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

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Saint Josephine Bakhita

Sudan like many countries had a troubled history, and as in most cases it is the poor who pay the heavier price. It was in the year 1820 that Sudan found itself at war with Egypt; it was eventually taken over and placed under the leadership of Mehmet Ali this invasion would lead to many rebellions and uprisings for the Sudanese peoples.

During one of the uprisings the famous British Statesman General Gordon was killed, and in 1898 under the leadership of Lord Kitchener both British and Egyptian forces divided Sudan into two provinces, Southern Sudan and northern Sudan. This division of the country would stay like this for many years to come, which brought much hardship for the Sudanese people.

But it was in the year 1869 that a little baby girl would be born, in the village of Olgossa, her family were considered upper middle class as her uncle was the Chief of Olgossa.

But tragedy would strike the family very early when Josephine was kidnapped by slave traders, and because of the political turmoil of the times her family was unable to find where their beloved little daughter had been taken.

Josephine was only nine years old when she was brutally torn from the bosom of her beloved family and thrown into the gruesome and torturous slave trade, this so traumatised this sweet natured girl that during the course of time, she would forget her original name.

This poor girl would be sold off to numerous owners and few showed her any mercy as many brutally whipped and tortured her on a daily basis. During one beating poor little Josephine was unable to rise from her bed as she recovered from the terrible bruising and pain.

But this was not the end of her torture for it was another owner who had poor Josephine tattooed which was a terribly painful procedure. As a knife was used to cut a pattern on the young girl’s skin and then to have salt placed in the wounded region, one can only imagine the horror of it all.

Even though Josephine bore such daily brutalities she never allowed this treatment to brutalise her inner being, as she longed for her freedom with all her heart. So it was in 1885 that she was bought by an Italian, Callisto Legnani, who in turn gave her to his friend Augusto Michieli, who was in need of a nanny for his children.

Josephine would find that the Italians treated her kindly though in her heart of hearts she still longed for the freedom to be herself. But it would be in Italy under the guidance of the Michieli family that Josephine learnt about the Catholic Faith. So when the daughter of the Michieli family Mimmina went to board at the Daughters of Charity, Josephine as her nanny accompanied her there.

This would also give Josephine the opportunity to learn even more about the Catholic Faith as she alongside her charge began taking instruction. The more Josephine learnt of this wondrous and loving God the more her heart was set on fire as she also longed to become Catholic and receive her beloved Jesus in the Eucharist.

For though Josephine suffered much brutality she did not allow this to embitter her heart nor did she long for vengeance, she simply longed for God. The more Josephine learned about this awesome God the more she longed to love only Him, as she opened her heart to the overwhelming power of God's Love.

So it was with distress that when Madame Michieli came to the Daughters of Charity to once again take Josephine back to Africa, poor Josephine did not wish to leave. For during her time with the Sisters she had come to love the Order of the Daughters of Charity and felt a calling to join them in their mission.

So it was with the help of the Sisters that Josephine was able to defy the very angry Madame Michieli and in 1890 Josephine was baptized into the Catholic Church, this filled her heart with such rejoicing that she thought her heart would surely burst with joy!

And so with much prayer Josephine felt the calling of her beloved Lord to enter the Religious life, so she entered the Daughters of Charity and took her vows in 1896. She was to serve her Religious community as seamstress, sacristan, cook and other sundry duties. But at the heart of Josephine was her deep prayer life, as she prayed for her fellow Sisters, the Church and those suffering oppression as she had had to endure.

Though Josephine suffered much, she never once allowed any thoughts of hatred to enter her heart and through her brutal experiences; she kept her humility and her humanity. What a courageous heart this woman had, who even under the most brutal of circumstances, discovered this truth, that love overcomes all manner of evil.

Josephine Bakhita died in 1947.

Saint Josephine was canonised in the year 2000 by Pope John Paul ll.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Saint Apollonia- Virgin and The Martyrs of Alexandria

Saint Apollonia- Virgin and the Martyrs of Alexandria

9th February

Dentists, tooth-disease, toothaches

The year was 249, the place Alexandria. The pagans instigated the persecution of the Christians in the city. An old man, Metras was the first to be killed, his eyes were pierced out and then stoned to death. Quinta was the next to die, she refused to worship the heathen gods and met the same fate.

Saint Apollonia, an aged virgin, lived a life of self-sacrifice and doing works of charity. She fell prey to a mob that was persecuting any Christians they could find. Enraged by her courageous refusal to worship and make sacrifice to their pagan idols, they struck out all of her teeth. They threatened to burn her if she would not renounce Christ; she refused to deny her God. She was so anxious to embrace martyrdom that she tore free from the hands of her tormentors and ran into the flames. The pagans were amazed at the courage this seemingly weak, old, lady had, she was anxious and willing to die for Christ.

