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Franciscan Saints

June

 

June 12 - Blessed Yolande (Jolenta) of Poland 1235-1298

Yolande was the daughter of Bela IV, king of Hungary. Her mother, Mary, was the daughter of the Greek emperor of Constantinople. In the year 1240, when Yolande was scarcely five years old, she arrived at the court of Poland. Her elder sister, Blessed Kinga (Cunigunda), who was married to the duke of Poland, had asked to supervise the child's education. Under such a mistress, Yolande grew not only in age, but also in virtue and grace before God and men.

When she arrived at young womanhood, Yolande was married to Boleslaus, the duke of Greater Poland. But the young duchess was not enamored of the glory and pleasure of this world. It was a greater pleasure for her to do good in her elevated position. Like a true sovereign, she came to the assistance of the poor and sick, the widows and the orphans. She and her husband built hospitals, convents, and churches, and she was so great an inspiration to him in everything that was good and pleasing to God, that he received the surname of the Pious.

But Boleslaus was soon to receive the reward of his piety in heaven. After his death and after two of her daughters were married, Yolande and her third daughter left all the glamor and riches of the world and withdrew to the convent of the Poor Clares at Sandec, where, devoted to prayer and mortification, she led a life entirely hidden in Christ. Disturbances resulting from war compelled her after a time to move to the convent at Gniezno, which she herself, assisted by her last consort, had founded.

In spite of the reluctance to which her humility prompted her, she was advanced to the position of abbess. So successfully did she guide her sisters by word and by example in the practice of all the religious virtues that the convent flourished like a new garden of God. Even beyond the walls of the cloister she did very much good, so that the fame of the holy abbess spread far and wide.

But, notwithstanding all her fame, she remained entirely devoted to the interior life, as her vocation required. Her favorite devotion was meditation on the sufferings of Christ, during which the Divine Savior once manifested Himself to her under the appearance of the Crucified. He announced to her that He would soon lead her to glory. Attacked by a serious illness, she asked to receive the last sacraments. Then she admonished her spiritual daughters to persevere in fidelity to the holy rule, and departed blessedly in the Lord in 1298.

After her death Yolande appeared in wondrous glory, together with St. Stanislaus the bishop, to the sick abbess and restored her health. Many other miracles occurred at her grave down to our own time. Pope Leo XII, in 1827, approved the veneration given to her.

ON DESPISING THE WORLD
1. Consider how happy Yolande was already here on earth, when she left the world and all that it held out to her, to serve God as a Poor Clare. Could the enjoyment of all the pleasures and all the goods of this world ever have brought her such happiness? King Solomon tasted worldly pleasure in its fullness, but it did not make him happy. He says: "And, therefore, I was weary of my life, when I saw that all things under the sun are evil, and all vanity and vexation of spirit" (Eccl 2:17). Did not this duchess make a better choice? Still, what Thomas a Kempis says is true: "For it is not granted to all to forsake all things, to renounce the world, and to assume the monastic life." May you always heed the warning of the Apostle: "And they who use this world as if their hearts become attached to it. -- Is your heart attached to this world?
2. Consider how vain and deceitful the goods of this world are. The honors of the world, on which we expend so much energy, cannot make us better, and sometimes they vanish suddenly without any fault of ours. Its riches cause us so much more anxiety the greater they are. Its pleasures are short, and often missed with much bitterness, as the maxim says: "Many a flower grows smooth and fair, But bitter the root that it doth bear." Have you not experienced this yourself? But, as Thomas a Kempis says: "The world is censured as deceitful and vain; and yet it is with reluctance abandoned, because the concupiscence of the flesh too much prevails. Some things draw us to love the world; others to despise it." -- Examine yourself. What is it that holds you to the world, that keeps you from loving God with your whole heart and serving Him?
3. Consider that our heart should set its goal on something higher if it wishes to despise the world. The heart of man wants to cling to something, yet man was not made for this world and its perishable goods. As Christians we have a higher, a nobler goal, where genuine, imperishable goods await us. That is why the prince of the Apostles says: "Blessed be God, who has regenerated us unto an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that cannot fade, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet 1:4) -- Direct the desires of your heart to that inheritance. Then it will soon despise the seeming good things of the world.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Almighty and eternal God, who didst mercifully withdraw Blessed Yolande from honor and riches, and didst graciously inspire her to choose instead the humble cross of Thy Son and the mortification of the flesh, grant, through her intercession and mercies, that we may despise temporal things and with upright hearts seek those that are eternal. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

