- relic of the Crown of Thorns of our Lord Jesus Christ
- relic of the pillar of the Flagellation of our Lord Jesus Christ
- relic of the True Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ
- relic of the crib of our Lord Jesus Christ, veil of the Blessed Virgin Mary and bone of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- “teche” Italian word for casket containing the relics of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne
- relic of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- relic of the Crib in which Jesus was born
- relic of Saint Juliana Falconieri, OSM
- relic of Saint Peregrine, OSM
- “teche” Italian word for casket containing the relics of Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica
- “teche” Italian word for casket containing the relics of Saint Francis and Saint Clare
- relic of Saint Raymond Nonnatus
- relic of Saint Charles Borromeo or here
- relic of Saint Thomas Becket
- relic of Saint Thomas Aquinas
- “teche” Italian word for casket containing the relics of Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine of Siena or here
- relic of Saint Francis Xavier
- relic of Saint Anthony of Padua or here
- relic of Saint Augustine of Canterbury
- “teche” Italian word for casket containing the relics of the Twelve Apostles, and Saint Paul
- relic of Saint Boniface
- relic of Saint Cecilia
- relic of Saint Bonaventure
- relic of Saint John Baptist De La Salle
- “teche” Italian word for casket containing the relics of Saint Bonaventure, Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Leo the Great and Saint Augustine
- “teche” Italian word for casket containing the relics of Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Theresa of Avila and Saint Therese of Liseaux
- “teche” Italian word for casket containing the relics of Saint Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist) and Saint Clare
- “teche” Italian word for casket containing the relics of Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian
- relic of Saint John Vianney
- relic of Saint Edward the Confessor
- relic of Saint Richard
- relic of Saint Jerome
- relic of Saint Maria Goretti
- relic of Saint Lucy
- relic of Saint Magdalene
- relic of Saint Mary Alacoque
- relic of Saint Nicholas
- relic of Saint Patrick
- relic of Saint Stanislaus
- relic of Saint Philip Neri
- relic of Saint Rose of Lima
- relic of Saint John Neuman
- relic of Saint Sebastian
- relic of Blessed Padre Pio
- relic of Saint Valentine
- relic of Saint Veronica
- relic of Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini
- relic of Saint Pius X
- relic of Saint Elizabeth Seton
- relic of Saint Martha
- relic of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, SJ
- relic of Saint John Berchman
- relic of Saint Martin DePores
- relic of Saint Alphonsus Liguoori
- relic of Saint Gerard Majellen
- “teche” Italian word for casket containing the relics of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Elizabeth and Saint Zachary
- relic of Saint Stephen, 1st Martyr
- Blessed Edith Stein
- The first-class is a part of the saints body. It is this type which is placed in an altar stone.
- The second-class is a piece of the saints clothing or something used by the saint.
- The third-class is an object which has been touched to a first-class relic.
Isn’t the veneration of relics optional for Catholics? Must the Catholic faithful really esteem the bodies of the saints?
Once and for all, the Council of Trent (16th century) responded to the claims of the reformers that both the veneration of the saints and their relics is contrary to Sacred Scripture. The Council taught: Also the holy bodies of the holy martyrs and of the others who dwell with Christ . . . are to be honored by the faithful. There are several scriptural passages that support the veneration of relics. For example,
- Exodus 13:19. The Israelites took Joseph’s bones when they departed Egypt.
- 2 Kings 13:21. The bones of Elisha came in contact with a dead person who then was raised to life.
- 2 Kings 2:13. The same Elisha took the mantle of Elijah and fashioned a miracle with it.
- Acts 19:12. The Christians of Ephesus, by using handkerchiefs and cloths touched to St. Paul’s skin, effected the healing of the sick.
The relics of the saints and their veneration is just another in the long line of treasures which Jesus Christ has given to His chaste bride, the Church. These relics summon us to appreciate more profoundly not only these heroes who have served the Master so selflessly and generously, but especially the love and mercy of the Almighty who called these His followers who are living a blissed out unending life in His eternal kingdom.
Let’s also pause for a moment. Perhaps in our technological age, the whole idea of relics may seem strange. Remember, all of us treasure things that have belonged to someone we love– a piece of clothing, another personal item, or a lock of hair. Those “relics” remind us of the love we continue to share with that person while he was still living and even after death. We are very proud to say, “This belongs to my mother,” for instance. Our hearts are torn when we think about disposing of the very personal things of a deceased loved one. Even from an historical sense, at Ford’s Theater Museum for instance, we can see things that belonged to President Lincoln, including the blood stained pillow on which he died. With great reverence then, we treasure the relics of saints, the holy instruments of God. In all, relics remind us of the holiness of a saint, of a hero, and his cooperation in God’s work; at the same time, relics inspire us to ask for the prayers of that hero and to beg the grace of God to live the same kind a faith-filled life.
Spend Time With the Saints Daily
How awesome is it that our faith has Saints; ordinary men, women, and children, known and unknown, who’ve become heroes of our faith. They’ve each had their own unique journey of sinners-to-saints, rising up from the hardships of their lives. Let us learn from these heroes how to continue to be saints-in-the-making, because, yes, each of us is a saint-in-the-making.
1-7 | Who is St. Raymond Penyafort?
1-6 | Who is St. André Bessette?
Welcome me at the threshold,
When I am lost.
Offer me tenderness and solace,
When I am tired.
Remind me I belong
When I am orphaned.
Guide me to Saint Joseph
When I am far from home.
Bring forgiveness to my heart
When I feel most unworthy.
Reveal Jesus’ healing touch
When I hurt and am alone.
Touch my pain,
When I wait to be healed.
Saint André Bessette pray for us!
From Father Ronald Patrick Raab, C.S.C.
1-5 | Who is St. John Neumann?
A Heart Moved with Pity
From Saint John Neumann: His Writings and Spirituality
1-4 | Who is St. Elizabeth Ann Seton?
My feet kept to the level path because from earliest youth I was familiar with wisdom. (cf. Sirach 51:15)
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s path took many unexpected turnings because she followed God’s will rather than her own. What matters most is that the path God chose took her to Him. In her obedience lay the source of the wisdom with which she taught others to follow in God’s ways.
Elizabeth Ann Seton suffered the death of her husband, William, when she was twenty-nine. Having encountered the Catholic faith while on holiday in Italy, she converted, to the disappointment of her family. Her attempts to found a school in New York to support herself and her five children failed when the parents of her students discovered that she was Catholic. After responding to the invitation to open a school in Baltimore, she founded the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph to educate the poor and orphans. Elizabeth died in Emmitsburg, Maryland, in 1821. She is considered the patron of Catholic education in America and was the first American-born canonized saint.
Here is a Meditation of the Day from her
Living for the Kingdom of Heaven
Father of all mercies, blessed be your goodness which has preserved me this day and brought me to the hour of rest. To your merciful protection I humbly commit my soul and body, for you only can give me peace and safety—I supplicate your blessing on me, my friends and relations through Jesus Christ my Savior.
O my Soul, there is a heaven, there is a Savior, there is a pure and perfect felicity under the shadow of his wings. There is rest from our labors, peace from our enemies, freedom from our sins. There we shall be always joyful—always beholding the presence of him, who has purchased and prepared for us this unutterable glory. Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.
Where he is there shall we be also, and the happy hours we have passed together thinking of him and singing his praise, will then be remembered with the fondest delight. We will never more separate, never be weary, but day without night rejoice before his throne; and now we must keep our hearts fixed on him and try with all our souls to please our dear and blessed Lord. Then when he calls us Come up hither, we will fly with joy to our heavenly home.
From Elizabeth Bayley Seton, Collected Writings: Volume I, Correspondence and Journals 1793-1808.
1-3 | Why the Epiphany of the Lord?
Our God is for ever and always./ It is he who leads us. (cf. Psalm 48:15)
God dwells among his people in the flesh of Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem of old, present in the Eucharist in our day. Like the Magi, let us bring the gifts of our worship before him in praise, adoration, and thanksgiving.
The Magi—by tradition called Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar—reveal that our life’s greatest purpose is to worship the Savior. The gifts brought by the Magi reveal how we can do that: “To offer gold is to proclaim Christ’s Kingship, to offer incense is to adore his Godhead, and to offer myrrh is to acknowledge his mortality” (Saint Odilo of Cluny). And when we meditate on the mystery of the Epiphany, “we shall be radiant at what we see,” and “our hearts throb and overflow,” for the appearance of the Son of God means that the lives of the lowly, poor, and afflicted shall be saved. We have become “copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”
Traditionally, Epiphany celebrates three manifestations of God in Christ: to the Magi, at the baptism in the Jordan, and at Cana. The liturgies of this season often present the Incarnation using the image of a marriage between divinity and humanity in Jesus Christ, the wise and just King, greater than Solomon. Let us praise Him with this royal wedding psalm
Psalm 45:2-3, 7-10
My heart overflows with noble words.
