Friday, August 21, 2020

August 30--St. Jeanne Jugan, Virgin and Foundress

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Two different societies were founded in the 19th century called Little Sisters. Today’s saint, Jeanne Jugan, also known as Mary of the Cross, founded the Little Sisters of the Poor in France. She was born in 1792 in Brittany, France and grew up during the terrors of the French Revolution. She dedicated much of her young life to helping others. In 1837 she and two other women lived together to pray, teach the catechism, and help the poor. In 1839 St. Jeanne met an elderly woman who was blind, paralyzed, and alone on a cold winter night. St. Jeanne took her home and gave the woman her own bed. She and the women who were serving others then became a religious community. In 1849 they adopted the name Little Sisters of the Poor. In 1852 St. Jeanne was forced into retirement and barred from leadership by the chaplain assigned to the order, who took upon himself the title of founder. She lived in obscurity and humility in her community for twenty-seven years, but was a heroine to the young novices. After her death in 1879, the chaplain was stripped of his titles and St. Jeanne was acknowledged as foundress.

St. Jeanne advised a novice: “When your patience and strength run out and you feel alone and helpless, Jesus is waiting for you in the chapel. Say to him, ‘Jesus you know exactly what is going on. You are all I have, and you know all things. Come to my help.’ And then go, and don’t worry about how you are going to manage. That you have told God about it is enough. He has a good memory.” Humility is a difficult virtue to cultivate, especially in the face of injustice. However, we are called to be children of God in humility.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

August 26--St. Teresa Jornet Y Ibars, Virgin, Religious, and Foundress


"You have returned to the anguished faces of people venerable for their old age, the serenity and the joy of experiencing again the benefits of a home. You have been chosen by God to reinforce to the world the sacred dimension of life, … [that] man … is enthusiastically sacred because he is the Son of God and always deserves all the vigilance because he is predestined to an eternal destiny" (Paul VI, 1/27/1974).

These words from Pope St. Paul VI proclaim the holiness of today’s saint, St. Teresa of Jesus Jornet, as well as the mission she embarked upon. St. Teresa was born in 1843 in Spain and co-founded a religious order in 1873 that was completely dedicated to helping the elderly poor, the Little Sisters of the Abandoned Elderly. Her order spread throughout Spain to include more than one hundred houses by the time she died in 1897. She spent the rest of her life tending their needs. Today over 200 houses exist in Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

Although St. Teresa’s Little Sisters are not the same as the Little Sisters of the Poor being persecuted in the United States, there are similarities. Both were founded by women in Europe in the 19th century, one in France, the other in Spain, to serve the elderly poor. Both have spread out throughout the world with over 2,000 sisters. The Spanish government was anti-clerical and kept St. Teresa from becoming a religious in 1868. However, it did not succeed in stopping her. The American government had demanded that the Little Sisters of the Poor provide health insurance to their employees that included contraceptives and abortion coverage. As of this writing, the American government has not succeeded. We pray for those who give their lives to Jesus in our elderly poor.


Friday, August 7, 2020

August 16--St. Stephen of Hungary, Holy Man

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The conversion of a nation or people requires two things, the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ and someone around whom Christianity focuses. In Ireland it was St. Patrick; in Germany, St. Boniface; in Bohemia, St. Wenceslas; and in Hungary, St. Stephen. St. Stephen was the first king of Hungary, crowned around AD 1000. Hungary was one of the last areas of Europe to be Christianized. Stephen was born pagan but was baptized as a child by St. Adalbert of Prague and was a devout Christian. His father imposed Christianity by force, but still worshipped pagan gods. After his father died, he was named leader of the Magyars, the people of Hungary, but then claimed kingship of Hungary. This led to consolidation of his rule. He did this by spreading Christianity throughout Hungary, establishing dioceses which were independent of the Holy Roman Empire. He forced his subjects to give up pagan rituals. He also fought pagan opponents. After consolidating power, he opened a new pilgrimage route to Jerusalem through Hungary, often meeting pilgrims. With peace and a land route to the Holy Land, his fame spread. He set up counties, with the county seats becoming a center of Church organization. He died in 1038 after a 43-year reign. He was canonized in 1083.

Missionaries are the first to bring Christianity to new peoples, but their work needs to be supported. In Europe, much of that support was given through rulers. St. Stephen of Hungary brought about the Christianization of Hungary, which also helped maintain Hungary’s culture. Christianization does not impose an outside colonialization but brings out the best of the native culture through the glory of God. Catholics are members of a universal Church embodied in a specific culture and people. Thus, we can say, “God bless America!”


Thursday, July 30, 2020

August 13--Sts. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr

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Two men, both Christian but opposed to each other; one a pope for only five years, the other an anti-pope for 18 years; both arrested and sent to Sardinia to die a “living death” in the mines around 235/236. However, both are saints. St. Pontian was pope from 230-235 and, when arrested to be exiled, resigned his office as pope, the first to do so. St. Hippolytus entered into schism with St. Pontian’s predecessors on the grounds that the pope did not condemn a heresy strongly enough. He was then elected pope by his followers, the first anti-pope. However, in Sardinia he became reconciled with the Church. St. Hippolytus is also known for his theological and liturgical writings. 