June 13 - St. Anthony of Padua 1195-1231

Anthony was born in the year 1195 at Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, where his father was a captain in the royal army. Already at the age of fifteen years the youth had entered the Congregation of Canons Regular of St. Augustine, and was devoting himself with great earnestness to study and to the practice of piety in the monastery at Coimbra, when a significant event, which occurred in the year 1220, changed his entire career.

The relics of St. Berard and companions, the first martyrs of the Franciscan Order, were being brought from Africa to Coimbra. At the sight of them, Anthony was seized with an intense desire to suffer martyrdom as a Franciscan missionary in Africa. In response to his repeated and humble petitions, the permission of his superiors to transfer to the Franciscan Order was reluctantly given. At his departure, one of the canons said to him ironically, "Go, then, perhaps you will become a saint in the new order." Anthony replied, "Brother, when you hear that I have become a saint, you will praise God for it."

In the quiet little Franciscan convent at Coimbra he received a friendly reception, and in the very same year his earnest wish to be sent to the missions in Africa was fulfilled. But God had decreed otherwise. Anthony scarcely set foot on African soil when he was seized with a grievous illness. Even after recovering from it, he was so weak that, resigning himself to the will of God, he boarded a boat back to Portugal. But a storm drove the ship to the coast of Sicily, and Anthony went to Assisi, where the general chapter of the order was held in May, 1221.

As he still looked weak and sickly, and gave no evidence of his scholarship, no one paid any attention to the stranger until Father Gratian, provincial of Romagna, had compassion on him and sent him to the quiet little convent near Forli. There Anthony remained nine months occupied in the lowliest duties of the kitchen and convent, and to his heart's content he practiced interior as well as exterior mortification.

But the hidden jewel was soon to appear in all its brilliance. Anthony was sent to Forli with some other brethren, to attend the ceremony of ordination. At the convent there the superior wanted somebody to give an address for the occasion. Everybody excused himself, saying that he was not prepared, until Anthony was finally asked to give it. When he, too, excused himself most humbly, his superior ordered him by virtue of the vow of obedience to give the sermon. Anthony began to speak in a very reserved manner; but soon holy animation seized him, and he spoke with such eloquence, learning, and unction that everybody was fairly amazed.

When St. Francis was informed of the event, he gave Anthony the mission to preach all over Italy. At the request of the brethren, Anthony was later commissioned also to teach theology, "but in such a manner, St. Francis distinctly wrote, "that the spirit of prayer be not extinguished either in yourself or in the other brethren."

St. Anthony himself placed greater value on the salvation of souls than on learning. For that reason he never ceased to exercise his office as preacher along with the work of teaching. The concourse of hearers was sometimes so great that no church was large enough to accommodate the audiences and he had to preach in the open air. He wrought veritable miracles of conversion. Deadly enemies were reconciled with each other. Thieves and usurers made restitution of their ill gotten goods. Calumniators and detractors recanted and apologized. He was so energetic in defending the truths of the Catholic Faith that many heretics re-entered the pale of the Church, so that Pope Gregory IX called him "the ark of the covenant."

Once he was preaching at Rimini on the seacoast. He noticed that a group of heretics turned their backs to him and started to leave. Promptly the preacher turned to the sea and called out to the fishes: "Since the heretics do not wish to listen to me, do you come and listen to me!" And marvelous to say, shoals of fish came swimming and thrust their heads out of the water as if to hear the preacher. At this the heretics fell at Anthony's feet and begged to be instructed in the truth.

