ALL SAINTS' DAY
This feast day grew out
of the love and devotion of God's people. It is so much a part of
ourselves to feel gratitude for and to honor the saints. We mean
all of the women, men and children who have died and are now in
heaven. Some passed through purgatory to be purified for the Lord's
presence. They stayed until the moment when they were ready to see
God. They are with him now forever. Some saints have been singled
out for their own feast day. The Church offers their witness of
heroic, joyful lives for Jesus. But there aren't enough days of
the year to fit all the countless saints who walked through this
life witnessing to Jesus.
Some kept close to the
Lord all their lives. Others found him along the way. Some led good
lives without major difficulties. Others made big mistakes, but
found the Lord on the road of repentance and genuine sorrow. They
made it! We celebrate their journey that led to eternal happiness
with God. We celebrate our own family members, relatives, neighbors
and friends whom we believe to be in heaven.
Today we can rejoice
in our hearts with all the saints in heaven. We can make up our
own prayer to them, thanking them for the witness of their lives.
We can thank them, too, for helping us overcome our difficulties
and temptations. We ask them to help us on our own
ALL SOULS' DAY
This feast day is one
of the most loving celebrations in all the Church's liturgy. It
is the day that we especially remember all the faithful departed-those
who have passed from this life into the next. We don't know how
long a particular individual who dies spends in purgatory. However,
we do know that purgatory is real. Today we stop to remember all
who have died. We especially pray for those who were related to
us. We pray for those who taught us good things. We pray for those
who made sacrifices for us. We pray for those who prayed for us
while they were on this earth. We pray for the most forgotten souls.
We pray for those who had great responsibilities while they were
We think of those holy
souls in purgatory and we realize that they are saved. Now they
wait, being purified, until the moment when they can be with God,
face to face. We can pray for the souls in purgatory and hasten
their journey to God. Eternal rest, grant to them, O Lord, and let
perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.
ST. MARTIN DE PORRES
St. Martin was born in
Lima, Peru, in 1579. His father was a knight from Spain. His mother
was a freed slave from Panama. His father at first left Martin and
his mother and sister alone in Peru. They were very, very poor.
Martin grew up good and
devout. He was sent to learn the trade of a barber. He also learned
how to cure many diseases according to the practices of those days.
Martin's father finally decided to take care of his son's education.
However, Martin wanted to give himself to God as a Dominican brother.
Brother Martin soon proved to be a wonderful religious. No one was
kinder or more obedient or holy. Before long, he began to work miracles,
too. He cured so many sick people that everyone in the city of Lima
would send for Brother Martin when there was sickness. He would
go to them all, blacks and whites alike. He loved all people as
his brothers and sisters in Christ. Great sums of money were given
to this good, lovable Brother for his charities. People recognized
how well he could organize works of charity.
Not even animals were
forgotten by this kind-hearted saint. He excused the comings and
goings of rats and mice by saying, "The poor little things
don't have enough to eat." In his sister's house, he kept a
"home for wandering cats and dogs." Despite his fame in
Lima, St. Martin always had a very humble opinion of himself. His
name for himself was, in fact, "Brother Broom." Martin
died on November 3, 1639. When he died, this beloved saint was carried
to his tomb by bishops and noblemen. They wanted to honor the humble
and holy brother. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope John XXIII in
ST. CHARLES BORROMEO
St. Charles lived in
the sixteenth century. He was the son of a rich Italian count. Like
other wealthy young men, he went to the University of Pavia. Unlike
many of them, however, he would have nothing to do with sinful activities.
He seemed to be a slow student because he was not a good speaker,
but he really made good progress. He was only twenty-three when
his uncle, Pope Pius IV, gave him many important duties. Charles
managed to handle all his affairs well. He was always afraid that
he might stray from God because of the many temptations around him.
For this reason, he was careful to deny himself many pleasures and
to make the effort to be humble and patient.
As a priest and later
the cardinal archbishop of Milan, St. Charles was a model for his
people. He gave away great amounts of money to the poor. He had
only one shabby cassock (long black habit) to his name. In public,
though, he dressed as a cardinal should. He attended with great
care to the dignity and respect owed to Church ceremonies. In Milan
the people had many bad practices and much superstition. By wise
laws, by gentle kindness and by his own marvelous example, St. Charles
made his diocese a model for the whole Church. He was never a good
speaker-people could barely hear him-yet his words took effect.
When a terrible disease
caused many deaths in Milan, Cardinal Borromeo thought of nothing
else but caring for his people. He prayed and did penance. He organized
crews of attendants and went into debt to feed the hungry. He even
had altars set up in the streets. This was for the benefit of the
sick who could assist at Mass from their windows. This great man
was never too busy to help simple people. He once stayed with a
little shepherd boy until he had taught him the Our Father and the
Hail Mary. As he lay dying at the age of forty-six, St. Charles
said peacefully, "Behold, I come!" He died on November
3, 1584, and was proclaimed a saint by Pope Paul V in 1610.
St. Bertilla lived in
the seventh century. The first biography of her life appeared in
Latin in the year 800. She was born in Soissons, France. While a
teenager, she felt the call to grow closer to God. She began to
realize that the life of prayer and sacrifice that she wanted could
be found in a monastery. She went to her bishop, St. Ouen, and asked
his advice. He encouraged her to follow her calling. Her parents
sent her to a monastery of nuns who followed the rule of an Irish
monk, St. Columban. When she arrived, she knew that she had found
peace. Years passed. Bertilla spent her time praying and doing different
tasks. She was especially good at offering hospitality to travelers
and the sick who came to the monastery. She also cared for the children
who were being educated at the monastery.