So what brings two such different men together to be celebrated as saints on the same day? St. Hippolytus was a “holier than the Church” sort of man and St. Pontian was a pope who had to make difficult decisions, including a resignation that led to the end of the schism St. Hippolytus began. Perhaps reconciliation is the key to the mystery!  

Reconciliation is the key to our relationship with God. Without our conversion, our repentance, our turning back, our metanoia, we cannot be reconciled with the God who made us, loves us, and saved us through his own passion, death, and resurrection. Jesus started his ministry proclaiming his Gospel in Galilee: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15). He ended his ministry on the cross in Jerusalem: “Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’; and when he had said this he breathed his last” (Lk 23:46). He reconciled us to the Father and brought us into communion with our God.


Monday, July 27, 2020

August 2--St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop

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Where is your home? Where do you really belong? Is our home in heaven or in the world? St. Eusebius of Vercelli answered that very question throughout his life. He was born in Sardinia at the beginning of the fourth century and became a priest in Rome. He went to Vercelli and was elected bishop by the people. In 354, the pope asked him to request the emperor call another council to settle the issue between Arians and Catholics. The Arians did not accept the Trinity as three Persons in one God even though the Council of Nicaea condemned Arianism in 325. The emperor favored Arianism as Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “For him it was not truth that counted but rather political opportunism: he wanted to exploit religion as the bond of unity for the Empire.” Thus, the emperor exiled Eusebius where he was subjected to persecution. Eusebius was eventually freed and returned to Vercelli where he died peacefully in 371. All the time he preached the truth of the Nicene Creed.

Benedict also wrote: “Just like the Apostles, for whom Jesus prayed at his Last Supper, the Pastors and faithful of the Church ‘are of the world’ (Jn 17: 11), but not ‘in the world’. Therefore, Pastors, Eusebius said, must urge the faithful not to consider the cities of the world as their permanent dwelling place but to seek the future city, the definitive heavenly Jerusalem. This ‘eschatological reserve’ enables Pastors and faithful to preserve the proper scale of values without ever submitting to the fashions of the moment and the unjust claims of the current political power.” Our home is heaven, but we must try to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven here: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven!”

Sunday, July 19, 2020

July 28--Blessed Maria Teresa Kowalska, Religious and Martyr


What happens when someone sins? An injury has been committed. How does one repair the injury? By sorrow and reparation. Sorrow is the key to forgiveness; reparation is the key to reconciliation. Today’s saint offered herself and her life in reparation to God for the sins of her family. Bl. Maria Teresa Kowalska was born in Poland in 1902. After the Russian Revolution in 1917 “her father and other relatives had embraced atheistic Communism and enthusiastically supported the new Soviet Union.” She entered the Capuchin Poor Clares in Poland in 1923 making her Solemn Perpetual Profession in 1928. She became a model nun, respected by her community. In 1941 the Germans arrested the thirty-six nuns at the convent and sent them to a concentration camp. She had tuberculosis while in the monastery and her illness worsened in captivity. One day she said, “I will not leave here alive. I offer my life for the sisters so that they may return to the monastery.” She died on July 25, 1941. Her sisters were released by the Germans two weeks later on August 7. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in June 1999 with a group of 107 martyrs of WWII.

Reparation of sins is a holy purpose of prayer. Jesus made reparation for our sins through his death, but we can also make reparation for the sins of others through our prayers and sufferings.

The Morning Offering prayer states:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day
for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world,
for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians,
and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month.

Monday, July 13, 2020

July 20—St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr


If at first, you don’t succeed… well you know the rest. But what about attempting the conversion of others? What about facing continued rejection, intimidation, and even threats of persecution and death? Are we required to share our faith with others who hate us and hate what we believe? Are we called to bring Christ to them, or should we leave them be? Afterall, Jesus did say, “Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet” (Mt. 10:14) and “When they persecute you in one town, flee to another” (Mt. 10:23).

This may have been in the mind of today’s saint, Apollinaris. According to legend, he was sent by St. Peter to the city of Ravenna, Italy. With the working of miracles, he attracted attention and converts, but also enemies, who beat him and drove him out. He was found and hidden by Christians, but then captured, compelled to walk on coals and again expelled. He stayed in the area and preached, but later returned a third time to Ravenna. “Again he was captured, hacked with knives, had scalding water poured over his wounds, was beaten in the mouth with stones, … was flung into a horrible dungeon to starve to death;” but then put on a ship to Greece. After four years he returned to Ravenna a fourth time, staying hidden, but was discovered and, again, savagely beaten, after which he died.

What compelled him to keep returning when he knew what would happen to him? It may be, that as bishop he wanted to be with his flock. Whatever his reasons, he faced death for the sake of the Gospel. We may not be called to die for the faith, but we are called to witness.