Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo from “The City of God

Friday, December 30, 2005

Blessed Mother Mary of St. Joseph

Blessed Mother Mary of St. Joseph

Mother Mary of St. Joseph was born in Choroni, Venezuela, on 25 April 1875, and received the name Laura Evangelista at Baptism. From very early she displayed a very strong moral character. Her desire was to become a cloistered nun but there were no cloistered convents in Venezuela. The feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1888 was an unforgettable day for her: she received Jesus in Holy Communion for the first time and made a private vow of virginity, consecrating herself as a bride of Jesus Christ.

She began instructing poor children at home, supporting the project financially with her own labour. She took her parish priest in Maracay, Fr Vicente Lopez Aveledo, as a spiritual director and under his guidance made a vow of perpetual virginity. During 1893 smallpox epidemic in Maracay, she devoted herself to the care of the sick in the first hospital founded by her parish priest. The work was difficult, the poverty total, but nothing caused her to waver. She said: "My Jesus, the ideal I seek is you and you alone. Nothing frightens me. I want to be a saint, but a true saint". This became the motivation of her entire life. Her example encouraged other young women to offer their services and in 1896 she was appointed Directress of the hospital. Her dream to found an institute dedicated to the care of orphans and the aged became a reality with the help of Father Vincente and the permission of the Vicar General of Caracas, Msgr Juan Castro.

In February 1901 she and Fr Lopez Aveledo founded a congregation of sisters for the assistance and care of the sick, the elderly and orphans, called the Augustinian Recollects of the Heart of Jesus. In 1902 Laura confirmed the vow of virginity she had made at 17. On 13 September 1903, by a special privilege granted to her by the Holy See as the foundress of the community, she made her perpetual vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, changing her name from Laura to Maria of St Joseph.

Consumed by her love for God and possessing a great capacity to sacrifice, charity and humility she founded 37 homes for the elderly and orphans as well as hospitals in La Victoria, Villa de Cura, Coro, Calabozo, Ocumare del Tuy, Barquisimeto, Los Teques, San Felipe, Puerto Cabello, Caracas and Valencia. Many towns and cities experienced the boundless love of Mother Maria and her daughters. She said: "Those rejected by everyone are ours; those no one wants to take are ours".

Her life was a union of deep contemplation and intense activity for others. She identified with Mary's love for the Eucharist and spent many hours at night before the tabernacle in intimate conversation with Jesus. Her whole life was to be illuminated by the Divine Son, the Eucharistic presence of her Beloved. From Him she received her joy, peace and consolation for her soul, always hungry for this infinite God, made into a man turned to bread to be loved by mankind. The Eucharist is “sacrament-sacrifice”, ‘sacrament-communion” and “sacrament-presence”. In the soul that receives it, it becomes the word and the life, and in a fraternal community, it produces and signifies the unity of the Spirit. She loved the Sacramental Jesus, she imprinted in her on life the character of the Holy Host, love, sacrifice, humility, adoration and silence.

Motivated by this love, she made hosts with her own hands and distributed them freely to parishes, a work she recommended to her daughters which they still do and distribute at no cost.

After a long illness, which she bore with great strength of soul, she died in the odour of sanctity in Maracay on 2 April 1967, at the age of 92. As she had requested, she was buried in the chapel of the Immaculate Conception Home in Maracay at the foot of the altar with a purple flower and to white lilies in her hand.

On January 19, 1994, during the process of her beatification her body was exhumed. Although the coffin was completely destroyed, her body and religious habit were perfectly preserved as well as the crucifix and branch of lilies, the lilies and branches which are still fresh and green to this day.

To this faithful servant, who made of her mortal body a temple, God granted the gift of preserving her body incorrupt. It lies presently in a glass coffin, testimony to the holiness to which she aspired as well as a tangible sign of the love of God for us.

Mother Mary of St. Joseph was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Rome on May 7, 1995.

Quotes from Blessed Mother Mary of St. Joseph

Let us be good expecting no reward. It shall be given in Heaven.

As a pure Host, I want to immolate myself and for tour of love, offer myself in sacrifice every instant, my Lord.

The Eucharist and Calvary are our life. The cross in religious life is sweet and soft. How sweet and soft it is for one to live in Calvary and the Sacracy. How beautiful it is to live embracing the Holy Tree, the dear word, to later be completely crucified in it, to turn our eyes to the Tabernacle! Oh how pleasurable and consoling this is! Oh bless You, Divine Eucharist!

Let me learn to love You greatly and to give my life for Eucharistic Love…. To love You, not with my lips, but by identifying myself with You, by being docile and humble, like Your Heart.

I wish to live and die singing the Magnificat.

As for myself I ask nothing but love and Heaven. Yes, my Jesus to possess You completely is all I want, nothing more.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Saint Joan of Arc-Martyr

Joan d'Arc was born in the year 1412 to peasant stock her father, Jacques d'Arc was not known for his humour and struggled to maintain his patience in most things. Jacques wife, Isabelle made up for her husbands rather taciturn manner and was able to keep a happy home atmosphere especially as times were difficult in France as people struggled to maintain a viable lifestyle.

Things were made even more difficult in that France and England were still enmeshed in war, as England and Burgundy were able to conquer many regions in France. This brought much suffering to the people as the spoils of war went to the conquerors, this also fostered in the hearts of the French a deep dislike for the British. As each family prayed for their freedom to become one country united for the better good of all.

Joan lived her early life helping her Mother, with daily chores and learning from her mother the womanly skills that most need to run an economic home. For like many young people of her background Joan had little education, so along with her other siblings she learnt to sew, cook and also the various herbs needed to help in times of sickness.

But through the example of her mother, Joan also developed a love of prayer and the Church, and to help those who were even less fortunate than herself. Joan had inherited her mothers happy disposition and from her father she inherited a stubborn will and iron determination, all these traits would hold her in good stead.

It was at the young age of 14 that Joan started to experience visions with visits from St. Michael the Archangel who led the war against the great foe, Satan. She also had visions of St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Margaret whereupon she promised to remain chaste for the rest of her life. Even though Joan was experiencing these mystical visions she still kept up with her chores and maintained her normality and total humility. She kept these visions in her heart of hearts for fear of her father finding out and ridiculing her voices.

Times were very difficult for the de'Arc family as it was for many in their region when sometimes at a moments notice they would have to flee from their homes as the enemy drew near. This made Jacque especially angry for like all French men he was proud of his country and longed for unity but not at any price. It also made it very difficult for this proud father to provide a good living for his family, as they struggled to feed and clothe themselves.

With her usual intuitive nature Joan sensed that the last thing her father would wish to hear was that she was the recipient of Divine messages, so she maintained her silence and prayed much to discover what God wished from her. Joan was also puzzled as to why God would choose her to do His Will when there were so many more knowledgeable people than herself. In true humility and meekness, Joan saw nothing special in and of herself.

This young girl also possessed an uncommon trust in her Lord and Savoir, and so would do all that He bid her to do at the request of her voices. After receiving them for near two years, Joan's mission was finally revealed to her, she a simple maiden would lead her beloved France to victory over England and to drive the English back to their native shores.

Joan's own disposition worked in her favour in that she was resolute, fiercely patriotic with a courage that surpassed many men, she was also determined to fulfil what God had requested of her, no matter the personal cost. Joan truly had the courage of a lion and the zeal of a prophet as she listened to her voices and obeyed them.

It was when Joan turned 16 years of age that the voices became urgent and so Joan set out to meet Robert de Baudricourt who was in command of the Princes forces. But upon receiving her Robert just as quickly dismissed her as a whimsical and silly girl who dreamed dreams, where as he commanded armies. Joan then returned back to her home accompanied by her Uncle, upon their return Joan tried to live a life of normalcy but the voices were insistent and told her with severity, "It is God who commands it."