St. Bathildis, the wife
of King Clovis II, started a new monastery. She asked the abbess
at Soissons to send some nuns to begin the community. Bertilla was
among those chosen and she was appointed the abbess. She was very
surprised, but decided to do the best she could. She knew that the
Lord would help her in every way. The community of nuns grew. Queen
Bathildis herself became a nun after her husband died. Then, another
queen, Hereswitha, widow of the king of the East Angles, became
a nun, too. Abbess Bertilla must have been amazed to have two queens
in her community. But everyone lived in peace because the queens
were as humble as the abbess. Bertilla lived a long life and ruled
the monastery of Chelles for forty-six years. She died around the
ST. THEOPHANE VENARD
St. Theophane, he holy
French priest, dreamed of being a martyr even as a youngster. He
went to study for the priesthood. Then he entered a college for
missionaries in Paris, France. His family, whom he dearly loved,
was greatly saddened to think that after he became a priest, he
would leave them. Travel was not what it is today. Theophane realized
that the long ocean voyage to the Orient would most probably separate
him from his family for the rest of his life."My darling sister,"
he wrote in a letter, "how I cried when I read your letter.
Yes, I well knew the sorrow I was going to bring on my family. I
think there will be a special sorrow for you, my dear little sister.
But don't you think it cost me bloody tears, too? By taking such
a step, I knew that I would give all of you great pain. Whoever
loved his home more than I do? All my happiness on this earth was
centered there. But God, who has united us all in bonds of most
tender affection, wanted to draw me from it."
After being ordained
a priest, Theophane set out for Hong Kong. He sailed in September,
1852. He studied languages for over a year there. Then he went on
to Tongking. Two obstacles were in the way of this zealous missionary:
his poor health and a terrible persecution. Yet he struggled bravely
on. Often he wrote to tell his beloved sister in France all his
adventures and narrow escapes from his persecutors. At last, after
bravely serving the many Christians in Tongking, Theophane was captured
and chained in a cage for two months.
His gentle ways won even
his jailers. He managed to write a letter home in which he said:
"All those who surround me are civil and respectful. A good
many of them love me. From the great mandarin down to the humblest
private soldier, everyone regrets that the laws of the country condemn
one to death. I have not been put to the torture like my brethren."
But their sympathy did not save his life. After he had been beheaded,
crowds rushed to soak handkerchiefs in his blood. He was martyred
on February 2, 1861. Father Venard was declared a saint by Pope
John Paul II on June 19, 1988. He is one of the martyrs of Vietnam
celebrated on November 24.
St. Willibrord was born
in England in 658. He was educated for many years at an Irish monastery.
Most of his life he was a missionary in lands which today are Germany,
Holland, Luxemburg and Denmark. He had long had a great desire to
preach the Gospel to the nonbelievers of those countries. At last,
his dream came true. With the encouragement of the pope, who made
him a bishop, St. Willibrord led many people to accept Christianity.
The king of the Franks, Pepin, also cooperated with Willibrord.
One very stubborn king
made it hard for the saint. This was Rodbod, king of Upper Friesland.
At one time the missionary's ship was driven onto an island which
the pagans of Denmark and Friesland (a province in the north Netherlands)
considered sacred to their god. No one was permitted to kill any
animal on it. They could not eat any vegetable or fruit that grew
there, or draw from its spring, unless in complete silence. To show
them that their god did not exist, St. Willibrord killed some game
to provide food for his companions. He also baptized three persons
in the spring. Hearing him pronounce the words, "I baptize
you" loudly, the pagans felt sure he would drop dead. Of course,
nothing happened. King Rodbod was told of this event and he ordered
that one of the Christians should die to "calm the god's anger."
So it was that one became a martyr.
After this king died, St. Willibrord eagerly went ahead converting
many nonbelievers. Although he was growing very old, nothing could
stop this apostle. He was still a fine-looking man, cheerful, wise,
devout. He was full of love and concern for people right to the
end of his life. Bishop Willibrord died in 739.
St. Godfrey lived in
the twelfth century. He received his education from the monks of
Mont-Saint-Quentin. Godfrey became a monk and a priest. He was chosen
to be abbot of the monastery in Champagne, France. The monastery
was run-down and only six monks remained. The monks liked Godfrey.
They realized that he was a holy man. They admitted that he could
help them find again the joy of a self-sacrificing life. In a short
while, the community was fervent and new candidates joined them.
The abbey of Champagne became a center of prayer and spiritual joy.
Eventually, their abbot
was consecrated an archbishop. He was given the well-known diocese
of Rheims, France. He felt bad to leave the small monastery. He
knew, though, that the Lord wanted him to reach out to the people
of Rheims as well. He still lived like a simple monk. His house
was poor but clean. His food was plain. Once in a while, his cook
prepared food that seemed to him too fancy. Godfrey would wait until
the cook was out on errands. Then he would call in the poor people
who lived nearby. He would give them the food to take home to their
Archbishop Godfrey suffered
because of the abuses in his diocese. Some things going on were
very wrong. When Godfrey tried to correct those involved, his corrections
were resented at times. One person even tried to kill him. It was
then that Godfrey wondered if he was doing more harm than good.
