Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saint of the Day - St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ignatius of Loyola was born in 1491, at Loyola, Guipuzcoa, Spain, the youngest of 13 children. When he was 16 years old, Ignatius got a job serving as a page to the treasurer of the Kingdom of Castille. Being at the court, Ignatius developed many of the vices associated with courtly living.

Ignatius was trained in the military arts and in May 1521, at the age of 30, was "an officer defending the fortress of the town of Pamplona against the French." Ignatius was hit by a cannonball which broke one of his legs. The French showed compassion on this brave young soldier and allowed him to return to Loyola for recovery. For the rest of his life, Ignatius would walk with a limp.

Being increasingly bored throughout his recovery, Ignatius asked for novels to read but the only books to be found were on the life of Christ and the lives of the saints. Desperate, Ignatius began to read these. These books opened Ignatius' eyes to the joy of following Christ.

Once he was completely recovered, Ignatius left Loyola and lived for 10 months as a hermit outside the town of Manresa. He then made a pilgrimage to Rome where he asked permission of the Holy Father, Pope Adrian VI, to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The Pope assented but when Ignatius arrived the Franciscan superior, having authority over the Catholics in the Holy Land, told Ignatius that it was too dangerous and ordered him to leave. Ignatius refused until he was threatened with excommunication.
At 33 years old, Ignatius went back to Barcelona to begin studying for the priesthood. He later went to the University of Paris to finish his studies. It was here that he met Francis Xavier and Peter Faber and the three, along with others, eventually founded the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. Ignatius was unanimously elected superior. He served as superior for 15 years, along with teaching the Catechism and serving the poor.

On July 31, 1556 Ignatius succumbed to fever. He was canonized by Pope Gregory XV on March 12, 1622. St. Ignatius is the patron: of Basque; of the diocese of Bilbao, Spain; of Bizkaia, Spain; of Gipuzkoa, Spain; of the Jesuit order; of Jesuits; of the military ordinariate of the Philippines; of retreats; of soldiers; of Spiritual Exercises; and of Vizcaya, Spain.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Saint of the Day - St. Peter Chrysologus

Peter was born in 406 A.D. in Imola, Italy. He converted to Catholicism as an adult, after which, he studied under Bishop Cornelius of Imola. He was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Cornelius.
Upon the death of the Archbishop of Ravenna in 433, Peter was sent with Bishop Cornelius to present the name of the clergy's choice for Archbishop to Pope Sixtus III for his approval. By the intercession of St. Peter the Apostle, Sixtus saw that it was the young deacon who should be made Archbishop, not the clergy's man.
Peter had to work hard to gain the acceptance of the people of Ravenna but his high standing in the eyes of Emperor Valentinian III and Pope St. Leo the Great (the succesor to Pope Sixtus) greatly increased his respectability.
Peter fought against paganism and heresy in his diocese, along with campaigning against abuse and caring for the poor. He earned the title Chrysologus, meaning "the golden word," in recognition of his fantastic sermons. One hundred seventy six of these sermons still survive today. It is in virtue of these that Pope Benedict XIII declared St. Peter Chrysologus a Doctor of the Church in 1729.
Knowing that his death was near, St. Peter retired to his hometown of Imola, where, after urging the clergy to take care in the choice of his successor, he passed away on December 2, 450. He is buried in the Church of St. Cassian.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Saint of the Day - St. Martha

Our information about St. Martha comes primarily from the Gospels of St. Luke and St. John.

St. John first mentions Martha as the sister of St. Lazarus and St. Mary of Bethany (possibly St. Mary Magdalene). The evangelist writes that "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." At one time, Martha and Mary sent word to the Lord that their brother was ill. By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarushad passed away and been buried for four days. Martha ran to meet the Lord and confronted Him with these words, "'Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died. [But] even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise.' Martha said to Him, 'I know he will rise, in the ressurection on the last day.' Jesus told her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?' She said to Him, 'Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.'"

Following this dialogue, Christ sent Martha to fetch her sister Mary, and the two sisters conducted the Lord to Lazarus' tomb where Christ raised him from the dead.

Both St. Luke and St. John record that, following this event, Jesus went to the home of the family, who gave a dinner in His honor. While Martha was serving the Lord, Mary sat at His feet listening to His words. Martha complained to the Lord, "'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.' The Lord said to her in reply, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.'"

We know very little of Martha's life following the resurrection, only that she "may have been part of an early mission to France," and that she died of natural causes around 80 A.D. However, it is clear from the above passages that Martha was dearly loved by Our Lord and therefore worthy of veneration.

