May 9 - St. Catharine of Bologna 1413-1463
The birth of Catharine was foretold to her devout father by the Blessed Virgin, with the announcement that the child would be a brilliant light throughout the world. On the feast of the Annunciation of Our Lady in the year 1413, Catharine was born at Bologna. Her father, John of Vigri, was a relative of the marquis of Este, who resided in Ferrara. It was his wish that little Catharine, who charmed everyone with her beauty and lovableness, be brought to his court, to be educated there with his daughter. Here Catharine learned the foreign languages and especially Latin, painting, and everything that belongs to the culture of a young woman of high rank. People admired in her the singular wisdom and insight with which she read the profound works of the Fathers of the Church, along with her great modesty and such purity of soul that she was looked upon more as an angelic than as a human being.
The court with all its splendor was not able to fascinate Catharine. The most distinguished suitors were compelled to withdraw without the least hope of obtaining her hand in marriage; she entertained no other desire than to be plighted forever to Jesus Christ, the spouse of her heart. When she was 17 years old, she obtained the consent of her mother--her father having already died--to join a pious company of young women in Ferrara who led a religious life but had not yet adopted a definite rule. Catharine appeared among them as a mirror of all the virtues, but meanwhile she was also being subjected to very severe temptations of the evil spirit.
Four years later, a royal princess founded a convent for this society according to the rule of St. Clare, and several zealous sisters from Mantua introduces the young women to the Poor Clare rule of life. Catharine was charged with the duties of the bakery; she cheerfully undertook this laborious service, and even when the heat began to affect her eyes, she remained at her post as long as the abbess required it.
One day, just as she had placed the loaves in the oven, the bell called her to the choir for some very special religious service; she made the Sign of the Cross over the loaves and said, "I commend you to our Lord." She was not in a position to return to the bakery until five hours later, and certainly believed that everything had been burned by that time. However, when she removed the loaves from the oven, there were nicer than ever.
After a time she was entrusted with the duties of mistress of novices. Catharine tried, indeed, to be excused, explaining that she was entirely incapable of this task; but she was compelled by obedience to accept it. Her diffidence in herself drew down God's blessing on her efforts to give the novices a good training. She endeavored, above all, to impress on their young hearts that they should desire nothing but the honor of God and the fulfillment of His holy will, and so she recommended that they look upon the holy rule and obedience to their superiors as their guides. Her own experience taught her how to protect them from the snares of the devil. "Sometimes," she said, "he inspires souls with an inordinate zeal for a certain virtue or some special pious exercise, so that they will be motivated in its practice by passion; or again, he permits them to become discouraged so that they will neglect everything because they are wearied and disgusted. It is necessary to overcome the one snare as well as the other." She also taught them to use the golden mean that leads to solid virtue.
For a long time she herself was troubled with the temptation to sleep during the spiritual exercises. Once when she was again heroically struggling against it during the holy Mass, God Almighty permitted her to hear the angelic choir singing after the elevation. From then on the temptation was overcome, and she was even able to devote hours to prayer during the night.
Catharine had spent 24 years in the convent at Ferrara and had trained many sisters in the way of sanctity when, at the request of the city of Bologna, she was sent with 15 sisters to establish a similar convent in her native town. She was appointed abbess, and governed her community with wisdom and motherly love. She was particularly solicitous for the sick sisters. In dispensing to them spiritual consolation she said, "My dear sisters, you are now the true brides of the Divine Savior, who chose pain and sufferings as His portion."
Although she was sickly from the time that she was 22, she never complained. When at times it seemed to her that her afflicted body would be justified in complaining, she would say to herself, "O bundle of corruption, that will soon turn into dust, why should you complain? It appears as if you had not yet learnt to be a true servant of Christ."
She was particularly tactful in preserving peace within herself and peace among the members of her community. Hence she was also loved by all of them. When she died on March 9, 1463, sounds of sobbing and weeping were heard everywhere in the convent. But even after her death her sisters were to be made joyful through her. Her body, which had been the temple of so chaste and immaculately pure a soul, diffused a sweet odor. It remained incorrupt and retained its quality of flexibility like that of a living body. Thus it can still be seen in Bologna, robed in a costly garment presented by St. Charles Borromeo and seated on a throne, under a crystal shrine. Innumerable miracles reward the faithful for their devotion to her. Pope Clement XI canonized her.
ON THE VIRTUE OF CHASTITY
1. On the throne on which the chaste body of St. Catharine of Bologna is honored, one reads the words in which the Holy Spirit pronounces the praise of chastity: "O how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory; for the memory thereof is immortal. It triumphs, crowned for ever, winning the reward of undefiled conflicts" (Wisd 4:12). Undefiled purity requires a struggle in every state of life, in every period of human life; but such a reward is well worth the struggle. Have you fought faithfully for this precious treasure?
2. Consider, on the other hand, what an abominable vice impurity is. While chastity makes men similar to angels and sometimes preserves them from corruption after death, impurity degrades them to the level of the beast and sometimes produces corruption even before the soul has left the body. The unchaste person become an abomination in the sight of God, in the sight of men, and in his own eyes. Here on earth, impurity deprives a man of all peace of heart and of all the joys of life; and if he is not sincerely converted, he shall in eternity have "his portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone" (Apoc 21:8). Who would not be frightened at beginnings which lead to so terrible an end?