But people with good will appreciated and loved him. Before he could
resign, he died. It was November, 1115.
ST. THEODORE TIRO
St. Theodore lived in
the third century. He was a new soldier in the Roman army when he
was called to die for the faith. Although he was young, he knew
how to keep his soul pure. He was a prudent person who considered
the devil a real enemy. When his legion had camped for the winter
in the country of Pontus, all the soldiers were taking part in services
to the pagan gods. Since he was a Christian, he knew that these
gods did not exist. So Theodore refused to join in the pagan rites.
He was arrested.
"How dare you profess
a religion which the emperor punishes with death?" demanded
the governor. Without hesitation, the young soldier answered, "I
do not know your gods. Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, is my
God. If you take my answer as an offense, cut off my tongue. Every
part of my body is ready to suffer when God calls for this sacrifice."
The pagan judges let
Theodore go this time. Then he was arrested later. The judges first
tried to win him with kindness. When that treatment did not work,
they tried to frighten him by describing the tortures he would go
through. In the end, they turned him over to the torturers. When
the suffering soldier was led back into prison, some said that angels
came to comfort him. After he had been questioned three times, he
was finally condemned to death by fire in the year 306. A beautiful
church was later built to enshrine his ashes. Great crowds of people
began going to it to pray to the martyr.
ST. LEO THE GREAT
St. Leo, a Roman, lived
in the fifth century. At the death of Pope Sixtus, he became pope.
Those were hard times for the Church. Barbarian armies were attacking
Christians in many places. Within the Church, some people were spreading
errors about the faith, too. But St. Leo was one of the greatest
popes there ever was. He was absolutely unafraid of anything or
anyone. He had great trust in the help of the first pope, St. Peter
the apostle. He prayed to St. Peter often.
To stop the spread of
false teachings, St. Leo explained the true faith with his famous
writings. He called a Council to condemn the wrong doctrines. Those
who would not give up their mistaken beliefs were put out of the
Church. And Pope Leo received back into the Church those who were
sorry. He asked people to pray for them.
When a large army of
barbarians called Huns came to attack Rome, all the people were
filled with fear. They knew that the Huns had already burned many
cities. To save Rome, St. Leo rode out to meet the fierce leader,
Attila. The only weapon he had was his great trust in God. When
they met, something wonderful happened. Attila, the cruel pagan
leader, showed the pope great honor. He made a treaty of peace with
him. Attila said afterward that he had seen two mighty figures standing
by the pope while he spoke. It is believed that they were the great
apostles, Peter and Paul. They had been sent by God to protect Pope
Leo and the Christians. Because of his humility and charity, Pope
Leo was loved by all. He was pope for twenty-one years. He died
on November 10, 461.
ST. MARTIN OF TOURS
St. Martin, the soldier
saint lived in the fourth century. He joined the Roman army in Italy
when he was only fifteen. Although his parents were pagans, he began
to study the Christian religion. Those who study the Christian religion
are called catechumens until they are baptized. One very cold winter
day, Martin and his companions came upon a beggar at the gate of
the city of Amiens. The man's only clothes were nothing but rags
and he was shaking with cold. The other soldiers passed by him,
but Martin felt that it was up to him to help the beggar. Having
nothing with him, he drew his sword and cut his long cloak in half.
Some laughed at his funny appearance as he gave one half to the
beggar. Others felt ashamed of their own selfishness. That night,
Jesus appeared to Martin. He was wearing the half of the cloak that
Martin had given away.
"Martin, still a
catechumen, has covered me with this garment," Jesus said.
Right after this wonderful event, St. Martin went to be baptized.
A few years later, the saint left the army. He became a disciple
of St. Hilary, the bishop of Poitiers, France. Because of his strong
opposition to the Arian heretics in various cities, Martin had to
go into exile. But he was happy to live in the wilderness with other
monks. When the people of Tours asked for him as their bishop, he
refused. The people would not give up, however. They got him to
come to the city to visit a sick person. Once he was there, they
took him to the church. As bishop of Tours, St. Martin did all he
could to rid France of paganism. He prayed, he worked, he preached
Our Lord let Martin know
when his death was near. As soon as his followers heard of it, they
began to weep. They begged him not to leave them. So the saint prayed:
"Lord, if your people need me yet, I will not refuse the work.
Your will be done." He was still laboring for the Divine Master
in a far-off part of his diocese when death finally came in 397.
St. Martin's tomb became one of the most famous shrines in all of
St. Josaphat was born
in the Ukraine and baptized John in 1580. He became a monk in the
order of St. Basil and chose the name Basil. He was a self-sacrificing,
brave man. Because of his many natural qualities, he was chosen
for leadership roles. This would eventually cost him his life.
Josaphat became an apostle
of ecumenism. He preached union among the Christian churches of
the Ukraine. There were three main categories of Christians: the
Latin Church united with the pope, the Orthodox Greek Church and
the Greek Catholic Church. Josaphat became a bishop and took over
the diocese of Polotsk in 1617. He spent the next ten years helping
the people know and love their Catholic faith better. He organized
celebrations of prayer and religion classes. He called clergy meetings
and worked with the priests to put into effect rules that helped
the people live closer to Jesus.
Archbishop Josaphat had
great positive influence on people. He was a dynamic leader. For
this, some people feared him. They stirred up a mob against him.
Josaphat was murdered. His body was thrown into a local river. Josaphat
died on November 12, 1623. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius
IX in 1867.