St. Martha is the patroness of: butlers; cooks; dieticians; domestic servants; homemakers; hotel-keepers; housemaids; housewives; innkeepers; laundry workers; maids; manservants; servants; servers; single laywomen; travellers; and Villajoyosa, Spain (because a flash flood saved the village from a Moorish invasion on St. Martha's feast day in 1538).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Saint of the Day - St. Samson

Samson was born around 490 A.D. in southern Wales. His noble parents were Amon of Dyfed and Anna of Gwynedd.

In his infancy, Samson's parents dedicated him to God and sent him to the monastery of Llantwit Major under the care of St. Illtyd. Samson studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 512 by St. Dubric.

Following his ordination, Fr. Samson retired to a secluded monastery on Caldey Island, of which he was later appointed abbot.

Some Irish monks, returning from a pilgrimage to Rome, sought shelter at Samson's monastery. Samson was so impressed by their holy lives that he accompanied them back to Ireland. He stayed there for some time, during which "he received the submission of an Irish monastery." When he was compelled to return to Wales, Samson sent his uncle to oversee this monastery.

By this time, Samson's fame as a saintly man had spread and he was constantly assailed by his admirers. He, therefore, went, with several other monks, to a secluded place "on the banks of the Severn." However, his devotees soon found him out and compelled him to become abbot of yet another monastery, this one having been formerly by St. Germanus.

He was made a bishop, at the hands of St. Dubric, in 520. Soon after this he was instructed in a vision to evangelize in Brittany. He founded a monastery in Dol which served as his "home base," so to speak, while he was serving in the district. While visiting Paris, at one time, King Childebert nominated Samson for Bishop of Dol.

Samson passed away at Brittany in 565 of natural causes and was buried at Dol.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

100 Books Every Woman Should Read - Lilith*

"This fantasy title is richly mysterious and difficult to summarize. Lilith was Adam's first wife (before Eve) and this story plays with the myth and displays a rich world of delight."

This is the dumbest piece of heretical trash it has been my misfortune to encounter.

First of all - it's not even interesting. The beginning is tedious. The author attempts to be deep and philosophical but only succeeds in thoroughly confusing the reader. I would guess that most people would not get past the first couple of chapters (the only reason I did is because I want to be able to say I've read the whole list of 100 Books Every Woman Should Read). At 3/4 of the way through the book you still have no idea what the heck is going on or where this is all going. And the ending is attrocious! I think the author is attempting to make some sort of theological point but, once again, he only succeeds in utterly confounding the reader.

Secondly, once the story actually gets going, at 3/4 of the way through the book, it's heretical. The whole thing is so theologically incorrect it's not even funny and forget any concept of angelology (the study of angels).

Lilith was written prior to The Chronicles of Narnia and Lewis credited the author, George MacDonald, with inspiring his writing style. However, Lewis soars far above and beyond MacDonald in contributions to the literary world. Did I not know that Lilith preceded Narnia I would say that it seems as though MacDonald was attempting to write a Narnia-esque story but fell abysmally short. The beginning, indeed, comes off more like The Phantom Tollbooth (which is a good book but definitely not in the same class as Narnia) and the author then enters into all sorts of heresy which, to the best of my knowledge, C.S. Lewis never did, despite the fact that he never became a Catholic.

The sole redeeming quality of the book is the scattering of good quotes throughout:

  • "We are often unable to tell people what they need to know, because they want to know something else."
  • "The part of philanthropist is indeed a dangerous one; and the man who would do his neighbor good must first study how not to do him evil, and must begin by pulling the beam out of his own eye."
  • "The man who grounds his action on another's cowardice, is essentially a coward himself."
  • (speaking of the tyrannical princess) "She it is who keeps us safe and free and rich!"
  • "The birth of children is in her eyes the death of their parents, and every new generation the enemy of the last."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Saint of the Day - Sts. Anne and Joachim

Saints Anne and Joachim were the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary and hence the grandparents of Jesus. Very little is known about them for certain. The information we do have comes from the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James and from legend.

One account states that St. Joachim was a shepherd who provided sheep to the Temple of Jerusalem for sacrifices, while another account states that the couple was actually rather well-to-do. St. Joachim is believed to have been a Galilean.

A traditional legend tells that as an elderly couple Joachim and Anne had no children. Joachim went into the desert to pray and fast, asking the Lord for a child, while Anne was at home praying for the same gift. They each received a vision from an angel who told them that Anne would have a child whom they were to name Mary.

The couple traditionally gave their child in service to the Temple at the age of three.