Joan could not argue against God so she returned to see Robert de Baudricourt in secret, this proved fortuitous when their military position became so precarious that the English were at the door of Orleans itself! Robert agreed that Joan could speak with the Prince and sent with her 3 of his soldiers, Joan then set of on her mission dressed in the attire of a man in order to escape undue notice by the other soldiers. Joan eventually reached Chinon where the Prince held Court, but like Robert de Baudricourt he too was sceptical of this young girl who dressed as a young man. So he set a trap and when Joan received a summons to see the Prince he very craftily dressed himself as one of the servants, but Joan who had never seen the Prince recognised him immediately and walked with great purpose to the Prince, where she gave a sign that only the Prince and Joan knew of.

This led the Prince to pay more attention to this young peasant girl, even if members of his court were not quite so taken with her, Joan paid little heed to their sniping. But during this time Joan made an enemy of one of the Princes friend, La Tremouille who felt compelled to set on a mission to discredit Joan. So under direction from his friend La Tremouille Joan was sent to Poitiers in order to be questioned by the great theologians of the day.

The theologians sided with Joan and found no irregularities in her persona or beliefs and suggested that the Prince listen to this young woman with her message for France. Whereupon, Joan who had been totally exonerated returned to Chinon, to the Princes side, where she set out a plan to rid France of the dreaded English invaders at the behest of God. As an army was organized a banner was made bearing the words 'Jesus Maria' which also bore a picture of God the Father and of the fleur de lis which was the symbol of the Princes coat of arms.

When Joan and her army were ready she made a dazzling picture in her armour with her brunette hair cut short. She was fierce and unafraid at what faced her for she had placed all her trust in God and that was sufficient for her, for though she was merely a weak creature God would achieve great things through this young maiden. During their battles the soldiers too gained a new respect for this 'maid of Orleans' as she fought with them side by side, with more courage than any man they had ever seen, Joan truly showed no fear only fierce and determined courage! Even though she had been wounded in the battle Joan kept on fighting and kept up her raids on the English garrison.

Joan's fierceness also held a secret in that the voices told her she would not live a long life, so this gave Joan even greater incentive to keep going and continue to fight the British invaders. But once again Joan was kept waiting as La Tremouille insisted on negotiating a peace pact with the British, he was also supported by the Archbishop of Rheims. One can only wonder if La Tremouille was perhaps intent on discrediting Joan at any cost including selling out their own country. For it must have seemed incredulous to this man of great intelligence that the honour upon such a victory would be Joan's and not his!

With her usual doggedness Joan continued the war on the British troops as she fought them along the Loire with the assistance of Duc d'Alencon the fray ended with victory for both Joan and Duc d'Alencon at Patay, in which the English troops led by Sir John Falstoff were never able to regroup after this grievous defeat. Duc d'Alencon was filled with the glorious feeling of finally beating the unconquerable British forces!

Upon this major victory Joan was now insisting that the Prince be crowned King, as she tried to fulfil what God had requested of her through her voices. After some discussion the Prince was crowned King Charless VII in 1492. But the new King lacked Joan's courage and resolute character as he bandied back and forth from one courtier to another before making any decisions. This indecision shown by the King would lead to the first defeat suffered by Joan and the Duc d'Alencon at Paris, where once again Joan suffered an injury during the conflict.

But Joan was not one to sit back and accept defeat quietly and upon hearing of another campaign in Compiegne which was under attack by the Burgundians Joan once again rose to the challenge. Unfortunately Joan through a grave miscalculation was captured and held prisoner she was held captive by John of Luxembourg this was a great coup for John as he hoped it would demoralise the French troops. But Joan with typical courage jumped from the castle tower but her freedom was short-lived and to the shame of King Charles VII who made no attempt for Joan’s release.

The British with real venom wanted this woman who had been a scourge to them as she a young woman of limited education outwitted the greatest military tacticians of the day. The Burgundians eventually sold Joan to the British forces for 10 thousand francs. This great warrior woman was left to fend for herself, even though without her help King Charles VII would never have reached the throne!

Joan the suffered the indignity of a kangaroo court as allegations of witchcraft and sorcery were charged against her. And though Joan suffered many indignities this did not lessen her love of God nor question His Majestic Wisdom. If anything Joan would often outwit her persecutors as she answered their loaded questions with honesty, integrity, piety and shrewdness.

But though Joan was shrewd she was also not a theologian and with trick questions the 'courts' were able to use this against her and with great shame the theologians at the university of Paris gave their ascent to Joan's misguided responses which helped seal her doom!

Upon being proclaimed guilty of sorcery Joan was then given the chance to escape the death sentence if she confessed that her voices were of the devil and not of God. Joan who in a moment of weakness upon seeing the pyre of wood fell to her knees and agreed that she had spoken falsely. But upon being led back to her prison, Joan's courage shone through and she re-canted her momentary lapse into weakness. This momentary faintheartedness shown by Joan merely solidifies her true and real courage, for we must remember this was a young girl, who was facing the most horrific way of dying, being burnt alive. She faced up to this with heroic bravery for one so young, she truly was a soldier for God!

Joan never wavered in her love for God and even though the events in her life led to her doom, she continued to show that one must not only live for what they believe but one must also die for the same beliefs.

Joan decided she could not live with a lie, but she could die for truth, and with true heroic virtue she did just that.

Joan d' Arc died in 1431.

Saint Joan of Arc was canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 23, 2005

St. Nicholas of Myra

There have been many legends concerning St. Nicholas but exactly who is Nicholas?

Nicholas, was born into a relatively prosperous family around the third century, in the town of Patara, Turkey. He was fortunate in that both of his parents were Christians and passed on their Faith to their son, before they died from an epidemic which had affected the whole region.

Being that Nicholas parents were so very devout upon receiving his inheritance, the young Nicholas gave all his wealth to the poor. He had taken Jesus Gospel message of selling all you have to aid the poor seriously and so he did. For the young Nicholas did not hanker after 'worldly' goods, for he had seen with the death of his own parents, that life was short so be generous now and do not hesitate to give.

But Nicholas gave more than his money; he also dedicated his life to serving the poor, visiting the sick and lonely. His love of God shone through everything he did and his cheerful exterior hid the interior penances and sacrifices he made for the salvation of souls.

At a very young age Nicholas was ordained a Bishop in the region of Myra, but though he gained this honour at a young age, Nicholas kept his humility and meekness of spirit to the forefront, as he continued to live a simple life of helping his flock.

And through the example of Jesus, Bishop Nicholas shepherded his people well, even unto experiencing miracles. But also like Jesus Bishop Nicholas was also subjected to imprisonment and various humiliations under the evil leadership of Emperor Diocletian.

Bishop Nicholas was released from imprisonment as he was able to attend the Council of Nicaea in the year 325 AD, though some historians dispute this.

But what we do know of St. Nicholas is that he was a kind, gentle and generous man who tended to the welfare of the people in his region, while always keeping a gentle and humble heart.

There have been many stories attributed to St. Nicholas one of these being that the Bishop upon hearing that a father was destitute and was trying to sell his own daughters into slavery. Bishop Nicholas very quickly intervened and saved both father and daughters from a catastrophe, for in those times, it was necessary for each daughter to have a dowry. The poor father had no money, but through the compassionate intervention of Bishop Nicholas, the home of this man was kept safe, as at different times bags of gold would appear at this fathers home which supplied his daughters with the necessary dowry.

Another story is that of three students who upon traveling in a dangerous region were murdered, Bishop Nicholas saw what had happened in a dream and was horrified! As he happened to be close by the Bishop went immediately to the murdered students and upon praying over their dead bodies, all three students rose from the dead.

There is much more to Saint Nicholas than his giving presents to the poor, for Bishop Nicholas gave them a treasure greater than any present, he gave them his love.

And it is this love that should be the real lesson of Christmas, in that St. Nicholas gave of himself to all he met in living out the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. It is through the example of St. Nicholas that we learn Christmas is not about buying the best; it is about giving the best of yourself to benefit others in a spirit of love and compassion.