The persecution of the Christians continued into the next year. Some cowered in fear and went trembling and pale to make sacrifices to the pagan gods to preserve their lives. However multitudes went willingly to receive their crown of martyrdom.

Lord you showered heavenly gifts on St. Apollonia. Help us to imitate her virtues while on earth. Amen.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Saint Cecilia- Virgin and Martyr

22 November

Albi France, composers, martyrs, music, musicians, musical instrument makers, Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska, poets, singers

Saint Cecilia was a maiden of noble birth, native to Rome. At an early age, she dedicated her life to God with a vow of chastity. She, however, was betrothed and married a young noble, Valerian. On her wedding day, she prayed to the Lord and asked Him to protect her virginity. St. Cecilia's prayers were answered, and Valerian was willing to take her as his wife without forcing her to break her vow. Not only did he accept her vow of chastity, he and his brother Tiburtius were both converted to Christianity and were baptized by Pope Urban I. Christianity was still illegal in Rome at this time. Both Valerian and his brother Tiburtius were soon discovered as professed Christians and were martyred.

Cecilia was discovered soon after and met a similar fate. She was called on to denounce her faith, which she refused to do. Instead she converted those who came to kill her. It required two attempts before the death of Cecilia. She was first locked in a bath, in her own home to be suffocated by the steam. When she emerged from the bath after a day and a half unharmed, she was then beheaded. The stroke of the axe three times failed to sever her head from her body and she lived for three days. During that time, she saw to the disbursment of her assets to help the poor, and she donated her home to the ecclesiastical authorities to be used as a church.

Pope Urbanus buried her among the bishops and the confessors in the Catacomb of Callistus. When the tomb was opened in 1599 her body was found to be incorrupt.

O Eternal God, Who gave us, in the person of St. Cecilia, a powerful protectress, grant that after having faithfully passed our days, like herself, in innocence and holiness, we may one day attain the land of beatitude, where in concert with her, we may praise You and bless You forevermore in eternity. Amen.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich

