Nov 4 - St. Charles Borromeo 1538-1584
Although the Franciscan breviary contains the feast of St. Charles on November 4th and indicates that he was Cardinal Protector of the Friars Minor, it fails to mention that he was also a Franciscan Tertiary. The fact is that he was a close follower of the Poverello, a prelate according to the heart of St. Francis, and he deserves to be recognized, honored, and imitated as one of the greatest saints of the Third Order. In his life of St. Charles Borromeo, Orsenigo says that "enrolled in the Third Order of St. Francis, he not only faithfully wore the habit... but above all... took the poverty of St. Francis of Assisi as the model for his life."
Charles was born in the castle of Arona in 1538. His father was Count Gilbert Borromeo; his mother belonged to the Medici family; and his uncle was Pope Pius IV. It may seem strange to hear that he received the tonsure and was appointed a titular abbot, which entitled him to a big income, when he was only 12 year old; and that 10 years later, before he was ordained a priest, his uncle called him to Rome and made him administrator of the Papal States as well as the archdiocese of Milan, and also a cardinal. However, Cardinal Borromeo, who was then only 22 years old, was an exceptional young man, endowed with extraordinary gifts of mind and heart, deeply spiritual, and devoted wholeheartedly to the welfare of the Church. It was due to the young cardinal's vigorous efforts and leadership that the Council of Trent was re-opened and carried to a successful conclusion three years later, in 1563. In that same year he was ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop.
The archdiocese of Milan was in a deplorable condition; and in 1565 Pope Pius IV yielded to Cardinal Borromeo's request and permitted him to go to his see and personally to set things in order and to carry out the decrees of the Council of Trent. Charles remained there for the rest of his life; and the reform of the Milan archdiocese was his great life's work. It is amazing how indefatigably he devoted himself to his work and how much he accomplished. In 1569 an attempt was made on his life. A bullet struck him as he was kneeling in prayer, but he was miraculously preserved from harm. Far from stopping him, the difficulties he encountered only made him so much more dogged in carrying out his program. He never tired of visiting the parishes; he established the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for the proper instruction of the children; he saw to it that the sacred liturgy was carried out in a worthy manner; he founded the Oblates of St. Ambrose in order to lead the priests to personal holiness; and he conducted 5 provincial and 11 diocesan synods.
But it was the example of his own saintly life that made the deepest impression on his flock and produced the best results. He was indeed an exemplary Tertiary, a true son of St. Francis. He avoided all personal finery, and his clothes were so shabby that even beggars thought they were unfit to be worn. He was ingeniously humble, and was careful to hide his merits, his penances, and his private devotions to that no praise might come to him. He did not hesitate to wash dishes, to enter the dirtiest hovels of the poor, and to instruct a poor man by sitting down with him along the roadside. When a pestilence broke out in 1576, he remained at his post in Milan, and personally ministered to the sick and dying. He succored the poor until his funds were depleted; and then he sold his possessions, including his bed, to procure means to help them. After that he no longer encountered any opposition.
Rich in merits, esteemed by all, he died in 1584, only 46 years old. He was beatified in 1601 and canonized in 1610. His tomb occupies a place of honor on the altar of the chapel in the crypt of the great cathedral of Milan. St. Charles is venerated in a special manner as a patron against pestilences.
ON THE VALUE OF THE THIRD ORDER
1. Consider how Divine Providence made use of St. Francis to renew the world. Sensuality and avarice had shaken the very foundations of Christian life. To counteract them, St. Francis founded his order on poverty and renunciation. The First Order of the Friars Minor and the Second Order of the Poor Clares were to practice these virtues by taking vows and living in religious communities. Those called to the religious life in either of these two orders were to be outstanding examples and incentives to the world. The Third Order was intended for Christians living in the world who were desirous of assuring their salvation and supplied ways and means by which they, too, could counteract the dangers of sensuality and avarice. It was for this reason that St. Charles, though a prince of the Church, faithfully observed the rule of the Third Order and imitated the poverty of St. Francis. For this reason, too, the late Popes from Pius IX to Pius XII have declared that nothing could be more pleasing to them than that the Third Order be spread far and wide. -- What does this mean for you?
2. Consider how the Third Order protects its members from the dangers of the world. Pope Leo XIII revised the rule to fit the present age, so that its practices of piety and mortification can be more easily observed by every Christian, also by those who belong to the working class. Twelve Our Fathers are said daily; holy Mass is attended daily; if possible, the sacraments are received frequently; and two extra fast days are observed during the year. Wise precepts are laid down for the practice of virtues which will counteract sensuality and avarice, as well as promote submissions to temporal and spiritual authority. Modern Christians who are really interested in their salvation do well to unite in Christian brotherhood to achieve these purposes. -- If you are a member of the Third Order, ask yourself whether you are really living according to the rule.
3. Consider the powerful aids which are provided in the Third Order. In it people associate with others who have the same purpose in mind and publicly pledge themselves to that purpose. Their example encourages them mutually, their common association is a constant stimulus. The members say a common prayer, and God looks upon that common prayer of millions with favor. At the monthly meetings they receive useful instruction. They are joined in one spiritual family and in a certain communion of graces with all the children of St. Francis, even with their Seraphic Father and the numerous saints of his three orders who have already been glorified. With what confidence may the Tertiaries call upon their sainted forebears to assist them! -- As a Tertiary, do not forget to recommend to their intercession also the souls of the departed members of the order.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Keep Thy Church, O Lord, under the unfailing protection of Thy holy confessor and bishop, Charles; and as his shepherd like vigilance has exalted him in glory, so may his intercessions make us always fervent in Thy love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
See also http://www.olisfo.cqc.com/cal.htm
Nov 7 - St. Didacus of Alcala c. 1400-1463
Didacus was born about 1400 at San Nicolas in Andalusia, of poor and God-fearing parents. He entered the Third Order of St. Francis when he had scarcely reached young manhood, and under the direction of a devout Tertiary priest, he served God for a long time as a hermit. Consumed with the desire for still greater perfection, he later entered the Franciscan convent at Arizafa in Castile and was there admitted to solemn vows as a lay brother.