The tomb of Sts. Anne and Joachim is located in Jerusalem.

St. Anne is the patroness: against poverty; against sterility; of broommakers; of cabinetmakers; of carpenters; of childless people; of equestrians; of expectant mothers; of grandmothers; of grandparents; of homemakers; of horse men; of horse women; of housewives; of lace makers; of lace workers; of lost articles; of miners; of mothers; of old-clothes dealers; of poor people; of pregnancy; of pregnant wome; of riders; of seamstresses; of stablemen; of turners; and of women in labour. St. Joachim is the patron saint of: Adjuntas, Puerto Rico; fathers; grandfathers; and grandparents.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Saint of the Day - St. James the Greater

James was the son of Zebedee and Salome and the brother of St. John the Evangelist. He, his father, and his brother were fishermen and were out fixing their nets one day when Christ came and called the two sons to be "fishers of men". St. James is called the greater in order to distinguish him from St. James the Lesser who became an apostle after St. James the Greater.

St. James was one of the privileged few, along with his brother John and St. Peter, who were present at the raising of Jairus' daughter, the transfiguration of Our Lord, and during Our Lord's agony in the garden of Gethsemene.

After the assumption of Our Lord, St. James departed to preach the Gospel in Samaria, Judea, and Spain, which he appears to have been especially devoted to.

A popular legend regarding a miracle attributed to St. James tells of the resurrection to life of a boy who had been unjustly hanged. When the boy's father was told, during his supper, about the miracle, the man replied that his son was no more alive than the fowl on the table. The bird promptly stood up, stretched its wings, and flew away.

James and John requested of Our Lord that, in the Kingdom of Heaven, they be permitted to sit on His right and His left. Jesus replied, asking if they were prepared to drink the cup of suffering that He must drink. They replied that they were. It is not surprising then that St. James was the first of the Apostles to be martyred. The Acts of the Apostles records "About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword."

Legend has it that angels put St. James' body into a rudderless, unattended boat which eventually landed in Spain "where a massive rock closed around it." His relics still remain in Spain.

St. James is the patron saint: against arthritis; against rheumatism; of Altopascio, Lucca, Italy; of Antigua, Guatemala; of apothecaries; of arthritis sufferers; of the diocese of Bangued, Phillipines; of blacksmiths; of Brentino Belluno, Italy; of Caltagirone, Italy; of Cassine, Italy; of Chile; of Cicala, Catanzaro, Italy; of Comitini, Italy; of Compostela, Spain; of druggists; of equestrians; of furriers; of Galicia, Spain; of Gavi, Italy; of Guatemala; of Hettstedt, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany; of horsemen; of Jemez Indian Pueblo; of knights; of laborers; of Loiza, Puerto Rico; of Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina; of Montreal, Canada; of Nicaragua; of pharmacists; of pilgrims; of Pistoia, Italy; of rheumatoid sufferers; of riders; of Rivarolo Canavese, Italy; of Sahuayo, Mexico; of the archdiocese of Seattle, Washington; of soldiers; of Spain; of Spanish conquistadors; of tanners; of Tesuque Indian Pueblo; and of veterinarians.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saint of the Day - St. John Boste, Bl. George Swallowell, and Bl. John Ingram

John Boste was born in Dufton, Westmoreland, England around the year 1544. From 1569-1572 he studied at Queen's College, Oxford and was made a Fellow of the college. However, in 1576 he converted to Catholicism, forcing him to resign his fellowship. He left to study in Rheims for the priesthood and was ordained on March 4, 1581. Later in the year, he returned to England to minister to the persecuted Church. A nationwide manhunt was ordered for this priest. He made use of disguises, particularly that of a servant of one Lord Montacute, in order to evade capture. However, on July 5, 1593, he was betrayed by Francis Ecclesfield and was captured while at the home of a man named William Claxton.

George Swallowell was born in Shadforth, Durham, England. He was raised protestant and even became a minister. However, while working as a schoolteacher, he converted to the Catholic faith and was eventually arrested for this "crime."

John Ingram was born in 1565 at Stoke Edith, Herefordshire, England, the son of Anthony Ingram of Wolford, Warwickshire and Dorothy, daughter of Sir John Hungerford. He studied at Worcesteshire and New College, Oxford. It was during his time as a student that he converted to Catholicism. Like St. John Boste, John Ingram went to Rheims to study for the priesthood under Cardinal William Allen. He continued his studies at the Jesuit College, Pont-a-Mousson, France and later at the English College in Rome where he was eventually ordained in 1589. Following his ordination he was sent to minister in Dunbar, Scotland. Due to the Catholic persecutions in Scotland which posed an imminent threat to his life, Bl. John fled across the border to England where he laid low for five hours before attempting to return to his mission. It was at this time, while he was crossing the Tweed, that he arrested.
All three men were eventually imprisoned in the Tower of London where they were tortured in an attempt to make them recant their faith, and, due to fear, George Swallowell did. John Boste later convinced him to repent and granted him absolution in the presence of the whole court.