The blessings of St. Anthony's preaching were not confined to Italy. St. Francis sent him to France, where for about three years (1225-1227) he labored with blessed results in the convents of his order as well as o]in the pulpit. In all his labors he never forgot the admonition of his spiritual Father, that the spirit of prayer must not be extinguished. If he spent the day in teaching, and heard the confessions of sinners till late in the evening, then many hours of the night were spent in intimate union with God.

Once a man, at whose home Anthony was spending the night, came upon the saint and found him holding in his arms a child of unspeakable beauty surrounded with heavenly light. It was the Child Jesus.

In 1227, Anthony was elected minister provincial of upper Italy; and then he resumed the work of preaching. Due to his taxing labors and his austere practice of penance, he soon felt his strength so spent that he prepared himself for death. After receiving the last sacraments he kept looking upward with a smile on his countenance. When he was asked what he saw there, he answered, "I see my Lord." Then he breathed forth his soul on June 13, 1231, being only 36 years old. Soon the children in the streets of the city of Padua were crying, "The saint is dead. Anthony is dead."

Pope Gregory IX enrolled him among the saints in the very next year. At Padua a magnificent basilica was built in his honor, his holy relics were entombed there in 1263. From the time of his death up to the present day, countless miracles have occurred through St. Anthony's intercession, so that he is known as the Wonder-Worker. In 1946 he was also declared a Doctor of the Church.

ON THE VENERATION OF ST. ANTHONY
1. Consider how highly St. Anthony is honored by Holy Church. His feast is celebrated by the whole Catholic Church, and the priests celebrate holy Mass in his honor. In Franciscan churches, not only is his feast observed with great solemnity, but every Tuesday devotions in his honor are conducted before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, at which devotion all the faithful can gain a plenary indulgence. In Padua, where a magnificent basilica has been erected in his honor, he is called the Saint, as if there were no other that can compare with him, as when we style God's Mother the Holy Virgin. Among Catholics there is hardly anyone who does not know the dear saint with the Infant Jesus. -- Do you pay him due honor? Do you use the opportunity to gain the indulgence on Tuesday?
2. Consider that, judging by the measure with which God permits St. Anthony to be honored here on earth, his power in heaven must be very great. The experience of the whole Catholic world testifies to the fact. >From the day of his death to the present time, he has been invoked in the most diverse needs, and these prayers are answered in a almost remarkable manner. -- Have you not had the experience yourself? Call upon him with confidence in every necessity, and in case of serious trouble make the devotion of the nine Tuesdays.
3. Consider that in a special way St. Anthony is invoked as the restorer of lost objects. God usually gives the saints a power of intercession in keeping with the way by which there were distinguished in life. Now Anthony once missed a book of the Psalms which he valued very highly because he had written so many comments on the Psalms in it. He prayed earnestly to his dear Jesus to restore the book to him, and behold, soon afterwards a young man who had taken the book came to him, driven by some indescribable fear, and brought it back to him. Pray to St. Anthony and to the Divine Child with similar fervor, and you will experience his power. But let us not only pray for lost temporal things, but particularly for the more precious gifts of the soul. For example, let us pray for that devotion we used to have and have lost, for our lost patience, our lost zeal for all that is good. May he gladden us by restoring it so that we may one day rejoice with him in eternal bliss.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, may the votive commemoration of St. Anthony, your confessor and doctor, be a joy to your Church, that she may always be fortified with spiritual assistance and deserve to enjoy eternal happiness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

June 22 - St. Thomas More 1480-1535

St. Thomas belongs to that class of Tertiaries who have grasped the true spirit of their Seraphic Father. It is a spirit of deep-seated piety and of contempt for the world, as well as of unswerving fidelity to Holy Church practiced in an exceptional degree and sealed with one's blood.

His father was a knight. Thomas was born in London in 1480. Having been a very devout youth, he became a lawyer. His services were constantly in demand, but nevertheless he always found time to attend holy Mass daily and to perform other pious practices.