His rapid progress in virtue made him a model to all his companions. His soul was continually occupied with God in prayer and meditation. From this source he gathered such supernatural insight concerning God and the mysteries of Faith that learned theologians listened with astonishment to the inspiring conversations of this uneducated lay brother.
Since Brother Didacus manifested great zeal for souls and willingness for sacrifice, his superiors sent him with other brethren to the Canary Islands, which at that time were still inhabited by wild infidels. Didacus was eager for martyrdom, and in the spirit bore with dauntless patience the many hardships that came his way. Both by word and example he helped in converting many infidels. In 1445 he was appointed guardian of the chief friary on the islands at Fortaventura.
Recalled to Spain, he went to Rome in 1450 at the command of the Observant Vicar general, St. John Capistran, to attend the great jubilee and the canonization ceremonies of St. Bernardin of Siena. On this occasion an epidemic broke out among the many friars assembled in the large convent of Apace. Didacus attended the sick with great charity and trust in God. And God did not fail him. Despite the lack of supplies in the city at the time, Didacus always had ample provisions for his patients. He miraculously restored many of them to health by merely making the Sign of the Cross over them. Leaving Rome, he returned to Spain, where, as in the former days, he was a source of great edification to the friars in every convent in which he lived.
When he felt that the end of his life was drawing near, he asked for an old and worn out habit, so that he might die in it as a true son of the poor St. Francis. With his eyes fixed on the crucifix, he breathed forth his soul on November 12, 1463, saying the words, "O faithful wood, O precious nails! You have borne an exceedingly sweet burden, for you have been deemed worthy to bear the Lord and King of heaven."
Months passed before it was possible to bury Didacus, so great was the concourse of people who came to venerate his remains. Not only did his body remain incorrupt, but it diffused a pleasant odor. After it was laid to rest in the Franciscan church of Alcala de Henares astounding miracles continued to occur at his tomb. Pope Sixtus V, himself a Franciscan, canonized Brother Didacus in 1588.
Didacus is the special patron of those friars who are brothers. The Spanish for Didacus is Diego, and Mission San Diego in California was named for the Franciscan St. Didacus.
GOD CHOOSES THE LOWLY
1. In the office for the feast of St. Didacus, we find the following words: "See your vocation, brethren, that there are not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, but the foolish things of the world has God chosen that He may confound the side" (1 Cor 1:26). The life of St. Didacus proves the truth of these words. Born of poor parents in a lowly station, and having no schooling of any kind, he was able to discuss the loftiest matters to the great astonishment of learned men. How ashamed of themselves will learned men be in the presence of this plain brother at the judgement-seat of God, unless they serve God, like him, in genuine humility. What the world accounts as foolishness is wisdom in the sight of God; but the wisdom of the world will be put to shame at the final reckoning. -- To which principle do you hold?
2. Consider why God chooses the lowly to lavish His grace on them and make them really great. The Apostle tells us, "that no flesh shall glory in His sight" (1 Cor 1:29). Almighty God bestows His grace on human beings so that they can do great things, but they should not ascribe what is accomplished to themselves; they should rather give the glory to God. Because the wise ones of this world and the wealthy and the prominent so readily give to themselves the credit for what they do, they receive less grace to accomplish that which is supernatural, and so they devote themselves to what is material and perishable. But when the learned, the wealthy, and the prominent of this earth are at the same time humble, God chooses them also, as He once choose St. Paul, St. Augustine, and the saintly King Louis. The latter thought more of the crown of thorns which had been placed on the head of our Lord than he thought of his own royal crown. -- Have you made yourself undeserving of God's graces because you sought your own honor?
3. Consider that God admits only those souls to eternal bliss and heavenly glory who remain humble in their own eyes though they have accomplished great things. Endowed with the most brilliant gifts of nature and of grace, Lucifer contemplated himself and became puffed up - and immediately he was deprived of his throne among the angels and was thrust into hell. Didacus, who was greatly esteemed by the world and by his brethren because of the marvelous things God accomplished through him, nevertheless thought little of himself and wished to leave this world clothed in a poor and worn-out habit. In heaven he received a place once occupied by the proud angels. "Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled; and he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:11).
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Almighty and eternal God, who in Thy wonderful condescension hast chosen the weak of this world top confound the strong, mercifully grant to our lowliness, that through the pious intercession of Thy holy confessor St. Didacus, we may deserve to be raised to eternal glory in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Nov 8 - Blessed John Duns Scotus 1266-1307
During the first decade of the 14th century, the most famous teacher at the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and Paris was Father John Duns of Scotland - the Blessed John Duns Scotus. Not only did he possess one of the keenest and most penetrating minds the world has ever seen, but he was also a humble Friar Minor and close follower of St. Francis of Assisi.
Born in 1266 at Littledean in Scotland of an Irish family which had settled in Scotland, he received his early education from his Franciscan uncle, Father Elias Duns, in the friary at Dumfries. He was clothed with the Franciscan habit in 1279 or 1280; and even before his ordination he taught theology to his brethren (1289-1290). Bishop Oliver Sutton of Lincoln, England, ordained him a priest on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1291. After he had continued his studies at Paris and Oxford for some 8 years, he began to lecture at Cambridge in 1301 and the following year taught at the Sorbonne, Paris. At that time Phillip the Fair was engaged in a disgraceful quarrel with Pope Boniface VIII, and Father John fearlessly defended the spiritual supremacy of the Vicar of Christ. Thus he incurred the anger of the French king, and together with his thirty confreres of the Paris friary he was forced to flee from the country.
