Monday, July 26, 2021

August 13—Bl. Michael McGivney, Priest

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“A priest walks into a bar and says to an Irishman, ‘Do you want to serve the Church and also buy some insurance to protect your family when you die?’”  Not necessarily a funny joke, but perhaps a quick and accurate assessment of what today’s saint did for the working Catholic immigrant in the late 19th century America.  Fr. Michael J. McGivney was the eldest of 13 children born to Irish immigrant parents in 1852.  His father worked in a brass mill and was joined by Michael when he was 13.  However, he entered the seminary at 16 in Quebec, leaving at one point to help his mother raise his siblings when his father died in 1873.  He eventually was ordained in 1877 and served in New Haven, Connecticut.  While there he realized how the impact of the deaths of immigrants in grueling working conditions devastated families.    

In response, he founded the Knights of Columbus, which is the world’s largest men’s charitable fraternal organization with 2 million members worldwide.  Its four degrees, or levels, of membership are based on four watchwords:  Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism.  In 2019, the order donated $187 million and 77 million man-hours to charity.  It has over $100 billion of life insurance in force and $24 billion of assets under management.  The order has thousands of councils throughout the world and men who have been recognized for their holiness:  five Servants of God, including Fr. Flanagan of Boys Town; two Venerables, including Archbishop Sheen; six Blesseds, including Carlos Manuel Rodríguez of Puerto Rico; and seven Saints, including six Mexican priests martyred for their faith during persecutions in the early 20th century.  Bl. Michael McGivney was a man of vision, holiness, and concern for others.  He embodied the essence of priestly life through his ministry and service. 

*https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Michael_J_McGivney.jpg

Richard Whitney, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons

August 7—St. Cajetan, Priest

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What does it mean to be “most earnest in prayer”? St. Cajetan is described as such a man. He is also described “in love of neighbor”. That is impressive! It meets the requirements Jesus set forth, when he was asked in Matthew’s Gospel (22:36-40), “‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.’” 


 Gaetano dei Conti di Thiene was born in 1480 near Venice to an Italian nobleman. He received degrees in both civil and canon law and worked as a diplomat for Pope Julius II. He was ordained a priest in 1516 after Pope Julius died and went back to his hometown of Vicenza, establishing a hospital in 1522. He established another hospital in Venice in 1523, but moved back to Rome to form a congregation dedicated to the spirit of monasticism and active ministry, where he and three others began Theatine order. In Naples he founded a bank to help the poor against those who charged extremely high interest rates. He died in 1547 in Naples. He is the patron saint of the unemployed and gamblers. 

 So, how was St. Cajetan most “most earnest in prayer” as well as “in love of neighbor”? For someone to be able to do the charitable acts he did, one needs to be grounded in Jesus. A strong prayer life is essential to developing that relationship of love. St. Cajetan’s life of prayer and charity was based on his love of Jesus and thus his service to others.
*https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Francesco_Solimena_-_Estasi_di_San_Gaetano_da_Thiene.jpg
Francesco Solimena, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Sunday, July 11, 2021

July 28—Bl. Stanley Rother, Priest and Martyr


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There are fourteen saints, eight blesseds, 25 venerables, and 184 Servants of God with American connections. They founded religious orders, became martyrs, taught, healed, led, and served. They ministered in America and around the world. They were all holy! 

Today’s blessed is one such man, Blessed Stanley Rother, a priest and missionary from Oklahoma, martyred in Guatemala in 1981 during its civil war. He was born in 1935 near Oklahoma City and graduated from the seminary in 1963. In 1968 he was assigned, at his request, to a mission in Guatemala. He served in Santiago Atitlán until his death. Along with his regular duties, he translated the New Testament into the native language of the people and founded a small hospital. 

The civil war eventually came to his parish. “His catechists and parishioners would disappear and later be found dead, with their bodies showing signs of being beaten and tortured.” He wrote to the people of Oklahoma in December 1980 before returning to Guatemala: “This is one of the reasons I have for staying in the face of physical harm. The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.” He was told his name was on a death list but received permission to return to Santiago Atitlán. On July 28, 1981, shooters broke into the rectory and shot him twice in the head. He was one of ten priests murdered in Guatemala that year. He is buried in Oklahoma, but his heart is buried under the altar in Santiago Atitlán. 

On December 1, 2016, Pope Francis decreed that he had been killed in odium fidei, in hatred of the faith. He was beatified on September 23, 2017, the first US-born priest and martyr. Martyrdom is still a part of being Catholic. Bl. Stanley Rother, pray for us.

*http://www.catharchdioceseokc.org/history/rotherindex.htm

July 24--St. Sharbel Maklūf, Priest


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The Catholic Church has 24 particular churches and six major rites of worship.  The largest particular church is the Latin Church.  There are 23 Eastern Catholic Churches united under the authority and leadership of the Pope.


Today’s saint is from the Maronite Catholic Church, which belongs to the West Syriac Rite.  St. Sharbel Maklūf was a priest, monk, and hermit who lived in Lebanon from 1828-1898.  He is known as the “Miracle Monk of Lebanon” due to the many miraculous healings and wonders attributed to him during his life and after, as well for his ability to unite Christians and Muslims.  He became a monk in 1853 and was ordained a priest for the Monastery of St. Maron.  He served the monastery for 19 years and then was granted permission to live as a hermit near the monastery.  He lived as a hermit for another 23 years in deep prayer with God and a life devoted to deprivation of material pleasures.