As the father of a family, he was concerned that his children should be reared in the fear of God. He became famous for his book entitled _Utopia_. By means of his "Kingdom of Nowhere" he scourged in fine satire the evils that were eating their way into the Church and the State.

Through Henry VIII he became attached to the royal court and was finally appointed Lord High Chancellor. The time had now arrived in which the Tertiary was to manifest how sincerely he had grasped the spirit of the Saint of Assisi. As was to be expected, even as a statesman Thomas More continued to make his accustomed religious practices. He set aside every Friday as a day of introspection. His charity was without limit.

He experienced special delight in serving the priest at holy Mass, and he received holy Communion daily. He was told, by way of reproach, that it was unbecoming for a layman with so much work to do and so many distractions to communicate daily. But he replied: "You are advancing the very reasons for the need of frequent holy Communion. If I am distracted, holy Communion helps me to become recollected. If opportunities are offered me each day to offend my God, I arm myself anew each day for the combat by the reception of the Eucharist. If I am in special need of light and prudence in order to discharge my burdensome duties, I draw nigh to my Savior and seek counsel and light from Him."

But it was not long before his doom was sealed. Blinded by unholy passions, King Henry divorced his lawful wife and married Anne Boleyn, a lady in waiting at the court. When Rome justly condemned his adulterous act, the king severed his connections with Rome and set himself up as the head of the Church in England. Whoever disapproved of his conduct was doomed to die.

The first person who opposed the king was his loyal chancellor, Thomas More. He was cast into prison. There he wrote a pamphlet entitled _Death Endured for the Faith Need Cause No Fear_. When his wife endeavored to persuade him to give up his opposition and prolong his life, he asked her just how long she believed he would still live. She answered, "At least twenty years." "Indeed!" said Thomas More. "Had you said a few thousand years, that might make a difference. But surely even he would be a poor merchant who would run the risk of losing an eternity for the sake of a thousand years." He was beheaded on July 6, 1535.

Pope Leo XIII beatified this great Tertiary, and Pope Pius XI canonized him on May 19, 1935.

ON LOYALTY TO CHRIST
1. Remain loyal to Christ by the way you live. Christ, however, "began to do" (Acts 1:1), and then He went out to teach. Thomas More, His faithful servant, acted in like manner. His whole conduct showed that he belonged to Christ. He often remarked: "There are many people who purchase hell at so great an effort that one-half of it would be sufficient to win heaven." -- Manifest to the world by a good Catholic life that you belong to Christ.
2. Be loyal to Christ by your love for the Blessed Sacrament. Faith taught Thomas to behold in the Sacred Host Him who said: "This is My Body!" It was, therefore, his greatest delight and duty to attend the holy Sacrifice daily, to serve the priests of Christ, and to receive Christ in holy Communion. -- Can this also be said of you?
3. Be loyal to Christ by your loyalty to the Church. She is the living Christ and loved by Him even unto death (Eph 5:25). St. Thomas refused to swerve a finger's breadth in his loyalty to his Church even though his fidelity brought him prison and death. -- Beg St. Thomas for like fidelity, and you will share with him a like reward.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Almighty and eternal God, grant us, we beseech Thee, that we who celebrate the festival of Thy Holy martyr Thomas, may through his intercession, be firmly established in our love for Thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

June 30 - Blessed Raymond Lull 1236-1314

Raymond belonged to the noble Lull family and was born at Palma on the island of Mallorca in 1236. At a very early age he became a page at the royal court; and before he was 30 years old he had been advanced to the position of marshal and high steward to King James of Mallorca.

For several years he followed the lead of other courtiers, serving the world and vanity. But God in His mercy soon led him along a better path. On the feast of St. Francis he heard a bishop portray in vivid terms the contempt of the world and the love of Christ with which the Poverello was imbued. For some time past Raymond had perceived in himself the desire for nobler things than human honors. So he recognized in the bishop's sermon the call of God to forsake all things and to win for Christ the infidels on the northern coast of Africa.