To the king I must speak the song I have made;
my tongue as nimble as the pen of a scribe.
You are the fairest of the children of men
and graciousness is poured upon your lips:
because God has blessed you for evermore.
Your throne, O God, shall endure for ever.
A scepter of justice is the scepter of your kingdom.
Your love is for justice; your hatred for evil.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness above other kings:
your robes are fragrant with aloes and myrrh.
From the ivory palace you are greeted with music.
The daughters of kings are among your loved ones.
On your right stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
Glory to the Father….
1-2 | Who are Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen?
I, Wisdom, dwell with experience,/ and judicious knowledge I attain. (Proverbs 8:12)
Saints Basil and Gregory dwelt with wisdom through study and prayer, first in the silence of the monastic life and later in the midst of their pastoral responsibilities as bishops. From her abundance they still feed all those who seek to know God through their teaching of Christ’s doctrine.
As a bishop, Basil the Great fed the poor, ministered to the destitute and the marginalized, and created a hospital for the sick; he was “truly one of the Fathers of the Church’s social doctrine” (Pope Benedict XVI).
Gregory Nazianzen, called “the Theologian,” loved theological contemplation and delivered majestic orations on the Trinity. Both men developed and solidified the Trinitarian formulations of the Church in the face of the Arian heresy. The Church’s theological reflection on the Trinity is unthinkable without their contributions. Basil died in 379 and Gregory in 390.
Here is a MEDITATION OF THE DAY from Saint Gregory Nazianzen
Sharing in the Worthiness of Christ
When he appeared, both earth and heaven shook,
The heavenly choir sent down hymns;
The star from the East led the Magi on their way, bearing gifts in worship of the new-born King.
This is my teaching concerning Christ’s novel birth….
Neither by man’s seed did he become man, but it was from that flesh which the Spirit had hallowed beforehand, of [a Virgin], cherished Mother….
But after he was proclaimed by the clear-shining beacon of a great light forerunning the Child, forerunning the gospel, heralding Christ my God in the midst of the desert….
[Christ] granted to mortals a double purification, that of the Spirit, ever-flowing, who has cleansed my former evl born with the flesh, and that of our blood.
For this, too, is mine, this blood which Christ my God poured out
In restitution for ancient longings, and as a ransom for the world….
As once the Hebrew children escaped destruction by an anointing of blood which cleansed doorposts… so for me, too, is this washing [in baptism] a seal of the
God who wards off evil…it is a cure and the finest seal, divinely flowing from Christ the giver of light: so that fleeing the depths of anguish and lifting up the neck lightly from under its burden, I might turn my two feet back again towards life.
From On God And Man, The Theological Poetry of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Peter Gilbert, Tr.
1-1 | Why the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God?
Mary, our Mother, leads us to Christ! During these last days of the Octave of Christmas, the Church urges us on with renewed devotion and awe by placing this Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, on January 1st. The Octave of Christmas (8 days following Christmas) places before our prayer and meditation the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the white martyrdom of St. John the Beloved, and the feasts of the Holy Innocents and the Holy Family. These saints, and even Christmas itself, teach us an important paradox that proclaims a fullness of life amidst suffering, a glory hidden within the ordinary. This is seen most profoundly in the mystery of the Incarnation – God becoming man, born of Mary, whom He Himself created.
Every Marian dogma is also a teaching about Christ. In the Morning Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours for today we have the antiphon, “Marvelous is the mystery proclaimed today: human nature is made new as God becomes man; He remains what He was and becomes what He was not. Yet each nature stays distinct and forever undivided.” Proclaiming Mary as the Mother of God teaches us that Jesus is fully God and fully human and that Mary is the Mother of not just Jesus’ human nature, but Jesus Christ, Himself.
This is the greatest paradox, and we are part of it! The hunger for greatness stamped into our nature stems from this reality: Jesus has a human nature, and so has changed my ability to receive Divine life in my soul. We are disproportionate to our destiny; Jesus coming as a child in a manger did not change God, but rather it changed our human capacity. We at times think, “I am not able to sustain my capacity.” This is why the invitation is to surrender to Jesus Christ, as Mary does, and allow Christ to bring our hunger for greatness to fulfillment.
Let us turn to Mary as the perfect Mother and ask for her to intercede for us with her compassion and strength and bring us to the full reality of our identity as children of God.
12-31 | Who is St. Sylvestter I?
When you think of this pope, you think of the Edict of Milan, the emergence of the Church from the catacombs, the building of the great basilicas—Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter’s, and others—the Council of Nicaea, and other critical events. But for the most part, these events were planned or brought about by Emperor Constantine.
A great store of legends has grown up around the man who was pope at this most important time, but very little can be established historically. We know for sure that his papacy lasted from 314 until his death in 335. Reading between the lines of history, we are assured that only a very strong and wise man could have preserved the essential independence of the Church in the face of the overpowering figure of the Emperor Constantine. In general, the bishops remained loyal to the Holy See, and at times expressed apologies to Sylvester for undertaking important ecclesiastical projects at the urging of Constantine.
It takes deep humility and courage in the face of criticism for a leader to stand aside and let events take their course, when asserting one’s authority would only lead to useless tension and strife. Sylvester teaches a valuable lesson for Church leaders, politicians, parents, and others in authority.
12-29 | Who is St. Thomas Becket?
Saint Thomas Becket is the Patron Saint of Roman Catholic Secular Clergy, is a strong man who wavered for a moment, but then learned one cannot come to terms with evil, and so became a strong churchman, a martyr, and a saint—that was Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in his cathedral on December 29, 1170.
His career had been a stormy one. While archdeacon of Canterbury, he was made chancellor of England at the age of 36 by his friend King Henry II. When Henry felt it advantageous to make his chancellor the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas gave him fair warning: he might not accept all of Henry’s intrusions into Church affairs. Nevertheless, in 1162 he was made archbishop, resigned his chancellorship, and reformed his whole way of life!
Troubles began. Henry insisted upon usurping Church rights. At one time, supposing some conciliatory action possible, Thomas came close to compromise. He momentarily approved the Constitutions of Clarendon, which would have denied the clergy the right of trial by a Church court and prevented them from making direct appeal to Rome. But Thomas rejected the Constitutions, fled to France for safety, and remained in exile for seven years. When he returned to England he suspected it would mean certain death. Because Thomas refused to remit censures he had placed upon bishops favored by the king, Henry cried out in a rage, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest!” Four knights, taking his words as his wish, slew Thomas in the Canterbury cathedral.
Thomas Becket remains a hero-saint down to our own times.
Here is a MEDITATION OF THE DAY from him
Simeon holds the child Jesus and prophesies Mary’s intimate union with his redemptive suffering: “And you yourself a sword will pierce.” Our Lady accompanies us in our sufferings, too, and will lead us to abide in Christ and walk with Him, even to the cross. “Remember the sufferings of Christ…the crown that came from those sufferings which gave new radiance to the faith.… All saints give testimony to the truth that without real effort, no one ever wins the crown”
Dec 28 | Why the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs?
King Herod learned of the birth of the newborn “King of the Jews” and intended to murder him. Jesus escaped into exile with Mary and Joseph. In a rage, Herod slew all Jewish males under the age of two in Bethlehem. The Jewish mothers lamented their children, killed in Christ’s stead. But eternal life triumphs over evil. The Holy Innocents live victorious in heaven.
Dec 27 | Why the Feast of the Holy Family?
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him. (Lk 2:33)
This feast reminds us that Jesus lived a real human life among real people of flesh and blood. The Son of God became the obedient son of a foster father and a Mother who, together, accepted him and walked obediently in God’s mysterious ways, as a faith-filled family. But their Child’s children, destined for the heavenly Jerusalem, fill the whole world.
The family is the household manifestation of the Church born in Christ and brought to maturity in his living Body. Mary and Joseph lived in the fear of the Lord, that is, in honoring God and one another and in doing right. From their righteousness grew the One who would bring honor beyond imagining to his family, both the family into which he was born and the family of those born anew in him.