John Boste and John Ingram were convicted of the high crime of priesthood and all three men were sentenced to death by being hanged, drawn and quartered. St. John Boste was executed on July 24, 1594 at Dryburn, near Durham, England. Blesseds George Swallowell and John Ingram were executed on July 26, 1594, George at Darlington, England and John at Newcastle-on-Tyne near Durham, England. John Ingram's last words were "I take God and His holy angels to the record that I die only for the holy Catholic faith and religion, and do rejoice and thank God with all my heart that He made me worthy to testify my faith therein by the spending of my blood in this manner."
John Boste was canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI. The canonizations of George Swallowell and John Ingram are still pending.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Saint of the Day - St. Bridget of Sweden

Bridget was born in either 1302 or 1303 at Finsta Castle, Uppsala, Sweden. Her father was Birger Persson, "the governor and provincial judge of Uppland," and her mother was Ingeborg Bengtsdotter, a pious woman. The family lived in well-to-do circumstances and were descended from the Swedish royal house. Bridget was a relative of St. Ingrid of Sweden.

Bridget's mother passed away when the child was only twelve and the girl was thereafter raised by an aunt.

One year later, at the age of thirteen, Bridget was married to Ulfo of Nercia. They had eight children together, one of whom was St. Catherine of Sweden, though some of the other children abandoned the Church.

Bridget had begun receiving visions from Our Lord, most of His crucifixion, at the age of seven. Throughout her life Bridget counseled and befriended many priests and theologians. She also rebuked Popes Clement VI, Gregory XI, and Urban VI for living at Avignon when the seat of the papacy is in Rome. Bridget was honored to hold the position of chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Blanche of Namur, from which position she was able to advise the King and Queen.

She was also able to influence her husband in religious matters, and the two made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Shortly after their return in 1344, Ulfo took ill and passed away in the Cistercian monastery of Alvastra.

Bridget now turned to the religious life and renounced her title as princess. She began to record her visions which, at this time, became more frequent. In 1346 Bridget founded the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, sometimes called Bridgettines, at Vadstena, Sweden. The king and queen, due to their close relationship with Bridget, lent their support to the order.

Bridget travelled to Rome in 1350 to seek Papal authorization for her order, which she received in 1370. She spent most of her remaining years in Rome but made a pilgrimage to the Holy land near the end of her life.

St. Bridget passed away on July 23, 1373 in Rome and was buried at her convent in Vadstena, Sweden. She was canonized on October 7, 1391 by Pope Boniface IX. St. Bridget is the patroness: of Europe; of Sweden; and of widows.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Saint of the Day - St. Mary Magdalene

Saint Mary, though a Jew, lived in a Gentile (non-Jewish) town called Magdale, hence acquiring her title of Magdalene.

The little information we have about St. Mary begins in the Bible. She is known to have been a notorious sinner but upon first encountering Jesus she felt great remorse for her evil life. Mary forced her way into the house of a rich man named Simon, with whom Jesus was dining, in order to pay homage to Our Lord. She wept for her sins and then dried Our Lord's feet, which were damp from her tears, with her hair and anointed them with costly perfume. St. Luke also that Jesus exorcised seven demons from her.

Mary was present at the foot of the Cross and was one of the women who brought perfumes and spices to Our Lord's tomb in order to anoint His Body. When Mary was in agony over the empty tomb, thinking someone had stolen Our Lord's Body, Christ appeared to her, in the first appearance since His resurrection, and instructed her to announce His resurrection to the disciples.

The legend surrounding Mary's life after the Crucifixion runs as follows. Fourteen years after Our Lord's resurrection the Jews put Mary into a boat without sails or oars, along with St. Lazarus, St. Martha, St. Maximin (who had baptized Mary), St. Sidonius ("the man born blind"), Mary's maid, Sera, and the body of St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Mother. They were put out on the ocean and eventually landed on the shores of Marseilles, France. St. Mary lived out the rest of her life as a contemplative hermitess in the cave of Sainte-Baume. Legend says that she ate nothing but the Holy Eucharist which was brought to her daily by angels.