Without hesitation Raymond followed the call. He resigned his offices, left the royal court, and founded a college in which missionaries, particularly those who belonged to the Order of Friars Minor, should receive the necessary training in the languages of northern Africa. He himself joined the Third Order of St. Francis, and for nine years retired to the solitude of Mt. Randa in order to prepare himself by prayer and study. God favored him with much heavenly inspiration and granted him extraordinary knowledge so that, in spite of his numerous undertakings he was able to write admirable things about the most difficult questions in philosophy and theology.

Raymond then made long journeys to Rome, Avignon, Montipellier, Paris, and Vienne, in order to interest the Holy Father and the various potentates in the work of conversion and the founding of seminaries for missionaries.

In 1314, at the age of 79 he himself undertook a missionary expedition to Africa. It was destined to be his last journey. While preaching the Faith of Christ in the public square at Bougie, a group of fanatical Mussulmans seized him and stoned him. He was bleeding from countless wounds and left for dead in the market place. Genoese merchants took him aboard their ship in order to give him burial in his own country. During the voyage Raymond regained consciousness for a time, but when the ship arrived near Mallorca, he breathed his last.

A very great concourse of people gathered for his burial in the Franciscan church at Palma in Mallorca where he had joined the Third Order. Soon miracles were reported as occurring at the grave of the glorious martyr. Pope Leo X beatified him, and Mallorca chose him as its special patron.

ON THE GREAT VALUE OF CHRISTIAN FAITH
1. As soon as the eyes of Blessed Raymond were opened by the word of God and interior grace, he perceived that all material things are nothing when compared with the inestimable treasures of the Christian Faith. For 9 years he retired into solitude in order to make a thorough study of the Faith by reading religious books, by meditation and prayer, and he spent his great fortune, and even life itself, in order to bring this precious blessing to others. St. Augustine held the Faith in like regard when he said: "No amount of wealth, no treasure, no honor, no worldly advantage is greater than the Christian Faith." Faith alone teaches us the true value of things; for worldly knowledge is subject to error. Whatever the Christian Faith teaches is infallible truth, for "he believes in the Son of God, who has the testimony of God in himself" (1 John 5:10). This testimony alone indicates the true value of all that is material and eternal. He who judges these things in any other way is eternally deceived. -- Have you valued your Faith accordingly and revered it as a teacher?
2. Consider that the Christian Faith is also the greatest consolation in all our earthly sorrows. Here on earth it often happens, and God's wisdom often arranges it thus, that an honest and God-fearing Christian is visited with great troubles and difficulties and misfortunes, while unbelievers and the godless seem to fare well and everything they undertake seems to succeed. But if you are deeply imbued with the Christian Faith you will recognize in all the sorrow that comes your way the seeds of a rich harvest which awaits you in eternity. Filled with interior consolation, you will then say with the Apostles: "I know whom I have believed, and I am certain that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him, against that day" (2 Tim 1:2). If calumny and persecution come upon you, and it appears that the whole world has conspired against you, but you adhere firmly to the principles of the Christian Faith, you may say confidently: "This is the victory which overcomes the world, our faith (1 John 5:4). -- Thank God for the gift of the Christian Faith. Have you used it well in the time of sorrow?
3. If the Christian Faith is so inestimable a blessing, how concerned should we be to preserve it without stain and to strengthen it! Our Faith is weakened and often lost through association with unbelievers, through the reading of literature that is hostile to the Faith, through conceit and adverse criticism of the truths of our Faith. Be on your guard, therefore, to avoid these snares, and pray often and fervently that God may preserve the Faith in you and permit you to be more and more imbued with it.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst adorn Blessed Raymond, Thy martyr, with zeal for the salvation of souls and the spread of the Gospel, grant us, Thy servants, that through his intercession and mediation we may faithfully preserve unto death which we have received in Thy grace. 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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