“The family is the privileged setting where every person learns to give and receive love…. The family is an intermediate institution between individuals and society, and nothing can completely take its place…. The family is a necessary good for peoples, an indispensable foundation for society, and a great and lifelong treasure for couples. It is a unique good for children, who are meant to be the fruit of the love, of the total and generous self-giving of their parents…. The family is also a school that enables men and women to grow to the full measure of their humanity…. O God, who in the Holy Family left us a perfect model of family life lived in faith and obedience to your will, help us to be examples of faith and love for your commandments” (Pope Benedict XVI).
MEDITATION OF THE DAY
Pondering the Holy Family
There is a certain flavor to the days after a child is born into a home. Gratefulness that all went well, a deep relief from anxiety, a new happiness, and a more tender love hover over the household. All this must have been true of the very first Christian family who ever lived, only much more so. Of the young girl and Mother it is told that she didn’t need any help, neither for herself nor for her little child. She was able to take care of him alone right away. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.
We can imagine Joseph going into Bethlehem every day, partly to buy fresh food, and partly to watch how the census was going. In forty days he would have to present Mother and Child in the Temple…. He told Mary that the shepherds couldn’t get over the things they had heard and seen in that unforgettable night, and had told their friends and neighbors. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. What did Mary do about this? She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.… “To ponder” is just another word for “to meditate on” or simply “to think about.” With a special effort, some of us might set aside fifteen minutes a day out of a sense of duty to ponder upon divine things. This time of meditation can turn into a real bother, and we may spend it looking at the watch. At the slightest provocation we gladly omit it…. But with Mary it seems to be second nature. Already, as a child in the Temple, she must have been meditating on the law of the Lord all the days of her life, as it says in Psalm 118. The splendor of the house of God, the starry sky at night, the countryside of Judea, the Word of God as it was read to her from ancient scrolls by her teachers—everything was one big meditation book for her, telling of the grandeur and also of the mercy of God. She never grew tired of pondering on all those things in her heart….
When God in his eternal wisdom resolved to redeem mankind, he had infinite ways in which to do it. There were shapes and forms we can think of, such as sending the Messiah as an angel in great power and glory, or as a mighty king on horseback, then there are many more possibilities which we in our limited mind can’t even conceive. But no, Almighty God chose none of those ways, but instead, sent his only Son as a little child into a family.
By Maria von Trapp († 1987), with her children and stepchildren, the Trapp Family Singers, inspired the musical and film The Sound of Music. / From Let Me Tell You About My Savior: Yesterday, Today, and Forever, When the King Was Carpenter.
Dec 26 | Who is St. Stephen, the First Martyr?
You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)
Lest we be tempted to sentimentalize the mystery of Christ’s birth, the Church today sets before us the example of Stephen, first of martyrs, icon of the Crucified. Bethlehem is the prelude to Calvary. We may not merely stand adoring at the crib; we must also follow to the cross.
Stephen, whose name means “crown” or “garland,” was the first to gain the crown of martyrdom in the Church. The account of Stephen’s death is a short course in the martyrdom that would define Christian life in its first four centuries.
After engaging in a debate with Hellenistic Jews, Stephen recounts for them their own history as fulfilled in Christ. To the ears of his accusers, Stephen’s words are blasphemy. Stephen’s marvelous countenance—“like an angel”—is a further irritant. They drag him outside the city to stone him. Stephen, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” has a vision of Christ. Before he dies, he forgives his tormentors.
Here is a MEDITATION OF THE DAY on martyrdom
The First Martyr
In the New Covenant as in the Old, martyrdom is a way of fulfilling the greatest commandment, the Shema Israel that every pious Jew recites twice daily, morning and night: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. This participation in Christ’s suffering brings to fulfillment the most ardent faith, hope, and charity. To accept martyrdom witnesses to complete faith in God’s faithfulness; it forcefully manifests hope in the resurrection of the body and eternal life; and it is the highest expression of love for someone to love God more than his or her own life. Indeed, this is the greatest act of love of God and neighbor that anyone can make: Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Here is the ultimate expression of love that we see in Jesus: Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
The Incarnation and Passion of Christ show how much God loves us; and the acceptance of martyrdom shows how humankind, through the grace of Christ, are capable of loving God. During the Christmas season there is a striking change in the color of the vestments, from the white of the Nativity to the red of the feast of Saint Stephen. Just a day after the joyful feast of the birth of the Lord, celebrating God’s becoming one of us out of love for us, we celebrate the feast of the first martyr. God gave himself entirely to us so that we can completely give ourselves to him. He loves us without measure so that we can love him without measure, even more than our own lives.
Martyrdom is also a supreme act of love of neighbor. The Christian martyr forgives, prays for those who make him or her suffer, and offers his or her life for their salvation. The martyr carries love of enemies as far as it can go, as the Gospel urges be done.
Father Philippe is a French priest, a member of the Community of the Beatitudes, and a renowned spiritual director. / From The Eight Doors of the Kingdom: Meditation on the Beatitudes.
Dec 25 | The Nativity of the Lord
“In the Sacraments, we encounter Christ the Savior.”-Pope Francis
Born to Be With Us by Father Richard Veras
In his desire for God to come to his people, Isaiah cries, Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you (Is 63:19b).
At Christmas, we celebrate that God has come to his people in a greater way than Isaiah asked for—by coming in a seemingly lesser way. He did not shake mountains; he became flesh to dwell among us, born in Bethlehem to become present to all of us in our own particular places, in our daily lives.
In looking back on this year and the pandemic, when so many could not receive sacraments and members of Christ’s body suffered distance from one another, we understand well Isaiah’s desire that God come close. A desire expressed in countless spiritual communions, in so much use of technology to behold each other’s faces.
One pastor was astounded by the response to his offer to bless houses from the curb while the family stayed at the door. Another was amazed at how many cars showed up to drive slowly past the parish church to receive a blessing, as the family remained in the car.
We have encountered a God who is greater even than Isaiah imagined. Through the Incarnation, he has educated our hearts to long for his presence, not through spectacles of quaking mountains or columns of fire, but through his closeness to us in our daily lives and struggles.
He has, indeed, come to his people; and every day and in so many ways, he offers his presence to set us free.
Father Richard Veras is director of pastoral formation at Saint Joseph’s Seminary in New York. He is the author of three books, his latest being The Word Made Flesh: Foreshadowed, Fulfilled, Forever (Magnificat).
Dec 23 | Who is St. John of Kanty aka St. John Cantius?
St. John Cantius is the patron Saint of Teachers, Students, Priests and Pilgrims. To most Catholics in this country, St. John from Kenty—otherwise known as John Kanty or John Cantius—is an obscure saint, and, even in Europe, few people probably know of Pope John Paul II’s deep and lifelong devotion to this professor saint.
Only thirteen miles from the Holy Father’s own birthplace, John was born in the small southern Polish town of Kenty on June 24, 1390. At the age of 23, he registered for studies at the Jagiellonian University, located in the not too distant city of Krakow—then, the capital of the Polish Kingdom. Founded in 1364 by royal decree, it was the same university at which astronomer, Nicolas Copernicus, would study almost 80 years later.
Enrolled in the Department of Liberal Arts, John became a doctor of philosophy in 1418. During the following three years, he undertook further studies in preparation for the priesthood, while supporting himself by conducting philosophy classes at the university.
Immediately following ordination, he accepted a position as rector at the prestigious school of the Canons Regular of the Most Holy Sepulcher in Miechow. That such a school would offer him this position at his relatively young age was evidence of John’s exceptional intellect and talents. It was there in conducting formation classes for the young novices that he became firmly grounded in the writings and spirituality of St. Augustine.
In 1429, a position became vacant in the Philosophy Department at the Jagiellonian University. John quickly returned to Krakow for the opportunity, taking up residence at the university where he remained until his death. He also began studies in theology and, after 13 long years of study intertwined with teaching and administrative duties as head of the Philosophy Department, he finally received his doctorate. Later, after the death of his mentor, the eminent theologian Benedykt Hesse, John assumed directorship of the university’s Theology Department.
As most learned men of his day, John spent many of his free hours hand-copying manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures, theological tracts, and other scholarly works. Although only 26 volumes have survived to our time, their total of over 18,000 pages is a testament to his exceptional industriousness.
During the course of his life in Krakow, John became well known among the city’s residents for his generosity and compassion toward the poor, always sacrificing his own needs in order to help those less fortunate. He felt a special affinity toward needy students at the university, helping to care for their spiritual, physical, and academic needs, whether it was in the classroom or from the pulpit, everyone knew him as a staunch defender of the faith and enemy of heretics.