Mary died of natural causes at the age of 72. Legend holds that she was miraculously transported, by nine angels, to the Chapel of St. Maximin where she received Last Rites. Her relics, including her head, were eventually returned to Sainte-Baume where they remain today.

St. Mary Magdalene is the patronees: against sexual temptation; of Anguiano, Spain; of apothecaries; of Atrani, Salerno, Italy; of Casamicciola, Italy; of contemplative life; of contemplatives; of converts; of druggists; of Elantxobe, Spain; of Foglizzo, Italy; of glove makers; of hairdressers; of hairstylists; of La Magdeleine, Italy; of penitent sinners; of penitent women; of people ridiculed for their piety; of perfumeries; of perfumers; of pharmacists; of reformed prostitutes; of tanners; and of women.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

100 Books Every Woman Should Read - Ivanhoe**

I have two very conflicting thoughts toward this book. Number 1: IT IS FANTASTIC!!!!! Number 2: It's kind of anti-Catholic, I hate it.

So let's begin with number 1. There are a multitude of good points about this book. For starters, Sir Walter Scott is a FANTASTIC writer! The description in this book is fabulous! I could really envision the characters as though they were standing right in front of me. But, Scott doesn't stop at giving the reader a peerless description of the characters' outward appearance, rather, he goes on to develop their personalities to perfection! Each character is so fully himself. I have never read a book with better description (and I've read a lot of books).

I can definitely understand why this book is on a list of 100 Books Every Woman Should Read. The two women are by far the best characters in the book (though Wamba is quite epic as well). Each has her own personality, most noticable in Rowena's demure nature versus Rebecca's forthrightness, but they are equally strong women.

Finally, this book is HILARIOUS!!!! Wamba, the jester, absolutely makes the book!

Now for the bad news. The book started out slow but picked up speed and got me hooked. I was absolutely loving it! But then I began to encounter ignorant statements about the Catholic faith. I at first attributed them merely to, as I said, ignorance. But by the end of the book they were becoming blatantly purposeful misstatements. Particularly egregious was the brazen mischaracterization of the sacrament of confession. In addition, not a single clergyman or religious was portrayed as being faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Jewish Rebecca was oftentimes a better Catholic than the Catholics in the book.

The author of Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott, was a member of the Episcopal Church of Scotland and lived during a time when anti-Catholicism was expected and applauded. He, himself, had been raised in a very religious Episcopalian household which he grew to resent. However, Roman Christendom has an interesting take on the author's attitude toward Catholicism.

Ultimately, I feel that I cannot recommend this book because the subtle mischaracterizations of the Church and Church teachings are so rampant that they could easily lead a person to misunderstandings of essential Church doctrine. In the words of the great Bishop Fulton J. Sheen "There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church." I can't encourage you to read something that perpetuates lies about the Catholic Church.

The good quotes from the book are listed below:

  • "The knights are dust, And their swords are rust, Their souls are with the saints we trust"

  • "My strength thou mayest indeed overpower, for God made women weak, and trusted their defence to man's generosity."

  • "'What if the youth perish! - if he die in our custody, shall we not be held guilty of his blood, and be torn to pieces by the multitude?' 'He will not die, my father,' said Rebecca, gently extricating herself from the grasp of Isaac - 'he will not die, unless we abandon him, and if so, we are indeed answerable for his blood to God and to man.'"

  • "But thy conduct was wrong, as he that would stop a runaway steed, and seizing by the stirrup instead of the bridle, receiveth injury himself, instead of accomplishing his purpose."

  • "I am a maiden unskilled to dispute for my religion, but I can die for it, if it be God's will."

  • "no one will risk to break a lance for the innocent"

  • "I were undeserving his grace did I not peril it for his good."

  • "and they loved each other the more, from the recollection of the obstacles which had impeded their union"

Saint of the Day - St. Lawrence of Brindisi

St. Lawrence was born in 1559 to Guglielmo de Rossi and Elisabetta Masella, who had their child baptized Julius Caesar Rossi. The boy was educated in his native Brindisi by the Friars Minor Conventuals and later studied in Venice. When Julius was twelve years old his father passed away.

Four years later, at the age of sixteen, Julius joined the Capuchin Friars and took the name of Brother Lawrence. As a young friar, Brother Lawrence continued his studies in theology along with becoming proficient in French, German, Greek, Spanish, Hebrew, and Syriac/Bohemian. After finishing his studies Brother Lawrence was ordained to the priesthood.