ST. FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI
St. Frances was born
on July 15, 1850. As a child growing up in Italy, she dreamed about
being a missionary to China. She sailed paper boats down a stream
to play her "pretend game." The paper boats were ships
taking missionaries to China. And she began giving up candy because
in China, she probably wouldn't be able to have any. But when she
grew up, Frances was not accepted into the two convents which she
asked to join. Her health was not too good. She taught school for
a while. Then a priest asked her to help out in a small home for
orphans. Things were very hard for Frances because of the lady who
ran the house. Yet Frances stuck to the work, and some other generous
women joined her. Together they took vows.
At last the bishop told
Frances to begin her own congregation of missionary nuns. Without
hesitating, Frances started at once. This congregation is called
the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Before long, it began
to grow, first in Italy and then in many other countries. Frances,
whom everyone called Mother Cabrini, had always had her heart set
on going to China. But it seemed that God wanted her to come to
America. When Pope Leo XIII told her, "Go west, not east,"
the matter was settled. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini sailed for the
United States and became an American citizen. She especially helped
large numbers of Italian immigrants. She was their real mother and
Mother Cabrini and her
sisters had a very hard time in the beginning. The archbishop of
New York even suggested that they go back to Italy. But Mother Cabrini
answered, "Your excellency, the pope sent me here and here
I must stay." The archbishop admired her pioneer spirit, and
so she and her sisters were permitted to begin their great work
for God. Schools, hospitals, and homes for children were opened
up in different states. As the years passed, Mother Cabrini made
many trips to spread her congregation and its works. There were
always difficulties, but she put all her trust in the Sacred Heart.
"It is he who is doing everything, not us," she would
say. Mother Cabrini died in Chicago on December 23, 1917. She was
proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1946.
ST. LAWRENCE O'TOOLE
St. Lawrence was born
in Ireland in 1128. He was the son of a chief. When he was only
ten years old, a neighboring king made a raid on his father's territory
and carried him away. The boy suffered for two years. Then his father
forced the king to give him up to the care of a bishop. When he
did, Lawrence's father hurried to see his son. He gratefully brought
him home. The chief wanted one of his sons to enter the service
of the Church. While he was wondering which one it might be, Lawrence
told him with a laugh that he need not wonder anymore. "It
is my desire," said Lawrence, "to have for my inheritance
the service of God in the Church." So his father took him by
the hand and gave him into the care of the bishop. Lawrence became
a priest and the abbot of a great monastery. Once food became very
scarce in the whole neighborhood of the monastery. The good abbot
gave great quantities away to keep the people from starving. He
had many problems to handle as head of the monastery, too. Some
of the monks criticized him for being too strict. But Lawrence kept
right on guiding the community in the way of self-sacrifice, despite
the criticism. Then, there was the problem of the robbers and outlaws
who lived in the nearby hills. Yet nothing discouraged the fearless
He became so famous that
before long he was chosen to be archbishop of Dublin. In this new
position, he lived as holy a life as ever. Every day, he invited
many poor people to be his guests. He helped many others besides.
Lawrence dearly loved his people and Ireland, his country, and he
did all he could to keep it at peace. Once a madman attacked him
as he was going up to the altar to say Mass. He was knocked to the
floor unconscious. Yet he came to his senses right away. He had
the wound washed at once, and then went right ahead with the Mass.
After years of labor
for the Church, St. Lawrence O'Toole became very ill. When he was
asked if he wanted to make a will, the holy archbishop smiled. He
answered, "God knows that I don't have a penny in the world."
He had long ago given everything he had to others, just as he had
given himself completely to God. St. Lawrence O'Toole died on November
14, 1180. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Honorius III in 1225.
ST. ALBERT THE GREAT
St. Albert lived in the
thirteenth century. He was born in a castle on the Danube River
in Swabia (southwest Germany). Albert went to the University of
Padua in Italy. There he decided to become a Dominican. His uncle
tried to persuade him not to follow his religious vocation. Albert
did anyway. He felt that this was what God wanted. His father, the
count of Bollstadt, was very angry. The Dominicans thought that
he might make Albert come back home. They transferred the novice
to a location farther away, but his father did not come after him.
St. Albert loved to study.
The natural sciences, especially physics, geography and biology,
interested him. He also loved to study his Catholic religion and
the Bible. He used to observe the ways of animals and write down
what he saw, just as scientists do today. He wrote a great number
of books on these subjects. He also wrote on philosophy and was
a popular teacher in different schools.
of St. Albert's pupils was the great St. Thomas Aquinas. It is believed
that Albert learned of the death of St. Thomas directly from God.
He had guided St. Thomas in beginning his great works in philosophy
and theology. He also defended his teachings after Thomas died.
As St. Albert grew older, he became more holy. Before, he had expressed
his deep thoughts in his writings. Now he expressed them in his
whole way of living for God.
ST. MARGARET OF SCOTLAND
St. Margaret was an English
princess born in 1046. She and her mother sailed to Scotland to
escape from the king who had conquered their land. King Malcolm
of Scotland welcomed them. He fell in love with the beautiful princess.
Margaret and Malcolm were married before long. As queen, Margaret
changed her husband and the country for the better. Malcolm was
good, but he and his court were very rough. When he saw how wise
his wife was, he willingly listened to her good advice. Margaret
helped him control his temper and practice the Christian virtues.