3. Consider the dangers that lead to the defilement of chastity. The softness and sensuality with which we pamper our bodies are the principal ones among the dangers. In the sensual appetite we carry a slumbering serpent in our bosom. If we nourish it with sensuality, it will not be long ere we feel its poisonous sting. Reading dangerous books, looking at shameful pictures, attending frivolous plays and dances, and associating with dissolute companions aggravate to a still greater degree this evil propensity. No poison is so infectious as that of impurity. Amid so many dangers, Christians may well say with the Apostle: "Unhappy man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom 7:24). But we, too, can gain the victory with the help of God and through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary as did all the other chaste souls who are now triumphing in heaven.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Grant, O God, that we, Thy servants, may receive help through the intercession of the holy virgin Catharine, that by the sweet odor of her virtues, we may be joyfully attracted to Thy sanctuary. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
See also: http://www.olisfo.cqc.com/cal.htm
May 11 - St. Ignatius of Laconi 1701-1781
Ignatius, the son of pious peasants at Laconi, Sicily, was born in 1701. As a young man he vowed, during a serious illness, that, if he recovered his health, he would consecrate his life to God in the Capuchin Order. He regained his health, but kept putting off the fulfillment of his vow from day to day. Then, as if to warn him, his life was gain threatened when a horse he was riding became shy. Ignatius called upon St. Francis renewing the vow he had previously made, and again received help. This time even his parents raised no objections.
He asked for admission at the convent at Cagliari, but the superiors hesitated at first because of his delicate health. Then Ignatius looked up an influential friend who interceded for him, and he was received. The ardor of his soul made him so strong that he could attend all the exercises of the community and even excel his brethren in perfect observance of the rule.
After being employed in the community for several years at various occupations, he was appointed quester of alms because of his edifying conduct. The citizens of Cagliari soon realized that Brother Ignatius really gave them more than he took away with him. His modest demeanor was a quiet sermon for all who saw him going about. He seldom spoke; but when charity and the salvation of souls required it, he spoke with exceptional kindness. He would also instruct the children and the uneducated, comfort the sick, and urge sinners to be converted and to do penance. Mockery and contempt he accepted calmly, replying only with kind words.
He punctually obeyed his superiors, also when it required the denial of his own will. The good brother was accustomed to pass by the house of a usurer, because he feared that in accepting an alms from him he would share the guilt of this man's injustices. But when the man complained and the superior commanded the brother to accept alms from him, Ignatius always called on the usurer for his donation. Perhaps this is what caused the man's conversion.
The sister of the servant of God had often written to him asking him to pay her a visit, so she could get his advice in certain important matters. Ignatius had no mind to heed her request, but when his superior ordered him to do so, he at once undertook the journey. But he left again as soon as he had given the required advice.
When his brother was sent to prison, it was hoped that, in view of the reputation of Brother Ignatius, the latter could obtain his brother's release. His superior sent him to speak to the governor, but he asked merely that his brother be dealt with according to justice. Not for anything in the world would Brother Ignatius have kept anyone from doing his duty.
Despite his infirmity, Ignatius persevered in his arduous work until he was 80 years old. Even after he became blind, he continued to make his daily rounds for two years. The veneration of the people increased, and many sick persons were miraculously aided by him.
He died on May 11, 1781, and many miracles occurred at his grave. Brother Ignatius was beatified in 1940, and canonized in 1951.
ON RELINQUISHING OUR OWN OPINION
1. Consider how St. Ignatius gave up his own opinion and serenely followed his superior's orders in instances where at first he feared he would be doing wrong. It is the common teaching of theologians that we not only may but must relinquish our opinion when our lawful superiors prescribe the opposite, as long as their command is not openly sinful. But we should not cling too tenaciously to our opinion even when we deal with other sensible and conscientious people. To persist obstinately in our own ideas is a plain sign of conceit, and it may lead us sadly astray. Thomas a Kempis (3,7) says of it: "If such who are as yet inexperienced will rather follow their own judgment than believe others who have more experience, their end will be perilous, should they refuse to be withdrawn from their own conceits." -- Do you perhaps have to fear such an outcome?
2. Consider that especially in regard to our confessors and spiritual directors we must give up our own opinion. The words of the Apostle apply here: "Obey your prelates and be subject to them. For they watch as having to render an account of your souls" (Heb 13:17). -- If you obey your director in a childlike and docile way, he bears the responsibility and not you, and as a conscientious director he will have no fear to give the required account. But insist on sticking to your own course against his advise, and he may now and then let you have your way, but with a sigh he will think of the account he has to render, and that, as the Apostle adds, "is not expedient for you."
3. Consider that, like St. Ignatius, we may not yield to the opinion or accede to the wishes of others if we should thereby fail in duty or cause others to do so. Ignatius did not, therefore, ask the judge to release his brother just as a favor to himself. Justice and duty supersede human preference, and they must not be violated for the sake of any human being. The words of the Apostle again apply here: "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). -- May God's grace be with us to help us know when we must relinquish our own opinion, and when we may not follow the opinion of others.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who enlightenest every man that cometh into this world, shed upon our hearts, we beseech Thee, the brightness of Thy grace, that we may ever think thoughts worthy of Thy majesty and pleasing unto Thee, and ever sincerely love Thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
May 16 - St. Margaret of Cortona 1247-1297
This Magdalen of the Franciscan Order came into the world in the year 1247 at Laviano near Cortona in the province of Tuscany. When she was 7 years old, she lost her pious mother. She was neglected by her careless father, who married again within a short time, and her unsympathetic stepmother death harshly with her, so that when Margaret was 18 years old, she left home to earn her bread among strangers.
She was possessed of rare beauty, and ere long this became a snare for her. For the space of 9 years she gave herself up to a life of sin and scandal. Then one day she waited a long time in vain for her accomplice in sin to return home to the place where she lived with him. Presently his dog came to her whining and tugging at her dress. She followed the animal into the heart of the forest, and there she suddenly stood before the blood stained corpse of the unfortunate man; his enemies had murdered him.
At the appalling sight, Margaret was stunned like one struck by lightening. Filled with terror she asked herself, "Where is his soul now?" Then and there she firmly resolved in future to be even greater in penance than she had been in sin. Like the prodigal son she returned repentant to her native town of Laviano.