By the time the Master from Kenty died on December 24, 1473, the people of Krakow already considered him a very holy man. That this opinion was wholly justified can be evidenced by the numerous favors and miracles attributed to John’s intercession, beginning immediately following his death. Before long, John from Kenty became known widely throughout Europe, drawing pilgrims from many countries to his tomb in the university’s Collegiate Church of St. Anne.
Despite this, the process for his beatification did not begin until 150 years later. Finally, in 1676, Pope Clement XIII declared him a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, proclaiming October 20 as his feast day.
Throughout his many years in Krakow, our philosopher Pontiff, St. John Paul II drew much inspiration at the grave of his patron saint of learning. It was no surprise, therefore, that during his 1997 pilgrimage to Poland, he once more prayed at the saint’s tomb. There, during a special gathering with professors from the Jagiellonian University (both his and St. John’s alma mater), he alluded to the Master from Kenty when he stated the saint’s life exemplified what emerges when “knowledge and wisdom seek a covenant with holiness.”
Dec 21 | Who is St. Peter Canisius?
The energetic life of Peter Canisius should demolish any stereotypes we may have of the life of a saint as dull or routine. Peter lived his 76 years at a pace which must be considered heroic, even in our time of rapid change. A man blessed with many talents, Peter is an excellent example of the scriptural man who develops his talents for the sake of the Lord’s work.
Peter was one of the most important figures in the Catholic Reformation in Germany. He played such a key role that he has often been called the “second apostle of Germany,” in that his life parallels the earlier work of Boniface.
Although Peter once accused himself of idleness in his youth, he could not have been idle too long, for at the age of 19 he received a master’s degree from the university at Cologne. Soon afterwards he met Peter Faber, the first disciple of Ignatius of Loyola, who influenced Peter so much that he joined the recently formed Society of Jesus.
At this early age Peter had already taken up a practice he continued throughout his life—a process of study, reflection, prayer, and writing. After his ordination in 1546, he became widely known for his editions of the writings of Saint Cyril of Alexandria and St. Leo the Great. Besides this reflective literary bent, Peter had a zeal for the apostolate. He could often be found visiting the sick or imprisoned, even when his assigned duties in other areas were more than enough to keep most people fully occupied.
In 1547, Peter attended several sessions of the Council of Trent, whose decrees he was later assigned to implement. After a brief teaching assignment at the Jesuit college at Messina, Peter was entrusted with the mission to Germany—from that point on his life’s work. He taught in several universities and was instrumental in establishing many colleges and seminaries. He wrote a catechism that explained the Catholic faith in a way that common people could understand—a great need of that age.
Renowned as a popular preacher, Peter packed churches with those eager to hear his eloquent proclamation of the gospel. He had great diplomatic ability, often serving as a reconciler between disputing factions. In his letters—filling eight volumes—one finds words of wisdom and counsel to people in all walks of life. At times he wrote unprecedented letters of criticism to leaders of the Church—yet always in the context of a loving, sympathetic concern.
At 70, Peter suffered a paralytic seizure, but he continued to preach and write with the aid of a secretary, until his death in his hometown of Nijmegen, Netherlands, on December 21, 1597.
Peter’s untiring efforts are an apt example for those involved in the renewal of the Church or the growth of moral consciousness in business or government. He is regarded as one of the creators of the Catholic press, and can easily be a model for the Christian author or journalist. Teachers can see in his life a passion for the transmission of truth. Whether we have much to give, as Peter Canisius did, or whether we have only a little to give, as did the poor widow in the Gospel of Luke (see Luke 21:1–4), the important thing is to give our all. It is in this way that Peter is so exemplary for Christians in an age of rapid change when we are called to be in the world but not of the world.
Here is a MEDITATION OF THE DAY from him
Blessed to Believe
What is faith? A gift of God, and light, by which man is firmly enlightened; he assents to all things which God has revealed, and are proposed for our belief by the Church, whether they might be written or unwritten….
What does the first article of the Creed mean, “I believe in God the Father”? It shows first in the Godhead a person, namely the heavenly and eternal Father, for whom nothing is impossible or difficult to do, who produced heaven and earth, visible things together with all invisible things from nothing and even conserves and governs everything he has produced, with supreme goodness and wisdom.
What does the second article of the Creed mean, “And in Jesus Christ his Son”? It reveals the second person in the Godhead, Jesus Christ, obviously his only begotten from eternity and consubstantial with the Father, our Lord and Redeemer, as the one who has freed us from perdition.
What is the third article, “Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit”? The third article proposes the mystery of the Lord’s Incarnation: because the same Son of God, descending from heaven, assumed a human nature, but in an absolutely unique way, as he was conceived without a father, from the power of the Holy Spirit, born from the Virgin Mary who remained a virgin afterwards.
From the “Small Catechism for Catholics” by Saint Peter Canisius
O God of peace, you sent Saint John to teach the way to inner silence and outward peace. Through his intercession, renew in your Church a deep spirit of prayer as we prepare to welcome Your Word, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(the last two can be fulfilled when it becomes accessible in places where there are Covid-19 restrictions)
Dec 10 | Why the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto?
I am going to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)
“Since the Middle Ages veneration for the Holy House of Loreto has been the origin of that particular shrine which still today is visited by many faithful pilgrims in order to nourish their faith in the Word of God made flesh for us. This shrine recalls the mystery of the Incarnation, leading all those who visit it to consider ‘the fullness of time,’ when God sent his Son, born of a woman.” (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments)
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? (Matthew 2:49)
In the Holy House of Loreto, the Word took on flesh and dwelt among us. He came so that we might come to live with Him forever in the New Jerusalem. We rejoice in His presence among us on earth even as we hope to enjoy it in the splendor of heaven forever.
In Loreto, a small hillside town near the city of Ancona in the Marche, Italy, a grand basilica houses a tiny, three-walled cottage, thirty-one feet by eleven. According to tradition, this hut was transported to Loreto from the Holy Land in the year 1294, having made a three-year stop in Croatia. Called the “Holy House,” the cottage is believed to be the house where Mary was born and raised, the very place where she was visited by the Angel Gabriel, and where she and Joseph settled and raised the child Jesus.
Many popes have visited the Holy House, including Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. “It is precisely here at Loreto that we have the opportunity to attend the school of Mary who was called blessed because she believed (Lk 1:45),” he said. “This humble home is a physical, tangible witness to the greatest event in our history, the Incarnation; the Word became flesh and Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, is the privileged channel through which God came to dwell among us.”
According to the traditional account, the Holy House was transported to its current spot on the backs of angels (the source of Our Lady of Loreto’s patronage of air travel). Documents discovered in modern times suggest rather that the house was moved from the Holy Land by the Italian Angeli family to prevent its destruction by invading Turks.
Merciful Father, through the intercession of Our Lady of Loreto, make my home a place where Christ comes to dwell.
Dec 9 | Who is St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin?
Dec 8 | Why the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary?
You are all-beautiful, my beloved, and there is no blemish in you. (Song of Songs 4:7)
The Virgin Mary, chosen Mother of the Redeemer, is robed in the splendor of her stainless innocence, clothed with the beauty of Christ, and prepared to receive him in her womb.
Through her Immaculate Conception, God preserved Mary from the stain of original sin, making her all-pure and all-holy—prepared, therefore, to be the Mother of the Savior. But this feast also reveals what God makes possible for all of us by grace: a healed humanity, “holy and without blemish.” We look to Immaculate Mary, awed by her singular privilege, confident that she intercedes for us so that we can share in her holiness, destined “for the praise of his glory.”
Here is a Meditation of the Day from St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe (whose devotion to her is the foundation for the movement he launched in 1917 called the Militia Immaculata).
Human words cannot describe who the one is, who became the true Mother of God. Of course, taken by herself, she is merely a creature. Yet, she was raised up so high by God that one would need to understand who God is to comprehend who the Mother of God is.
Also, she is the true Mother of God. It is a dogma of faith. Although the dignity of divine motherhood accounts for most of her privileges, the first grace she received from God was her Immaculate Conception, her exemption from any blemish, even from original sin, since the first moment of her existence. Such privilege, moreover, must be very dear to her, for in Lourdes she named herself: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” On that occasion, she did not say, “I was conceived without sin,” but “I am the Immaculate Conception;” it follows of necessity that she is immaculateness itself. In fact, she is a conception, since she came into existence in time. However, she is the Immaculate Conception.
God said to Moses: “I am Who I am” [Ex 3:14]: I am existence itself, so I am without beginning. Instead, the Immaculata says of herself, “I am Conception,” but, unlike all other human beings, the “Immaculate Conception.” (From Kolbe Writings 1292)
Let us pray
You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem,
you are the joy of Israel,
you give honor to our people.