Returning to England, Father John then taught at Oxford for some three years (1303-06), and there obtained the doctor's degree in 1304. Soon the fame of his genius and learning spread abroad, and students came in great numbers to sit at the feet of the new teacher. "From almost every corner of the globe," wrote Rodulphus, "large numbers came to see and hear him whom they reverenced as an oracle from heaven." The title of the Subtle Doctor was conferred on Father John; for, as Rodulphus wrote, "there was nothing so recondite, nothing so abstruse that his keen mind could not fathom and clarify; nothing so knotty that he, like another Oedipus, could not unravel; nothing so fraught with difficulty or enveloped in darkness that his genius could not expound." Another writer declared: "He described the Divine Nature as if he had seen God; the attributes of the celestial spirits as if he had been an angel; the felicities of a future state as if he had enjoyed them; and the ways of Providence as if he had penetrated into all Its secrets."
In 1306 Father John returned to Paris; and there came to be known as the Doctor of Mary, after he had championed her Immaculate Conception and refuted all the objections of the learned men of the time against this prerogative of Our Lady. "The perfect Mediator," Father John pointed out, "must, in some one case, have done the work of mediation most perfectly, which would not be, unless there is some one person, at least, in whose regard the wrath of God was anticipated and not merely appeased." In 1854, Pope Pius IX solemnly declared the doctrine of Father John, which had always been accepted by the ordinary faithful, to be an article of faith; at the first moment of her conception, Mary was preserved free from the stain of original sin, in view of the merits of Christ.
The seal of the Church's approval was also placed on Father John's Christocentric doctrine, when the feast of Christ the King was instituted in 1925. "Duns Scotus," writes father Gemelli, "conceived the universe in the form of a gigantic pyramid, built up of every kind of genera and species, rising upward by degrees, the lower stages united in their most noble part to the higher. . .'Jesus Christ is the culminating logical point of creation.'" Thus, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity would have assumed a human nature even if Adam had not sinned. Because Adam sinned Christ came as Redeemer of the human race, but He is at the same time King of creation.
In 1307 Father John was sent to Cologne, and there he died and was buried in the Minoritenkirche or Friars' Church. The date usually given as that of his death is November 8, 1308; but documents recently discovered seem to indicate that he lived for some time longer. Father John was honored as a saint, and his tomb has been visited through the centuries by large numbers of the faithful. During the Second World War the Friars' Church, which was formerly in the care of the Conventuals, was demolished; and while it was being rebuilt, the relics of Blessed John Duns Scotus were kept in a secret place in the famous cathedral, except for an arm which is now kept in an ancient sarcophagus in the crypt of the Franciscans' new church in another part of the city.
ON THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
1. Consider that, like a true son of St. Francis, Blessed John Duns Scotus was eager to honor the Mother of God, whom St. Francis made the mother and patroness of his order. Scotus defended this exceptional privilege, which from the first moment of her conception kept Mary free from original sin, whereas, it has tainted the soul of all other human beings. Because of this privilege the serpent, whose head she was destined to crush, never had any power over Mary. It was a consolation to the faithful, and to the Franciscan Order in particular, when this truth was declared a dogma on December 8, 1854. The Supreme Pontiff extended a great kindness to the Franciscan Order on that occasion. In all Franciscan churches the faithful can gain a plenary indulgence on this feast, and all Franciscan priests have the privilege of saying the Mass of the Immaculate Conception every Saturday throughout the year except on certain specified days. -- Let us celebrate this glorious privilege of Mary with great joy throughout the year!
2. Consider how we should honor the Immaculate Conception. We should render her homage and give thanks to God, who in view of the merits of Christ preserved her from every stain of sin. But we should also look up to her on account of the great care with which she kept her soul free from every personal sin, even though she was never assailed by any evil inclination. Since we are so filled with evil inclinations, should it not be a matter of particular concern to us to guard against sin? -- What care have we taken in the past?
3. Consider that the Immaculate Conception should be our special refuge in danger of sin. She who was always free from stain has no greater desire than that her children may preserve their purity of heart. And the prince of darkness, whose power was helpless against her at her very conception, fears her more than the opposition of all men and saints together. Fly to her in the first moments of temptation. Say devoutly the little indulgenced prayers: O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you! Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation! O my Queen, O my Mother, remember that I am your own; keep me; guard me, as your property and possession! -- Whenever you have called on her with a sincere heart, you may be sure that you have not lost the grace of God. If you faithfully take refuge with her, she will watch over you until you have reached a place near her in heaven.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary didst prepare a worthy dwelling place for Thy Divine Son, we beseech Thee that, as Thou, foreseeing the death of this Thy Son, didst preserve her from all stain, so Thou wouldst also permit us, purified through her intercession, to come to Thee. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
See also http://www.olisfo.cqc.com/cal.htm
Nov 13 - St. Frances Xavier Cabrini 1850-1917
Born in 1850 at Sant'Angelo di Lodi in Lombardy, Mary Frances Cabrini was the youngest in a peasant family of 13 children. Even as a child she was known for her piety and love of prayer; and she dreamed of being a missionary in China. At 18 she received her teacher's certificate; and when her parents died the following year, she sought admission in two different sisterhoods but was rejected because of her poor health. During the next 10 years she devoted herself to teaching and directing a school for orphans, and satisfied her zeal by giving catechism instructions and visiting the poor during free time. During a smallpox epidemic in 1872 she did heroic work as a nurse.
