Sunday, November 4, 2018

November 16--St. Gertrude the Great, Virgin

There are few saints that are called “the Great”, four popes; Gregory I, Leo I, Nicholas I, and John Paul II; as well as a Dominican bishop, Albert. But today’s “the Great” was a woman, the only woman so designated in the Catholic Church. 

St. Gertrude the Great was a Benedictine nun who was a mystic and theologian. She was born in 1256 in Germany and went to the Cistercian monastery school at the age of five. She excelled in her education, especially “in literature, philosophy, song, and the refined art of miniature painting.” After time in the monastery school she entered religious life and became a nun. When she was 24 she had a crisis of faith and at the age of 25 she saw Jesus as an adolescent who said to her: “I have come to comfort you and bring you salvation.” It was after this that she dedicated her studies to Scripture, the Church Fathers, and theological writings. She died in 1301 and was elevated to sainthood through equivalent canonization in 1677.

She wrote many works, but her primary influence is as an early devotee of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her writings on the Sacred Heart are “notable within the history of Christian devotion because of their vivid descriptions of her visions, which show a considerable elaboration on the long-standing but ill-defined veneration of Christ’s heart.”

The devotion to the Sacred Heart has a long history in the Church, promoted in its earliest form by St. Gertrude and others. It is about the absolute and complete love Jesus has for each one of us, so much so that he gave his life in sacrifice for our sins and to attain for us salvation. It is love that kept Jesus on the cross, not the nails! Thank you St. Gertrude the Great, for this insight.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

October 23--St. John of Capistrano, Priest and Religious

The Liturgy of the Hours has a brief life on all the saints we celebrate. For St. John of Capistrano it says: “Saint John was born in Capistrano in the Abruzzi (Italy) in 1386. He studied law in Perugia and for a time was governor of that city. He entered the Order of Friars Minor and, after ordination to the priesthood, he led an untiring apostolic life preaching throughout Europe both to strengthen Christian life and to refute heresy. He died at Villach in Austria in 1456.” It’s pretty cut and dried, but it doesn’t tell us…the rest of the story.

The people of Europe had just recovered from the plague, which had wiped out about one-third of the population. The Western Schism occurred, in which three men claimed to be pope! The Franciscans had a heretical group within them! The Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople in 1453 and were moving into central Europe. So, what was a body to do? Preach! He preached to great crowds who were either ambivalent or confused about the Church. He sparked great conversions in the people who heard him. He helped the Franciscans root out the heretical group in their midst. He then preached a crusade in central Europe to stop the Turks, leading an army into Belgrade, Hungary lifting the siege and stopping the Muslim advance into Europe.

Why is all this important for the life of St. John and for us? We are called to live our faith in the circumstances we encounter. If there is heresy, preach against it! If there is corruption, be a force for light and truth! If there is apathy, live with zeal! When there are forces of evil to face, do so with courage! And that’s the rest of the story! St. John of Capistrano, pray for us.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

October 17--St.Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

Imagine this: You are on your way to your execution, brutal at best and torturous at worst. But you write your friends to not try and stop it. Rather, you want to die as an example for others. This is what St. Ignatius of Antioch did when he was taken to the Circus Maximus in Rome. He was a second-generation Christian, having been taught by John the Apostle. As bishop of Antioch, he was a successor to Peter, who was bishop there before going to Rome. He was brought before the Emperor Trajan and refused to recant his faith, whereupon he was sentenced to death in the Circus, to be eaten by lions. In anticipation of the efforts of the Christians in Rome, he wrote: “The only thing I ask of you is to allow me to offer the libation of my blood to God. I am the wheat of the Lord; may I be ground by the teeth of the beasts to become the immaculate bread of Christ.” 

St. Ignatius wrote to various communities on his way to his martyrdom. He wrote about the importance of loyalty to the bishop. In this day we are seeing the bishops in a different light. Some have sinned grievously, while others have sinned in covering up grievous sins. Our bishops are successors to the apostles, but they are also men who need God’s grace in their own lives. We do need to be loyal to them, but we also need to help them in being accountable for the responsibilities they have. The laity has a co-responsibility, along with the clergy, to bring about the Kingdom of God. Let us never renege on our own baptismal promises to reject Satan and all his evil works! St. Ignatius, pray for us.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

October 9—St. John Leonardi, Priest

The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, also known as CCD, was the brainchild of today’s saint. The Society for the Propagation of the Faith also owes its existence to St. John Leonardi. They are two immense programs dedicated to the growth of the faith in foreign lands as well as in our own parishes, yet their founder made sure that the religious order he founded, the Order of Clerics Regular of the Mother of God, remained a small congregation. Perhaps he knew that a religious order is not the sole responsibility of faith and missions, but rather the entire Church! 