You are the advocate of sinners.
Virgin most prudent,
Mother most merciful,
pray for us, intercede for us,
with the Lord Jesus Christ.
O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son, grant, we pray, that, as you preserved her from every stain by virtue of the death of your Son, which you foresaw, so, through her intercession, we, too, may be cleansed and admitted to your presence. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Dec 7 | Who is St. Ambrose?
I will proclaim You, O Lord, among the nations, and I will sing praise to Your name. (cf. 2 Sm 22:50)
Saint Ambrose proclaimed the coming of Christ, the long-awaited Savior, in troubled times not so different from our own. When others were abandoning the true faith for falsified concepts of Christ, he remained steadfast and taught his people fidelity by preaching, writing, and creating inspiring hymns still sung today. Known as the Pastoral Doctor, was a model bishop and an eloquent preacher. He was instrumental in the conversion of Saint Augustine.
Having begun his career as a lawyer and Roman administrator, Ambrose was elected Bishop of Milan. He won the hearts of his people with his direct, compassionate pastoral style, drawing them from Arian influence and to the true Faith. A great defender of the Church, he skillfully deflected attempts by the Arian empress Justina to take over two of his churches. “If you demand my person, I am ready to submit: carry me to prison or to death, I will not resist; but I will never betray the Church of Christ,” he declared. Ambrose died in 397, and was named among the first four Doctors of the Church.
Here is a Meditation of the Day from him
“Your sins are forgiven”
May our minds ponder nothing unseemly but incline to sentiments of prayer. Whoever receives Christ into his heart has a disposition free from blame, and by his earnest prayers he strives to merit the Holy Spirit. This is the hour when Christ checked the ancient, dreadful crime, overthrew death’s reign and took the age-old sin upon himself. Henceforth, now by the grace of Christ, days of blessedness have begun: the true faith has filled the churches throughout the earth.
From the lofty summit of his triumph he spoke to his mother: Mother, behold your son; apostle, behold your mother…. [Many] to whom Jesus offered faith through heavenly miracles did not believe; the one who has believed will be saved. We believe the God who was born, the offspring of the holy Virgin, who, seated at the Father’s right, has taken away the sins of the world.
From Ambrose. © 1997, Boniface Ramsey, o.p. Published by Routledge, New York, NY.
Dec 4 | Who is St. John Damascene?
Saint John Damascene has the double honor of being the last but one of the fathers of the Eastern Church, and the greatest of her poets.
He was born in Damascus, received a classical and theological education, and followed his father in a government position under the Arabs. After a few years, he resigned and went to the Monastery of Saint Sabas. He spent all of his life under Muslim rule, indeed protected by it.
He is famous in three areas:
First, he is known for his writings against the iconoclasts, who opposed the veneration of images. Paradoxically, it was the Eastern Christian emperor Leo who forbade the practice, and it was because John lived in Muslim territory that his enemies could not silence him.
Second, he is famous for his treatise, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, a summary of the Greek Fathers, of which he became the last. It is said that this book is for Eastern schools what the Summa of Aquinas became for the West.
Third, he is known as a poet, one of the two greatest of the Eastern Church, the other being Romanus the Melodist. His devotion to the Blessed Mother and his sermons on her feasts are well known.
Saint John Damascene defended the Church’s understanding of the veneration of images and explained the faith of the Church in several other controversies. For over 30 years, he combined a life of prayer with these defenses and his other writings. His holiness expressed itself in putting his literary and preaching talents at the service of the Lord.
Here is a Meditation of the Day by him
Faith in Christ’s Pity
Faith, indeed, is of two kinds. Thus, faith comes by hearing, for, when we hear the sacred Scriptures, we believe in the teaching of the Holy Spirit. And this faith is made perfect by all those things which Christ has ordained; it believes truly, it is devout, and it keeps the commandments of him who has renewed us…. Then again, there is a faith which is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not. This is an undoubting and unquestioning hope both for the things promised us by God and for the success of our petitions….
Every action of Christ and all his working of miracles were truly very great and divine and wonderful, but of all things the most wonderful is his honorable cross. For by nothing else except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ has death been brought low, the sin of our first parent destroyed, hell plundered, resurrection bestowed, the power given us to despise the things of this world and even death itself, the road back to the former blessedness made smooth, the gates of paradise opened, our nature seated at the right hand of God, and we made children and heirs of God. By the cross all things have been set aright. For all we who are baptized in Christ, says the Apostle, are baptized in his death and as many of us as have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ; moreover, Christ is the power and wisdom of God. See how the death of Christ, the cross, that is to say, has clothed us with the subsistent wisdom and power of God!
Saint John Damascene († c. 749) was the last of the Greek Fathers of the Church. / From The Fathers of the Church: Saint John of Damascus: Writings, Vol. 37, Frederic H. Chase, Jr., Tr. © 1958, The Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C. Used with permission.
Dec 3 | Who is St. Francis Xavier?
The recesses of the darkness He discloses and brings the gloom forth to the light. (Job 12:22)
Saint Francis Xavier is an Advent saint: he announced the dawn of the reign of God in the coming of Christ to peoples in the Far East. Like Saint John the Baptist, the Advent prophet, he sacrificed his life for the Word he preached.
Commissioned by Ignatius of Loyola as the first Jesuit missionary, Francis Xavier gave of himself completely in his ten-year mission to the East. During the arduous journey to India he offered his cabin as an infirmary for the sailors. At Goa, he gathered the little children for catechism by ringing a bell in the streets. Among the native Paravas, he spent long days baptizing and teaching the creed. Later, making his way into Japan, he spent a year learning the language, and then produced a catechism for the Japanese. Francis was taken with fever while off the coast of China. He died in 1552 “with the name of Jesus on his lips” at the age of forty-six.
O Lord, You sent Saint Francis Xavier to the lands of the Rising Sun to preach there the end of the world’s long night of sin and death. Enlighten all who do not yet believe, and strengthen those who do, that Your kingdom may dawn on all people through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Nov 30 | Who is St. Andrew?
Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16:24)
Saint Andrew showed his courage not by feats of physical prowess but by his unrelenting commitment to the Gospel of the cross written in the blood of Jesus Christ. Andrew died as he had lived, the true servant of his beloved Master, whose message of love and mercy shaped Andrew’s life and death.
Like his brother Simon Peter, Andrew shared a special intimacy with Christ; his name always ranks high on the lists of the Apostles. From the first, Andrew is an evangelist: he sees Christ, and runs to tell his brother (cf. Jn 1:35-42).
After the Resurrection Andrew is said to have witnessed to the Gospel in Greece, where he suffered martyrdom at Patras. According to various traditions, Andrew was an evangelist to the end. Bound by ropes to a cross, he addressed the gathered crowds for two days until death took him. Thousands hearkened to his words. Andrew is the patron of Greece, Scotland, and Russia.
Lord Jesus Christ, Saint Andrew left home and livelihood and even life itself to follow You. May we love You more than life itself and love all of life’s gifts as treasures to be shared with all who are in need. We ask this in Your name, who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Nov 25 | Who is St. Catherine of Alexandria?
According to tradition, Catherine was a young noblewoman schooled in Alexandria in Egypt, one of the great centers of learning in the ancient world.
After successfully arguing the case for Christianity with pagan philosophers before the Emperor Maxentius, she was threatened with torture on a spiked wheel. The wheel miraculously exploded, and the emperor had Catherine beheaded.
Before her death Catherine declared her intent to grant the requests of those who prayed to her. She was counted among the Fourteen Holy Helpers, the saints invoked in times of pestilence and plague by the faithful of medieval Germany. Saint John Paul II restored Catherine’s feast to the universal calendar in 2002.
Nov 24 | Who is St. Andrew Andrew Dũng-Lac and Companions?
In God’s hand is the soul of every living thing, and the life-breath of all mankind. (cf. Job 12:10)
The martyrs bear witness to the core of Christ’s sacrifice: they surrender their lives into God’s hands to do with as He wills. To them, the present cost of their offering counts as nothing in comparison to life with the Lord who awaits them.
On this day we remember 117 martyrs of Vietnam who lost their lives in various persecutions from 1740 to 1883. This group of ninety-six native Vietnamese and twenty-one Spanish and French missionaries suffered some of the most brutal tortures known to Christendom.
Father Paul Le-Bao Tinh testified, “The prison here is a true image of everlasting hell: to cruel tortures of every kind—shackles, iron chains, manacles—are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief…. In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone—Christ is with me.”