But Mary Frances still wanted to be a missionary; and in 1880, with the encouragement of the bishop of Lodi, she and a few companions took up their residence in a former Franciscan Friary and thus founded a new religious community, namely the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Previously Mother Frances Xavier, as Mary Frances was now called, had been an exemplary Tertiary of St. Francis of Assisi. In the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites on the heroic quality of her virtues we find the following statement: "She imitated to a high degree the virtue of three saints who bear the name of Francis, and modeled her life according to their example. Thus she imitated the virtues and example of St. Francis of Assisi, whose Third Order rule she professed and holily observed." And even after founding a new sisterhood, Mother Cabrini continued to derive inspiration from the example of the Poverello for her mission of apostolic charity.
In 1888 Mother Cabrini's institute received the approval of the Holy See; and the next year Pope Leo XIII directed her to go, not to China, but to the United States, and to make the Italian emigrants in that country the object of her charitable and apostolic work. With six companions, Mother Cabrini arrived in the United States on March 31, 1889; and, though she also visited Central and South America, she spent the greater part of her remaining life in the United States. She became a United States citizen at Seattle in 1909. At first she encountered many difficulties, but soon she accomplished the apparently impossible. And amidst feverish activity, she always maintained great tranquility of soul and prayerful union with God, entrusting all her undertakings to God with unbounded trust in Divine Providence.
When the cause of her beatification was commenced in 1928, her sisters, 2,000 in number, were caring for 67 institutions in 8 countries of America and Europe. Mother Cabrini suffered from fevers for months at a time, but she kept up her amazing activities for God and for souls until she died at Columbus Hospital in Chicago on December 22, 1917, at the age of 67. She was beatified in 1938, and canonized in 1946, the first United States citizen to be thus raised to the full honors of the altar.
St. Frances Xavier "Mother of the Emigrants" Cabrini's body rests beneath the high altar in the chapel of Mother Cabrini High School, in the northernmost part of Manhattan, New York City.
SERVING GOD IN OUR NEIGHBOR
1. Consider how St. Frances Xavier understood how one must serve God. Much of the time that she would have liked to spend in prayer, she used in the service of others because they needed her help and direction and advice. That is what is called by St. Francis deSales, leaving God for God's sake. Apparently one neglects something in the service of God, but in reality one serves Him the better by the practice of charity towards one's neighbor. Thomas a Kempis (1:15) also says: "For the benefit of one that is in need, a good work is sometimes freely to be left undone, or rather to be changed for what is better." -- Have you acted accordingly in the past?
2. Consider that Christ our Lord Himself teaches us that certain laws permit of exceptions in special cases. He healed a sick person on the Sabbath, and permitted His hungry disciples to pluck ears of corn although the Pharisees accused Him on that account of violating the Sabbath. Thus our holy Father St. Francis also urged a weak brother to eat out of time on a fastday, and himself ate with him to encourage him. So there may arise instances where the commandment to refrain from servile work, at attend holy Mass, to fast, and so forth, does not obligate us, yes, where the need of the neighbor or our own may demand that we refrain from observing the commandment, especially if our superiors or our confessor do direct us. In such cases it would be pharisaical justice, and often perverse self-will, to persist in carrying it out. -- Have you ever done this?
3. Consider that it is indeed not permitted for any person's sake to do evil or omit an obligatory good act from which we are not excused. But the good deeds and pious exercises which we perform of our own accord, we can at times with merit neglect or out off for the sake of others, especially is complying with them would be burdensome or annoying to others. Thus the Apostle says: "To the weal I become weak that I might gain the weak. I become all things to all men that I might save all" (1 Cor 9:22).
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Of Thy mercy, O Lord, we beseech Thee, grant us the mind ever to think and do what is right, that we who have no being apart from Thee, may live according to Thy will. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Nov 14 - St Nicholas Tavelich
Nicholas was the son of a noble and wealthy family of Dalmatia. His illustrious parents gave him a good education, and his progress in learning was marvelous. But no less marvelous was his progress in virtue.
When Nicholas finished his studies, a bright future smiled upon him. Everything the world could give was at his command and awaited his pleasure. However, he resolved to quit the world and enter the Order of St. Francis. In spite of the great obstacles and the stubborn opposition he met, he received the humble habit of St. Francis and made his novitiate with the simplicity and docility of a child.
Manual labor, study, power, and mortification were his delight and chief employment. After he was ordained a priest, his fervor in saying Mass caused edification and all were impressed by his sermons.
Due to his great learning and piety, he was sent as a missionary to Bosnia, a most difficult field of labor. Undaunted, Nicholas labored with ardent zeal among the heretics. refuting their false doctrines, repaying insult with blessing, visiting the sick, comforting the afflicted. He gained innumerable souls for Christ by his extreme kindness and charity.
Many esteemed him another Christ, while others persecuted him with relentless hatred. At heart he loved the latter more, for he desired martyrdom and thought they might procure for him the coveted crown. This thought gave him tremendous supernatural strength. It increased his charity and zeal, his spirit of prayer, meditation and penance. But, after 12 years of tireless labor in Bosnia, all opposition died down, and Nicholas was convinced he must seek martyrdom elsewhere.
He now asked for permission to go to the Holy Land, where so many of his brethren had already attained the martyr's crown. The permission was granted to him, and he was sent to Jerusalem. Once more he led a hidden life of prayer, penance, and study, but more than ever he yearned to die the death of a martyr, desiring, like Christ, to be an oblation of love for the salvation of others.
On November 11, 1391, he entered the Turkish mosque and with the zeal of a Saint Paul preached to a vast assembly there. He pleaded with tact and eloquence that Christ and His religion be accepted by the Turks in their hearts and homes. Before he had finished, he was apprehended and taken to the magistrates.