St. John Leonardi was born in Tuscany, Italy in 1541. After studying to be a pharmacist he became a priest dedicating himself to teaching others about the faith. He founded his religious order in 1574. In 1603 he cofounded the seminary of the Propagation of the Faith for training of missionary priests. He also helped reform some other congregations. He died in Rome in 1609 from the plague while ministering to his brothers.

Obviously, St. John Leonardi had great energy and passion to do God’s work. But he also had the grace of God, without which no one can accomplish any good. All our good rests in God’s gracious love. He gives us the graces and virtues we need to accomplish his saving work in the world. He depends on us to love others in his name. That is why we strive to grow in holiness and perfection. Our lives need to be focused on his saving mission. Our relatives, our friends, our colleagues, and our fellow citizens need the grace that he has given to us for their benefit. Let us remember St. John Leonardi’s efforts and redouble our own, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

September 30--St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor

There may be no saint more cantankerous and objectionable than St. Jerome! He had such a bad temper that whenever someone opposed him he would tear that person down with fire and brimstone. He even went after saints, such as St. Augustine, accusing him of using his position as bishop to get what he wanted, as opposed to accepting St. Jerome’s scholarly insights and skills. And that was St. Jerome’s strength and Achilles’ heel. He was a brilliant scholar! He translated the Bible from the original languages, which he studied, into Latin. It was the most comprehensive effort attempted up to that time. This version is called the Vulgate, and in the Council of Trent, a new and corrected edition was declared the authentic text to be used in the Church. St. Jerome was also the secretary to the pope at one time. He also became a monk and lived in a cave in Bethlehem, where he died.

How do we reconcile his temper with being a saint? Because he was also remorseful about any errors and sins he committed. He loved Jesus and gave his life to counseling others and living an ascetic life. He is worthy of the honor of sainthood and is the patron of librarians and scholars.

We all have vices tying in with one or more of the seven capital sins: Pride, Envy, Avarice, Sloth, Wrath, Lust, and Gluttony. How do we respond to these temptations when they beset us? Do we give in to them or do we turn to God and ask for his grace to overcome them; for it is the grace of God that saves us and preserves us from our sins and failings. Humility, kindness, patience, diligence, charity, temperance, and chastity are the virtues we need to pray for. St. Jerome, pray for us.

Monday, September 17, 2018

September 27--St. Vincent de Paul, Priest

Today’s saint was actually something of a slacker when he first became a priest. He was in it for a Church office in order to earn money for his family, who were peasants. He could then retire early and return home. But it wasn’t to happen. St. Vincent de Paul became a good priest. With his desire to help the poor and guide them with good priests he founded the Congregation of the Mission, or Vincentians. Further he guided some women to help the poor. He cofounded the Daughters of Charity with St. Louise de Marillac. Instead of living in a convent, they lived in houses and “gave their lives to visiting the sick in the homes, ministering in hospitals, caring for prisoners, orphans, the mentally ill, and the homeless of Paris.” They were the first missionary order of sisters. St. Vincent de Paul also collected money to provide relief in time of war. He was named the patron saint of charitable societies by Pope Leo XIII.

St. Vincent de Paul gives his name to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul founded by Bl. Frédéric Ozanam. “The Society numbers about 800,000 members in some 140 countries worldwide.” The number in the United States is over 97,000. They run thrift shops, housing assistance, disaster relief, visits to homes, prisons, and hospitals, food pantries, and more.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” These are the corporal works of mercy, which Jesus defined as the key to salvation in Mt. 25:31-46. We are grateful for the work of the Societies of St. Vincent de Paul for their ministry. God bless you.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

September 19--St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr

If you like weird stories, here is a doozy! St. Januarius’s blood liquifies up to 18 times each year for the past 600 years! Keep in mind that St. Januarius has been dead since A.D. 305, when he was martyred under the Great Persecution of the emperor Diocletian, the last and worst persecution in the age of the martyrs. His blood has been kept in a reliquary and routinely liquifies on certain days, including his feast day of September 19. When Pope Francis visited Naples in 2015 the blood liquified, the first time that has happened in the presence of a pope in over 150 years. According to Neapolitans, when St. Januarius’s blood does not liquify on the usual days it is a sign of trouble to come. So why is liquification unusual? The fact of St. Januarius’s blood changing form is scientifically inexplicable, PERIOD! 

St. Januarius was a bishop and martyr, which makes him amazing enough! However, because of the constant liquification of his blood, or lack thereof, he is in the news quite a bit. We may not really know about him, except for this amazing miracle. What does this mean for us today? Perhaps it is to remind us of another miracle concerning blood.

There is a miracle that occurs every day throughout the world in every Catholic church: the transubstantiation of the bread and wine offered at the sacrifice of the Mass into the Body and Blood of Jesus. This miracle is seen and experienced by faithful. It is more amazing than the liquification of St. Januarius’s blood. We get to receive Jesus—Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity—every time we receive the Eucharist. We honor St. Januarius for his witness and his miracle, but we worship our Lord, Jesus Christ for his great love and sacrifice for our salvation.