Nov 23 | Who is St. Columban?
[From Celtic Spirituality, translated and introduced by Oliver Davies, with the collaboration of Thomas O’Loughlin. © 1999 by Oliver Davies. Published by Paulist Press, Inc., New York/Mahwah, NJ. www.paulistpress.com. Used with permission.]
Nov 21 | Why the Memorial Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary?
My food is to do the will of the one who sent me. (John 4:34)
The story of the presentation of Mary in the Temple as a child captures the essential Gospel portrait of Mary as a woman entirely dedicated not merely to doing but to living the will of God. Her own willing obedience, unhesitatingly given and never revoked, lies at the heart of her life of self-sacrifice offered in love.
“O Virgin Mother of God,” the Byzantine liturgy sings, “you are the subject of the preaching of the prophets and the glory of the apostles. You are the pride of the martyrs and the cause of the renewal of the entire human race, for through you we have been reconciled with God. Wherefore we honor your entrance into the temple of the Lord, repeating to you the salutation of the angel, for we are saved through your intercession, O most honorable one!” “The heavens opened up,” Saint Francis de Sales said, and the whole choir of angels “leaned over the balustrades of the heavenly Jerusalem to see and admire this darling child.”
Here is a meditation of the day we can reflect on as we seek Mary’s intercession and join her in offering ourselves to the Lord.
The Perfectly Presentable Mother of God
Due to his Son’s dignity, God had to give beauty to Mary [to make her] the mold from which the most perfect body of the Word Incarnate would come…. Mary is the faithful mirror where God contemplates and recognizes the beauty of his Son.
Cardinal Cajetan states: “We must believe that the Blessed Virgin has been, as far as possible, like unto Christ in all things.” Just as spiritual beauty is realized in the soul of Christ and of his Mother, sensible beauty has found its complete expression in the body of Jesus and the body of Mary.
The Blessed Virgin has collected to herself the perfections of the exalted women of the Old Testament: the grace of Rebecca, the charm of Rachel, the beauty of Judith, the majestic sweetness of Esther. Her mere presence is an apparition of immaculate beauty. From Saint Gregory Nazianzen, Saint John Damascene, Richard of Saint Victor, Denis the Carthusian, Gerson, and all the way up to the most recent authors writing of Mary, the Fathers and churchmen are unanimous in affirming that the Blessed Virgin is perfectly beautiful…. Both miracle and grace were added to nature so as to form in Mary an array of beauty never before seen and never seen since: the charm of the virgin, the majesty of the mother, perfect integrity and fecundity without equal. She possesses at once both the grace of spring and the riches of summer….
She is beautiful in the Temple of Jerusalem where the divine spirit prepares her for her mysterious destiny. She is beautiful in her maiden chambers where she lives in meditation and prayer. She is beautiful when she cradles the Infant-God or when she caresses him on her breast. She is beautiful in the home at Nazareth, next to the gracious youth who is her son and her God. She is beautiful on the roads of Judah and Galilee, accompanying the heavenly preacher and meditating upon his parables. She is beautiful on the mount of Calvary, when she assists the dying divine one and where she becomes the mother of humanity. She is beautiful in the upper room, where she instructs the Apostles and protects the infant Church. Finally, she is beautiful on the throne of glory where she reigns at the side of Jesus, above all the choirs of angels. She is assuredly the living apparition of beauty, and I understand that the poet has represented the archangel in ecstasy in contemplating Mary’s eyes…. She is one part of the happiness which awaits us in eternity.
By Father Édouard Hugon, o.p.
Father Hugon († 1929) was a Dominican priest, theologian, and retreat preacher. He taught in Rome for many years. [From Mary, Full of Grace: plena sibi, superplena nobis, John G. Brungardt, Tr. © 2019 by Cluny Media, P.O. Box 1664, Providence, RI 02901. www.clunymedia.com Used with permission.]
Nov 18 | Who is St. Rose Philippine Duchesne?
Born in Grenoble, France, Rose entered the Sisters of the Visitation at eighteen, but the French Revolution cut short her novitiate. Eleven years passed before she was able to join the Society of the Sacred Heart at Amiens.
At the age of forty-nine, she made the arduous journey to Saint Charles, Missouri, where the first house of the order was an unheated hut. Schools for girls were established despite a dearth of funds; Saint Rose († 1852) founded the first houses in America of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Rose’s missionary labors on the frontier were capped with a decade of infirmity—and almost continual prayer. A contemporary said: “She was the Saint Francis of Assisi of the Society. Everything in and about her was stamped with the seal of a crucified life.”
Here is a meditation of the day from her (from Philippine Duchesne: Frontier Missionary of the Sacred Heart 1769-1852, Louise Callan, r.s.c.j. © 1957, The Newman Press, Westminster, MD.)
The Prayer of a Good Servant
O my God, I desire to live as a victim offered in a spirit of penance and love. Then let me prepare all that is needed for a sacrifice of love whose perfume will rise even to the Heart of Jesus. May my whole being be the victim, all that I am and all that I have. May my own heart be the altar, my separation from the world and all earthly pleasures the sacrificial knife. May my love be the consuming fire, and my yearning desires the breeze that fans it.
Let me pour on it the incense and perfume of all virtues, and to this mystical sacrifice let me bring all that I cling to, that I may offer all, burn all, consume all, keeping back nothing for self. O Divine Love, my very God, accept this sacrifice which I desire to offer you at every instant of my life.
Nov 17 | Who is St. Elizabeth of Hungary?
Once free of family responsibilities, Saint Elizabeth chose to become poor with the poor despite opposition and persecution. In their name she prayed; to their needs, she devoted all her energies and possessions; in their presence, she found joy in the Lord whom she loved.
Nov 16 | Who is St. Gertrude the Great?
Saint Gertrude the Great through her writing helped spread devotion to the Sacred Heart. She entered the monastery of Helfta, Germany, at the age of five. At twenty-five, having already excelled in her scholarly studies, she underwent a conversion. In a vision, a young man took her by the hand. Gazing at his palm, Gertrude saw “the precious traces of the wounds that abrogated all the acts of accusation of our enemies.” It was Christ Himself who led Gertrude into the prayer of union. Intimacy with His human heart was the hallmark of her writings. Gertrude died in 1301, at the age of forty-six. Saint Gertrude, taught Pope Benedict XVI, “shows us that the heart of a happy life, of a true life, is friendship with the Lord Jesus”
Here is a meditation of the day from her (from the book Gertrud the Great of Helfta: The Herald of God’s Loving-Kindness: Books One & Two)
The Plea of Faith
Hail, my salvation and the light of my soul. May all that is encompassed by the path of heaven, the circle of the earth and the deep abyss give you thanks for the extraordinary grace with which you led my soul to experience and ponder the innermost recesses of my heart…. I became anxiously aware of the many things in my heart which would be offensive to your most chaste purity, and of all the other things so disordered and chaotic that my heart could offer no resting place to you who wished to dwell there. But no more…did this drive you away, Jesus my most beloved, or prevent your honoring me frequently with your visible presence on those days when I came to the life-giving food of your Body and Blood. Though I could see you no more clearly than one sees things at dawn, nonetheless with kindly condescension you induced my soul to exert itself, that it might be united with you more closely…. I cannot find the words to describe how you, the Dayspring from on high…visited me through the depths of your loving-kindness and sweetness.
Giver of gifts, give me this gift: may I henceforward offer on the altar of my heart a sacrifice of joy, that by my supplication I may win for myself and all those whom you have chosen the privilege of enjoying often that sweet union and unifying sweetness…. You endowed me with a clearer light of knowledge of you, in which the sweet love of your loveliness always attracted me more greatly than the harsh punishment I deserved ever castigated me. I do not remember, however, having ever enjoyed such fulfillment except on the days when you invited me to taste the delights of your royal table.
Nov 13 | Who is St. Frances Xavier Cabrini?
I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me. (Mt 25:35)
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, herself an immigrant, was the first United States citizen to be canonized. Her Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart continue the many works she began in order to make the love of Christ visible in care for the multiple needs of immigrants, the sick, the poor, and the uneducated.
Frances Cabrini was born in the Lombardy region of Italy. She took private religious vows at age twenty-seven, adding “Xavier” to her name in honor of the great Jesuit missionary to the East. In 1880, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the aim of evangelizing in China, yet Pope Leo XIII advised her to go “not to the east, but to the west.” Arriving in New York in 1889, she founded an orphanage for children of Italian immigrants. Schools, hospitals, and a prison ministry followed. Frances died in 1917, having established sixty-seven institutes of the order in the United States, Europe, and Central and South America. She is the patroness of immigrants.