Now Father Lawrence travelled throughout Europe preaching the Gospel. The Capuchin was well known for being an "effective and forceful preacher." His great knowledge of languages allowed him to preach in numerous countries, taking him to such places as Vienna, Prague, and Graz where he founded convents.

In 1601, Fr. Lawrence served as chaplain of the Holy Roman Empire. Around this time the Turks mounted an invasion of Europe and Fr. Lawrence "rallied the German princes to fight." Carrying nothing but a crucifix, Fr. Lawrence led the army into battle against the superior Turkish force. The battle was won. Fr. Lawrence also served as the spiritual director of the Bavarian Army.

St. Lawrence served as master general of his order from 1602-1605 and was selected for a second term but refused.

His two great loves were the Mass and the Blessed Mother. He is known to have often "fall[en] into ecstasies when celebrating Mass," once taking sixteen hours to complete a Mass.

Fr. Lawrence was, several times, sent on peace missions, all of which were succesful. He died of natural causes while on his final peace mission to Spain. He is "buried in the cemetery of the Poor Clares on Villafranca." Pope Leo XIII canonized Fr. Lawrence on December 8, 1881 and Pope John XXIII declared him a doctor of the Church, due to his extensive writings, in 1959. St. Lawrence is the patron saint of his native home of Brindisi, Italy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Saint of the Day - St. Margaret of Antioch

Margaret was born in Pisidian, Antioch, Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) the daughter of a pagan priest. Her mother died while the girl was still an infant so Margaret was raised by her Christian nurse. As she grew older, Margaret made the decision to convert to Christianity and consecrate herself, and her virginity, to God. For these actions her father disowned her and she was officially adopted by her nurse.

While one day tending her flock of sheep, Margaret's beauty attracted the lustful eye of a Roman prefect named Olybius. He attempted, first through flattery and then by threats, to convince Margaret to be either his concubine or his wife. When she steadfastly refused, Olybrius denounced her as a Christian and had her brought to a public trial in Antioch.

Margaret was given a choice: renounce Christ and offer sacrifice to the pagan gods or be killed. Margaret refused to renounce her faith and so was sentenced to be burned to death. However, when her jailers attempted to execute the sentence they found that the flames would not burn her. The executioners then bound her hands and feet and threw her into a cauldron of boiling oil but, at Margaret's prayers, her bonds were broken and she arose unharmed. She was finally martyred by beheading. It is believed that the martyrdom of St. Margaret occured during the persecutions of Diocletian which occured from 303-305 A.D.

A famous legend about St. Margaret tells of the devil appearing before her in the form of a dragon. In this guise he swallowed the saint but expelled her unharmed when a cross which she carried irritated the dragon's innards.

St. Margaret is also well-known for being one of St. Joan of Arc's famous "voices."

St. Margaret is the patroness: against kidney disease; against loss of milk by nursing mothers; against sterility; of childbirth; of dying people; of escape from devils; of exiles; of expectant mothers; of falsely accused people; for safe childbirth; of Lowestoft, Suffolk, England; of martyrs; of Montefiascone, Italy; of nurses; of peasants; of people in exile; of pregnant women; of Queens College Cambridge; of Rixtel, Netherlands; of Sannat, Gozo, Malta; of women; and of women in labour.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Saint of the Day - St. Arsenius

St. Arsenius was born in 350 A.D. in Rome. His family was very wealthy being that his father was a judge.

Arsenius was brought up in the Church and was eventually ordained a deacon. Upon the death of his parents, Arsenius and his sister gave all their wealth to the poor and lived as hermits.

St. Damascus recommended Arsenius when he heard that Emperor Theodosius was looking for a tutor for his children. Arsenius got the job and moved to Constantinople in 383 A.D.

Arsenius served in the court for over ten years before feeling the call to leave Constantinople in order to join the monks of Alexandria. He lived here a life of prayer and abstinence. He learned Aramaic - the language of Christ - and imposed poverty on himself. When a wealthy relative of his passed away, leaving Arsenius his heir, the monk refused to accept it. While living in Alexandria Arsenius became a student of St. John the Short.

In his old age Arsenius retired to the rock of Troe where he passed away in 450.

Fun Fact: If the pictures are correct, he had a very impressive beard.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Saint of the Day - St. Frederick

St. Frederick, grandson of King Radbon of the Frisians, was educated by the clergy in his hometown of Utrecht in the Netherlands where he was known for his knowledge and piety. After being ordained to the priesthood Frederick was charged with the care and instruction of converts to the faith. Upon the death of Bishop Ricfried of Utrecht, Frederick was appointed to the post.
The new bishop was zealous in advancing the faith, sending missionaries, including St. Odulf, into the northern areas of his diocese where paganism still flourished. Due to his forceful attack on all forms of sin that he encountered, St. Frederick was not particularly well liked. The most troublesome of the pagan areas, the town of Walcheren, St. Frederick dealt with personally.