She made the court beautiful and civilized. The king and queen were
wonderful examples because of the way they prayed together and treated
each other. They fed crowds of poor people. They tried very hard
to imitate Jesus in their own lives.
Margaret was a blessing
for all the people of Scotland. Before she came, there was great
ignorance. Many people had bad habits that kept them from growing
closer to God. Margaret worked hard to obtain good teachers to help
the people correct evil practices. She and Malcolm had new churches
built. She loved to make the churches beautiful to honor God. In
fact, Queen Margaret embroidered some of the priests' vestments
Margaret and Malcolm
had six sons and two daughters. They loved all their children very
much. The youngest boy became St. David. But Margaret had sorrows,
too. In her last illness, she learned that both her husband and
her son, Edward, had been killed in battle. They died just four
days before Margaret's death. She died on November 16, 1093. Margaret
was proclaimed a saint by Pope Innocent IV in 1250.
St. Gertrude entered
a convent in Saxony when she was very young. Under the care of St.
Mechtildis, she grew to be a happy, holy nun. Gertrude was likeable
and intelligent. She did very well in Latin studies. In fact, she
did not like the study of religion as well as her other subjects
at first. But when she was twenty-six, Jesus appeared to her. He
told her that from now on, she would think only of loving him and
trying to become holy. Now she began to study the Bible with deep
delight. She became very learned in our holy religion.
Jesus appeared to St.
Gertrude many times. He showed her his own Sacred Heart. Twice he
let her rest her head on his Heart. Because of her great love for
Jesus, her divine Spouse, Gertrude tried to correct her faults and
become better. She trusted in him with her whole heart and was full
of peace and joy.
St. Gertrude had a great
devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. She loved to receive
Holy Communion often, even though in those days, it was not the
custom. She was also very devoted to St. Joseph, the foster-father
of Jesus. Sister Gertrude wrote many beautiful prayers. After suffering
for about ten years, this saint went to join the Sacred Heart of
Jesus, who made him her spouse.
ST. ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY
St. Elizabeth, the daughter
of the king of Hungary was born in 1207. She married Louis, the
ruler of Thuringia, while she was very young. (We celebrate the
feast of Blessed Louis on September 11.) Elizabeth was a beautiful
bride who dearly loved her handsome husband. Louis returned her
affection with all his heart. God sent them three children and they
were very happy for six years.
Then St. Elizabeth's
sorrows began. Louis died of the plague. She was so heart-broken
that she cried: "The world is dead to me and all that is joyous
in the world." Louis' relatives had never liked Elizabeth because
she had given so much food to the poor. While Louis was alive, they
had not been able to do anything. Now, however, they could and they
did. Within a short time, this beautiful, gentle princess and her
three children were sent away from the castle. They suffered hunger
and cold. Yet Elizabeth did not complain about her terrible sufferings.
Instead she blessed God and prayed with great fervor. She accepted
the sorrows just as she had accepted the joys.
came to her rescue. She and her children had a home once more. Her
uncle wanted her to marry again, for she was still very young and
attractive. But the saint had determined to give herself to God.
She wanted to imitate the poverty of St. Francis. She went to live
in a poor cottage and spent the last few years of her life serving
the sick and the poor. She even went fishing to try to earn more
money for her beloved poor. St. Elizabeth was only twenty-four when
she died. On her death bed, she was heard to sing softly. She had
great confidence that Jesus would take her to himself. Elizabeth
passed away in 1231.
ST. ROSE PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE
St. Rose labored for
Jesus in the United States. She was born into a wealthy French family
in 1769. As a youngster, there was nothing especially holy about
Rose. In fact, she often did her best to get her own way. She ordered
everyone else to do what she wanted. In school, her favorite subject
was history. She later became very interested in stories about Native
Americans. At the age of seventeen, Rose entered the convent. She
was not allowed to take her vows when the time came, because of
the French Revolution. All the professed sisters were forced by
the revolutionaries to leave the country, and Rose had to return
to her family. Still she did not give up her desire to belong to
Jesus. Several years later she joined the newly formed Religious
of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Mother Rose Philippine
Duchesne's great desire was to be a missionary. However, she was
fifty before she was sent to the United States. It was still a mission
land at this time. In Mississippi, she and a small group of sisters
started a free school for the children of poor families. The work
was hard, because of the different languages and ways of the people.
Despite the many difficulties, Mother Duchesne never lost her youthful
enthusiasm. As she grew older, she became less commanding and more
Mother Duchesne was a
real heroine who went through terrible journeys. She nearly died
from yellow fever. She overcame all kinds of obstacles to open convents
in the New World. Then, when she was seventy-one, she resigned her
position as superior. She went off to open a school among her beloved
native people. She died in 1852 at the age of eighty-three and was
proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul II in 1988.
St. Nerses lived in fourth-century
Armenia. He was an official in the court of King Arshak. After Nerses'
wife died, he was ordained a priest. He became chief bishop of Armenia
in 363. He and St. Basil worked to help the people become more fervent
Catholics. They called a meeting of all the Armenian bishops. They
wanted to help the priests and people grow in holiness.
Bishop Nerses appreciated
the vocation of monks. He wanted new monasteries to begin. He started
hospitals and encouraged the rich to be honest and generous. King
Arshak was not living a good life. When he murdered his wife, Olympia,
Bishop Nerses publicly condemned this terrible crime. The king banished
Bishop Nerses from his diocese and appointed another bishop.