Questioned as to his faith, Nicholas joyfully professed his belief in the one true Church of Christ, defending it against every objection. This incensed the court to such an extent that he was knocked to the ground and attacked with great fury. Beaten almost to death, he was dragged into a dungeon, chained hand and foot, and kept for three days without food or drink.
On the fourth day he was taken out into the street, where he died the glorious death of a martyr, slashed to pieces with scimitars. God glorified His martyr by miracles, and Pope Leo XIII solemnly confirmed the veneration paid to him from time immemorial.
ON ETERNAL GOODS
1. Eternal goods should be treasured above all things. Reflecting on the permanence of heavenly goods, Blessed Nicholas left everything the world offered him and became a poor Franciscan. He followed the admonition of our Lord: "Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth, where the rust and the moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither the rust nor the moth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal" (Matt 6:19-20). -- Which treasures do you seek to acquire?
2. Eternal goods are not properly evaluated. Most people are bent on acquiring temporal goods, money, possessions, distinctions, honor, and pleasure. They put themselves to much trouble by day and by night to acquire them. How many there are who ignore the goods of eternity for the sake of some temporal benefit, a momentary pleasure! The words of our Lord are directed to them: "I have sworn in My wrath! They shall not enter into My rest" (Heb 3:11). -- Which goods are you trying to acquire?
3. Temporal goods are quite worthless. They are transient and cannot satisfy the heart of man. Solomon reveled in worldly luxury, and in the end he was forced to admit: "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). -- Do you permit yourself to be dazzled by the things of this world?
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst glorify Thy confessor Blessed Nicholas by spreading the Gospel and by the palm of martyrdom, grant in answer to our prayer, that we may merit to walk in his footsteps and through his intercession deserve to receive the victor's reward of eternal life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Nov 17 - St Elizabeth of Hungary 1207-1231
In 1207 a daughter was born to pious King Andrew II of Hungary. She received the name of Elizabeth in baptism. The child was so lovable that the wealthy landgrave of Thuringia and Hesse sought her as the bride of his eldest son Louis. His request was granted, and a solemn embassy went to get Elizabeth, then only three years old, so that she could be raised at her future husband's castle.
The two children loved each other like brother and sister, and vied with each other in acts of piety and charity. Those who beheld Elizabeth at prayer might well have believed they saw an angel. Her greatest joy was to give things to the poor. When she grew a little older, she visited the poor and the sick, and waited on them with as much reverence as if she were serving Christ Himself.
The proud dowager Landgravine Sophia was displeased with Elizabeth's conduct and endeavored to talk her son into sending Elizabeth back to Hungary and choosing a bride of more princely ways. But Louis was aware of the treasure he possessed in Elizabeth. Succeeding his father at the age of 18 he took over the government and married Elizabeth. Their marriage was unusually happy, and Louis gave his wife full liberty to do all the good her heart desired.
At Eisenach Elizabeth built a large hospital. During a famine she daily fed nine hundred needy people. The story is told that once when she was on her way with her cloak full of good things for her dear poor and sick, she met her husband, who teasingly blocked her path until she would show him what she was carrying away this time. How astonished was he to behold fresh, fragrant roses in midwinter. Reverently he permitted his spouse to go on her charitable way.
When Louis was away, it was Elizabeth's duty to take over the regency, and this she did with great prudence and care. Whatever spare time she had, she spent on the poor, the sick, and especially the lepers. It is related that once she took in a little leper boy whom no one cared to have about, and after caring for him as if he were her own child, placed him in the royal bed. But Louis returned unexpectedly at this time, and the angry dowager ran to tell him what Elizabeth had done and how she would surely cause him to be infected. Quite stirred, Louis went to the bed and tore aside the covers. But he was amazed and moved to tears when he beheld there the form of the Crucified. Turning to his wife he said, "Dear Elizabeth, you may always receive guests like that. I shall even thank you for it."
But Elizabeth, too, was to be tried by the crucible of suffering. Emperor Frederick II set out on a crusade to the Holy Land in 1227, and pious Landgrave Louis joined the expedition. But he died on the way, in southern Italy. When the news reached Thuringia, Louis' brothers rose up against Elizabeth. She was driven out of the palace; only two faithful maids went with her. In Eisenach the people dared not give her shelter fearing the resentment of the new masters. It was midwinter and night was at hand. The daughter of a king, a widowed princess, with four little children, the youngest scarcely 2 months old was completely destitute and homeless.
A man finally offered her shelter in a stable. Grateful for the kindness. Elizabeth thought of how the Son of God on coming down from heaven, was refused admittance at all doors of Bethlehem and found refuge in a stable. The thought filled her with greater joy than she had ever experienced in her palace. At midnight, when the bells of the nearby Franciscan convent, which she had built, announced the chanting of the Divine Office, she begged the friars to sing the Te Deum in thanksgiving for the favor that she and her children were made so like Jesus.
With her faithful servants, Elizabeth now arranged things as best she could. She spun flax for a livelihood, saving something from the meager income to give to the poor.
Later Elizabeth was reinstated in the Wartberg, and Emperor Frederick II, whose wife had died, asked her hand in marriage. But Elizabeth had so learned to love poverty and seclusion that she had no desire for worldly greatness. Her children were given the education due to princes, but she and her two maids repaired to a small house near the Franciscan church in Marburg. Elizabeth had joined the Third Order of St. Francis during the lifetime of her husband. Indeed, she was the first member in Germany, and received a message from St. Francis himself. Now, vested with the habit and the cord, she led a quiet religious life, meanwhile nursing the sick in the hospitals, and submitting her whole life to the direction of the learned and devout Friar Conrad.
