Sunday, November 3, 2019

November 12--St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr


In 1995, Pope St. John Paul II declared: “The Church must breathe with her two lungs!” (Ut Unum Sint, 54) What he meant was that the Church was only breathing with one lung, namely the Western Church. He declared that we needed the Eastern Church as well. The Catholic Church has been separated from her Eastern Orthodox sister churches since 1054. However, since then, there have been efforts at union. One prominent event toward union was the Union of Brest in 1596. Seven Orthodox bishops in Lithuania/Poland/Ukraine came into full communion with the pope, while still retaining their Eastern Rites.

Why is this important for our saint? He became an archbishop in one of these dioceses after 1596. St. Josaphat was born in 1580 to Ruthenian Orthodox Catholic parents. After the Union of Brest he became a monk in 1604 in the Ruthenian Rite. His zeal for his faith led him to write catechisms and apologetics, defenses of the Church. He defended the rights of the Eastern Rite Churches, but some opposed him on the grounds that he was trying to “go Latin” and not be faithful to the Eastern traditions.

In 1623, an Orthodox priest insulted St. Josaphat and tried to force his way into the archbishop’s residence. St. Josaphat had him removed, but he had assembled a mob, which then attacked St. Josaphat, shooting him and hitting him in the head with a battle axe, killing him. He was canonized in 1867 as a martyr.

The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches have the same sacraments, the same faith, and the same love of God. However, the difference between the two is the role of the pope. Pope St. John Paul II wrote about the need for unification. May the prayers of St. Josaphat bring us into communion with each other.


Sunday, October 27, 2019

November 3--St. Martin de Porres, Religious


Humility is the hallmark of holiness. Such is true for today’s saint. St. Martin de Porres was born of a Spanish conquistador and a freed slave woman in 1579. He became a lay brother in Lima, Peru. He was trained as a physician, but he also had the gift of healing. His monastery became a place of healing for the poor of Peru.

But where does humility come in? St. Martin did not want anyone to know of his gift of healing, so he would use an herb or some other device to hide his gift. However, he was found out by the Archbishop of Mexico, who was passing through Lima. The archbishop was in great pain and suffering from a fever. He knew of St. Martin’s healing ability and sent for him. The Dominican superior sent him immediately to the archbishop before St. Martin could gather his healing materials. When he arrived at the archbishop’s residence, the archbishop ordered him to reach out his hand. St. Martin did not want to, but the archbishop required obedience of St. Martin. He stretched out his hand and put it on the archbishop’s chest, taking away his pain. The archbishop required him to leave his hand on his chest and his fever and illness disappeared. St. Martin was embarrassed at this and retreated to the monastery.

As Pope St. John XXIII remarked of him at his canonization in 1962: "He tried with all his might to redeem the guilty; lovingly he comforted the sick; he provided food, clothing and medicine for the poor; he helped, as best he could, farm labourers and Negroes, as well as mulattoes, who were looked upon at that time as akin to slaves: thus he deserved to be called by the name the people gave him: 'Martin of Charity.'"


Sunday, October 20, 2019

October 30--St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, Religious


Can a doorkeeper become a saint? In other words, can someone who spends his life receiving visitors, running errands, delivering messages, giving advice to the troubled, searching for others at the door of a college become a saint? Yes! St. Alphonsus Rodriguez did just that for 46 years! It seems an unlikely way to become a saint, but it was the way that God called him and the way he responded.

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez was born in Spain in 1532, left school at 14 when his father died to help his mother run the family business. He married at 26 but became a widower at 31 with one surviving child. His mother and child also died soon thereafter, and he sold the business. His life seemed to be one of failure and misery, but there was more to await him. He decided to enter the Jesuits at the age of 39, but they refused him because of his lack of education. One year later, after some remedial education in Latin, he was accepted as a lay brother, never to become a priest. He was assigned to be porter, or doorkeeper, at a Jesuit college on Majorca, where he served the rest of his life until he died in 1617 at the age of 85.  He was canonized in 1888.

A porter is a humble position, one also held by Bl. Solanus Casey of Detroit. However, it allows the person to be present to others at all times of day and in all cases of need. St. Alphonsus was a full-time minister to everyone he met. Every person he greeted was Jesus Christ! He became a spiritual advisor to the Jesuit students, including St. Peter Claver. When not at the door, he was in prayer. Humility is key to holiness, and so we pray:  St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, pray for us.


Sunday, October 13, 2019

October 20--St. Paul of the Cross, Priest

File:Paul de la croix.jpg*

Passionate—showing or caused by strong feelings or a strong belief. Passion—strong and barely controllable emotion. The Passion—the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ. Passionist—member of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ founded by St. Paul of the Cross with special emphasis on and devotion to the Passion of Jesus Christ. Our saint today is the founder of a religious congregation dedicated completely to preaching missions and the contemplative life; in other words, a combining of the best aspects of the Jesuits and the Trappist monks.