Merry Christmas to you ALL

Peace of Christ

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Blessed Leonid Feodorov

Russia is a land of melancholy poets and writers, where the dark and wintry nights lay bear the souls loneliness and lights the flame of some of Russia's greatest writers and artisans.

In a landscape as harsh as Russia, the people have learnt over generations to be stoic of heart and long suffering by nature. For at the core of Russia lay its people and their struggle to overcome poverty, persecution and war.

The Russian people are not known for their timidity, but for their fierceness, for to live well in Russia one had to learn to survive at a very young age or perish. It is a land of contrasts, where Palaces live alongside hovels and nature alongside polluted factories, a land of revolutions and times of peace. But in the end Russia is about survivors.

Into this harsh landscape was born Leonid Feodorov in the year 1879 at Saint Petersburg. Unfortunately for the young Leonid his father died while he was young and it was left to his forceful mother, Liubova to raise him. She did so with every means available to her, in that she longed for her son to gain the education needed to get on in life and not live a life of mere existence.

Towards this end Liubova sent her son to the Orthodox Ecclesiastical Academy where he stayed for a couple of years. But it was at this school that he began to question his Orthodox Faith and as the questions mounted in his heart, so he leaned more and more towards Catholicism.

During this time Leonid began attending services at Saint Catherine’s Catholic Church, and so began a friendship with the Priest of this parish, Fr. Jan Szyslawski, who knowing of Leonid’s confusion was able to lend him books from the parish library.

So during the long wintry nights Leonid would stay up late and read these books on the Catholic faith, its teachings and its Traditions. But the more Leonid learnt the more dissatisfied he became with Orthodox teachings. These were perplexing times for the young Leonid as questions soon became resolutions as to which way God was calling him.

Upon talking to the Rector of his school, Leonid decided to visit Rome and on the way stayed at L'viv with his friend Andrew Sheptystsky, before continuing his journey, both physically and spiritually.

It was in 1902 that Leonid made his decision to convert to the Catholic Faith, where he was presented to Pope Leo III and entered the Pontifical College at Anagni. He struggled at first to master both Italian and Latin but with his usual tenacity it didn’t take Leonid long to be fluent in both languages.

Great things began to happen in Leonid’s life as he attended the coronation of Saint Pius X and when in 1905 he gained his Doctorate in Philosophy and a Bachelor of Theology. In gaining these degrees the next step would be the Priesthood but before taking this step Leonid first became a Deacon where he was ordained by Bishop Michael Mirov of Constantinople. Leonid was then ordained a Priest a few weeks later by the same Bishop.

Though Leonid had proved himself to be of vast intellect it was the monastic life which he felt compelled to follow and so Fr. Leonid entered a Monastic Order in Bosnia under the guidance of the starets, Elder Josaphat. And it was Fr. Josaphat that gave Leonid his tonsure and little habit, where upon Leonid took the name Father Leontios.

But politics was never far away and the Serbian people were very much opposed to having a Catholic monastery in their midst and so in the year 1913, the little monastery was closed.

So in 1913 as the political situation destabilised in Serbia Fr. Leonid decided to return to his homeland, Russia where he could then embark on evangelising the people. But fate was not to be kind to Fr. Leonid who's faith would soon be tempered in steel. For upon arriving in St. Petersburg he was arrested and sent to Tobolsk a very inhospitable land in the Ural Mountains, where he spent the next 3 years.

But things did not quieten down as rumours of revolution swirled around the courts of Imperial Russia. So in haste Leonid was proclaimed a Bishop of the Russian Catholic Church, this was done in secrecy as even the Royal Czar was opposed to a Catholic 'presence'.

It was during this time that Exarch Leonid remembered a prophetic statement he had made when he was at Anagni, "Russia will not repent without travelling the Red Sea of the blood of her martyrs and numerous sufferings of her apostles." How true his words would be, much to his and his people's sorrow.

And so it was that the red terror would launch itself upon the world in the form of its leader Lenin a name synonymous with evil. And under the Communist regime the persecution of the Church began, for Lenin understood that the greatest threat to his power would come from the Catholic Church.

And so the order went out to arrest Catholic Priests, Monsignors and Bishops among which was Bishop Leonid Feodorov. During the bogus trial Bishop Leonid was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Siberia.

These were hard and difficult years for Bishop Leonid, in such an unforgiving terrain as Siberia, but through it all his Faith sustained him and his prayer life strengthened him for the rigours which lay ahead of him.

Bishop Leonid would find himself released and upon practicing his Faith he would then be re-arrested but his Faith in God was tempered in steel and the communists could never break this heart forged in the love of God and the Church.

For nothing would stand in the way of this indomitable Bishop as he secretly held Mass and gave Catechism classes to the youth and those who wished to learn about the Catholic Church.

Through it all, confusion, decision, peace, war, revolution and persecution. Bishop Leonid’s Faith remained intact if not strengthened by his ordeals.

Bishop Leonid Feodorov died in 1935.

Blessed Leonid Feodorov was beatified in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.

Peace of Christ to ALL
Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Saint Clare of Assisi

Clare was born into a noble family in the year 1194, they were able to maintain their comfortable living style due to the good business acumen of her father, Favorino Scifi, and the large estates he owned. But this comfortable existence meant little to the young Clare, who learnt her Faith from her very devout mother, Ortolana, who taught Clare at a very young age to pray and place God at the centre of her life.

It was also through observing her mother's actions when practicing the corporal works of mercy which in later life would distinguish Clare from her contemporaries. For unlike many wealthy people, Ortolana treated those who were less well off with due respect and consideration, her daughter Clare would later emulate this care for the poor without demeaning their dignity.

And even though war at times disrupted the family's daily routine it did not lead them to doubt God's Wisdom as the Scifi household accepted all as if it were from the hand of God.

But from early childhood Clare gravitated towards a prayerful encounter with her beloved Jesus and also practiced many penances and mortifications which was considered normal for the age that she lived in. This is not to say that Clare was dour and gloomy, for within Clare lay a glowing light of love for God and for people which shone within her so that many who would come into contact with her felt blessed by this remarkable young lady.

Because Clare was born into the nobility this also meant that she was highly intelligent, eloquent and could correspond with clarity her idea's and thoughts to others in a way that articulated her longing to become closer to her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But though Clare was learned she loved God from her heart with a simplicity that was granted to few.

Clare was also a strong woman who knew her own mind and where her heart was guiding her, and though she had this inner strength it was matched with an equal amount of humility and meekness. And through her correspondence she shared her thoughts on the depths of her spirituality and what it means to love God with all of ones entire being.

And though strong of heart and mind, she was also highly intuitive and embraced her femininity without vanity. For upon Clare's face was always a smile no matter what difficulties she was facing or how many interior trials she was undergoing, Clare kept her sense of self, by acknowledging that all she had came from a loving God, therefore nothing belonged to her, not even her thoughts.

To love God is to mirror His Divinity; Clare did this beautifully as she displayed a love and generosity towards all with a spirit of joy and tranquility. For Clare needed no artifice to impress others, but instead lived to please God.

So through deep prayer Clare sought out what was God's Will when it came to living her life so it was that Francis came into her life at a crucial moment. For like Francis, Clare had a burning desire and a zealous spirit to love God till it costs; she was not a woman for halfway measures. Upon hearing Francis speak at the Cathedral of San Rufino, Clare was deeply impressed and moved to contact this fiery but sensitive man of peace who embraced and lived the fire of God's Majestic love.

It was through seeing Francis and his zealous love for God that was to be the start of Clare's spiritual quest to serve and love God through prayer and service to those in need. And so Clare in great secrecy met Francis in the company of her Aunt and upon hearing her ardent desire to serve God, Francis then accepted this erstwhile young lady into his way of life and spirituality. So in complete humility Clare lay aside all her fine garments and replaced them with worn out rags stitched together to form a habit. And further it was Francis who clipped her beautiful hair as a sign of her obedience and lack of vanity.