His wisdom comes through his life of holiness and his words:  “A man who prays lives out the mystery of existence, and a man who does not pray scarcely exists.”  “Success in life consists of standing without shame before God.”  “Persevere in prayer without ceasing… to understand and live according to his will, not to change it.”  “One does not have to look far to see evidence of Satan’s plan in our world today, as the family is further fragmented and divided in modern culture.”  “The family is the basis of the Lord’s plan; and all forces of evil are focusing all their evil on destroying the family because they know that by destroying the family, the foundations of the plan of God will be shaken.”  How prophetic for us, as we seek to strengthen the family against new “definitions.”

*By FOSS-the-world - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63027121







Tuesday, July 6, 2021

July 12—Sts. Louis Martin and Azélie-Marie “Zélie” Guérin, Holy Man and Holy Woman

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They are the only married couple canonized together.  Both tried to enter religious life but were rejected.  They married three months after meeting each other.  Both entered marriage with the intention of living as St. Joseph and St. Mary did.  Nonetheless, they did want children and their confessor guided them.  So, they became parents to nine children with five daughters surviving and eventually entering religious life, one of whom is St. Thérèse of Lisieux.  They were successful in business; Louis being a watchmaker who quit his career to manage his wife’s more successful lace-making business.  St. Zelie died of breast cancer at the age of 45, while St. Louis died from a heart attack after a lengthy illness brought about by strokes when he was 70, surviving his wife by 17 years.  


However, there was more to their lives than just living, working, raising a family, and dying.  They were holy and devoted their lives to God through living, working, raising a family, and dying.  We know quite a bit about them from his 16 letters and her 216 letters.  She wrote to one daughter:  “As for me, I wished to have many children so that I could raise them for Heaven.”  She had great love and affection for her husband as well:  “I always get what I want without a fight; there's still a month before you go (on retreat); that's enough time for me to change your father's mind ten times.”  The years after her death were hard on him, especially after the strokes, when he suffered delirium.  When he could, he would repeat:  “Everything for the greater glory of God,” and “I have never been humiliated in my life, I need to be humiliated.”  Here are models for modern families!  Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, pray for us.

*https://www.ncregister.com/blog/the-holy-lives-and-passions-of-sts-louis-and-zelie-martin

Sunday, June 13, 2021

June 26-St. Josemaría Escrivá: Priest

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Is Opus Dei a secret cult?  Does it exert control over its members?  Does it promote physical penances?  Who is the man who founded it and why?  If we just recently read or watched The DaVinci Code these could be worthwhile questions.  That is, if we accept that it is a historical documentary, which it isn’t; it is pulp fiction and much of what is portrayed about Opus Dei is fiction.  


Opus Dei is a personal prelature of the Catholic Church, meaning it is an institution under the direct governance of the Vatican, rather than under a local bishop or head of a religious order.  Its members include about 93,000 laypersons and about 2,000 priests with about 70% of members living in private homes, leading family lives with secular careers and 30% living celibate lives in Opus Dei centers.  Self-mortification is an ancient Catholic practice—think fasting and abstinence for Lent—but it is promoted as a part of a person’s total life.  


St. Josemaría Escrivá, who founded the society in 1928 in Madrid, Spain, wrote, “Choose mortifications that don’t mortify others.”  In other words, do penance that will lead oneself and others to love of God.  St. Josemaría founded Opus Dei to help people become holy through sanctifying ordinary life.  “Saint Josemaría explained that Christians working in the world should not live ‘a kind of double life.  On the one hand, an interior life, a life of union with God; and on the other, a separate and distinct professional, social and family life.’  On the contrary:  ‘There is just one life, made of flesh and spirit.  And it is this life which has to become, in both soul and body, holy and filled with God.”  This is the essence of the Catholic life; what we are called to be and do! 

* https://www.flickr.com/photos/opus-dei/13599152113

Monday, June 7, 2021

June 6—Bl. Maria Laura Mainetti, Martyr

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Sr. Maria Laura Mainetti was declared Blessed on June 6, 2021, the anniversary of her murder in 2000 by three teenage girls, former catechism students of hers. She was stabbed 19 times, the intent being for each one to stab her six times to represent the number 666. They originally told investigators they wanted to kill her for a game, but later said it was a satanic sacrifice. All three girls were convicted and sentenced as juveniles and released by 2008. They have since changed their names and relocated to other cities, starting families. 

 Sr. Mainetti was the superior of the Sisters of the Cross convent in Chiavenna in the Italian Alps, north of Milan. She was well known for her ministry to youth and poor people. She was lured to a park because one of the girls claimed to be considering an abortion. They made her kneel, beat her with a brick and pushed her head into a wall and stabbed her to death. Throughout the attack Sr. Mainetti prayed for them and asked God to forgive them. Her last words were, “Lord, forgive them.” She was declared a martyr by Pope Francis. 

 One of the girls later wrote a letter to Sr. Mainetti’s religious community: “I can have of her only a memory of love. And in addition to this, it also allowed me to believe in something that is neither God nor Satan, but which was a simple woman who defeated evil. Now in her I find comfort and the grace to endure everything. I always pray and I am sure she will help me become a better person.” This is as enduring a testimony as any to the power of God’s love as shown through God’s witness and martyr, Bl. Maria Laura Mainetti.
*https://catholicsaints.info/blessed-maria-laura-mainetti/