Stigmatist and Visionary

During the 1700's Germany was basically a land made up of independent Duchies and Principalities. It also embarked on obtaining as much land as possible, including partitioning parts of Poland, who strongly objected to these invasions from the Germans.
And during these difficult times of internal squabbling and outright warfare, there was the destructive influence of the Lutheran Reformation, which struck at the heart of the Catholic Church.
The 18 century was also the Era that the age of enlightenment was born and prospered, as many disregarded the religious practices and deeply held reverence within the Teachings of the Catholic Church in favour of mans reasoning and logic. This was to introduce a major heresy in the form of rationalism and relativism, through such writers as Voltaire, Locke, Rousseau and many others.
Into this troubled decade was born Anne Catherine Emmerich in the year 1774 to poor parents Bernard and Anne Emmerich, who though their lifestyle could only obtain the basics raised their children with a pious and holy reverence for the Catholic Church.
Anne Catherine’s life was touched from the beginning with Mystical experiences and she conversed with her guardian Angel from early in her youth. Due to her parents great poverty Anne Catherine despite her fragile health was often sent out to work on farms in order to provide her family with the necessary means to live and to help provide food. These were hard years for the Emmerich family who though they struggled to live day by day still embraced their faith with true devotion and instilled into their children a great love and reverence for God.
Though Anne Catherine struggled to help her family as much as possible there were many times when she herself went without food as she gave most of her own food to those she felt were worse off than herself. This enormous compassion for those in need would stay with Anne Catherine during her entire life but it also helped to make her own health even more fragile as she became undernourished.
During all this Anne Catherine’s Mystical experiences never stopped and she was given many gifts including that of reading souls and conversing with our Lord and our Blessed Mother as well as various Saints and her Angels. This at times brought much ridicule from her neighbours and friends, but Anne Catherine with true humility and meekness accepted all these insults as a cross for her to bear through her life with great patience.
From a young age Anne Catherine longed to enter the Religious Order of the Augustinians but through ill health, and her giving to the poor this delayed her entry into the Order she so loved. But in 1802 Anne Catherine’s dearest wish was granted and she had saved the money needed to enter the Augustinian Convent. But her life was not to be an easy one within the Convent as her fellow sisters, grew jealous of her many visions and ecstasies, even though Anne Catherine’s health was delicate this did not stop her being delegated with some of the heavier jobs within the Convent. But in 1812 her convent was closed and Anne Catherine was left to fend for herself she eventually found shelter at the home of a widow.
Though Anne Catherine had many struggles and many of her contemporaries treated her with suspicion still her Faith never wavered in face of such persecution and strain. And through all these trials her visions continued even when she became bedridden a short time after leaving the Convent. She prophesied the downfall of Napoleon, as well as being able to diagnose the ill who came to seek her help, and through her great suffering Anne Catherine never lost her love or joy which she found in her beloved Jesus.
It was also during this period that Anne Catherine became the recipient of the Stigmata, which was to bring further harsh judgements from those who were grew weary of Anne Catherine’s messages and visions. As many questioned through their own envy why Anne Catherine was especially favoured by God and not themselves. Because of these extraordinary visions, ecstasies and the Stigmata the Church began an investigation into nature of these supernatural abilities. This would grieve her deeply as Anne Catherine wished to remain unknown and unseen as a suffering victim soul for the souls in purgatory and the wickedness of the world which she could foresee.
Whilst undergoing this investigation Anne Catherine would be tormented by those seeking to find the truth, either by insulting her or flattering her but through all this Anne Catherine kept her composure and her obvious and sincere piety was seen by all who met her.
But through all these sufferings including physical, mental and emotional Anne Catherine led a very deep prayer life which strengthened her through out all her ordeals. For throughout her life Anne Catherine was to undergo years of misunderstanding and ridicule by those who should have supported her. And though the authorities who investigated her found nothing contradictory in her behaviour and life, still her fellow Sisters found difficulty accepting this strange woman with the visions.
Through all this time Anne Catherine was to be recipient of our Lords instruction as to His life on earth, including His Passion and the life of our Blessed Mother. It was then that a well known writer, Klemens Brentano went to visit Anne Catherine, upon talking to her, he was amazed that she had already known he would be sent to help her.
It was this writer Klemens Brentano who would write the first edition of what would be known as 'The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ' and also 'The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary' which had been dictated to him through Anne Catherine’s visions.
Other revelations given to Anne Catherine included these, that each parish and diocese, each city and country has its own particular and powerful guardian angel. Also, how the various indulgences we gain actually remit specific punishments which otherwise would await us in Purgatory. And this too, that to gain an indulgence we must approach the Sacraments with true repentance and a firm purpose of amendment–or we do not gain it. And also this great reminder, that saints are particularly powerful on their feast days and should be invoked then, and this most touching aspect revealed by our Lord, that He suffered from the wound in His shoulder more than from any other. And revealed to her was this warning in a vision, that the enemies of the Church tearing it down and trying to build a new one on strictly human plans, but none of the saints would lend a hand. Later, this church of men is destroyed and the saints of God join in to rebuild the true Church of God, which becomes more glorious than ever before. But once again we are uplifted by this Divine message, which told her of the revival of the priesthood and the religious orders after a period of great decadence.
Anne Catherine’s life was not an easy one and though the recipient of Divine revelations this was to cause more pain and anguish to her life as many chose to look at her with suspicion if not outright dislike, most especially her fellow Religious! But Anne Catherine was a most noble soul who allowed none of this to impact on her love for God, nor did she take offence as with true humility, meekness and serenity of soul, she accepted all as a Gift from God.
Some Quotes
"Man's value before God is estimated by the dispositions of his heart, its uprightness, its good-will, its charity, and not by keenness of intellect or extent of knowledge."
"From the lips of those that pray I see a chain of words issuing like a fiery stream and mounting up to God, and in them I see the disposition of the one who prays, I read everything. The writing is as varied as the individuals themselves."
"Now, for all who are not in living union with Jesus Christ by faith and grace, nature is full of Satan's influence."
Anne Catherine Emmerich died in 1824.
Blessed Anne Catherine was beatified in 2004 by Pope John Paul ll.
I would encourage all to see the movie 'The Passion of the Christ' directed by Mel Gibson.
Peace of Christ to ALL
Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Martin Family of Lisieux

France seems to be the corner stone for revolutionary thinking which at times has reaped a terrible harvest of insurgents who questioned the old order and ushered in an age of discontent with all things religious!

This discontentment was seen in the lead up to the French revolution and then quickly followed by the writers Voltaire, Rousseau and others which began the age of enlightenment.

Into this seething atmosphere of questioning all things Holy two people would be born, both of whom through their most holy union produced a Saint who would become a Doctor of the Church and her saintly sisters, most of whom entered the convent of Carmel.

Louis Martin was born in 1823 at Bordeaux a very picturesque landscape. At Louis Baptismal ceremony, Monsignor Aviau du Bois de Sanzay proclaimed loudly to the assembled crowd, "rejoice, this is a child of destiny!" Surely providential words which would prove to be prophetic.