Upon taking these actions Clare then went to live with the Benedictines nuns at San Paolo, her she continued to live a life of deep austerity and a continued her prayer life as one beloved of God. But even though Clare's happiness was complete not everyone felt this same joy, for her father objected vigorously to the steps his beautiful daughter had taken and tried to forcibly remove her from the Convent.

But Clare was formidable when it came to matters of Faith and though she loved her father, she loved God more and so she with a gentle but firm heart refused to leave the Mission on which she and Francis had embarked on. And so Clare with great fortitude and determination lived her religious life with gentleness and humility, she would later be joined by her sister, Agnes, and later still by her own very devout mother.

Through all these ordeals Clare never lost her peace of heart nor ever felt discouraged and with real burning passion she tried to emulate the life of our Lord in her own small way. Francis was also busy as he searched for a place for Clare and her small band of companions to set up their own community.

So it was that Francis rebuilt for his religious sisters their own communal Convent at San Damiano, through the generosity of the Benedictines. This was the first steps in Clare's and Francis shared vision of loving God through a life of prayer and poverty, the little Convent they lived in became the Order of Poor Ladies, which in time would be recognised as the 'poor Clares'.

But not all things would work smoothly as both Clare and Francis came up against obstacles in the way their Order would be lived and the spirituality of total poverty met objections in some quarters. At first Clare was obliged to live much as the Benedictines did, but this did not suit Francis nor Clare's vision of their Order.

What Clare objected to most strongly was the idea that her Sisters could acquire and keep some property, this went against the spirit of Francis and also her own ideals of total and absolute poverty. So Clare could not agree to the terms suggested by Cardinal Ugolino and held out with true perseverance whilst not becoming belligerent towards those in authority.

So Clare kept to her austere way of living by going without shoes, eating no meat and surviving on meagre rations in order to maintain the integrity of her and Francis love of lady poverty. There has also been much written about her dearly loved Francis and his mystical experiences, Clare also shared in her own mystical gifts which led her even more to a greater depth of love and the knowledge of how little she was and how great was God. For God also worked miracles through the loving heart of Clare, such as when a heavy door fell on her and her sisters were filled with horror that their loved Mother Abbess had been badly injured, instead Clare rose as if nothing had touched her. And also when the community ran out of oil, Clare blessed an empty oil jar which miraculously was filled with olive oil. Many times Clare would be called to bless the sick that made their way to her, and upon receiving her blessing and prayers they were immediately healed.

Clare and Francis had a mutual love and respect for one another and were devoted companions in their love of God and to share this love and zealousness to all they met. Theirs was a special friendship of soul kinship, touched by the Divine to embrace one another as true brother and true sister in Christ. They embodied purity in its most perfect form that of a woman’s sensitivity and a man's strength to conform to the Divine Will, which they both did with perfect humility and supplication. So it must have brought Clare true grief and also paradoxically true joy when her beloved brother in Christ, Francis took his last breath. So Clare continued to live out the spirituality embraced and fostered by Francis.

So it was that during the canonization of her beloved Francis that Clare was provided the opportunity to converse eloquently to Pope Gregory IX when he arrived at San Damiano. Clare pleaded with the Pope to allow her to remain true to her mission of total and absolute poverty. It was through the dynamic quality of Clare's own character that swayed Pope Gregory IX to acquiesce to her request to embrace fully lady poverty.

But Clare's ordeal was not over as upon the death of Pope Gregory IX, a new Pope was proclaimed who then decided to mitigate some of the more austere Rules of the Poor Ladies. Clare once again pleaded with Pope Innocent IV to allow her to keep her Order as it was, strictly based on the utmost ideal of poverty and relying totally on God's Providence to provide for them.

But all these battles took its toll and though Clare was a woman of great strength and courage, the primitive conditions of her time placed a heavy burden on her health. But it was in the last days of Clare's life that Pope Innocent IV agreed with Clare and approved the conditions of extreme poverty.

Clare Scifi died in 1253.

Saint Clare was canonized in 1255 by Pope Alexander IV.

Some Quotes

"Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory and transform your entire being into the image of the Godhead Itself through contemplation."

Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for he who created you has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be you, my God, for having created me."

"Behold, I say, the birth of this mirror. Behold Christ's poverty even as he was laid in the manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. What wondrous humility, what marvelous poverty! The King of angels, the Lord of heaven and earth resting in a manger! Look more deeply into the mirror and meditate on his humility, or simply on his poverty. Behold the many labors and sufferings he endured to redeem the human race. Then, in the depths of this very mirror, ponder his unspeakable love which caused him to suffer on the wood of the cross and to endure the most shameful kind of death. The mirror himself, from his position on the cross, warned passers-by to weigh carefully this act, as he said: "All of you who pass by this way, behold and see if there is any sorrow like mine." Let us answer his cries and lamentations with one voice and one spirit: "I will be mindful and remember, and my soul will be consumed within me."

Peace of Christ to you ALL

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Blessed Margaret of Castello

During the thirteenth century, the Catholic Church was not only seen as a religious State but also a political one as it involved itself in the political affairs of different Provinces. At times even taking political office themselves, and also choosing Senators from the various Provinces.

The Catholic Church was also a powerful political power, in those centuries, which gained much of its power and income from pilgrims. The great States in those days were, Venice, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Pisa and Siena, from which most of the trade in Italy took place.

Italy developed its own communal bases by appointing various Mayors some of whom had the endorsement of the reigning Pontiff. This would often lead to complications as families vied with each other for political power, usually at the expense of the poor people in each Province or Commune.

But it was in 1287 that a daughter would be born to a noble family who was named Margaret. This did not bring her parents the expected joy that they had hoped for, and both parents were horrified when their baby was found to be deformed.

Poor Margaret was born in an Era when any deformity was seen as a punishment from God, as superstitions were given priority over fact. Margaret’s parents were horrified to behold their deformed baby and even more so in that they lived within the Papal States.

Due to the parent’s ignorance, they decided to imprison Margaret in the hope that her condition would improve over time. But Margaret was born, with many disabilities, she was blind, hunchbacked and lame, there would be no cure for her. And so her parents when Margaret was about 10 years old took her to a Cathedral in hopes of a cure but none would be forthcoming for poor Margaret. This led to the parents disowning their own daughter as they abandoned her to whatever fate had in store for their neglected daughter.

So began Margaret’s own journey as many villagers took pity on this poor child and she found shelter in various homes at different times. And though Margaret would suffer much she never allowed her abandonment by her parents to embitter her. And the families that sheltered her often spoke of her joy of spirit and loving personality.

And though some families found her to be a joy, still others who were driven by the superstitions of the time, and were wary if not outright hostile to this poor defenceless young girl. So trouble came to Margaret when she was given shelter by a religious Order who were not always in line with God in the way they conducted themselves. This led the Sisters of that particular Order to have a particular dislike of Margaret’s obvious holiness and her loving nature. So in due course they objected strongly to her presence and once again Margaret became homeless.

And though Margaret suffered all these indignities still her nature remained tranquil and serene as she trusted and loved God, who she knew would never leave her. Soon Margaret would be noticed by a group of women who were lady members of the Dominican Order, soon she was invited to join this group of women in their efforts to help and serve the poor, but not all were happy about this new member.

But Margaret’s holiness was apparent to nearly all who met her and could look beyond her obvious deformities to the beautiful soul within and her loving and generous nature. She would soon be adopted by a wealthy family who allowed her to stay with them in Castello, Margaret no longer had to go from pillar to post as she was soon ensconced with this devout family and taken to their hearts.

Through all this Margaret followed the Rule of her Order and visited the poor, the sick and also prisoners which shocked and horrified many who knew and loved Margaret. But through her own suffering Margaret understood perfectly the feeling that these prisoners were going through in that she too had been abandoned even by her own parents. Her heart was full of compassion for these prisoners who had known much hardship in their lives and been given little love.

This woman would be a beacon of love for many and also an inspiration to those who knew her and also for those who would come to hear of her good and noble deeds. But Margaret served all in a spirit of deep humility and charity, which touched the hearts of most she met during her service to the poor and sick.