In a penitential garb, her hair cut short, a cord around her neck, she knelt at the door of the church and publicly asked all the congregation to forgive the scandal she had given. Many people were edified at this public humiliation, but her stepmother was all the more embittered at it. She. as well as Margaret's father, forbade her to enter the parental home again. This reception severely tempted Margaret to return to the road of vice, but God's grace sustained her.
Led by divine grace, she repaired to Cortona, made a contrite general confession to a Franciscan there, and submitted to the spiritual direction of her confessor. In a poor little hovel she now lived a secluded life, in penance, tears, and prayer, earning her scanty nourishment by hard manual labor.
Again and again she begged for the habit of the Third Order, that she might be recognized by all the world as a penitent. But not until 3 years had elapsed and she had been severely tried, was her wish granted. She received the habit in 1277. Now her fervor increased, and it is almost incredible what rigorous penances she practiced from then on. Day and night she wept over her sins, and often sobs so choked her voice that she could not speak. Satan made use of every wile and snare to cause Margaret to relapse, but prayer, mortification, and humiliation successfully put him to flight.
When finally, after uninterrupted struggling, she had triumphed over every earthly inclination, God assured her that her sins were fully pardoned and granted her special proofs of His knowledge of the innermost secrets of hearts. In many an instance, even when people came from great distances, she recalled grievous sins to their mind, while her exhortations and prayers were instrumental in bringing about conversion. Many souls were released from purgatory upon her prayers. Almighty God wrought many miracles through her even in her lifetime. Health was restored to the sick, a dead boy was raised to life, and at her approach evil spirits shuddered and left those whom they possessed.
Finally, after 23 years of rigorous penance, in the 50th year of her life, God called the great penitent to the Beatific Vision on February 22, 1297. Her body is preserved in a precious shrine in the Franciscan church at Cortona which bears her name. It is incorrupt even at the present day and frequently emits a pleasant perfume. Several popes have confirmed the public veneration accorded her. Pope Benedict XIII canonized her amid great solemnity in 1728.
ON CONTRITION FOR SINS
1. How remarkable the effects of divine grace and mercy manifested themselves in St. Margaret! From all appearances she seemed destined only to become a vessel of divine wrath, and yet she became a vessel of election. And what brought about the marvelous change? It was her sincere contrition. We must never despair of the conversion of any sinner; contrition can make a saint of him. You yourself must never despair of your own conversion. No matter how difficult it may be to lay aside certain sinful habits, with the grace of God you will succeed, and He will never deny this grace to a contrite heart. "A contrite and humble heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (Ps 50:19). But sincere contrition is in itself a grace. Do you ever implore the gift from God? Pray especially during the season of Lent each year for the spirit of penance.
2. Consider what constitutes true contrition. It is sorrow of the soul which detests the sins committed and has the firm resolution not to sin again. Seeing what he has done, considering the punishment he has deserved from a just God, realizing the unworthiness of offending God, who is his greatest benefactor and the greatest and most lovable of all good things, the sinner cries out with a contrite heart: "Oh, how badly I have behaved! Would that I could undo it! Not for all the world will I do it again! Oh, once more, good Jesus, have mercy on me!" If tears follow upon this grief of the soul, they help to increase your remorse and the efficacy of your sorrow; but you can have perfect contrition without tears. On the other hand, no matter how bitterly you were to weep merely on account of disgrace incurred or temporal loss suffered by your sins, it would not suffice for the remission of sins in the sacrament of penance. The thought of having offended God and deserved His punishments must be the cause of your sorrow. Indeed, you should endeavor to awaken perfect contrition, saying for example, to your dear heavenly Father: "O my God, so worthy of all my love, greatest and best of all that is good! I grieve from the bottom of my heart that I have offended Thee. Let me rather die than ever offend Thee again." St. Margaret had such contrition; so did St. Mary Magdalen. That is why their many sins were forgiven them, "because they loved much." Have you endeavored to acquire perfect contrition?
3. Consider that it is a fatal error to believe that, after you have once made an act of contrition for your sins, you may be as unconcerned about them as if nothing had ever happened. "Man knows not," says the Holy Spirit, "whether he be worthy of love or hatred" (Eccli 9:1). We should again and again make acts of contrition for past sins, and it is good also to confess them again and again subject to the direction of the priest, according to the words of the prophet: "Wash me yet more from my iniquity" (Ps 50:4). Even if, like St. Margaret, you were assured by divine revelation of the full pardon of your sins, love of God should induce you, as it did her, to keep up in your heart lively sorrow for having offended so good a God. This sorrow should move you to lead a life of penance, and for this reason the holy Fathers tell us that the life of a Christian should be on uninterrupted act of penance. -- Can you say this of your life?
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst bring back Thy servant Margaret from the road of perdition to the way of salvation, grant in the same mercy, that we who once were not ashamed to follow her astray may now be glad to imitate her in penance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
May 17 - St. Paschal of Baylon 1540-1592
Paschal was born on the feast of Pentecost in the year 1540 at Torre Hermosa in Spain. His parents were poor in worldly goods but rich in piety and Christian virtue. The child appeared to be endowed with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit in an eminent degree. He was joyfully attentive and obedient to the good lessons his parents taught him, and he so excelled other children of his age in understanding of the divine truths and zeal for virtue that everybody marveled at it.
As the lowly position of his parents demanded, Paschal, already as a boy, had to tend the cattle of strangers. Although, due to his work, he took no part in the noisy life of the other boys, he was, never the less, well liked by them. They had a certain respect for him, they had him settle their quarrels, and they willingly accepted reprimands from him and listened to the Christian instructions he sometimes gave them.
His employer was so pleased with Paschal, who had meanwhile grown to be a strong young man, that one day he declared to him his intention to adopt him and make him his heir. But the young man answered gratefully that he wished to remain poor and was minded to consecrate himself to the service of God in the religious state.