Zelie Guerin was born in the year 1831, though her Baptism ceremony was more quiet it still held the same reverence as that afforded to her future husband, Louis Martin.

Both Louis and Zelie had hopes of entering Holy Orders, because of their great love of God and their Faith, but it was not to be as God had other plans for this noble couple.

It would be through Louis mother that a friendship occurred between the bookish Louis and the shy and reserved Zelie. This friendship would deepen in a short space of time as both found so much in common with each other. Their deep love of God and the Church, and their compassion for those in need and their shared principles and ideals in life. And much to Madame Martin's joy her son and her new daughter in law were married on 13 July in 1858.

But this also led to some confusion for the couple as they both embraced the ideal of the perfect marriage and took as their example Saint Joseph and The Blessed Mother. But Zelie like many women also longed for her own children to embrace and nurture into loving and holy children of God. After a year of a very chaste marriage both Louis and Zelie Martin spoke to their parish Priest, who advised and encouraged them to embrace the marriage ideal both spiritually and physically.

Their union was to be richly blessed by God but it was also touched with the shadow of loss, as Zelie lost two boys both in infancy, Marie Joseph Louis who died in 1867 and Marie Joseph Jean Baptiste who died in 1868. This grieved the parents deeply as both had longed for boys in order to become missionary Priests of the Church. But also because these children were of their own flesh and blood, and like any parents their hearts were broken over such a loss. But in all things there Faith in God outweighed their deep sorrow, and they clung ever more fiercely to each other and to their beloved Faith.

But their holy marriage though touched with sadness was also fruitful and in 1860 their first child Marie Louise was born and with great joy both parents had their baby Baptised quickly as was the custom of the day in case of infant mortality. Marie Louise would be joined by her sisters, Marie Pauline born in 1861, followed by Marie Leonie in 1863, then Marie Helene in 1864, and Marie Celine in 1869 soon to follow was Marie Therese Melanie born in 1870 then came Marie Francoise Therese born in the year 1873.

But with all the joys of welcoming in their new born and beloved children once again tragedy would strike at the family in the loss of their beloved daughters Marie Helene and Marie Therese Melanie, who joined their baby brothers in Heaven. And amidst the grieving for the loss of their beloved children France was in turmoil when the Prussians under Bismarck was at war within their beloved land. Both Louis and Zelie were of military background so it troubled them deeply to see their beloved France under occupation and suffered the humiliation felt by all the French people over such an outrage!

So though the family suffered with both loss of their beloved children and also fretted over the future of their beloved country they continued to instruct their little family of daughters in prayer, matters of Faith and love of God. Zelie also practiced the works of mercy in her neighbourhood and for those who came to her home to seek help. This was a marvellous example for all the girls to witness, as they too helped their mother to care for those less well of than themselves and fostered within each child compassion for the poor.

Both parents also had a deep love for the Eucharist, and taught their children the fundamentals of the Catholic Faith, by a deep and committed prayer life. The children of Louis and Zelie would often pray the Rosary together as a family and they also joined in on any Eucharistic celebration within their Parish. The love that both parents had for their Faith was passed on to each of their children, even in the midst of personal pain and loss and the misfortunes of their country the Martin girls were taught to rely and trust in God and His unfailing love for them. Both Louis and Zelie were perfect examples of living a holy marital union, whilst combining their work and activities into a prayer, which provided their daughters a good example to follow.

Zelie Martin even through her immense grief and heartache at the loss of her infant sons and beloved daughters was able to show her remaining daughters a valiant spirit which was dedicated to God and also longsuffering in allowing God's Will to prevail in her life. Zelie Martin was also a proficient and gifted lace maker a most prized art form in that era, and though not given to vanities she would have dressed her girls well for daily Mass and other Church activities.

But a shadow was to fall over the family when Zelie started to feel discomfort in her upper chest and felt a lump in her breast. It was not long before a tumour was discovered and Zelie with much motherly concern and love knew her time on earth to look after her beloved husband and daughters would come to an end. She accepted the news with serenity and meekness accepting God's Will but still her motherly heart prevailed and though she fought valiantly against the encroaching cancer, but it was not to be and knowing her end was near she asked her sister in law and friend Madame Guerin to look after her little family once she had gone. Zelie Martin died on August 28 1877; she would not live to see her daughters enter the Convent.

Louis Martin who had depended so much on his wife’s strength suffered a terrible grief which would stay with him the rest of his life for he had loved his beloved Zelie with all his heart. But as always, his great Faith and belief in a Loving God helped Louis accept the death of his beloved Zelie with no bitterness, just meekness of heart and an acceptance of God's Will. But with the memory of Zelie so strong in their home, it was thought best to move the family to Lisieux, in order to be closer to their other relatives.