But though Margaret served the poor this would take its toll on her own health as she lived to serve others despite her own discomfort.

Margaret died in 1320 at only 33 years of age.

Blessed Margaret of Castello was beatified in 1609 by Pope Paul V.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini

The nineteenth century were ones of turmoil for Italy, as different factions and leaders fought for supremacy towards a more united Italy.

Italy like many countries would become a land rife with revolutionaries such as Giuseppe Garibaldi and Camillo di Cavour who ran a newspaper to further his own political ambitions. And though these two men would join forces for a short time, it would prove to be unsuccessful.

But during these difficult years in Italy's history the Church would produce some of its greatest Saints.

One of these Saints was born into a prosperous family of farmers in the Lombardy region of Italy. Her parents, Agostino and Stella Cabrini named their newly born daughter, Maria Francesca. Life was difficult for the Cabrini family with a total of thirteen children, who were also expected to help out in all areas of farming no matter the weather conditions.

And though the girls in the family did not have to plough the fields nor pitch the hay stacks, they were expected to help with the family chores. And with thirteen children and two adults this was quite a heavy responsibility, as the girls helped their mother in preparing their meals, doing the laundry and other necessary home duties.

But though the work was hard their spirits were kept alive by a jolly home atmosphere, where they all pitched in and helped the other in a spirit of camaraderie. As their Father read them stories at night and both the Cabrini parents were deeply devout and passed on their love of the Faith to their children.

Maria Francesca was lucky in that she was the youngest, so as her siblings married and had their own families this lightened her own work load, as at times Maria Francesca was fragile in health. This worried her parents, but Maria was also very stout of heart and like her parents came from hardy stock, which would stand her in good stead.

Little Maria Francesca lapped up the wonderful stories of past Saints which her Father read to the family each night. Stories of Christian heroism and mighty deeds filled the young Maria Francesca with dreams of one day becoming a Missionary herself. The young Maria Francesca would then play act the stories she heard at her father’s feet, naming many of her dolls after the Saints.

Being the youngest of all the children also allowed both Agostino and Stella to be a little more lenient with their beloved child Maria Francesca, as she was fortunate enough to have gained a decent education, and went on to gain her teaching certificate.

But in the year 1870 Maria Francesca would lose both her beloved parents and would also become critically ill herself with small pox. Her sister Rosa was able to nurse Maria Francesca back to health with very little side affects.

Upon recovering Maria worked for a short time as a teacher in a village school but her heart was set on becoming a Religious a love which was gained from listening to her beloved Fathers nightly stories. But Maria would be frustrated in her desires as her wish to join the Daughters of The Sacred Heart was refused. This led to a feeling of disappointment but Maria Francesca was also not one to give up easily.

But during this time Maria Francesca would befriend a Priest who would become a life long friend and advisor to the young Maria. Father Serrati upon seeing her resilient nature gave Maria Francesca the task of taking over a run down orphanage and making it work for those who lived there.

Coming from a very large family allowed Maria Francesca to cope with some very taciturn workers who also worked at the orphanage. Her ability to soothe those who felt overlooked and her skills of diplomacy were also a great advantage, in dealing with different temperaments.

She also for the next six years gained the cooperation, respect and love of the orphaned girls in whom she taught, by her cheerful disposition. During this time while rebuilding the orphanage of the House of Providence, Maria Francesca began to wear the Habit of the Order and in due course she finally took her Vows.

Whereupon she was made Mother Superior due to her hard work, common sense and engaging personality. But though Mother Cabrini worked hard to keep things going, it was not meant to be and in a few years the Order would be dissolved.

And though Mother Cabrini was saddened to see the closure of the Convent still her hope lay in God, for where a door closes a window will open. And it was the Bishop of Lodi who suggested she begin a missionary order for women; Mother Cabrini in all humility accepted this onerous task.

The name Mother Cabrini chose for her Order was, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Over the next few years Mother Cabrini and her sisters worked hard to rebuild their Convent and practice their Rule, of which prayer played a significant part. Being that the Order was not particularly well off, the Nun's themselves undertook the task of renovating their Convent.

So it was in 1887 that Mother Cabrini set off for Rome to seek the Holy Fathers seal of approval for her Order. While she was there Mother Cabrini made some very good influential friends one of whom was Cardinal Parocchi, and upon meeting Pope Leo XIII she received his blessing and also contributions towards her missionary work.

It was also in Rome that the idea of Mother Cabrini being sent to America was first broached, which indeed fired up the heart of this great Nun as she remembered the stories her Father shared with her.

So it was in 1889 that Mother Cabrini with six of her Sisters arrived in America, though not to a warm welcome as Archbishop Corrigan was not particularly thrilled with starting yet another orphanage. But Mother Cabrini was stout of heart and determined by nature, and with her skills at diplomacy she won over the rather grumpy Archbishop.

And upon gaining Archbishop Corrigan’s blessing Mother Cabrini then began to raise the money needed to help the foundling children of New York. Upon raising the necessary funds, this great Religious founded what would be known as Columbus Hospital, to aid the poor and suffering.

Mother Cabrini's energy seemed to be never ending as Convents, orphanages and schools opened in different parts of America and surrounding countries. Her uncommon spirit of charity and compassion mixed with humour and diplomacy made her loved by all who met her.

Mother Cabrini who dearly loved the American people and longed to help them became an American citizen in 1909. This great woman of Faith worked tirelessly for the poor and shared with them her great love for God and the Catholic Church.

And even as her health started to falter, still she serenely did what she could for the Glory of God.

Mother Cabrini died from malaria in Chicago, Illinois on December 22, 1917.

Like many of the people she worked with, Mother became a United States citizen during her life, and after her death she was the first US citizen to be canonized.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was canonized in 1946 by Pope Pius XII.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2005 Faith of the Fathers Blogs. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla

In these days where self sacrifice is almost a forgotten word, where suffering has become an inconvenience for many, and where life itself can be extinguished on a whim, stands one woman who had the courage of a lion, a heart as deep as the ocean and a Faith as great as the highest mountain.

And through this one life, we witness what true love is all about. Life is not about gaining at any price but in giving , life is to be savoured with a true spirit of joy and not spat out as if it measured nothing... life in essence is a gift from God.

Who is this woman who showed the world that self sacrificing love and family matter more than life itself?

Gianna Beretta was born in the year 1922, into a large, loving and devout catholic family, so from a very early age Gianna would have been taught to share all she had with her brothers and sisters. And from her parents, Alberto and Marie's example she was instilled with a deep love for prayer and of the Church, but also of serving others in a spirit of true charity.

But the Beretta family was not without its tragedies, as both Alberto and Marie had to bury 5 of their children at a young age. But it was through the example of her loving parents that forged Gianna to accept all things both good and tragic with a serene heart. And it was also through her parents that she learnt to embrace every facet of life and to live it with joyous exuberance.

Alberto and Marie, would pray the Rosary each evening with their remaining children and this holy and devout couple also attended Mass each morning. Though the Beretta family were not considered wealthy, still they incorporated into their children a work ethic of serving others through their chosen careers.

But a shadow would once again touch the Beretta family with the death of their beloved daughter, Amelia, who had been a tower of strength and also a most loving sister to Gianna. This loss would deepen Gianna's prayer life and her devotion to serving the sick, which was growing in her heart. But the death of her sister also showed Gianna that life was precious and fragile and to embrace every moment as a gift from God.

And so Gianna lived her life with complete and utter confidence in God and a love of nature, for she loved to go hiking in the mountains, bike riding, and skiing. But though sporty and robust she did not neglect her Faith and practiced the corporal works of mercy by becoming a member of Catholic Action.

Through this group she would comfort the afflicted, visit the lonely and infirm and take food to the hungry. Gianna did not do these activities in order to gain praise or merit, Gianna gave because she loved. Her whole spirit imbued a love of Christ and of selfless giving, whilst keeping a joyful and exuberant spirit.