Here is a meditation of the day by her
Seeking to Lose…and Save
O Lord, your mercy has urged me to wish to suffer for the love of you, Jesus, and to imitate your life, which was a continual martyrdom. Give me the desire to humble myself for your love…. When I do not feel inclined to follow your holy inspirations, help me to do so. O Heart of Jesus, by the agonizing abandonment which you experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane…which made you sweat blood, help me and give me courage to overcome those obstacles which would make me less pleasing to you.
Yes, yes, O most beloved Jesus, allow me to keep you company in the Garden in place of your disciples who slept. My Jesus, I long…to wipe from your brow the drops of precious blood, with the hope of securing my salvation and the utmost perfection. Lord, unite me closely to you, never let me go away from you, my Love: O Heart of my heart, Life of my life! O most comforting sweetness of my soul! As you have always inspired me, O my God, behold that I offer myself to you today and for all my life as a sacrifice to share your painful agony in the Garden of Gethsemane; and for the dying, that they may obtain the grace to expire in your arms, humbly and contritionally for their sins….
My sweet Immaculate Mother, shelter me with your mantle today; and please accept my vow, which on your feast I shall renew and promise to keep forever, so that I may be guided by your intentions and thereby merit your unfailing protection in my needs and your assistance at my death. Jesus and Mary, in you both I shall find peace for my soul. Amen.
[From Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, Rose Basile Green, Tr. © 1984, The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Chicago, IL. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.]
Nov 12 | Who is St. Josaphat?
Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are. (John 17:11)
Saint Josaphat, bishop and shepherd of his flock, labored and gave his life in tireless pastoral service and in martyrdom for the peaceful unity of the Churches of East and West.
Josaphat was born to Ruthenian Orthodox parents in 1580, in present-day Ukraine. He entered the monastery only a few years after the Ruthenian Orthodox metropolitan had brought the entire church back into communion with Rome, a move that sadly lacked popular support. The young monk worked tirelessly to promote union. After he was elected Archbishop of Polotsk, Josaphat drew many to the Catholic Church by dint of a good example.
On November 12, 1623, supporters of a rival bishop overwhelmed the house where Josaphat was staying. “My children,” he said, “if you have anything against me, here I am.” A bullet ended his life. Josaphat is hailed as the “Martyr of Unity.”
Nov 11 | Who is St. Martin of Tours?
The weapons of our battle are not of flesh but are enormously powerful, capable of destroying fortresses. (2 Cor 10:4)
Saint Martin translated his long military career into a campaign of spiritual warfare against the paganism and the temptations to worldly wealth that threatened the people of the Church he served as monk and as bishop.
Martin was born in Pannonia (modern Hungary), and became a catechumen at the age of ten. While serving in the Roman army, he met a poor, half-clothed man outside the city gate of Amiens. Martin drew his sword and divided his own cloak in two, giving half to the naked man. That night, he saw Jesus in a vision. “Martin, who is still but a catechumen, gave me this robe,” our Lord told the angels. After this, Martin “flew to be baptized.” After he resigned from the army, he founded a monastic community in Gaul (modern France). In 372, he was elected Bishop of Tours, where he served his flock with great care until his death in 397.
Saint Martin is perhaps best remembered for the story noted above; for tearing his warm cloak in half and sharing it with a shivering beggar, only to discover later in a dream that the beggar was Christ. He never lost this love for the poor or for a life of personal poverty in service of the Gospel.
Today is Veterans Day where we honor all the military men and women who have put aside their own lives to protect our freedom. It is known internationally as Armistice Day.
World War I, or “The Great War,” as it was known at the time, officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside of Versailles, France.
In actuality, fighting had ceased seven months before that — on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month — Nov. 11, 1918. An armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on that day, and for that reason Nov. 11 came to be known as Armistice Day.
Saint Martin testifies to the fact that faithful service also can lead to sanctity.
He shows us that there are other ways to die for Christ.
Here’s one of his most famous quotes “Lord, if your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if you bid me continue to hold the battle line in defense of your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work you entrust to me. While you command, I will fight beneath your banner.”
I will not avoid the toil. Six little words that say volumes.
Not avoiding the toil means hanging in there, day after day, through thick and thin, and remaining faithful to my Christian ideals and all that the Church — that Christ himself — asks of me.
It means not shirking my responsibilities to my fellow man and not skimping on my prayer and sacramental life.
It means following God’s every command without question and to the best of my ability, regardless of whether I agree with it or not.
It means showing fervor and love of Christ in all I do, in spite of human frailty, laziness, or indifference.
Sounds a lot like the life of a soldier, doesn’t it?
It is. It’s the life of a soldier for Christ.
That’s what Saint Martin of Tours was and still is. He’s a great example for all of us and the perfect patron for our military men and women who face the toil of military life day in and day out.
So let us pray for the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual safety of all our military personnel. Pray for the repose of the souls of the departed military. And pray, for ourselves and for the entire Church, that we may be given the grace and strength to fight the good fight and not avoid the toil.
Nov 10 | Who is St. Leo the Great?
Jesus said, “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” (cf. Matthew 7:24)
Saint Leo the Great prayed, lived, and taught the wisdom of God’s Word made flesh. On that rock he sought to build up the faith of the Church, God’s house, which he served as pope.
A native of Tuscany in Italy, Leo the Great was elected pope in 440. He considered himself to be Saint Peter’s unworthy heir as Bishop of Rome. His epistle 28, known as the Tome to Flavian, authoritatively taught the Church’s faith in Jesus Christ. After it was read at the Council of Chalcedon (451), the shout “Peter has spoken through Leo” was heard from the Council Fathers. Leo’s preaching stirred his people to greater faith in Christ and care for Christ’s poor. In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church still reads from several of his sermons, including this passage on Christmas Day: “Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition.”
Nov 9 | Why the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica?
You are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of the nether world shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
The basilica of Saint John Lateran, the cathedral of the pope as Bishop of Rome, is called the “mother church” of Rome and of the world. As such, it is a visible symbol of the universal Church. It calls us to look toward the house of God in the new Jerusalem, toward which the earthly Church is on pilgrimage.
The first basilica of Rome, a renovated palace of the Lateran family, was consecrated on this date in 324 as the Church of the Most Holy Savior. Nearby communities of monks lent it the name of Saint John. Saint John Lateran is the pope’s basilica. Fire and earthquake have repeatedly destroyed the structure; each time it has been rebuilt with care. “The beauty and the harmony of churches, destined to render praise to God, invite us human beings too, though limited and sinful, to convert ourselves to form a ‘cosmos,’ a well-ordered construction, in close communion with Jesus, who is the true Holy of Holies” (Saint John Paul II).
Nov 4 | Who is St Charles Borromeo?
As both a civil and a canon lawyer, as well as a bishop, Saint Charles understood the pastoral work of law-giving according to the model of Christ. His unflagging efforts to promote Christian life and Church reform were prompted by a profoundly self-sacrificing love of Christ living in the Church.
Born at the Castle of Arona in northern Italy, Charles Borromeo studied canon and civil law. After his uncle was elected Pope Pius IV, Charles received a number of powerful preferments, yet his energies were bent toward reform. He guided the final session of the Council of Trent. When he was appointed to Milan, a diocese that had lacked a resident bishop for eighty years, Charles renewed catechesis and led the mostly lax clergy by his own austere example and diligent preaching: “We ought to walk in front,” he told his priests, “and our spiritual subjects will follow us more easily.”
When the plague hit Milan, he nursed the sick and even saw that the curtains in his palace, his clothes and other possessions were turned into money for medicine for the poor. Charles, the Archbishop of Milan, was usually seen in rags. He taught catechism, found the sick and elderly places to stay, established schools and ran the diocese. He lived a life of prayer, slept little and ate less. He once said, “Here all kinds of poor will be housed, outsiders as well as Milanese; men, women, children because charity knows no distinction of nations, and we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord.” Work and the heavy burdens of his high office began to affect Archbishop Borromeo’s health, leading to his death at the age of 46, Charles died in 1584.
For further reflection, read “How St. Charles Borromeo braved the epidemic of his time” https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2020/03/de-mattei-how-st-charles-borromeo.html
Nov 3 | Who is St. Martin de Porres?