Through all of this the children tried their utmost to cope with the loss of their beloved mother, even though it would be both troubling to the little Therese and in another sense to their sister Leonie, who struggled with most things, and at times could be rebellious. In the case of Leonie it was found to be a maid who with great cunning was able to have a terrible hold over the impressionable Leonie. And though Zelie Martin dismissed the maid, the repercussions of her influence continued to trouble Leonie, who at times continued to bicker with her other sisters. But Leonie struggled valiantly to overcome her tumultuous personality and to follow the example set by her parents.

The death of her mother also affected the little Therese and made her especially oversensitive and wont to cry or to cling to her beloved father and sisters. Most especially to her older sister Pauline who became a mother figure to Therese, whilst Celine would be her favourite sister and play mate. But the death of her beloved mother would plague little Therese with immense insecurities, and upon being sent away to school the little Therese wept inconsolably at being removed from her beloved family. But she tried her hardest to struggle on, for once again the shining example of their mother held all the girls in good stead.

But Therese upon being told of her sister Pauline's decision to enter the Order of Carmel was to bring on a terrible form of grief and hysteria, which simply brought forth her deep insecurity at losing her mother at such an impressionable age. Therese soon fell ill with a mysterious ailment, which brought on fevers and copious weeping even unto hallucinations. Her Father and sisters were terribly worried for their little sister and none of the doctors could fathom what was the cause of Therese ailments.

So once again the family led by their Father turned to prayer and prayer vigils for the healing of their little Therese. And it was during this prayer vigil that a miracle would bring Therese out of this serious emotional affliction, as she witnessed with astonishment that the statue of the Virgin Mary which the family placed in her room, smiled at her. Therese upon seeing this was immediately cured, but the little one still had to face many internal struggles. This was mainly due to her very sensitive nature and her total dependence on her family and their opinions on her behaviour. As Therese struggled with this predicament, she also felt an inner calling to the Order of Carmel. But as the time grew closer to her first Communion, Therese spiritually became stronger as she so longed to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

Pauline Martin joined the convent of Carmel in Lisieux in 1882, taking the Religious name Sister Agnes. Her sister Marie would also join the same Order in 1886, taking the name Sister Marie. And while both Pauline and Marie were steadfast in their decision Leonie struggled to find God's Will in her own life, attempting at various times to join the Order of the poor Clares and making several attempts to join the Visitation Sisters. But though Leonie struggled with many things and issues her love for God was never in doubt.

While Leonie and Therese struggled with their own insecurities, their sister Celine appeared more mature and was a great consolation to their father, Louis. For Louis though a loving father was also a little perplexed with the insecurities exhibited by both Leonie and Therese. But though a loving father he still was the head of the home and so decided that the Christmas custom of placing gifts in the children’s shoes needed to come to an end, as all his children were now more mature in age. Celine expected a show of tears from Therese at this pronouncement but instead Therese surprised Celine by seeming to accept this with little fuss. Therese was growing up and moving beyond her childhood insecurities into a more loving and trusting love of Jesus.

It was not long after this that Louis, Celine and Therese embarked on a longed for journey to Rome. But Therese was already deciding to appeal to the Pope in order for her to be received in the Order of Carmel at a very young age. The Martin family toured all of Italy including Assisi, Florence, Venice before their meeting with Pope Leo Xlll. But things did not go according to plan and one of the officials asked the family not to approach His Holiness, but this did not deter the strong willed Therese who flung herself upon the Popes Mercy and begged to be allowed to enter Carmel. Both her Father and Celine were a little embarrassed at Therese's lack of composure but with tender love they knew how much Therese longed to become a Religious.

For Celine she was also feeling the stirrings of a longing to join this most beautiful Order of Carmel, but due to Leonies problems and the difficulties with Therese she had kept her own feelings much to herself. Celine over time was to prove a comforting companion to her father and also a wise companion for both her sisters still at home.

Leonie even though at times she struggled and was perhaps a little wilful was not disobedient, especially when it came to her love of God. It does show an inner strength and also a humble heart that many times Leonie did not feel as intelligent nor as gifted as her other sisters, yet neither jealousy nor envy, entered her heart. For Leonie loved and admired all her sisters but lacked their ease with others and their conviction in which direction she should take.

But unlike Leonie, Therese had no doubt as to where her heart lay and upon permission she entered the Order of Carmel in 1888, she would make her Profession in 1890.

