Father St. Francis once was. She visited Jerusalem, Mt. Calvary, and the other holy places with uncommon devotion. She returned by way of Rome, in order to pray at the tombs of the apostles, and this gain the great jubilee indulgence. Pope Clement VII, who was not unaware of her sanctity, wished to detain her in Rome, and did not permit her to return to Brescia until he understood by divine inspiration that in Brescia lay the field of labor for which God had destined her.

Due to disturbances caused by war, Angela could not undertake her appointed work until 1531. On November 25, 1535, her pious society was founded as the religious congregation of St. Ursula, who was the special patron of their work. The congregation, known also as Ursulines, spread rapidly and is active in many countries, also in America, where its institutions for the Christian education of Feminine youth are blessed with much success.

When Angela reached the age of 70, the day and hour of her death were revealed to her. She received the last sacraments with great fervor, and was rapt in ecstasy. While pronouncing the holy name of Jesus, she departed this life on January 27, 1540, in the very hour that had been foretold to her. She was laid out in the habit of the Third Order, holding in her hand the pilgrim's staff she had used in the Holy Land. Thus she reposes in a side chapel of the parish church of St. Afa in Brescia. Pope Clement XIII beatified her, and on March 24, 1807, Pope Pius VII canonized her in St. Peter's Church, Rome.

 

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who through Blessed Angela didst cause a new company of holy virgins to grow up within Thy Church, grant us through her intercession to lead angelic lives, so that, renouncing all earthly joys, we may deserve to enjoy those that are eternal. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Jan 30 - St. Hyacintha Mariscotti 1585-1640

 

St. Hyacintha, born in 1585, belonged to a wealthy and prominent family. Her father was Count Antonio of Mariscotti, her mother descended from the princely Roman family of the Orsini.

After her younger sister had been given in marriage, the disappointed Clarice, as Hyacintha was then called, entered the convent of the Tertiaries at Viterbo, but apparently only as a secular Tertiary. She permitted herself to be supplied with all sorts of things by way of eatables and articles of dress which enabled her to enjoy quite an agreeable and comfortable existence. Her rooms were furnished with much worldly apparatus. The spirit of mortification and of penance with which every Tertiary ought to be equipped was in no wise discernible to her.

Then it happened that she was afflicted with a strange illness, and her confessor was obliged to go to her rooms to administer the sacraments to her. When he saw the worldly and frivolous objects in her cell, he sharply reproved the sick sister. Following her confessor's advice, she afterwards went to the common refectory and there, with a rope around her neck, begged forgiveness of her fellow sisters for the scandal she had given them.

However, it was only after she had invoked the aid of St. Catherine of Siena, that she dispossessed herself of all frivolous and unnecessary objects, and thereupon resolutely entered upon a life of heroic virtue.

She began to lead a very penitential life, in which she persevered unto the end. She went barefoot, wore an old habit that had been discarded by another sister, and performed the lowliest and most trying tasks. She ate only inferior food with which she mixed bitter herbs. Her bed consisted of a few bare boards, on which there was but a single blanket; a stone served as her pillow. She fostered a special devotion to the sufferings of Christ; and in memory of them, she subjected herself to special austerities on Fridays and in Holy Week. She also entertained a filial love for Mary, the Mother of Mercy, who sometimes appeared to her and comforted her.

Enriched by every virtue and held in great repute by her fellow sisters, she died in the 55th year of her age, in the year of our Lord 1640. Many miracles occurred at her grave for which reason Pope Benedict XIII placed her in the ranks of the blessed.

In the year 1807 she was canonized by Pope Pius VII.

 

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst transform the holy virgin Hyacintha into a sacrifice of continual mortification and love, grant through her example and intercession that we may bewail our sins and love Thee at all times. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jan 31 - St. John Bosco 1815-1888

 

St. John Bosco, one of the greatest saints of modern times, was born in a Piedmontese village in 1815. When he was 2 years old, he lost his father, a humble peasant farmer; and he was brought up by his saintly Tertiary mother, Margaret. It was no doubt due to her example and influence that John too joined the Third Order of St. Francis.

Even as a youngster, John recognized that it was his vocation in life to help poor boys; and he began to teach catechism to the boys of his own village and bring them to church. Acrobatic stunts and conjuring tricks were the means he used to get them together.

At 16 he entered the seminary at Chieri. He was so poor at the time, that the mayor contributed a hat, the parish priest a cloak, one parishioner a cassock, and another a pair of shoes. After he was ordained a deacon he passed on to the seminary in Turin; and there, with the approbation of his superiors, he began to gather together on Sundays poor apprentices and waifs of the city.

Not long after his ordination to the priesthood in June, 1841, he established what he called a Festive Oratory, a kind of Sunday school and recreation center for boys, in Turin. His mother came to be his housekeeper and mother of the Oratory. Two more Oratories in the same city followed. When Father John Bosco's mother did in 1856, the Oratories housed 150 resident boys; and there were four Latin classes and four workshops, one of them a printing press. Ten young priests assisted Father John in his work. Father John was also much in demand as a preacher; and he spent half of his nights in writing popular books in order to provide good reading.

Father John's confessor and spiritual director was the saintly Tertiary priest Joseph Cafasso; and Father John too gained the reputation of being a saint. Miracles, mostly of healing, were attributed to him. By his kindness and sympathy and his marvelous power of reading the thoughts of his boys, he exercised a profound influence upon his charges. He was able to rule them with apparent indulgence and absence of punishment, something the educationists of the day could not understand.

In 1854 Father John founded the religious order of Salesians, so called in honor of St. Francis de Sales. Its members devote themselves to the education of poor boys. The new society grew rapidly. Father John lived to see 38 houses established in the Old World and 26 in the New World. Today it is one of the largest orders of men in the Church.

Father John also founded a sisterhood called Daughters of St. Mary Auxiliatrix; and he organized many outside helpers into the Salesian Co-operators, who are pledged to assist in some way the educational labors of the Salesians. In 1930 they totalled 800,000.

Father John's last great work was the building of Sacred Heart Church in Rome, a task which was entrusted to him by Pope Pius IX after it has seemed to be a hopeless project. The holy priest, who was everywhere acclaimed as a saint and wonderworker, gathered funds for the church in Italy and France; and somehow he succeeded where others had failed. But in doing so he wore himself out. and on January 31, 1888, he was called to his reward. Forty thousand persons came to pay their respects as his body lay in state in the church at Turin; and his funeral resembled a triumphal procession.

St. John was canonized in 1934.

 

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who hath raised up in Thy confessor St. John Bosco a father and teacher of youth, and didst will that through him with the help of the Virgin Mary new religious families should flourish in the Church, grant, we beseech Thee, that enkindled by the same fire of charity we may be able to labor in finding souls and serve only Thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

from THE FRANCISCAN BOOK OF SAINTS
edited by Marion Habig, ofm
Copyright 1959 Franciscan Herald Press

 

 

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