Later, Paschal moved to another province, and at the age of 24 begged for admission as a lay brother at the convent of the Friars Minor at Monteforte. His request was granted, and Paschal seemed to run the path of perfection with ease and alacrity. He was so humble that he considered himself last of all. At the same time he was so charitable that he cheerfully assumed the most burdensome duties for other brothers. He was so strict with his body that even at the most arduous tasks he would permit himself no relaxation in his way of living. He was so devoted to prayer that he spent all his spare time at it.
On the road, while gathering alms, he always had his rosary in his hand and God in his heart. Paschal fostered special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom he called his Mother, and to the Blessed Sacrament, and it proved a constant means to rekindle his zeal.
God showed how pleased He was with his devotion. One day while out-of-doors, Paschal devoutly knelt down to adore the Blessed Sacrament when the bell announced the Consecration. At that moment the Blessed Sacrament was presented to him in a monstrance supported by angels hovering in the air. In the convent church he was frequently found before the tabernacle prostrate or with his arms outstretched, or even rapt in ecstasy. At such times his soul was flooded with light from above. At any rate, the simple brother, who had never learned to read or write, could discourse about the deepest mysteries of religion with marvelous insight to the astonishment of the most learned men.
Because of his heavenly enlightenment the Father Provincial once sent him from Spain on a very important matter to the general of the order, who at the time was staying in France. Paschal made the long and wearisome journey across the Pyrenees barefoot, traveling through regions infested with fanatical heretics, who on several occasions sought the life of the religious brother. But God's angel protected him on the journey to France and back, so that he escaped all danger.
After his return, Paschal remained the same humble brother as before and advanced in every virtue until the day of his happy death. He died at Villareal, on the feast of Pentecost, the feast on which he was born, May 17, 1592. It was during high Mass in the convent church, at the moment of the elevation of the Sacred Host, that Paschal breathed forth his last.
At the funeral, according to custom, the body of the deceased brother lay on an open stretcher in the church. When the Blessed Sacrament was raised in the Requiem Mass, the dead body raised itself, bowed to the Sacred Host, repeating the act of reverence at the elevation of the Chalice, and then lowered itself again. Numerous other miracles occurred at his grave.
Pope Paul V beautified Paschal and Pope Alexander VIII canonized him in the year 1690. Pope Leo XIII in 1897 made him the patron of all Eucharistic societies and congresses.
ON DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED SACRAMENT
1. Consider that God showed by a miracle of the dead body of St. Paschal how pleasing to him is devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. How it must offend God when Christians in full health are too indifferent or comfortable to show respect to the Blessed Sacrament. Does not the same Majesty reign in our churches in the Blessed Sacrament before which the angels and archangels, and all the saints and the just offer their homage in heaven? And is it too much for a poor worm of earth to bend his knee in reverence? Where will such Christians seek assurance when the same God appears in glory and majesty to judge the living and the dead? -- Will you have no reason to tremble then?
2. Consider the respect Holy Mother Church renders to the most holy Sacrament of the Altar. The God-man really present in the Blessed Sacrament is the motive that explains the magnificence of our churches, the splendor of our cathedrals and convent churches, in some of which the chants are heard even at midnight. According to the rubrics, even the poorest village church must keep the sanctuary lamp burning steadily before the Blessed Sacrament day and night. But should the light of the sanctuary lamp alone rise towards Him? Should it not rather remind us that our hearts should glow like it with true inner devotion to the Holy Sacrament? -- Have you up till now heeded this lesson of the sanctuary lamp?
3. Consider that devotion to the Blessed Sacrament should not be confined to the walls of the House of God. On the feast of Corpus Christi the Blessed Sacrament is sometimes carried about in solemn procession as in a public triumphal march. On the occasion everybody should do what lies in his power to honor Him whom no words of praise or tokens of honor can ever extol enough. Consider it an honor to take part in such processions. Also on less splendid occasions when the Holy Sacrament is taken to the sick, perhaps in your own home or in that of a neighbor, never omit to manifest your deep devotion. Then our Lord will also come to you in holy Communion so much the more graciously, notably on the day when He will be brought to you as your Viaticum.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst adorn the Blessed Paschal, Thy confessor, with a wonderful love for the mysteries of Thy Body and Blood, mercifully grant that we may draw from the Divine Banquet the same fullness of spirit that he did. Who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.
See also http://www.olisfo.cqc.com/cal.htm
May 18 - St. Felix of Cantalice 1515-1587
In 1515, in the Italian village of Cantalice, in the beautiful valley of Rieti, Felix was born of humble but pious peasants. As a boy he tended cattle, and later he became a farm laborer. Being so much amid God's free nature, his heart was attracted to God, who gracious ministering to us human beings he had daily before his eyes.
Neither did the hard work make him coarse and worldly-minded, as sometimes happens, but he was gentle and kind towards everyone. When he came home at night all tired out, he still spent much time in his little room engaged in prayer, to which for that matter he applied himself also while at work. It grieved him that he could not attend holy Mass on weekdays. He would indeed gladly have consecrated his whole life to the service of God, but he could see no way of carrying out his desire until one day an accident showed him the way.
Felix had to break to the plow a team of young oxen that were very wild. The oxen shied, and when Felix tried to stop them, they ram him down, dragging the sharp plowshare across his body. Peasants ran to the scene, certain that they would find the man dead, but Felix arose unharmed, with only his jacket rent. But he went straight to his employer and begged to be released from his service. The little he possessed he gave to the poor, and went to the nearest Capuchin convent, where he humbly begged for admission. After careful trial, his request was granted.