But once again between the sunshine of their days as a family shadows also must pass by and it was in 1888 that Louis Martin became seriously ill, this caused severe heartache to all his daughters as their father had suffered a severe stroke which would effect his mental capabilities, and his ability to reason.

During this time Celine became a rock to their frail Father as well as to her other sisters, and even though Celine at times felt overwhelmed by such a responsibility, still she persevered. But mercifully as their father continued to struggle with mental confusion God called this great son home to be reunited with his beloved Zelie and his children in the year 1894.

And though Celine and her other sisters grieved deeply over this loss, the death of her beloved father also freed Celine to follow her own heart and embrace the calling of Carmel to be a Religious alongside her other sisters. And on September 14 1894 Celine entered the Order of Carmel taking the Religious name Sister Genevieve.

But Leonie was not to be left alone and after much trials and many tribulations and sufferings, she too embraced the Visitation Order and followed in her Aunts footsteps. Though Leonie did not have a easy path for her own nature made things difficult and at times her frail constitution, still she persevered and in 1900 Leonie's dream of becoming a Religious in the Visitation Order finally came to fruition as she took the name Sister Frances.

So through this most holy and blessed union between this courageous and holy couple Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin, they upon their marriage produced the flowers of Carmel, and a daisy in the field of the Visitation Sisters.

Both Louis and Zelie Martin are perfect examples to all of the holiness of marriage and that through loving and prayerful perseverance, love overcomes all adversity. Truly they are a most holy and inspiring couple.

Louis and Zelie were proclaimed Venerable, by Pope John Paul ll in 1994.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Blessed Dina Belanger

Canada has a chequered past when dealing with its internal struggle for unity amongst a diverse population of both British and French immigrants in the 19th century. And it was in 1837 that an unsuccessful uprising by the French sector was severely dealt with by British soldiers. So even though a new proposal in 1867 would make Canada a dominion which still owes its allegiance to the Crown, this proposal did not meet with everyone’s approval.

After much negotiations a new province would join the dominion, that of Manitoba, but the French provinces were still feeling very discontented, and under the leadership of Louis Riel, they make their feelings known through rebellion. Unfortunately for Riel this would lead to his demise and he was later hanged for treason! But though Canada struggled with its internal quest for validation of both British and French colonies it would eventually become a constitutional monarchy, which maintains its separateness’ from Britain whilst retaining the British Monarch as its figure head.

But it is in 1897 that Dina Belanger was born to parents Olivier and Seraphia Belanger on a cool and crisp day in the month of April. Dina's parents were both very devout and taught their young family from a very young age the importance of their Faith and of pleasing Jesus.

Dina from a very young age showed herself to be extraordinarily gifted when it came to music but Dina was also a precocious child given to tantrums with a very strong will. But her loving parents were able to harness this determination and guide their beloved daughter to look beyond herself and focus her attention on pleasing God, rather than herself. But tragedy was also to strike the Belanger home when Dina's baby brother was to die at only a few months old, this brought much heartache to Olivier and Seraphia.

To cope with their loss, Seraphia threw herself into charitable works and was often accompanied by her daughter Dina, as she visited the sick and destitute bringing with her much needed food and compassion. But Dina was a handful and in an effort to cure their volatile daughter of her temper tantrums, both parents would often mimic Dina, thus making her feel ashamed of her bad behaviour.

But it was one night when the young Dina dreamt of being visited by Jesus, this dream would impact on Dina's life as it seemed most real to her. But trouble was to once again pursue this devout family, when like many others of that time, a financial crisis hit the family, and both her parents were distraught at having lost all their life savings.

But due to her gift for music both Olivier and Seraphia sent their daughter to New York, where after completing her studies she planned on becoming a concert pianist. But the course of Dina's life was to take her in another direction, and upon returning home she decided to enter the Congregation of Jesus and Mary at Sillery and took her final vows in 1923. Upon taking her Vows she would then be known as Sister Marie Sainte Cecile, and to Dina was given the task of teaching the pupil’s music.

But deep within Dina lay the heart of a mystic with a deep and abiding love of God and prayer, which would underlay her Religious profession as she drew closer to our Lord and Savior. Though Dina led a humble life, still she suffered illness but offered up this pain with meekness and for the suffering of others.

Dina Belanger though a Mystic, led a very hidden life and it is through her diaries that one gains a deep insight into the workings of God upon a soul in order to perfect it, as Dina was perfected into the Divine Will. So that no longer she lived but Christ lived within her.

Her deep love and devotion to our Lord and Blessed Mother was an inspiration to all she met and Dina was to instil in many the love she found in God and how much God can work within a soul to transform it.

Dina Belanger died in 1929 at only 32 years of age.