Our Lord announced to her that He would soon call her to heaven. She told her Father Confessor, who had fallen seriously ill, that he would recover, but that she would die soon. Within 4 days she became ill, and was prepared for her final hour by her confessor, who had recovered.
Elizabeth was admitted into heaven on November 19, 1231, when she was only 24 years old. The miracles that took place at her tomb were so numerous that Pope Gregory IX canonized her already in 1235. She is the special patroness of the sisters of the Third Order Secular of St. Francis, and also of some religious sisterhoods of the Third Order Regular. Pope Leo XIII placed all charitable organizations of women under her patronage.
ON NOBILITY OF SOUL
1. Consider how noble Elizabeth was by birth: the daughter of a king, the wife of a prince who governed a beautiful and wealthy country. But nobility of soul meant more to her who was God's child, destined to serve the Most High here on earth, and to be an heir of the heavenly kingdom. Filled with the spirit of God, Elizabeth appreciated her dignity from childhood on. She found her sweetest delight in being united with God by prayer and pious practices, and her favorite occupation was to serve God in His poor and sick members. She did this with such holy sentiments that our Lord deigned to take the place of the leper she was nursing. She was always aware of the nobility of her own soul and acted accordingly. -- Is your soul not equally noble? Are your sentiments and conduct in keeping with your nobility?
2. Many people believe that the way to maintain their dignity is by proud and domineering manners and by exterior pomp and finery. Elizabeth thought otherwise. She looked upon vain pomp as a form of slavery in which the soul basely serves the detestable vice of pride, the sin through which our first parents lost their nobility in Paradise. The Son of God gave His own blood to atone for that sin; and only by means of that royal purple have we been restored to the position of children of God. That is why Elizabeth loathed everything that savored of pride, always remaining as humble and submissive as a child. -- Do you permit the nobility of your soul to be sullied by pride and vanity?
3. Consider how almighty God prepares the soul, which He has endowed with such nobility, for its destiny in eternity. In company with all the angels and saints the soul is to enjoy the most intimate union with God. That is why God permits many trials and hardships to come upon human beings, so that their fidelity may be proved and everything unworthy may first be removed. But he who tries to escape the test of the cross and seeks sensual pleasures makes himself unworthy of nobility of soul and exposes himself to the danger of losing it. He who wants to be faithful to God but submits only imperfectly to His ordinances must pass through a severe purification in purgatory before he can enter heaven. Only the soul that has been thoroughly purified here on earth can be admitted to heaven immediately after death. When Elizabeth departed from this life, her soul was radiant in the full brilliance of its nobility. In trials she had thanked God in the words of the Te Deum; and then she submitted to the strict guidance of a confessor who completed the preparation of her soul for heaven. -- While there is time, prepare your soul so that, when you die, it may be ready for heaven.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Enlighten, O God of mercy, the hearts of the faithful, and through the prayers of St. Elizabeth, do Thou cause us to think little of worldly prosperity and ever to be gladdened by the consolation which is of heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Nov 18 - Blessed Salome 1201-1268
Salome was a daughter of the royal family of Prince Lescon V, and a sister of Boleslas the Chaste, the virginal spouse of Blessed Kinga (July 23). She was born at Crakow, the capital of Poland, in 1201. At the age of 3, according to the custom of the time, she was betrothed to Prince Colman of Hungary, a brother of St. Elizabeth of Thuringia (Nov 17), and was sent to the court of King Andrew II in order to be raised according to the customs of the country.
The little girl proved to be a child of grace and a model to all with whom she associated. When the day of her marriage arrived, both spouses resolved to preserve their virginity. They preserved their vow intact to the end of their lives.
The pious couple vied with each other in their practices of piety and penance. With the consent of her husband, Salome received the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis at the hands of her confessor, a Franciscan friar. Following her example, many of the ladies at court renounced worldly pomp and vanity, and the palace took on the appearance of a convent. Even when her husband became king of Galicia, and Salome, in addition to the crown that was here by birth, received a royal crown, she remained the simple daughter of St. Francis in the Order of Penance.
King Coleman fell in battle against the Tatars in 1225. Salome then resolved to consecrate herself to God, and used her wealth in supporting the poor and in building churches. In 1240 she entered the convent of the Poor Clares at Zawichost. The convent was later removed to the vicinity of Crakow, to protect it against the inroads of the Tatars, and it was known as St. Mary of the Stairs. Here Salome continued to live for 28 years, highly respected by her fellow sisters because of her virtue. On several occasions she was elected to the office of abbess.
When she was 67 years old, she was seized with an illness one day during holy Mass, and she predicted that her death would follow shortly. Admonishing those about her deathbed to practice charity and harmony, and faithfully observe the rule, she died November 17, 1268, favored and fortified in her last hour with a vision of our Lady and the Child Jesus. A heavenly sign that she was receiving a third crown, the best of them all, was the fact that her sisters in religion, at the moment of her death, saw a brilliant start rise from her lips and mount to heaven.
When her body was exhumed seven months after burial, it was found incorrupt and giving forth a sweet odor. She was then entombed in the Franciscan Church at Crakow beside her husband, King Colman. Many miracles occurred in testimony of her sanctity, whereupon Pope Clement X beatified her.
ON PURITY OF HEART
1. Consider how precious is the virtue of purity of heart, which shone so brightly in Blessed Salome. Christ pronounced Salome blessed in advance when He said: "Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God" (Matt 5:18). Blessed are such souls even here on earth, for they possess that interior bliss which results from a good conscience and from the right order of things preserved despite the warring emotions of the heart. The pure of heart also win the affections of their fellowmen, just as little children are believed by everyone. The greatest blessing of purity, however, is the assurance of eternal happiness; for, says Eternal Truth, "they shall see God." -- Should we not be eager to acquire this precious virtue?