Now Felix felt like one newly born, as if heaven itself had opened to him. It was the year 1543, and Felix was 28 years old. But in his novitiate he was yet to experience the burden and the struggles of this earthly life. The devil attacked him with violent temptations of all kinds. He was also seized with a lingering illness, which made it appear that he was unfit for convent life. But patience, steadfast self-control, prayer, and candor toward his superiors helped him secure admission to the vows, which he took with great delight.
Soon afterwards he was sent to the Capuchin convent at Rome, where, because of his genuine piety and friendly manner, he was appointed to the task of gathering alms, which he did for all the next 42 years until his death. With his provision sack slung over his shoulder, he went about so humbly and reserved in manner that he edified everybody. When he received an alms, he had so cordial a way of saying Deo Gratias - thanks be to God - that the people called him Brother Deo Gratias. As soon as he got back to the convent and delivered the provisions, he found his way to church. There he first said a prayer for the benefactors, then he poured out his heart in devotion especially before the Blessed Sacrament and at the altar of our Lady. There he also passed many hours of the night, and one time the Mother of God placed the Divine Child in the arms of the overjoyed Felix.
He was most conscientious in observing every detail of his role and vows. He did not wait for the orders of his superiors; a mere hint from them was enough. Although always in touch with the world, he kept careful guard over his chastity in every word and look, that Pope Paul V said he was a saint in body and soul.
Poverty was his favorite virtue. Because out holy Father St. Francis forbade his friars to accept money in any form, Felix could not be prevailed upon to accept it under ant circumstances. How pleasing his spirit was to God was to be proved in a remarkable way. Once on leaving a house, Felix slung his sack over his shoulder, but felt it weigh so heavily that it almost crushed him. He searched the sack and found a coin which someone had secretly slipped into it. He threw it away in disgust, and cheerfully and easily took up his sack again.
Almighty God granted for Felix extraordinary graces. Many sick persons he restored to health with the Sign of the Cross. A dead child he gave back alive to its mother. In the most puzzling cases he was able to give helpful advice. Honored by the great and lowly, he considered himself the most wretched of men, but earned so much more merits with God.
Finally, the day arrived when Felix was to gather the board of his merits. He died with a cheerful countenance while catching sight of the Mother of God, who invited him to the joys of Paradise. It was on the feast of Pentecost, May 18, 1587. Pope Urban VIII beatified him, Pope Clement XI inscribed him in the register of the saints in 1709.
ON THE USE OF MONEY
1. For love of poverty in the highest degree and recognizing the dangers to Christian perfection usually connected with money, St. Francis forbade his friars to accept money, as Christ Himself wished His disciples not to carry money about with them (Mt 10:9). We behold in the life of St. Felix how agreeable to God is the faithful observance of the precept of St. Francis wherever that is possible. But there are instances when no Christian may accept money. That were to be the case if anyone were to offer money in order to make you do wrong or be unfaithful to your duty. Solomon complained among the Jews: "All things obey money" (Eccl 10:19). Must this complaint not be applied to Christians, too? To such who accept money for sordid reasons as well as to such who give it, the curse of Peter, the prince of the Apostles, applies: "Let your money perish with your" (Acts 8:20). -- Have you perhaps reason to fear this curse?
2. Consider that to acquire the necessities of life, money is something very useful, and as civil life is today, one cannot do without it. But it must be used in the right way. That is why it should not be given freely to such who are apt to abuse it. such as children or shiftless needy people. It is better to give such persons the things they need than the ready money. Neither may we ourselves spend it wastefully or squander it, because God will require an account of the way we spend our money. But it should serve for necessary expenses for ourselves and our charges in accordance with our position in life. The father of a house, for example, must cheerfully provide the necessary money, so that his wife and children are not driven to tell lies and to steal. Money should also be applied, according to ones means, to help relieve the needs of others, as well as to promote good purposes and to further the welfare of the Church and the honor of God. Fortunate is he who uses his money thus. -- Have you always used it well?
3. Consider that it is not wrong to lay aside a quantity of money for times of need. A wise proverb reads: "Save in time, and you will have something in the day of need." But be on your guard lest saving should breed love for money, a thing that can readily happen. In that case economy would not save you from distressful experience, but would rather increase the chance, since he who loves money, "sets even his own soul to sale" (Eccli 10:10). Therefore it is well not to be too saving, but to rely upon God. Should, for example, a particular need arise to help your neighbor, then with the confidence of a child use your savings for him as willingly as for your own need, since Jesus Christ teaches: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31).
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Make us, Lord Jesus, walk in the innocence and simplicity of our hearts, since for love of these virtues Thou didst descend from the bosom of Thy Mother into the arms of Blessed Felix, Thy confessor. Who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.
May 20 - Bernardin of Siena 1380-1444
St. Antoninus, archbishop of Florence, begins the biography of Bernardin with the words, "The grace of God, Our Saviour, has appeared in His servant Bernardin, who shone like a bright star in a dark night, and with the heavenly brilliance of his virtue and doctrine frightened away the darkness."
The great saint descended from the old knightly family of the Albizeschi of Siena, and was born on September 8, 1380, in the town of Massa, a dependency of Siena, where his father was governor. When Bernardin was only 7 years old, he had lost both his parents, but he was reared in the fear of God by devout relatives. He evinced a great love for the poor, with whom, as a little boy, he gladly shared his food. He attended divine services with the most edifying devotion, and listened to sermons with such attention that he could repeat them to his companions.
He loved purity above all the virtues. While he attended the secondary school in Siena, he could not hear an unbecoming word without blushing for shame, so that those who spoken it themselves blushed. When any indecent conversation was going on among his companions, they stopped as soon as they saw him coming. "Be still," they said, "Bernardin is coming."
While the holy youth was otherwise very meek, he was friendly to all, he could nevertheless grow extremely angry if decency was violated. A prominent citizen once purposely told him something indecent in the open market place. Bernardin gave him a resounding slap in the face, and amid the laughter of the bystanders the disgraced citizen had to withdraw.