Dina was Beatified in 1993 by Pope John Paul ll.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Blessed Karl Leisner

The Ordination Card of Bl. Karl Leisner done by a fellow prisoner

Germany was to have a troubled history, especially under the leaderships of Bismarck, Kaiser Wilhelm and Adolph Hitler. These troubles would have disastrous outcomes for the entire world but also for the people of Germany itself.

Germany prided itself on its power, industry and culture, and through various wars it swallowed smaller countries into its borders, making a second Reich, by overcoming Prussia, Silesia and other territories. This would lead Germany into a belief that it was invincible, thereby leading the country into the first world war with devastating consequences for the entire world.

It was the humiliating defeat at the closure of the first world war when the Treaty of Versailles was signed that would lay the ground work for the rise of the National Socialist party as the depression hit Germany as well as most of the world.

During this period many German people became desperate for a way out of their poverty, as many resented the terms of the Versailles Treaty, which would become music to the Nazi's ears. The Nationalist Socialist party used this aspect to further their own agenda, and while the Nazi party did not gain a majority vote at the polls, it was enough to allow Adolph Hitler to be named Chancellor by President Hindenburg. Under Hitler’s Chancellery he orchestrated a 'national emergency' and thereby shut down any processes of dissension. In this way Hitler became a Dictator, and there was very little the German people could do to stop the Nazi onslaught.

But this was not to say that all Germans were silent, nor that all Germans consented to this evil regime, for there were some Germans who recognised the evil intent of Adolph Hitler and his regime of tyranny!

One of these men was Karl Leisner, who was born in 1915, in the midst of the First World War. Karl was born into a large Catholic family of devout parents and he got on well with his siblings, which was just as well as Karl was always a strong natured young man with leadership potential. And though times were tough for the Leisner household, he was raised to be strong and resourceful and also to love his Faith which was instilled within him at an early age.

Karl though an introspective young man, much taken with deep thoughts, he was also robust and athletic, this natural but also sensitive nature led him to be noticed by his Parish Priest, who encouraged Karl to become a leader of the youth in his area. This was to be a happy time for Karl as he led his fellow friends on camping trips and climbing parties, and also into moments of prayer and reflection on their Faith and love for God and Church.

But unfortunately for Karl, the government of the day sent him to work in a labour camp this would have devastating consequences for him as he lived in damp conditions. It was during this time as his body weakened that he felt drawn to take the first steps in becoming a Priest by at first, becoming a Deacon.

Upon becoming a Deacon, he spent his time organising the youth in the area to take them on camping trips well away from the ever watchful Gestapo, he could instruct the boys in the Faith, and this also enabled the boys to attend Mass. But it was also during this time that the hacking cough he had developed became serious, and Karl was diagnosed with tuberculosis.

In 1939 he left for a mountain sanatorium in the Black Forest to help him overcome this deadly disease, but the Nazi's were not going to let this young man off so lightly and upon raiding his home they arrested Karl and placed him in jail. For the frail Karl this was not good news, and the Nazi machine was merciless to him and showed this brave young Deacon no mercy!

They sent him to the concentration camp at Sachsenhusen, and whilst there he tried his best to not only lift his spirits but the spirits of all those he came in contact with. But Karl was only there a short while before being transferred to the dreaded concentration camp at Dachau. Karl was going through a dark time spiritually but he held on to his love of God in full trust that God was in control, and also helped organise for himself and others to receive the Eucharist through Masses which were held in the greatest secrecy.

But Karl's tuberculosis was ravaging his body and there were many times he was taken to the terrifying 'infirmary' where the Nazi's did their 'experiments'. But through all of this Karl remained pleasant and tried his utmost to relieve the sufferings of all those around him, he often shared his meagre rations with others in order to show compassion in hellish conditions. And though the men felt themselves in hell, love could still abound in such souls as Karl Leisner.

Then in 1944 a Bishop was interred at the infamous Dachau alongside Karl. Through the imprisonment of Bishop Piquet, Karl would be able to embrace and fulfil his great passion and love, to become a Priest and serve his beloved Church. In great secrecy his fellow inmates made Vestments, a Mitre and a stole which was truly a miracle in such a dangerous environment. One of the prisoners had written on the stole this creed, "Victor in Vinculis"(Victor in Chains), this was to be a true Motto for though evil men may enchain a man's body they cannot enchain a man's soul.

It was during this miraculous occasion where divisions of religion no longer existed as many religions joined forces in helping Karl Leisner to become ordained into the Catholic Priesthood. Many from the Protestant denominations made a small party for Karl and a Russian Orthodox provided the Bishop with his ring. It was a truly awesome moment shared by all for love of God and for their fellow man.