Martin was born the son of a Spanish nobleman and a former slave in Peru. As a young man, he trained as a barber and applied to be a servant at the Dominican Convent of the Holy Rosary, where he eventually took vows as a lay brother. Martin loved the menial tasks: cooking, cleaning, and feeding the unwanted and the abandoned. In the infirmary he cured the sick, and in the backyard he fed the mice, whose language he seemed to know. Martin died in 1639 at the age of sixty. His attributes in art are a broom and the mice that hearkened to his word. _________
“He excused the faults of others. He forgave the bitterest injuries, convinced that he deserved much severer punishments on account of his own sins. He tried with all his might to redeem the guilty; lovingly he comforted the sick; he provided food, clothing and medicine for the poor; he helped, as best he could, farm laborers and Negroes, as well as mulattoes, who were looked upon at that time as akin to slaves: thus he deserved to be called by the name the people gave him: ‘Martin of Charity.'” — Pope John XXIII regarding St. Martin de Porres
For more about this awesome hero of our faith see the following https://youtu.be/SuSZKazd8jg https://aleteia.org/2019/11/03/how-st-martin-de-porres-taught-this-priest-sculptor-about-racism/
Nov 2 | Why All Souls Day?
In his encyclical Spe Salvi [Saved in Hope], Pope Benedict XVI says that when we come face-to-face with Jesus, “all falsehood melts away.” As we encounter Him whose love has conquered all evil, “we absorb the overwhelming power of His love” into our hearts. That love is so strong that it burns away whatever evil or sin remains in us. Pope Benedict calls this “the pain of love” (47). It’s something that can be painful—but joyful too—because it ultimately brings us salvation. We can look at it as God’s way of loving the sin out of us.
So take heart! God wants to keep cleansing you, even after death. He wants to bring you into the joys of heaven—you and all your loved ones. So pray for your loved ones. Ask the Holy Spirit to help them pass through this “pain of love” so that they can see God face-to-face!
“Lord, bring all those who have died in friendship with you into heavenly joy!”
The commemoration of All Souls is rooted in the Church’s strong conviction that we, the living, have a serious responsibility in charity to pray for those who have died but who must yet complete the purification every human being needs to be able to enjoy the vision of God.
“In praying for the dead, the Church above all contemplates the mystery of the Resurrection of Christ, who obtains salvation and eternal life for us through his Cross…. To believe in the resurrection of the flesh is to recognize that there is a final end, an ultimate goal for all human life, which so satisfies man’s appetite that nothing else is left for him to desire…. Joined to the merits of the saints, our fraternal prayer comes to the aid of those who await the beatific vision. Intercession for the dead, just as the life of those living according to the divine commandments, obtains the merits that serve the full attainment of salvation. It is an expression of the fraternal charity of the one family of God…. Contemplation of the lives of those who have followed Christ encourages us to lead a good, upright Christian life so that we can prepare ourselves each day for eternal life.”—Saint John Paul II
Oct 28 | Who are Saints Simon and Jude?
Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. (Jer 7:23)
The voice of the Lord is full of power! He calls each of us, like the Apostles Simon and Jude, to be His voice to the world, knowing that wherever we go, He will follow.
Simon and Jude were among the twelve men Jesus chose to lead His Church. Tradition holds that after Pentecost Simon preached the Gospel in Edessa and Jude in Egypt. The two Apostles met in Persia, where they suffered martyrdom on the same day. “Our Lord has appointed certain men to be guides and teachers of the world and stewards of his divine mysteries. Now he bids them to shine out like lamps and to cast their light over every country. These holy men become the pillar and mainstay of the truth, and Jesus said that he was sending them just as the Father had sent him” (Saint Cyril of Alexandria).
Oct 24 | Who is St Anthony Mary Claret?
Ordained in 1835, Anthony Claret was appointed apostolic missionary to his native region of Spain, Catalonia, where he founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (the Claretians) for the work of evangelization.
Shortly thereafter he was appointed Archbishop of Santiago, Cuba, an assignment he did not want. “My spirit goes out to all the world,” he told the apostolic nuncio. Yet, after prayer, discernment, and consultation with friends, Anthony accepted. At his episcopal ordination, he added “Mary” to his name: “She is my Mother, my protector, my teacher, my all, after Jesus.” After six years of fruitful work in Cuba, he was recalled to serve Queen Isabella in Spain. He died in 1870.
Oct 23 | Who is St John of Capistrano?
In the United States, the name of Capistrano evokes the celebrated story of the swallows that return yearly on March 19 to nest in the California Mission named after the Franciscan Saint John.
Born in Capistrano, Italy, in 1385, John was trained in civil and ecclesiastical law. He left behind a promising career to enter the Franciscans. He preached to great crowds throughout Europe before he was tapped to serve in a series of diplomatic roles for the Holy See.
At the age of seventy, he helped to plan a crusade against the Ottomans who threatened Belgrade, leading soldiers into battle under a standard bearing the Holy Name of Jesus. He died a few months later.
May we profess in word and deed the faith for which blessed John of Capistrano never ceased to labor and for which he spent his whole life.
St. John of Capistrano, pray for us!
Oct 22 | Who is St John Paul?
Saint John Paul II liked to quote Saint Augustine: “We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!” Through years of painful unity with Christ’s cross, he focused always on the Resurrection. Just as every Sunday is a little Easter, so is every single sunrise a reminder of God’s glorious victory over sin and death.
John Paul II was born Karol Wojtyła in Wadowice, Poland, in 1920. He labored in a quarry during the Nazi occupation of Poland. He served as a priest and then a bishop under the succeeding Soviet regime. He has lived and suffered under two successive socialist regimes, so he had no difficulty identifying its errors and falsehoods. His experience immunized him against claims that socialism is the path to justice and peace https://bit.ly/2Ho9ogw
Upon his election as pope in 1978, his first words were those of Christ: “Be not afraid.” Later he wrote, “Peoples and nations of the entire world need to hear these words. Their conscience needs to grow in the certainty that Someone exists who holds in his hands the destiny of this passing world…. And this Someone is Love—Love that became man, Love crucified and risen, Love unceasingly present among men.” John Paul II died on April 2, 2005.
Oct 20 | Who is St. Paul of the Cross?
St. Paul Francis Daneii was born in northern Italy in 1694. His parents were deeply devoted Catholics who raised him in the faith. He lived at a time when many regarded Jesus as a great moral teacher but no more. After a brief time as a soldier, he turned to solitary prayer, developing a devotion to Christ’s passion. Paul saw in the Lord’s passion a demonstration of God’s love for all people. In turn that devotion nurtured his compassion and supported a preaching ministry that touched the hearts of many listeners. He was known as one of the most popular preachers of his day, even hardened men wept at his words, he was known both for his words and for his generous acts of mercy.
Let us model St. Paul of the Cross today, here is what he says— “When you are alone in your room, take your crucifix, kiss its five wounds reverently, tell it to preach to you a little sermon, and then listen to the words of eternal life that it speaks to your heart; listen to the pleading of the thorns, the nails, the precious Blood. Oh, what an eloquent sermon!”
Oct 19 | Who are Saints John de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues, and Companions?
The missions grew, watered by their blood, which was spilled in various massacres from 1642 to 1649. In the years that followed, many of the natives accepted Christ, most notably Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, who was born in the same village near Auriesville, New York, where three of the martyrs attained their crowns.
O God of the martyrs, You called and strengthened Saints Isaac, John, and their companions to preach the Gospel by their steadfastness in fidelity, even unto death. Through their example and their intercession, strengthen us in faithfulness to live the Good News of salvation, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Oct 18 | Who is St. Ignatius of Antioch?
Tradition holds that Ignatius was instructed by St. John the Apostle before he became Bishop of Antioch. Of Syrian origin, Ignatius served as the third Bishop of Antioch for forty years until he was arrested and escorted to Rome, where he died for sport, torn apart by lions, in the amphitheater around the year 107. The seven letters he composed on this journey inspired generations of persecuted Christians. “Let me be food for the wild beasts,” he begged his brethren in Rome, “for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God.”
Prayer to Our Lady of Mercy
St. Augustine of Hippo
Blessed Virgin Mary, who can worthily repay you with praise and thanks for having rescued a fallen world by your generous consent! Receive our gratitude, and by your prayers obtain the pardon of our sins. Take our prayers into the sanctuary of heaven and enable them to make our peace with God.
Holy Mary, help the miserable, strengthen the discouraged, comfort the sorrowful, pray for your people, plead for the clergy, intercede for all women consecrated to God. May all who venerate you feel now your help and protection. Be ready to help us when we pray, and bring back to us the answers to our prayers. Make it your continual concern to pray for the people of God, for you were blessed by God and were made worthy to bear the Redeemer of the world, who lives and reigns forever.