King Arshak was killed
in battle against the Persians. His son became king. Unfortunately,
the son did more evil than his father. Bishop Nerses corrected him.
The new king pretended to be sorry. He invited the bishop to his
palace for supper to show his good will. But the food was poisoned
and Nerses died right there at the king's table. He is considered
a martyr and the Armenians call him "the great."
St. Edmund was an English
king who lived in the ninth century. He became king when he was
only fourteen. Yet his high position did not make him proud or conceited.
Instead, he took as his model the Old Testament king, David. Edmund
tried to serve God as well as David had. In fact, Edmund even learned
David's psalms by heart. The psalms are beautiful hymns of praise
to God contained in the Holy Bible.
King Edmund governed
wisely, showing kindness to all his subjects. When Danish barbarians
invaded his land, he fought them bravely. Their army was much larger
than his. At last, the English king was captured. The barbarian
leader offered to spare Edmund's life if he would agree to certain
terms. But since these terms were opposed to his country and his
religion, the king refused. He declared he would never save his
life by offending God and his people. In anger, the pagan chief
condemned him to death.
St. Edmund was tied to
a tree and then cruelly whipped. The holy king took it all patiently,
calling on Jesus for strength. Next, his torturers shot arrows into
every part of his body. They were careful not to hit any vital organ,
so his sufferings would be prolonged. At last he was beheaded. King
Edmund died in 870. Devotion to St. Edmund the martyr became very
popular in England. Many churches were dedicated in his honor.
PRESENTATION OF MARY
When she was only three
years old, the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem
by her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne. (We celebrate their feast
day on July 26.) Mary's whole life was to belong to God. He had
chosen her to be the Mother of his Son, Jesus. The Blessed Virgin
was happy to begin serving God in the Temple. And St. Joachim and
St. Anne were pleased to offer their saintly little girl to God.
They knew that God had sent her to them.
In the Temple, the high
priest received the child Mary. She was placed among the girls who
were dedicated to prayer and Temple service. The high priest kissed
and blessed the holy child. He realized that the Lord had great
plans for her. Mary did not weep or turn back to her parents. She
came so happily to the altar that everyone in the Temple loved her
St. Joachim and St. Anne
went back home. They praised God for their blessed daughter. And
Mary remained in the Temple, where she grew in holiness. She spent
her days reading the Bible, praying and serving the Temple priests.
She made beautiful linens and splendid vestments. Mary was loved
by all the other girls because she was so kind. Mary tried to do
each of her duties well, to please God. She grew in grace and gave
great glory to the Lord.
St. Cecilia, the patroness
of music lived in early times. What we know about her goes back
to the fourth century. Cecilia was a Roman noblewoman who had given
her heart to Christ. Beneath the rich clothes worn by women of her
class, Cecilia wore a rough shirt that caused her suffering. She
wanted to be able to offer this sacrifice to Jesus, whose bride
she intended to be. But Cecilia's father gave her in marriage to
a young pagan noble. It is said that during the wedding celebration,
the lovely bride sat apart. She was singing to God in her heart
and praying for his help. When she and Valerian, her husband, were
alone, she gathered up courage and said to him: "I have a secret
to tell you. You must know that I have an angel of God watching
over me. If you let me keep my promise to be Christ's bride only,
my angel will love you as he loves me."
Valerian was surprised
and said kindly, "Show me this angel. If he comes from God,
I will do as you wish." Cecilia said, "If you believe
in the one true God and receive the waters of Baptism, then you
will see my angel." Valerian went to Bishop Urban and was received
with joy. After he had professed his belief in the Christian religion,
he was baptized and returned to St. Cecilia. There by the saint's
side, the young man saw the splendid angel.
Valerian's brother, Tiburtius,
learned of the Christian faith from Cecilia. She spoke so beautifully
of Jesus that before long, he too was baptized. Together the two
brothers performed many works of charity. When they were arrested
for being Christians, they went bravely to death rather than give
up their new faith in Jesus. St. Cecilia lovingly buried their bodies,
before she too was arrested. She converted the very officers who
tried to make her sacrifice to false gods. When she was put into
a fire, it did not harm her. At last, a man was sent to behead her.
He struck her neck three times, but Cecilia did not die right away.
She lay on the floor of her own home unable to move. Yet by holding
out three fingers of one hand, and one of the other, she still professed
her belief in the Blessed Trinity.
St. Columban, the most
famous of the Irish missionary-monks, lived in the seventh century.
He had a good education as a boy. When he was a teenager, he decided
to become a monk. His mother could not bear the thought of him leaving
her. However, Columban felt the call to serve God in the quiet of
a monastery. After many years as a monk in Ireland, Columban and
twelve other monks set sail for France. There was a shortage of
priests there at that time. The French people were inspired by the
lives of the monks. These holy men performed penance, practiced
devotion and lived in charity. Many young men were attracted to
this holy way of life. They came and asked to join the monks. Soon
the monks were building other monasteries to house all the disciples
of St. Columban.
were some people, however, who thought the rules of these monks
were too strict. St. Columban also faced danger when he confronted
the king about his sins. As a result, he and his Irish monks had
to leave France. St. Columban, though fairly old, still tried to
preach to unbelievers in Switzerland. When he was seventy, he went
into Italy and defended the faith against the Arian heretics. In
his letters to Pope St. Boniface IV, St. Columban proclaims his
great devotion to the Holy Father. "All we Irish, living in
the most distant parts of the earth," he says, "are bound
to the Chair of St. Peter." He calls the pope the "leader
his last years, St. Columban built the great monastery of Bobbio
in Italy. He died there on November 23, 615. After his death, both
the Irish and the Italians were very devoted to this wonderful missionary.