This was a stunning feature in the young Gianna in that though war was ravaging her country and many people suffered terrible persecutions under the leadership of Mussolini, Gianna did not allow these calamitous events to cloud her love of God or doubt God's goodness.

Through her parents loving example she learnt to trust in God alone and to give of herself for love of others. But grief would strike the family again when in 1942 both her parents died within months of each other.

Through the tragedies that struck at her own family, Gianna had a growing vocation to heal others of their afflictions and to give comfort to the sick. She had decided on a career in medicine and through the difficulties of studying in war ravaged country; Gianna persevered through it all and graduated from medical school in 1949.

And though Gianna was a woman of great strength, she was not without faults and failings which she prayerfully tried to overcome. For Gianna had been born with a stubborn streak and a determined nature, therefore she had to practice patience for those who were not as decisive as herself. And in her service to the poor she also could not sit in judgement of those who had chosen the wrong path in their lives.

Upon gaining her Doctorate Gianna decided to specialise in paediatrics, as her love of God instilled in her a reverence for life. But Gianna was not an aloof Doctor and she took a great interest in the lives of her patients and their wellbeing in all facets of life.

Soon her life would be full as she ministered to her patients, continued her recreational activities and also practiced the corporal works of mercy through various Catholic charities including that of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Gianna lived a life of giving to others and helping others to reach their full potential, this was the secret of her joy and love of life. For she encapsulated the prayer of St. Francis, in every aspect of her life as she sought to give hope where there was once despair, light where there was once darkness and comfort to the inconsolable.

But love was to touch Gianna's heart in the form of her future husband Pietro, who had been impressed with Gianna's inner happiness and exuberance as well as her sensitivity towards others. Pietro was drawn to this strong woman, who also displayed a more vulnerable and delicate touch to those in need of compassion. Upon meeting Gianna he could not forget her, as his heart stirred with love for this lovely and generous young woman.

The young couple were married in 1955 by Gianna's brother Fr. Giuseppe, it was a joyous occasion, as this loving couple embarked on their life together. Both looked forward to many happy years together as they travelled around Europe and hoped to have many children.

Pietro and Gianna did not have to wait long before their first born made his entrance into the world, a robust and healthy son who they named Pierluigi. Soon their followed a sister for Pierluigi, who was born in 1957 and named Maria Zita. And in 1959 once again Pietro and Gianna welcomed another daughter into their loving arms, who they named Laura.

As always Gianna proved to be a selfless Mother, who always placed her family over and above her own needs. And she was also a very understanding wife who knew of her husbands longing for moments of solitude away from their family. But as in any family both Pietro and Gianna had their own struggles as they juggled family, careers and interests and also their moments of seperation through work commitments.

Many were amazed at Gianna's energy and zest for life, as she managed her job, her home and the raising of their beloved children. For from a very young age Gianna tried her best to instill in her children what she had learnt from her own parents a love of Jesus and the Church. She also followed in her fathers footsteps and tried to pray the Rosary each evening with her little ones, as well as reading them stories from the Bible and of the Saints.

Gianna Beretta Molla was a living dynamo who gave every inch of herself to those who needed her, for she recognised that to truly love God one must then serve the poor. This was a woman inflamed with a love of God and His creation which radiated her whole persona, and which touched the hearts of all those who met her.

So it was that in 1961 Gianna shared more joyous news with her husband Pietro, as she told him that she was once again pregnant with their child. But this pregnancy was to be different from the others, for Gianna also found out that she had fibroma growth (ovarian cyst) in her uterus. This was worrying for both parents as they grappled with what to do and the decisions that needed to be made.

But through it all as Gianna coped with work, raising her children, being a good wife to Pietro, still at the core of her being was her Christ centred prayer life. Upon the doctors recommendation Gianna and Pietro decided to have as much of the growth removed as was possible without harming their baby.

When the baby was about to be delivered Gianna's informed her doctor that her baby must come first and that she must come last, for no matter the cost Gianna would pay it with her life. Pietro and Gianna welcomed in their new baby on April 21st 1962, she was baptized Gianna Emanuela.

Upon the birth of their much longed for daughter, Gianna's conditioned worsened as she became desperately ill. But throughout her pain and anguish which was great, Gianna's Faith shone through as she enjoined her suffering with that of Christ.

Throughout Gianna's entire life, she lived to give for her sole intent was not to gain but to give and give and give again. The testament to this woman’s life was not that she died so tragically but that she lived life to its full and in the end she died so love could live....

Gianna Beretta Molla died in 1962.

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla was canonized in 2004 by Pope John Paul II.

Some Quotes

"Do not be afraid to defend the honor of God, to defend the Church, the Pope and priests. This is the moment to act. We must not remain indifferent in the face of the enemy’s campaign against religion and morals. We of Catholic Action must be the first to defend the sound foundation and the sacred Christian tradition of our homeland.,,,,,Would you be willing to give your lives for Christ the King? You Who say ‘no’ to your eyes, to your gluttony, you who find the difficulty to help around the house or to pray for a few minutes…?"

Everyone works in the service of man. We doctors work directly on man himself... The great mystery of man is Jesus: 'He who visits a sick person, helps me,' Jesus said... Just as the priest can touch Jesus, so do we touch Jesus in the bodies of our patients... We have opportunities to do good that the priest doesn't have. Our mission is not finished when medicines are no longer of use. We must bring the soul to God; our word has some authority... Catholic doctors are so necessary!"

"With God’s help and blessing we will do our best to make our new family a little Cenacle where Jesus reigns over all our affections, desires, and actions… There are only a few days to go and I feel moved at the thought of approaching and receiving the "Sacrament of Love". We will become collaborators with God in His creation and so we will be able to give him children that love and serve him".

Peace of Christ to you all

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Nuns of Nowogrodek

The history of Poland is one of immense tragedy and unparalleled courage, a suffering people who had and would endure ever more horrors. As Poland found itself in the middle of two evil powers, that of National Socialist Germany and Communist Russia.

Many problems began when within the Treaty of Versailles, what had been a part of Germany, Upper Silesia, came under Polish control, this left many people feeling disaffected for the predicament they were placed in. It would also lead to further complications once Adolf Hitler came to power.

Things didn’t get any better when a coup de'etat took place within Poland under the leadership of Jozef Pilsudski, who then tried to install a dictatorship with Ignancy Moscicki as President while Jozef kept control of the armed forces. The coup would eventually fail, but it led to further destabilising of the country, none of which helped the Polish people.

But things would go beyond the internal vicissitudes of their own political insecurities, once Germany and Russia signed their non aggression pact. This placed Poland in an invidious position with both their neighbouring countries, as both Germany and Russia made their own plans for this great country, Poland.

The Polish people would suffer immensely under these two evil empires, but it would be their Faith and their love for the Church which would strengthen many Poles for the fight which lay ahead of them.

But it was in 1929 that a couple of Religious sisters arrived to establish their Order of the Holy Family of Nazareth, in the town of Nowogrodek. At first the towns people were not happy about this and did not welcome yet another Religious Order, in that many Religious Communities relied on the charity of the towns people to provide them food and other essentials necessary to live.

But through the Sisters patience and perseverance and through their own hard work, the towns people eventually accepted them. This brought the Sisters much joy as they endeavoured to teach the children of the area, who came from poor families, and also to teach them the Faith through kindness and compassion.

This would be put to the test though when Nowogrodek was overtaken by the Communists and the Nuns were forced to wear ordinary clothes and were also removed from the Convent. The people of Nowogrodek came to the aid of the Sisters and provided many with accommodation and sustenance as they all endured the repressive regime of the Soviet Union.

It would be the generosity of the town’s people who clung to their Faith and also helped the Sisters in their time of need that would be paid back in full by the love the Sisters had for these brave people of Nowogrodek.

But sadly things did not improve for the Sisters nor for the town’s people when the Germans took control of the town in 1941. And even though the Sisters were able to return to their Convent, the Nazi's would also show that they too had no respect nor love for religion as would be shown by their persecution not only of the Jews but also of devout Catholics!