2. Consider what contributes purity of heart. It considers, not only in rejecting all indecent, impure desires and affections, but also in conquering all the other passions which stain the soul, especially injustice and avarice, pride and vanity, lying and deceit. In answer to the question as to who will be admitted to the vision of God, the Psalmist says: "The innocent in hands, and clean of heart, who has not taken his soul in vain, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbor" (Ps 23:4). -- How do matters stand with you?
3. Consider how we can preserve purity of heart. Be ever mindful of the high origin of your soul. A person of high birth needs only to remember his distinguished extraction in order to refrain from doing anything unbecoming. Your soul is of utmost distinguished origin. It has been created by God Himself according to His image and likeness; it has come forth from baptism a child of God and an heir of heaven. If sensuality, pride, or avarice attack your soul and threaten to stain it, say with Blessed Salome: "I am of too noble an extraction, I am too distinguished in birth to yield to anything of that sort," and then banish the tempter with contempt. -- Mindful, however, of your weakness, so not fail to plead with the prophet: "Create a clean heart in me, O God!" (Ps 50:12).
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst combine in Blessed Salome contempt of an earthly kingdom with the luster of virginity in the married state, grant, we beseech Thee, that imitating her example, we may serve Thee with a pure and humble heart and deserve to attain to the imperishable crown of glory in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Nov 19 - St. Agnes of Assisi
When St. Clare received the veil in 1212, she left behind her at home a young sister of 14 named Agnes. In answer to Clare's prayers and inspired by God, Agnes betook herself to the same convent where Clare was then staying only 16 days after her sister's departure from home.
Their father, much enraged, hastened to the convent in company with several relatives. He used force to remove her and was in the act of dragging her along by the hair, when Agnes suddenly became fixed to the spot. The united efforts of the entire company were powerless to move her. But he was seized with a violent pain in his arm and the weapon dropped from his hand. Overcome with fear, he and the rest of the band fled from the scene.
Agnes was overjoyed and returned to her sister Clare. St. Francis then led the two maidens to the convent of St. Damian, where he gave the holy habit also to Agnes. She now endeavored to imitate her saintly sister in everything, and devoted all her spare time to prayer and contemplation. She lived a very austere life, partaking only of bread and water, and wearing a coarse garb all her life.
St. Francis soon recognized the rich treasure of virtue hidden in this privileged soul. When a new convent of Poor Clares was to be founded at Florence in 1221, St. Francis sent Agnes, despite her youth, to act as superior there. Later he sent her also to Mantua and to several other cities in northern Italy to establish additional houses of the order. Wherever she went, she edified everybody by her holy life. Many devout young women renounced the world in order to consecrate themselves to God in monastic seclusion under her direction. She had the gift of infusing the Franciscan spirit into them, both by word and example.
She was favored with many extraordinary graces by God. In the great fervor of her devotion she was often raised above the earth, and once our Lord appeared to her in the form of an infant. From Holy Thursday until Holy Saturday she was once so rapt in the contemplation of the sufferings of Christ that she was under the impression she had spent an hour in this mystical state.
When St. Clare was about to die, she sent for Agnes to assist her in her final days. In her last moments Clare addressed her sister in these words, "My beloved sister, it is the will of God that I go, but be comforted, you will soon come and rejoin me with our Lord." Three months later Agnes followed her sister to eternity. It was on November 16, 1253. Her body rests in Assisi in a side chapel of the church of St. Clare. Numerous miracles occurred at her tomb, and Pope Benedict XIV canonized her.
ON THE FRANCISCAN SPIRIT
1. On the feast of St. Agnes, Holy Church has us pray for the seraphic or Franciscan spirit. In what does that spirit consist? The seraphic spirit consists in ardent holy love, in a heart which seeks and sees God in all things and is bent on spending itself for His honor and using all things to glorify Him. The seraphic spirit takes its name from the Seraphim, who are ever aflame with love for God. Our seraphic father St. Francis was all aglow with this love of God and, like the three young men in the fiery furnace, wished all creatures to join in praising God. St. Agnes was at times so inflamed with this love that she was bodily raised above the earth. This love of God is conspicuous in all the saints of the Franciscan Order, for which reason the order itself is often spoken of as the Seraphic Order. As in the material world everything is attracted to the sun and revolves around it, so should all rational creatures be drawn to God and all the desires of their hearts should tend towards Him. -- Do you possess this seraphic spirit?
2. Consider the obstacles that oppose this seraphic spirit in the heart of man. There is, above all, worldliness which makes us so attached to material goods, sensual pleasures, and earthly honors, and thus hinders us from rising to God. Christ spoke thus to the Jews: "You are from beneath -- that is, earthly-minded -- I am from above" (John 8:23). That is the reason, said He, why they could not come to Him, and would die in their sins. Sins for which atonement has not yet been made also stand in the way and prevent the flame of love from rising upwards. Finally, conceit and pride hold many people captive. Such pride cast Lucifer out of heaven, and it permits no human heart to ride to God. Therefore, detachment from material things, penance for sins committed, and sentiments of humility must prepare our hearts, otherwise they will not be in a condition to receive so much as a spark of true divine love. -- What is it that prevents you from truly loving God?
3. Consider that this fire of love, which fills the heart with the seraphic spirit, must come from the Father of Light. What we can do, is make ourselves receptive for this grace. But, if we do our part, God will give it to us, for He said; "I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?" (Luke 12:49). Let us, therefore, pray for the seraphic spirit and do what lies in us that it may not be weakened or stifled in us. Then, too, let us be mindful, especially during the month which is devoted to the souls in purgatory, of these souls who are filled with the seraphic spirit but suffer great anguish in their desire for God. Let us pray that God may satisfy their ardent longing.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst set up Blessed Agnes before many virgins as a model and guide to evangelical perfection, grant, we beseech Thee, that the seraphic spirit, which she so wisely taught and confirmed by her holy example, may be preserved in us from all taint. Who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.