St. Paul of the Cross was born in 1694 in Italy of parents of modest means. At the age of 26 he had a vision of Our Lady appearing to him in a black habit with a white insignia in the shape of a heart bearing Jesus’ name and a cross. This became emblematic of his dedication to the Passion of Jesus. With his brother John Baptist, he founded the Passionists. He spent his life preaching parish missions, praying, writing letters, and leading a life of austerity, as if in perpetual retreat, which is what his houses were called. He had the ability to heal, prophesy, and read consciences. He wanted people to have a greater awareness of the meaning and the value of Passion of Christ for each person and for the world. He died in Rome in 1775 and was canonized in 1867.

Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, released in 2004, is about the last hours of Jesus Christ. It is a two-hour bloody, torturous, excruciating meditation upon what we proclaim, the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ. Simply, Jesus suffered and died for us. We should not ever forget the sacrifice and mercy of God for us. St. Paul of the Cross, pray for us.


Sunday, October 6, 2019

October 16--St. Hedwig, Religious

File:MOs810 WG 2 2018 (Wloclawek Lake) (Saint Hedwig church in Stara Biała) (6).jpg*

For many people today, the name Hedwig summons images of a snowy owl from the Harry Potter movies. However, the name Hedwig has a more sacred connection, St. Hedwig. She was born in Bavaria around 1174, married Henry, Duke of Silesia and together they had seven children. They lived in Silesia, which is part of present-day Poland and founded religious houses and hospitals. She took an active role in serving the poor. She was a peacemaker in a time of war. She attempted to reconcile her sons so they would not fight. She succeeded in keeping her husband and another duke from going to war. Henry died in 1238, over 50 years after their marriage. St. Hedwig then moved into the convent she helped found, although she did not take religious vows so that she could share her property with the poor. She died in 1243 and was canonized in 1267.

St. Hedwig was wealthy by virtue of being a duchess. However, she was not attached to her wealth, giving to the poor, being a benefactor to religious communities as well as to her country. Most of us have more than what we need and far more than what our recent ancestors had to live on. How well do we share our wealth? Are we attached to the “things” we have? Bl. Charles de Foucald wrote: “If God allows some people to pile up riches instead of making themselves poor as Jesus did, it is so that they may use what he has entrusted to them as loyal servants, in accordance with the Master’s will, to do spiritual and temporal good to others.” Our riches need to be shared so that we may bring about good as a matter of charity and of justice. St. Hedwig, pray for us.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

October 1--St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor


She died at the age of 24 of tuberculosis.  Her main work is The Story of a Soul, written at the behest of her superiors in order to share her life with others.  She became the patron saint of missionaries even though she lived her entire adult life in a cloistered convent in France.  Her “little way” of simplicity and practicality illuminates how each person can become a saint:  “I see that it is enough to recognize one's nothingness and to abandon oneself, like a child, into God's arms.”

St. Thérèse of Liseiux was born in 1873 to Zélie and Louis Martin, who have been since the only married couple canonized together by Pope Francis in 2015.  She was the sister of four surviving daughters, all of whom became nuns.  She asked Pope Leo XIII permission to enter the convent at 15.  He directed that she follow her superiors’ directions.  However, she was allowed to enter the Carmelite convent at Lisieux the following spring, when she was 15.  She spent nine years in the convent before she died.

Although her life in the convent was a hidden life, she desired nothing more than to be holy, to be a saint.  She served in the convent through prayer and obedience, offering herself and her suffering for others, especially priests.  She is called the Little Flower.  She wrote:  “I will scatter flowers, perfuming the Divine Throne, and I’ll sweetly sing my hymn of love.  These flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least of actions for love.”  St. Thérèse knew she could not do great or heroic acts, so she dedicated herself to doing little acts of love, everything for love.  So should we all!  St. Thérèse, pray for us.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

February 28--Bl. Daniel Brottier, Priest


To look at today's saint, one might imagine him to be a mall Santa Claus, with his white hair and long bushy beard.  But the two medals pinned to his chest, the Croix de guerre and the Légion d'honneur, indicate something else, his service as a chaplain for the French during World War I.  Bl. Daniel started his ministry as a priest teaching in a school.  However, he wanted to serve beyond the classroom and joined the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, who sent him to a mission in Senegal in West Africa.  When World War I broke out he returned and served as a chaplain in the trenches on the front.  During 52 months of service he never suffered a single wound, which he attributed to the intervention of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.  After the war he took over an orphanage outside of Paris.  

Bl. Daniel was a brave man who faced the hardships of war with the love of service.  He saw in the faces of his charges the face of Jesus.  He was no mall Santa Claus, but he was a man of faith and bravery and determination.  These are qualities that we can bring to our service.  He once said:  "My secret is this: help yourself and heaven will help you. ... I have no other secret.  If the good God worked miracles [at the orphanage], through Thérèse's intercession, I think I can say in all justice that we did everything, humanly speaking, to be deserving, and that they were the divine reward of our work, prayers and trust in providence."  This is the "secret" of being a Christian.