With his great love for purity, Bernardin united a tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin, whom he used to call his beloved. Out of devotion to her he daily visited an image of Mary just outside the town of Siena; he prayed there especially to learn his vocation. The Mother of Grace, who had protected him in the world, now led him to the sanctuary of the convent. In the quiet little convent of St. Mary Colombaio, which St. Francis himself had founded. Bernardin received the holy habit on the feast of the Nativity of Mary in the year 1402. On the same feast in the following year, he made his profession, and after he was ordained and appointed to preach, he also gave his first sermon on the feast of Mary's nativity.
Since, however, Bernardin's voice was very weak and hoarse, he seemed ill-fitted for the office of a preacher. Yet here, too, his beloved Mother helped him. AT her intercession his voice suddenly became so powerful and melodious that he became one of the most distinguished missionaries.
Now he journeyed all over Italy in order to announce to the people the virtues and vices, and the reward of the former and punishment of the latter. In many places such depravity existed that he found it necessary to preach sermons which he himself called sermons for heathens. The effects, however, were so astounding that Pope Pius II compared him with the Apostle of the Gentiles and called him a second Paul. After he had shaken their truths, he poured into them the soothing oil of the sweet name of Jesus, our Saviour and Redeemer, and preached on Mary, the Mother of Mercy.
His blessed ministry induced many towns to seek him as their bishop. This Siena, Ferrara, and Urbino petitioned in turn for this privilege, and the pope offered Bernardin the episcopal dignity. But with unchanging humility, he declined every time. He remained among his religious brethren whom he encouraged in religious perfection.
Rich in merits and virtue he died at Aquila on May 20, 1944, Pope Nicholas V canonized him 6 years later, whereupon the citizens of Aquila built to his honor a beautiful church with a magnificent marble tomb.
ON INDECENT CONVERSATION
1. "Blessed are the clean of heart" (Matt 5:8). This praise was merited by Bernardin in his youth and throughout his life. That is why indecent conversation displeased him so very much. Such talk comes from an unclean heart and filthy mind, because "out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks." How detestable it is for a Christian to indulge in shameless and double-meaning speech or lewd songs, since all his bodily members have been sanctified in baptism and have, as it were, become the members of Christ, who is our head. Added to this is the fact that a Christian's mouth receives the most holy Body of Christ in holy Communion. Therefore the Apostle says: "Uncleanness, let it not so much as be named among you, or obscenity, or foolish talking, or scurrility" (Eph 5:4). If such matters do not impress you as abominable, then fear lest your heart be not clean.
2. Consider how harmful indecent conversation is to those who listen. The Holy Spirit warns: "Be not seduced: Evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Cor 15:33). The smouldering embers of indecent desire lie in the heart of every man since the time of original sin. He who fears it least is most dangerously exposed to the unclean fire. St. Chrysostom, speaking of conversation and jests that offend against decency, says that nothing so readily destroys chastity as the flame that is enkindled through them. That is why Bernardin dealt so vigorously with the citizen who told them a filthy story. The young man would rather have let himself be struck in the face than be addressed with such speech. -- How do you conduct yourself in such instances? In their rule, Tertiaries are especially warned to flee filthy and loose conversation.
3. Consider how there was bound up with this great love for chastity on the part of St. Bernardin, a tender love for Mary. For us, too, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary will be a special means of preserving the love of chastity and of being protected against all dangers. To this end honor the Blessed Virgin, the Queen of Virgins, particularly during the month of May.
If no other refuge remains for you in time of danger, then say over and over again the holy names of Jesus and Mary. Recommend yourself, also, to St. Bernardin, that you may remain faithful to God.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O Lord Jesus, who didst grant to St. Bernardin, Thy confessor, a very special love for Thy most holy name, pour forth in us, we beseech Thee, through his merits and intercession, the spirit of Thy love, Who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.
May 24 - Dedication of the Patriarchal Basilica
of Our Holy Father St. Francis at Assisi,
and Commemoration of the
Transfer of the Body of St. Francis
This feast and commemoration are observed by all the branches of the Franciscan Order. When St. Francis died in 1226, he was buried in the Church of St. George in Assisi (now a chapel in Santa Chiara, and the shrine of the original San Damiano crucifix.) Two years later St. Francis was solemnly canonized, and the building of San Francesco at the other end of the town was begun. In May, 1230, the body of the saint was transferred to the new church; and in 1253, on the anniversary of the transfer, Pope Innocent IV consecrated the Church of San Francesco. Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) raised it to the rank of a patriarchal basilica and papal chapel.
May 27 - Our Lady, Mediatrix of Graces
The Franciscans celebrate this feast to honor Mary as the one through whose hands her Divine Son deigns to bestow all graces on men. It was instituted by the Tertiary Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922), but its celebration is limited to the Franciscans and certain other groups and places.
May 28 - St. Mariana of Jesus de Paredes 1618-1645
After the death of Mariana of Paredes, a beautiful lily sprouted forth from her blood, and so she has been styled the Lily of Quito. But in far greater measure did she deserve the name because of the innocence of her life. She preserved it unsullied in the midst of a wicked world, carefully protecting it by the practice of rare austerities.
>From her earliest childhood Mariana, who was born in 1618, felt altogether drawn to God and to heavenly things. Meanwhile she attached herself to the Immaculate Virgin with unbounded confidence and tender devotion. She received the habit of the Third Order from the Franciscans in her native town of Quito, Ecuador, and in consideration of her great virtue, she was permitted to take the three vows of religion. Then she repaired to her home where she led a life hidden in God and devoted to prayer and penance.