As the Sisters watched in horror and heard stories of the persecution of their Jewish neighbours, as many of the Jews were rounded up and shot in the open square for all to see. The Nazi's made no attempt to hide their hatred and also their genocide of the Jewish peoples and any who aided them.

This troubled the Sisters immensely, as they became witnesses to the horror before them, the Sisters then under the guidance of their Superior prayed in these words, "O God, if sacrifice of life is needed, accept it from us who are free from family obligations. Spare those who have wives and children."

These holy Sisters meant every word, as they observed the tyranny and unholy behaviour of the Nazi war machine and the savagery of the SS soldiers who showed no mercy to anyone. The Sisters love for the people who had come to their aid would now be paid in full with their own lives.

For a bond had been built between the Sisters and the people of Nowogrodek, as the Sisters tried their best to meet their spiritual needs and also to do the works of Mercy for the poor and sick in their community. A mutual love and respect grew as both the people and the Sisters reached out to each other in love and compassion.

This bond of affection did not go unnoticed by the Nazi's, who saw the Sisters charity to the towns people as a threat to the terror they wished to induce into the hearts of the people.

And so when the Nazi's heard about the prayer of these courageous Sisters they decided to put it to the test and instead of murdering a group of factory workers, the Nazi's instead arrested the Nuns of Nowogrodek.

The Nazi's placed an order for the Sisters to appear before them at the commissars building that very evening. Not willing to incur the wrath of the Nazi's who may have vented it on the people of the town, the Sisters kept the appointed time and place, except for one Sister who being elderly had remained behind in the Convent.

Upon showing up at the requested time and place, the Nazi's then arrested the Nuns and placed them in the basement of an old building, where upon on the morning of August 1st the Sisters were driven by van to a wooded area. And seeing the open grave which had been dug the Sisters looked to their Superior and upon gaining her blessing each Sister then placed themselves at the edge of the mass grave. The Nazi's then opened fire on the Sisters as each one fell into the open grave.

These brave Sisters gave their lives so others could live, something the towns people never forgot, as they gathered around to protect the one remaining Sister, who had stayed behind, Sister Malgorzata. It would be this Sister who went into the woods and found the unmarked grave of her beloved Sisters, where upon Sister Malgorzata secretly tended the grave in remembrance of these holy souls who lay down their own lives for their people.

The names of these holy Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth are;

Sister Maria Stella, Superior

Sister Mary Imelda

Sister Mary Rajmunda

Sister Maria Daniela

Sister Maria Kanuta

Sister Maria Gwidona

Sister Maria Sergia

Sister Maria Kanizja

Sister Maria Felicyta

Sister Maria Heliodora

Sister Maria Boromea

The Sisters of Nowogrodek died in 1943.

The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth were beatified in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

Peace of Christ to ALL
Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Blessed Pedro Calungsod

The Philippine Islands were discovered by Spain by explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. But it was in 1570 that Miguel de Legazpi that a Spanish settlement was built and the capital became Manila.

Through the influences of the Spanish Religious, many of the Filipino people were baptised into the Catholic Faith. The Philippines remained under Spanish control until the year 1815.

It was in 1655 that a young man was born, Pedro Calungsod, he lived for a time in the Visayas region, and it was here that the Jesuits touched this young man's heart.

And it was with the Jesuit Priests that the young Pedro learnt the Faith that he embraced with all his soul. He grew to love the Jesuit teachers and also reached out to his community as the more he learnt the more he wished to share with others.

Where Pedro lived could also prove to be very inhospitable, to those who wished to evangelise the region. They had to go through jungles and traverse huge cliffs as well as rivers and always with the threat of typhoons.

The Missions were doing well in teaching the Catholic Faith and baptising whole families into the Catholic Church, but wherever God's work is being done, there would be those who would try and disrupt this Mission and to try and destroy the Catholic Missionaries. One was a Chinese trouble maker, who planted stories among the villagers that the water used for Baptism was poisonous. This brought great fear to the village people as infant mortality was high due to unsanitary living conditions.

This lie would herald in a period of persecution to the Missions and those who supported the Catholic missionaries, such as the young Pedro, who truly loved and lived his Faith with great devotion towards our Blessed Mother.

But the persecutions were still thriving in the hearts of those who embraced the idea that the Catholics were to blame for anything that went wrong in their villagers and also if any sickness befell families. These erroneous ideas were able to gain a foothold due to the remaining superstitions that remained within many Filipino villagers.

Into this hotbed, the young Pedro who was about 17 years old and a Priest Diego De San Vitores travelled to the village of Tomhom on the island of Guam. And it was here upon hearing that a young baby was near death, both Pedro and Fr. Vitores requested that the baby be baptized this unfortunately began a sequence of events that would lead to a tragedy.

For the baby's father, Matapang had become an apostate and now denied the religion he had once embraced. And while Matapang tried to enlist other villagers to kill the Priest and his helper the young Pedro, it was during this absence that Fr. Vitores decided to baptize the young baby without the permission of Matapang.

Upon his return, Matapang was enraged that his wife had permitted the Baptism of his child, and took out his rage on Fr. Vitores and the young Pedro by hurling spears at them both. Pedro being so young was able to avoid getting hit by the spears but he refused to run and leave Fr Vitores behind. It was then that one of spears struck Pedro and he fell to the ground, where upon Pedro was hacked to death. Father Vitores as one of his last acts gave Pedro Absolution before he too was murdered.

Upon the death of these two holy men, both their bodies were mutilated and the Cross they wore was also desecrated by the enraged Matapang!

Pedro Calungsod died in 1672.

Blessed Pedro Calungsod was beatified in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

Peace of Christ to you ALL

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Saint Pius X, Pope

In the 17th century onwards Italy and its Provinces became a cesspool of insurrection and internal bickering as the quest for power took hold of many powerful families and politicians within Italy.

Including a young man named Giuseppe Garibaldi who with the help of his friend Giuseppe Mazzini tried to start a revolution. After its failure and upon sentence of death both men fled Italy and lived in exile. Garibaldi went on to take his revolutionary zeal to other lands whilst Mazzini plotted in the relative safety of London for the downfall of the power structure in Italy.

In order to try and bring some stability to the warring factions which were tearing the country apart, many Italians supported two idea's of a new governing body. Some supported the idea of installing the reigning Pope as Head of all Italy, whilst others preferred a Monarch who would unite the warring factions.

But an uprising in Sicily has both Mazzini and Garibaldi making a quick return to Italy to bolster their revolutionary ideals for an Italian Republic. They were helped in that many neighbouring countries were also at war with each other, so few countries felt inclined to help Italy and its internal infighting.

Even the Pope was not spared from the insurrection as he fled to Gaeta as the different factions fought it out. A Republic was proclaimed in 1849, and both Mazzini and Garibaldi were key players in this revolution. But it was not to be, as Pope Pius IX requests the help of the French forces and they defeated the Republican movement within Italy for a time.

But it is in 1835 that Italy would produce one of its greatest sons, who would also become a 'Pope for the people'.

Though the birth of Giuseppe Sarto was certainly humble enough, his parents were of humble stock, his father, Giambattista Sarto worked as a postman, shoemaker and janitor and his mother Margarita, worked as a seamstress as both parents tried to provide the best for their children.

From an early age Giuseppe showed a strong talent for learning and a hunger to utilize the Gifts that he had been given. Despite his impoverished circumstances, Giuseppe did not let this deter him for he was very strong willed. It was also during this period that Giuseppe would show a strong love for his Faith and his longing to be a Priest.

He was taught Latin by his village Priest, before continuing his studies at Castelfranco. Through heat and driving rain nothing would stop Giuseppe from achieving his dream as he continued to walk to school daily.

Through his intellectual curiously, he earned a Scholarship at the Diocese seminary in Padua in 1850. This was a great achievement for the young Giuseppe but he allowed none of it to interfere with his love of God and his great common sense, which kept his feet firmly on the ground. Sadly though Giuseppe's father died in 1852, this left his mother to support the rest of her family alone.