BLESSED MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO
Blessed Miguel Pro was
born in Guadalupe, Mexico, in 1891. He was destined to become a
martyr of the twentieth century. The Mexican government's persecution
of the Church began in 1910. Miguel joined the Jesuit novitiate
in 1911. He was twenty years old, generous, courageous and lively.
By 1914 the revolution had become severe. Jesuit novices were slipped
out of the country. They were sent to foreign seminaries for their
training. Miguel completed his priestly studies in Belgium and was
ordained in 1926.
The young priest's health
was poor. He was especially troubled with constant stomach pains.
His return to Mexico was a joy on the one hand and suffering on
the other. He saw his people suppressed by the government that should
have been serving them. Father Pro realized that he could bring
them spiritual comfort. He could forgive their sins through the
sacrament of Reconciliation. He could bring them the Eucharistic
Jesus to be their strength. And that he did. Miguel was ingenious
at disguising himself. He slipped in and out of buildings and rooms
and lives. He was always just on the verge of getting caught. Then
he would slip out of sight.
Father Pro performed
his ministry heroically until November 23, 1927. He was caught and
condemned for being a Catholic priest. He faced the firing squad
and stretched out his arms until his whole body was like a living
cross. Then he called in a loud clear voice: "Viva Cristo Rey!"
(Long live Christ the King.)
President Calles forbade
a public funeral. He threatened punishment for anyone who might
attend. Yet people lined up along the streets where the body of
the slain priest passed. They stood and prayed in their hearts,
thanking God for the life and witness of Miguel Pro. He was proclaimed
"blessed" by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988.
ST. ANDREW DUNG-LAC AND COMPANIONS
first brought the Catholic faith to Vietnam during the sixteenth
century. During the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
Christians suffered for their beliefs. Many were martyred, especially
during the reign of Emperor Minh-Mang (1820-1840). One hundred seventeen
martyrs are in the group. They were proclaimed saints by Pope John
Paul II on June 19,1988.
The group was made up
of ninety-six Vietnamese, eleven Spaniards, and ten French. Eight
of the group were bishops, fifty were priests and fifty-nine were
lay Catholics. Some of the priests were Dominicans. Others were
diocesan priests who belonged to the Paris Mission Society. One
such diocesan priest was St. Theophane Venard. (We honor him also
on November 6.) St. Andrew Dung-Lac, who represents this group of
heroes, was a Vietnamese diocesan priest. The martyrs of Vietnam
suffered to bring the greatest treasure that they possessed: their
ST. CATHERINE LABOURE
Catherine was born Zoe Laboure in 1806. She was the daughter of
a French farmer. She was the only one of her large family who did
not go to school. She could not read or write. Her mother died while
she was still very young. Zoe had to run the house when her older
sister became a nun. Zoe, too, would have liked to enter the convent
when she was in her early teens. However, because she was needed
at home, she waited until she was twenty-four. Zoe became a Sister
of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. She took the name of Catherine.
after she finished her training as a postulant, Sister Catherine
received a special privilege. She began to see the Blessed Mother.
One night, she was awakened from sleep. A "shining child"
led her to chapel. There Our Lady came to talk to her. The Blessed
Mother, in another vision, showed herself standing on a globe with
streams of light coming from her hands. Underneath were the words:
"O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who turn to thee!"
Sister Catherine was told that a medal was to be made of this picture
of Our Lady. She was also told that all who wore it would receive
many graces from Jesus through his mother's prayers.
Catherine told her confessor and he later told the bishop. So it
was that the medal which we call the miraculous medal was made.
Soon many, many people all over the world were wearing it. Yet no
one in the convent knew that humble Sister Catherine was the one
to whom Our Lady had appeared. She spent the remaining forty-five
years of her life doing ordinary convent tasks. She answered the
door. She looked after the hens that provided the nuns with eggs.
She also took care of elderly and sick people. She was happy to
keep her special privilege hidden, and was only interested in serving
God as best she could. Catherine died in 1876. She was proclaimed
a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1947.
ST. CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA
St. Catherine lived in
early Christian times. She was the daughter of a wealthy pagan couple
of Alexandria, Egypt. She was a very beautiful girl whose great
interest was in learning. Catherine loved to study deep questions
of philosophy and religion. One day she began to read about Christianity.
Soon she became a Christian.
St. Catherine was only
eighteen when Emperor Maxentius began persecuting the Christians.
Fearlessly, the lovely young Christian woman went to tell him what
she thought of his cruelty. When he spoke of the pagan gods, she
very plainly showed him that they were false. Maxentius could not
answer her arguments. Therefore, he sent for fifty of his best pagan
philosophers. Once again, it was Catherine who proved the truth
of her religion. All fifty philosophers were convinced that she
was right. In great fury, Maxentius had every one of them killed.
Next, he tried to win her by offering her a queen's crown. When
Catherine absolutely refused it, he had her beaten and thrown into
While Maxentius was away
at camp, his wife and an officer were very curious to hear this
amazing Christian girl speak. They went to her cell. The result
was that they and two hundred soldiers of the guard were converted.