She quitted her home only when she went to attend divine services in church or when charity toward her neighbor required it. On such occasions she won the hearts of all she met, even the most depraved among them, by her polite and friendly manner, and succeeded in leading them back to the path of virtue. Incidentally it may be remarked, that almighty God favored His faithful servant with extraordinary mystical gifts in support of her apostolate. By means of the Sign of the Cross or by sprinkling holy water she restored many sick persons to health; she also raised a dead woman to life.
When the plague broke out, she offered her chaste young life as a sacrifice to God in behalf of the stricken citizens. God accepted the sacrifice. She died shortly afterwards, in the 28th year of her age, in 1645. She was beatified by Pope Pius IX, and canonized in 1950 by Pope Pius XII.
ON CONFIDENCE IN MARY
1. Mary wishes to help us. She proved that in the Incarnation of our Savior. She knew that the mother of the Man of Sorrows would have to become the Mother of Sorrows, yet she acceded for the sake of the children of men, whom she loved most affectionately. That is why she uttered those most saving words: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to Thy word" (Luke 1:38). How commendable it was, then, that Blessed Mariana clung with such fervor and fidelity to the Mother of God, the mother of all mankind. -- Imitate her in the practice and recommend your chastity to Mary Immaculate.
2. Mary can help us. She can help us because she is the Mother of the eternal Son of God. St.. Bonaventure cries out: "Thou canst do all things by Him and through Him." She is the intercessory omnipotence at the throne of God. Blessed Mariana experienced her power in an eminent degree. - Foster the most profound and filial confidence in the Blessed Mother of God.
3. Mary will help us especially in the time of danger. That was foretold by the words: "I will put enmities between thee and the woman" (Gen 3:15). To the evil spirit Mary has become "terrible as an army set in array" (Cant 6:3). If Satan contrives to destroy souls, Mary is God's appointed champion to save them for eternity. -- Pledge yourself to be a good child of this good Mother, and you will insure your salvation.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst will that amid the allurements of this world Blessed Mariana should blossom forth in virginal purity and continual penance like a lily among thorns, grant, we beseech Thee, that through her merits and intercession we may shun vice and strive ever more and more to attain perfection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
May 30 - Bl Baptista Varani 1459-1517
Baptista was the daughter of Duke Julius Caesar of Camerino, Italy. She was born in the capital city of that prince in 1459. In her earliest years she took pleasure in the vanities of the world. Her heart, it is true, remained unstained; but nevertheless she liked to appear in costly garments and beamed with joy when she was adorned with glittering jewels.
But one day she heard a sermon by a Franciscan on the bitter sufferings of Christ. The touching portrayal so wrung the heart of the young princess that she bewailed her previous vanity with many tears and was henceforth a changed person. From then on not a day passed on which she did not meditate on the sufferings of our Lord. Under the spiritual direction of Blessed Peter of Mogliano, a Franciscan, she also practiced various bodily mortifications, and arose every night to pray the rosary in honor of the Mother of God.
Meanwhile her father was contemplating marriage for her, but Baptista desired only to devote herself to God and the contemplation of the divine mysteries in some quiet convent cell. The duke opposed this wish of his beloved daughter for the space of 2 years. At last, however, he consented that she take the veil in the convent of the Poor Clares at Urbino.
Now Baptists was happier than if she had received a royal crown, and later she often said: "Oh, what sweetness I experienced in the holy convent at Urbino." Some years later, there was an urgent request that the daughters of St. Clare establish themselves in Camerino. The duke built a convent for them, and Baptista was sent there with several other sisters.
But now the servant of God, already firmly established in her vocation, was not to escape the test of suffering. She endured long and painful maladies, to which were added violent interior struggles and also persecution by misguided people. But she thanked God for them all, feeling that she was thereby more intimately united with her suffering Saviour. She prayed for those who persecuted her; and when her father and brother were cruelly murdered, Baptista prayed to God for the murderers: "O Lord, do not hold this sin against them!"
Because of her fidelity in suffering, her crucified Lord constantly drew her more closely to Himself. Christ revealed to her what suffering His own heart endured, and had her record much of it for the benefit of others.
After she had served her Divine Spouse in the convent for more than 40 years, Baptista died blessedly on the 31st of May, 1517. Thirty years after her death her body was exhumed, and the tongue which had so often prayed for her enemies, was found incorrupt and fresh, as it is still preserved that way in a special reliquary.
Baptista, who was venerated as a saint immediately after her death, was declared Blessed by Pope Gregory XVI.
ON DEVOTION TO THE SACRED HEART
1. Consider how our Divine Lord led Blessed Baptista from the contemplation of His bodily sufferings into the consideration of the sufferings of Hid Sacred Heart. We wished to direct her to honor His Sacred Heart long before He commended his devotion for the universal Church through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Baptists did indeed worship the Sacred Heart perfectly. In contemplating the sufferings of our Lord, her heart grew inflamed with love that was at the same time contrite and willing to make sacrifices. That induced her to forsake the vanity and glamor of the palace in order to belong to God alone. Seldom has anyone fulfilled the appeal of our Lord, "Give me your heart" (Prov 23:26) more perfectly. During this next month, which is especially consecrated to Heart of Jesus, He directs this request also to you. For devotion to the Sacred Heart consists above all, in offering one's own heart to the Heart of Jesus, and in sacrificing whatever is apt to lead our heart away from Him. -- What sacrifices of the kind have you to offer Him during this month?
2. Consider how, out of love for our suffering Savior, Blessed Baptists practiced mortification and cheerfully offered up to God sickness and interior affliction. Because she saw the Heart of Jesus grieving over the sins of men, she found consolation in suffering with Him, and she prepared sweet consolation for the Sacred Heart by offering her sufferings in atonement for sin. Such an atonement is an essential part of true devotion to the Heart of Jesus. Have we no need to render it for our own sins? Offenses committed against God by those who are otherwise numbered among good Christians wound the Heart of Jesus most painfully. He Himself complains: "With these I was wounded in the house of those who loved Me (Zach 13:6). -- Have you, too, given occasion for this complaint? How do you offer atonement?