He also encountered an enemy in the Empress Judith. She and her husband, Emperor Louis the Debonair, were engaged in a conflict with the emperor's sons (her step-sons) who claimed that the empress was involved in many gross immoralities including adultery. St. Frederick charitably but forcefully rebuked the empress, for which action he received her lasting resentment.

On July 18, 838, while offering his thanksgiving after Mass, St. Frederick was stabbed to death by two assassins. He died moments later while reciting Psalm 144 "I will praise the Lord in the land of the living."

Some have speculated that the Empress Judith hired the assassins but it is more likely that they came from Walcheren and were angry at the saint's attack on their pagan religion.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saint of the Day - The Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne

While France reeled in the throws of the revolution a group of 16 Carmelite nuns continued their prayerful lives in the cloister.

On October 29, 1789 the sisters were directly affected for the first time by the revolution when the government decreed that the profession of vows for all religious orders was to be suspended. The prioress of the Carmelites - Mother Therese of St. Augustine - was distressed with this order because it prevented their sole novice, Sr. Constance, from making her final profession of vows. Sr. Constance was no stranger to objections to her vocation. As Mother Therese wrote "Sr. Constance remains always a novice here. Troubles have not been lacking on the side of her family: now they do not want her letters anymore or to hear her spoken of. The Lord permits this to be assured of her fidelity, and she accounts herself happy if they leave her in peace as at present. She hopes that the good God will at last touch their hearts and that they will look on her perseverance without sorrow."

The government's next attack on the Church came in the Civil Constitution on the Clergy which, among other things, ordered the suppresion of all religious orders and the "liberation" of any monks or nuns who should wish to renounce their vows. Government officials arrived at the monastery at Compiegne on August 15, 1790 to offer the sisters their "freedom." The sisters unanimously declared that they had no intention of renouncing their vows. Some of the sisters were rather more forceful. Sister of Jesus Crucified declared "For fifty-six years I have been a Carmelite. I desire to have the same number of years more to be consecrated to the Lord." Sister Euphrasie stated "I became a religious by my own will. I have made up my mind to go on wearing this habit, even if I have to purchase this joy with my own blood." Sister Saint Francis Xavier displayed her love of the Lord when she stated "A good spouse desires to remain with her husband. I do not wish to abandon my spouse." Sister Therese of the Heart of Mary finished "If I will be able to double the bonds of my attachment to God, then, with all my strength and zeal, I will do so."

The infamous guillotine was erected in Paris two weeks after Easter in 1792. At this time Mother Therese instructed her sisters to offer everything they could for an end to the massacres; in her own words "in order that the Divine peace which Christ has brought to the world may be restored to the Church and to the State."

The government continued in its persecution of the Church with a decree that all religious orders must take the Oath of Liberte-Egalite and, three days later, that all monasteries must be vacated. On September 14, 1792 the Carmelites of Compiegne took on secular clothing and divided into four groups to live inconspicuously in the town. For two years the Sisters struggled to maintain their religious life in the world outside the cloister.

In the summer of 1793 Maximilien Robespierre and his Jacobin henchmen attained power and instituted the infamous Reign of Terror which led thousands of French citizens, many of whom were clergy and religious, to the guillotine.

Sister Marie and Mother Therese were obliged to go to Paris in March 1794 for family reasons. While walking down the street the sisters were confronted with the sight of tumbrils carrying victims to the guillotine. Sister Marie attempted to avert Mother Therese' gaze but she told her sister "allow me the sad consolation of seeing how martyrs go to their death."

Upon the return of Mother Therese to Compiegne she received the report from her sisters that all four of their houses had been searched by the Committee for Revolutionary Surveillance and all their papers and food had been seized.

Shortly after the sisters were arrested. Their names were as follows: Mother Therese of St. Augustine, Prioress; Mother St. Louis, sub-prioress; Mother Henriette of Jesus, novice mistress; Sr. Charlotte of the Resurrection, the oldest of the sisters; Sr. of Jesus Crucified; Sr. Therese of the Heart of Mary; Sr. Therese of St. Ignatius; Sr. Julie-Louise of Jesus; Sr. Marie-Henriette of Providence; Sr. Euphrasie of the Immaculate Conception; Sr. Marie of the Holy Spirit, lay sister; Sr. St. Martha, lay sister; Sr. St. Francis Xavier, lay sister; and Sr. Constance, novice and youngest of the sisters. Also arrested with the sisters were two women, blood sisters, who served the community, Anne-Catherine Soiron and Therese Soiron. On the day of their arrest Anne-Catherine begged Mother Therese not to allow herself and her sister to be separated from the Carmelites.