For this, they were all put to death. Catherine herself was placed
on a wheel full of spikes to be tortured to death. When the wheel
began to spin, it mysteriously snapped in two and fell apart. Finally,
St. Catherine was beheaded. She has always been the patroness of
ST. JOHN BERCHMANS
St. John, the Belgian
saint once said, "If I do not become a saint when I am young,
I shall never become one." In fact, he died at the early age
of twenty-two-and he had, without any doubt, reached his goal of
sanctity. John was born in 1599. As a child, he stayed very close
to his sick mother. Still, he liked to join with his young friends
in putting on plays about Bible stories. He was especially good
at playing the part of Daniel defending the innocent Susanna. By
the time he was thirteen, he wanted to begin studying for the priesthood.
However, his father, a shoemaker, needed his help in supporting
the family. Finally, Mr. Berchmans decided to let John become a
servant in the household of a priest. From there he could go to
classes in the seminary.
Three years later, John
Berchmans entered the Society of Jesus. He prayed, studied hard,
and enthusiastically acted out parts in religious plays. He made
a motto: "Have great care for little things," and he lived
up to it. St. John Berchmans never performed any great, heroic deeds.
But he did every little thing well, from waiting on tables to copying
down notes on his studies.
When he became sick,
no doctor could discover what illness he had. Yet John knew he was
going to die. He was very cheerful as always. When the doctor ordered
that his forehead be bathed with wine, John joked: "It's lucky
that such an expensive sickness is not going to last long."
John Berchmans died in 1621. Miracles took place at his funeral.
Right away people began to call him a saint.
ST. JAMES INTERCISUS
St. James was a Persian
who lived in the fifth century. He was a great favorite of King
Yezdigerd I. When this king began to persecute Christians, James
did not have the courage to confess his faith. He was afraid of
losing the king's friendship. So he gave up his faith or at least
pretended to. James' wife and mother were broken-hearted. When the
king died, they wrote a strong letter to him to change his ways.
This letter had its effect on James. He had been a coward, but at
heart, he was still good. Now he began to stay away from court.
He blamed himself openly for having given up his faith.
new king sent for him, but this time, James hid nothing. "I
am a Christian," he said. The king accused him of being ungrateful
for all the honors his father, King Yezdigerd, had given him. "And
where is your father now?" St. James calmly answered. The angry
king threatened to put the saint to a terrible death. James replied,
"May I die the death of the just." The king and his council
condemned James to torture and death. But his fears had gone. He
said, "This death which appears so dreadful is very little
for the purchase of eternal life." Then he told the executioners,
"Begin your work." All the while, he kept declaring his
faith that his body would one day rise in glory. St. James Intercisus
died in 421.
BLESSED FRANCIS ANTHONY OF LUCERA
Blessed Francis born
in 1681, was nicknamed Johnny as a child. He was the son of an Italian
farmer. His father died before he was ten. His mother's second husband
was good to him. He sent the boy to be educated by the Franciscans.
When he was fifteen, Johnny asked to be admitted to the order. He
became Brother Francis Anthony. He did very well in all his studies
and became a priest. Father Francis Anthony became famous as a preacher
and teacher. He also was elected superior. He tried his best to
be of loving service to all the friars.
Father Francis Anthony
had a special interest in prisoners. The prisons of his day were
terrible places. He did his best to help the poor prisoners in every
way. His love went out to everyone in need. It was he who began
the custom of collecting gifts at Christmas time for poor families.
In Lucera, the city in which he spent his life, it was said: "If
you want to see St. Francis of Assisi, just look at Father Francis
Francis Anthony had a great devotion to Mary. He loved to pay special
honor to her Immaculate Conception. It was at the beginning of the
solemn novena for this feast that he died. Some time before, when
he was in good health, he had said he would die soon. He had even
suggested to a priest-friend that he come along. This good priest
replied a bit excitedly, "Listen, Father, if you want to die,
that is your affair, but I'm in no hurry!" What did the saint
reply? "We must both make this journey," he said, "I
first and you afterward." And that is just what happened. The
other priest lived only two months after Blessed Francis Anthony
passed to his eternal reward. Father Francis Anthony died in 1742
and was proclaimed "blessed" by Pope Pius XII in 1951.
St. Andrew, like his
brother, Simon Peter, was a fisherman. He became a disciple of the
great St. John the Baptist. However, when John pointed to Jesus
and said, "Behold the Lamb of God," Andrew understood
that Jesus was greater. At once he left John to follow the Divine
Master. Jesus knew that Andrew was walking behind him. Turning back,
he asked, "What do you seek?"
Andrew answered that
he would like to know where Jesus dwelt. Our Lord replied, "Come
and see." Andrew had been with Jesus only a little while when
he realized that this was truly the Messiah. From then on, he decided
to follow Jesus. He became the first disciple of Christ.
Next Andrew brought his
brother Simon (St. Peter) to Jesus. The Lord received him, too,
as his disciple. At first the two brothers continued to carry on
their fishing trade and family affairs. Later, the Lord called them
to stay with him all the time. He promised to make them fishers
of men, and this time they left their nets for good. It is believed
that after Our Lord ascended into heaven, St. Andrew preached the
Gospel in Greece. He is said to have been put to death on a cross,
to which he was tied, not nailed. He lived two days in that state
of suffering. Andrew still found enough strength to preach to the
people who gathered around their beloved apostle. Two countries
have chosen St. Andrew as their patron-Russia and Scotland.