Giuseppe's dream came true in 1858 when he was ordained a Priest, and though his mother struggled to support herself she was very proud of her son and helped him as much as she could.

Father Giuseppe worked as a parish Priest for nine years in the region of Tombolo, and though he was a good shepherd to his people Fr. Giuseppe also continued his studies in theology, despite his heavy workload on behalf of his parish.

But even though Fr Giuseppe worked hard and studied much he never lost sight of his roots and he endeavoured as much as he could to alleviate the suffering of the poor by providing education and everyday needs to the people in order for them not only to survive but to rise above their origins. For Giuseppe was proof that no matter how humble one is born their is opportunity for all if they work hard enough.

Father Giuseppe understood the poor, and with his enormous energy and generosity he never patronised those born into poverty but instead he gave them the dignity that all men deserve irrespective of their financial troubles. As arch Priest for the area of Salzano Father Giuseppe helped to keep the hospital there functioning in order to provide health care for the poor in the area, as well as providing education for instruction of the Faith.

From the very beginning Giuseppe had a great love for people, and was able to connect with them on a one to one basis making all he met feel important. This did not spring from 'charm' but from a deep love and reverence for God's children both rich and poor equally.

In 1884 Father Giuseppe was named Bishop of Mantua, he was for many years to teach theology to the seminarians. He particularly was drawn to the works of St. Thomas Aquinas and in order to help his seminarians he was known to give away free copies of St. Thomas work the 'Summa Theologica'.

And in 1893 Pope Leo XIII would create Father Giuseppe a Cardinal, this was a great honour and his Mother Margarita was especially proud of this son of hers, but saddened that his father had not lived to see this auspicious occasion.

But even though Italy would struggle with political turmoils this did not disturb Cardinal Sarto from keeping his tremendous intellect from grasping one of the bigger issues that would confront the Church all through its history, the theory of rationalism and the rise of socialism.

Greatness was to touch this humble son of Italy and in 1903 Cardinal Sarto was elected Pope and took the name Pope Pius X, and chose as his motto, "Restore all things to Christ".

Pope Pius X would put his stamp on his Papacy very early on by encouraging children upon reaching the age of reason to be able to partake of the Eucharist. He also held a Eucharistic Congress in 1905 in Rome and encouraged sacred music most especially Gregorian chants to further give praise and Glory to God.

The Pope was a man of the people but he was also to be a great son of the Church in that he fostered correct Liturgical practices and believed strongly in discipline to the Magisterium, rather than secular independence that many priests longed for.

Through all his Pontificate Pope Pius X would be a great denouncer of all things secular including the subtle appearance of modernism, which he saw as a great threat to the Church.

Pope Pius X would eventually write an Encyclical titled, "Pascendi" which condemns the heresy that is modernism, as the Pope says, "We allude, Venerable Brethren, to many who belong to the Catholic laity, nay, and this is far more lamentable, to the ranks of the priesthood itself, who, feigning a love for the Church, lacking the firm protection of philosophy and theology, nay more, thoroughly imbued with the poisonous doctrines taught by the enemies of the Church, and lost to all sense of modesty, vaunt themselves as reformers of the Church; and, forming more boldly into line of attack, assail all that is most sacred in the work of Christ, not sparing even the person of the Divine Redeemer, whom, with sacrilegious daring, they reduce to a simple, mere man."

And he then followed this encyclical with a decree titled 'Lamentabilis', for the Pope was determined to rid the Church of this great menace. He also instructed an oath from every Priest against this heresy which is modernism!

Pope Pius X will be remembered in history as the voice against the modernist incursion which tried to infiltrate the Church at that time. But also as the Pope who expounded the need for daily Eucharist and encouraged the Faithful to partake of the Eucharist frequently.

But though Pope Pius X was a mountain when it came to all things Liturgical still he could not prevent the outbreak of war which he could sense would bring untold misery to millions. And though this great man of peace worked hard to prevent it, war turned out to be inevitable, and this would bring a great feeling of foreboding to the Pope.

The Pope did not live to see the devastation which would bring untold misery and death to many, which may have been a blessing to this Pope of Peace.

Pope Pius X died in 1914.

St. Pius X was canonised in 1954 by Pope Pius XII.

Some Quotes

"Let us be leaders; but not of the worldly type, who accomplish by forcing, urging and driving to get things done; rather leaders who lead as Christ did: "Come, follow me!"

"I accept with sincere belief the doctrine of faith as handed down to us from the Apostles by the orthodox Fathers, always in the same sense and with the same interpretation."

"Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to heaven."

"This is the last affliction the Lord will visit on me. I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge."(In reference to the outbreak of World War I)

Let us remember the spirit of St. Pius X to unite the Church and not allow it to combust within. So may we always remain loyal to the Holy See and our reigning Pontiff.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Saint Bridget of Sweden

Sweden started out as a Viking nation, which invaded and looted other lands and Nations, returning to their homeland with its collection of stolen treasures.

But it wasn’t until the eleventh century that Christianity would come to Swedish shores. This was also at a time when Finland was co-joined to Sweden who was also having border disputes with its neighbours, Norway and Denmark.

But it was in the year 1302 that a baby girl would be born to a noble family, the parents named her Bridget. Both her parents were overjoyed at the arrival of their beloved child. Bridget's father, Birger owned vast area's of property and her Mother, Ingeborg was related to the Swedish Royal family.

Both parents were very devout, which is just as well for their little Bridget would be the recipient of Divine revelations at a very young age. Unfortunately for Bridget, her Mother would die when she was still in her formative years. So upon Ingeborg's death in 1314, Bridget was sent to stay with her Aunt who helped raised this astonishing young lady.

For Bridget was no ordinary child and began seeing visions when aged only 8 years old, where upon she saw a vision of Our Lady who then placed a crown upon Bridget’s head. This would be followed with visions of Jesus suffering His Passion so that all men could be saved.

These visions would set Bridget’s heart ablaze with a zealous love of our Lord and The Church, and though Bridget longed to serve our Lord by joining a Religious Order, this was not meant to be, at such an impressionable age.

So going against her own wishes she married Ulf Gudmarsson, where upon they had four son's and four daughters, not all of her children though would make it to adulthood. But Bridget was a good mother who raised all her children to love and serve God, and through this sharing of her devout Faith, one of her daughters, Catherine would also be canonised in due course.

Coming from a noble lineage also allowed Bridget to be well read for her times and able to converse with both nobility and beggar alike. For Bridget treated all as if she were conversing with the Lord Himself, and showed no favouritism with a person's social position.

But sadly for Bridget her husband Ulf was suddenly taken ill and he died in 1344. Through his death Bridget felt free to pursue what her heart had been yearning for, to live as a Religious and embrace God through her love of the poor and also her love of prayer.

Thereby she went forward towards founding her own Order which would be called the 'Brigittines'. But in order to obtain recognition for her new Order Bridget travelled to see the reigning Pontiff Pope Urban V in Avignon. Whereby like Catherine of Siena, Bridget also inveigled the Pope to return to Rome and take his rightful position as Supreme Pontiff as was right and proper.

During this waiting time though Bridget also embarked on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as she knew it may be her last voyage to this great Land of the Savior’s birth. For Bridget needed to see for herself what had been revealed to her in her many mystical visions of our Lord and Lady.

For at the heart of Bridget lay a great compassion for the sufferings of Christ and the Gift that our Lord extended to this great daughter of the Church. For through her mystical visions, messages and prayers, the suffering of Christ would be revealed to all who would read Bridget’s Divine revelations.

The Pope finally recognised Bridget’s Order in 1370; this brought much joy to Bridget’s heart, as her own health began to fail.

Bridget of Sweden died in 1373.

St Bridget of Sweden was canonised in 1391 by Pope Boniface IX.

I would encourage all to read further on the revelations given to this great Saint including St. Bridget’s fifteen prayers.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.
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