On June 23 the sisters entered their first imprisonement in the Maison de Reclusion where they remained for three weeks with little and sickening food. The Revolutionary Committee of Compiegne arrived to transfer the Sisters to the dreaded Conciergerie in Paris while the sisters were doing their wash on July 12. Having no dry clothes but their religious habits the sisters once again donned their habits and proceeded to their trial as brides to the altar.

The sisters awaited their trial in prayer and works of charity, ministering to the other prisoners, especially the sick.

On July 17 at 9:00 a.m. the sisters were led before three judges and the infamous Antoine Fouquiere-Tinville. He read the Act of Accusation which included the accusation of "fanatical puerility." When Sr. Marie-Henriette asked Fouquier-Tinville to explain this phrase he responded "What I mean is your attachment to your childish beliefs, your stupid religious practices." She then turned to her sisters, proclaiming "My dear Mother and sisters, let us rejoice in the Lord for this. We are going to die for the cause of our holy religion, our faith, our reliance in the holy Roman Catholic Church."

Mother Therese offered to the judges that she herself was responsible for any misconduct of the sisters and that, if they desired a victim, she alone was it. The judges replied that her sisters were accomplices and sentenced all sixteen to the guillotine.

The sisters were summoned that evening while praying the Office for the Dead. Clothed in their religious habits, though their veils had been cut short so as not to interfere with the guillotine's work, the sisters boarded the tumbril carts which would take them to their deaths. While on their journey, disguised priests granted them absolution, as the sisters renewed their baptismal and religious vows and Sister Constance at last made her final profession of vows. The jeers of the crowds subsided as the sisters' chanted prayers rang out.

Mother Therese was informed that she would go last to the guillotine so that she must watch her sisters die. The nuns were called by their given names from youngest to oldest, beginning with Sister Constance.

The young sister had been in a panic moments before because she had been unable to finish the divine office. Mother Therese said to her "Be strong daughter. You will finish it in Paradise!" She now advanced with the strength of knowing that she would die as a professed Carmelite. Sister Constance knelt before Mother Therese and received her superior's blessing. Mother then offered a clay statue of the Virgin and Child for Sister Constance to kiss. The new Carmelite looked up at her mother superior and asked "Permission to die, Mother?" to which Mother Therese replied "Go, my daughter!" As she ascended the scaffold Sister Constance began to intone the psalm Laudate Dominum omnes gentes which St. Teresa of Avila had sung 190 years before "at the foundation of a new Carmel." The song was taken up by all the sisters.

Each sister knelt before Mother Therese to receive her blessing, kiss the image of Virgin and Child, and ask permission to die, while the chorus continued. Sister of Jesus Crucified informed the executioner and his assistants that "I forgive you with all my heart, as I desire forgiveness from God."

Mother Therese mounted the scaffold last, still intoning the psalm which ended abruptly at the fall of the guillotine's blade. The sisters were interred in a mass grave with other of the guillotine's victims.

These were the last executions to take place save those of Maximilien Robespierre and Antoine Fouquiere-Tinville who were guillotined ten days after the sisters, thereby ending the Reign of Terror. The sisters made every sacrifice, culminating in that of their lives, for an end to the violence of the revolution.

The decree on their martyrdom was promulgated on June 24, 1905 and they were beatified by Pope Pius X on May 17, 1906. Their canonization is still pending.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Saint of the Day - Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The Carmelite order has existed since before the time of Christ as a group dedicated to the virgin who would bring forth the Savior.

By 1251 the Carmelite order had reached England where St. Simon Stock lived as a Carmelite friar. The order was, at that time, suffering oppression which the friars were ardently petitioning Our Lady to relieve them from. While praying for this intention Friar Simon received a vision of Our Lady holding the child Jesus in one arm and two pieces of brown cloth connected by a string in the other.

This garment was the first scapular which Our Lady presented to St. Simon saying "Take, beloved son this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant."

Our Lady has appeared at other times as the Lady of Carmel such as at her final apparitions at Lourdes and Fatima.

Prayer to Our Lady of Mount Carmel

O, most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendour of Heaven, blessed mother of the Son of God, immaculate virgin, assist me in my necessity. O, star of the sea, help me and show me herein, you are my mother. Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.