See also http://www.olisfo.cqc.com/cal.htm
Nov 27 - St. Francis Anthony Fasini
Born in 1681 at Lucera, southeastern Italy, Francis Anthony was the son of very poor peasants; but he was a bright lad, and received a good education from the Conventual Franciscans in his native town. When he was 14 he received the habit of St. Francis among the Conventuals, and in 1705 he was ordained to the priesthood. He was then sent to the Sagro Convento, adjoining the basilica in Assisi where St. Francis is buried, for the purpose of continuing his studies. Two years later he received the doctorate in theology, and he was then appointed lector of philosophy in the college conducted by the Conventuals in his home town. He was promoted successively to regent of studies, guardian, and provincial, which latter office he held from 1721 to 1723. After that he served as master of novices, and then as pastor of the church of St. Francis in Lucera. A bishopric was offered to him, but he declined it.
From the process of beatification we learn that Francis Anthony was diligent in study, fervent in piety, prompt in his obedience to his superiors, devout in meditation, and most exact in the fulfillment of all his duties. He was also mortified and given to the exercises of penance even to bloodshed. From his youth he was an "angel in the flesh, more an angel than a man."
Among the devotions that he cherished there were especially a tender love for the Immaculate Mother of God, a childlike affection for the Infant Jesus, and fervent devotion, also night adoration, of the Holy Eucharist. Once, while he was absorbed in prayer, someone who happened to be in the church heard a voice saying: "This priest prays much for his people."
As a priest, he also became an eloquent preacher, a lover of the poor, a friend of the unfortunate. He was a missionary, a retreat-master, and a Lenten preacher. For hours he would sit in the confessional, hearing and absolving the sins of his penitents, consoling the afflicted, warning the hardened of heart. He spent much time in visiting the sick, the orphans, and the imprisoned. As a pastor he was a real father to his people.
After 35 years in the priesthood and a life of penance, union with God, and intense labor the salvation of souls, God called Father Francis Anthony to Himself on November 29, 1742. On that day the people of Lucera came hurrying to the church of St. Francis, exclaiming as did the children at the death of St. Anthony of Padua, "The saint is dead! The saint is dead!" And for 200 years since then, they have continues to kneel and pray at his tomb. The cause of his beatification was introduced in Rome in 1832; and in 1951 Pope Pius XII solemnly enrolled him among the blessed.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Grant, we pray, O Lord, that Thy faithful people may ever rejoice in venerating Thy blessed servant Francis Anthony and all Thy saints and may be aided by their unceasing prayers. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Nov 28 - St. James of the March
James was born in the March of Ancona. His parents raised him in the fear and love of God, and in due time he was sent to the University of Perugia, where he studied civil and canon law with such remarkable success that he received a doctor's degree in both subjects. Despite the fact that brilliant positions were already open to him, he soon recognized the vanity of the world and felt a singular attraction for the religious life. At first he thought of joining the contemplative Carthusians, but almighty God, who had destined him to labor for the salvation of thousands of souls in the active life, led him to the Order of St. Francis.
During his novitiate James distinguished himself by the practice of all virtues, so that he became a model of religious perfection. In order to preserve angelic purity, which he had kept unsullied from his youth, he led a most austere life. He never slept more than three hours, and that on the bare floor; the remainder of the night he spent meditating on the sufferings of Christ. He constantly wore a coat of mail having sharp points. and scourged himself daily; Like our holy Father St/ Francis, he observed a 40-day fast 7 times a year. Bread and water were his regular fare, although he sometimes added uncooked beans or vegetables. Some years later, St. Bernardin of Siena prevailed upon him to mitigate these austerities somewhat in order to conserve his strength.
Soon after his ordination, when he was 30 years old, he was sent out as a missionary. He undertook this high calling with untiring zeal. For more than 50 years he traveled through Italy, Dalmatia, Croatia, Albania, Bosnia, Austria, Bohemia, Saxony, Prussia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Russia. During the years 1427 and 1428 he preached in Vienna, Augsburg, Ratisbon, Ulm, Limburg, Brandenburg, and Leipzig. Inspired by his apostolic example, more than 200 of the noblest young men of Germany were impelled to enter the Franciscan Order. The crowds who came to hear him were so great that the churches were no large enough to accommodate them, and it became imperative for him to preach in the public squares.
At Milan he was instrumental in converting 36 women of bad repute by a single sermon on St. Mary Magdalen. It is said that he brought 50,000 heretics into the bosom of the Church, and led 200,000 unbelievers to baptism. In addition, God granted St. James such wisdom, that popes and princes availed themselves of his services, seeking counsel from him. He possessed the gifts or miracles and of prophesy in great measure, yet his humility surpassed all those distinctions. He was offered the archepiscopal dignity of the see of Milan, but he declined with these words, "I have no other desire upon earth than to do penance and to preach penance as a poor Franciscan."
Worn out by his many labors as well as advanced age, he died at Naples, November 28, 1476, in the 85th year of his life, 60 years of which were consecrated to God in the religious state. He was entombed in the Franciscan church at Naples, where his body can still be seen in a crystal coffin, incorrupt, flexible, and emitting a fragrant perfume. Pope Benedict XIII canonized St. James in 1726.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who in order to save souls and to call back sinners from the abyss of vice and the path of virtue, didst make Thy confessor St. James a distinguished preacher of the Gospel, mercifully grant that through his intercession we may repent of all our sins and attain to eternal life. 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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