3. Consider how Baptists imitated the Divine Heart in His perfect love. Not only did she sincerely forgive the gravest of offenses, but she even pleaded for forgiveness for the murderers of her father, and Christ prayed to His Father for His executioners. Such prayer and forgiveness in imitation of the Heart of Jesus are the most pleasing honor we can render Him. They satisfy in great measure for our own failings against the Sacred Heart. -- Frequently look at the pierced Heart of Jesus on the cross and draw from it strength, as did Blessed Baptista, to imitate His sentiments.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst inflame Blessed Baptists with the fire of love by the contemplation of the sufferings of Thy only-begotten Son, grant through her intercession that we may always devoutly honor these holy sufferings and deserve to receive the fruits thereof. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
May 30 - St. Ferdinand the King 1199-1252
King Ferdinand III of Leon and Castile in Spain, cousin of King St. Louis of France (the mothers of the holy kings were sisters), is one of the great glories of the Third Order. Ferdinand was not yet twenty years old when he attained to the government of the kingdom. He gathered about him a royal council of the most dependable elderly men, in order to have their opinion on all matters of administration. On the advice of his mother, who remained a true guardian spirit to him until her death, he married Beatrice, daughter of the German Emperor Philip of Swabia. She was one of the most devout princesses of that period.
From the beginning of his reign, Ferdinand, although still so young, gave evidence of the finest traits in a monarch: generosity, justice, gentleness. He was always concerned about keeping his subjects free from any unfair burdens. Once when resources were needed to fight the Mohammedans, one of his councilors suggested that a special tax for the purpose be imposed. "God forbid," said the king, "that I should follow your advice. I am more afraid of the curse of a single poor woman who would be oppressed by it, than I am of the whole Mohammedan army."
Throughout his life he had to wage war against the Mohammedans almost continually. They had established themselves in Spain for five centuries, threatening to spread their control and to exterminate Christianity. Filled with anxiety more for the kingdom of God than for his temporal dominion, Ferdinand armed himself and forced back the enemies of the Christian name farther and farther. His arms had very unusual success. But the king also endeavored to make himself worthy of success. He insisted on discipline and Christian conduct among his soldiers. He himself prayed, fasted, and scourged his body when in the field, that God might favor him. He honored Mary, the Help of Christians, with great confidence, and had her image carried at the head of his troops as their standard. He converted the great mosque in the re-conquered city of Cordova into a beautiful church dedicated to the Mother of God. The archbishop of Toledo accompanied him on all his campaigns, and all ecclesiastical affairs in the re-conquered territory were arranged according to the archbishop's directions.
Ferdinand was arming himself for another campaign when he was attacked with a serious illness. In the spirit of humility and penance he prepared himself for death. He had all the marks of royalty removed from his room, and with a rope tied about his neck he acknowledged himself a poor sinner, receiving the last sacraments with touching devotion. Then he admonished his eldest son to be a father to his younger brothers and sisters, always to treat his stepmother, Ferdinand's second consort, with due honor, and to be a kind ruler to his subjects. Ferdinand died on May 30, 1252, at Seville, aged fifty-two years. In accordance with his personal wishes, his body was clothed in the habit of the Third Order, and thus appareled, he was laid to rest in the cathedral of Seville, amid the tears of his people. Numerous miracles occurred at his tomb. At his canonization in 1671 his body was found still incorrupt. The three branches of the First Order and the Third Order Regular celebrate the feast of St. Ferdinand on May thirtieth.
ON TAKING ADVICE
1. Consider how wisely St. Ferdinand acted as a young king, in gathering trusted men about him as counselors. "Designs are brought to nothing where there is no counsel: but when there are many counselors, they are established" (Prov. 15, 22). So many people are quick to give advice, believe even that they can advise the temporal and spiritual authorities including the pope and the president. But they themselves are not ready to take advice, so that often their own temporal affairs are in a bad way, and their souls are still worse off. "I have often heard," says Thomas a Kempis (1,0), "that it is safer to listen to advice and take it, than to give it. Not to accept the advice of others where reason or good sense requires it, is a sign of pride and self-will." - Do you give advice rather than take it?
2. Mind that one must consider well whom one asks for advice. Tobias said to his son: "Seek counsel always of a wise man" (Tob. 4,19). Ask counsel of conscientious persons and of such who are experienced in the matters at hand, not only such who will speak according to your pleasure or flatter your passions, nor such who know nothing about the matter. One does not seek advice from a religious about running one's business, nor from a layman about entering the religious life. St. Ferdinand asked statesmen for advice in matters of the administration, but an archbishop in church affairs. Do likewise. Always seek advice where knowledge of the matter under consideration goes hand in hand with conscientiousness. "If the blind lead the blind, both fall into to pit." (Mt. 15,14)
3. Consider that a person may not follow all the advice given him, even as St. Ferdinand did not do so. But never to be satisfied with the advice received and always to keep asking others, usually proceeds either from conceit or from sensuality, which want to hear only agreeable advice in order to have an excuse for that which they prompt. Thus says Thomas a Kempis again: "It is true, everybody likes to act according to his own pleasure, and yields more readily to such who agree with him; but if God be with us, we shall at times have to yield our own opinion." In personal affairs our own judgment is often very partial, and our self love is frequently the enemy against whom we must be mostly on our guard. God's grace and willing obedience to good advice will protect us from that enemy.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O Lord, who didst grant to Blessed Ferdinand, Thy confessor, to fight Thy battles and to conquer the enemies of the Faith, grant that we, helped by his intercession, may be delivered from our enemies, both in body and soul. 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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