Though this lifted the spirits of Fr. Karl, enough for him to hold his first Mass it was not enough to turn back the all encompassing tuberculosis. And though he was to see the allies win a victory against the Nazi tyranny, Karl did not live long enough to celebrate this joyous moment for long, as he slowly succumbed to the disease ravaging his emaciated frame.

Father Karl Leisner died in 1945.

Karl was beatified in 1991 by Pope John Paul ll.

Peace of Christ to you ALL

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 10, 2005

St Madeleine Sophie Barat

France during the 1700's was to play an important part on the world stage, by helping the Americans to fight for independence from England. This would cause major ructions in the diplomatic arena between England and France, and in 1778, an incensed England declared war on France.

This alliance would prove to be problematic ones for France, as it help supply the American revolutionaries to fight on against the English troops, by providing military and weapons. The American Revolution also brought other countries into this conflict, as Spain allied itself to France and the burgeoning United States. And Holland also came under fire from the English for supporting the French in this conflict. There would be much fighting and even more negotiations before this conflict came to its conclusion, with the overthrow of British rule in the America's, and the birth of a new nation.

But it is 1779 that a little baby was born to France, she would be baptized with the name Madeleine Sophie Barat, as she showed signs of a premature birth and was very frail, her parents had her baptized very quickly.

But Madeleine would surprise all members of her family by her exuberant and extrovert nature, as she got up to high jinx and laughed and played with her siblings, much to the disapproval of her parents. Her family though not wealthy were able to provide a good living for their family as Madeleines father was in the wine business. And many times the children would help their parents pick the grapes to make the wine, which they then sold to their region.

Though Madeleines parents could be austere, this did not prevent their little one from enjoying life around her as she bubbled over with the latest excitements and little joys of life. It was thought best to place Madeleine’s education into the hands of their son, Louis, who was also studying to become a Priest. Though Madeleine's temperament was extroverted, she took to study like water on a ducks back, for underneath all the exuberance was a deep and growing love for her Faith.

Unfortunately the French Revolution would intrude upon Madeleine’s studies, so she was forced to delay her education and look for employment; she eventually found work as a seamstress which she excelled at. But it was the imprisonment of her beloved but austere brother Louis which would leave an impact on Madeleine as she prayed unceasingly for her brothers release from the bloody thirsty revolutionaries!

Her prayer was heard and upon the fall of the despotic Robespierre, Louis Barat was a free man, he then asked for Madeleine's help to further her education but also to continue a life of service to God. Upon completing her education, Madeleine started teaching the little children of her area, the rudimentaries of the Catholic Church. She enjoyed this immensely as her heart was overjoyed to be amongst little ones who had suffered much under the dreadful revolution!

But it was in 1800 that Madeleine would be introduced to Brother Varin who would change the course of her life, and influence her in turning her many gifts to help found a religious Order to educate the poverty stricken children of the area. After much prayer Madeleine chose to help Brother Varin and formed a small society called, Society of the Sacred Heart, of which she became its superior.

The Sacred Heart movement took wing and it spread to many different regions of France, this made life very busy, but for an extrovert like Madeleine, this proved no problem. During this time as Mother Madeleine traversed all over France, she also opened orphanages and schools where education would be free to those who could not afford to pay a school fee.

But Mother Madeleine knew that without prayer, nothing could be achieved, so Mother Madeleine led all those around her to rely totally on prayer and the Providence of a Loving God to help them in their needs. Prayer was to vital to Mother Madeleine that she spent several hours a day on her knees in deep prayer for her community and for the poor they were helping.

During all her mission work, Mother Madeleine overlooked any personal inconvenience and sufferings and worked to establish her Convents, orphanages and other enterprises. This required a great deal of diplomacy on Mother Madeleine’s part as France recovered from the reign of terror brought on by the revolutionaries. Mother Madeleine showed great skill in dealing with the civil authorities, Church authorities and people within each region, this took a heavy toll on her health, but Mother Madeleine persevered to help maintain her Order and its good works.

It was during this period that Mother Madeleine welcomed in a lady by the name of Rose Philippine Duchesne. This sister later would go to the America's and help establish the Order and to alleviate the sufferings of the poor in America.

During all the tumult of the French revolution, her own suffering and pain, Mother Madeleine always kept her spirit of joy and her love for all, shone in her face. The children adored this dear woman, who brought them not only love, but also a way out of their own impoverished circumstances, Madeleine was truly a mother par excellence to these poor children.

Mother Madeleine worked right up till her body could work no more, her love for the poor far outweighed any concern for her own health or comfort.

Mother Madeleine Sophie died in 1865.

Madeleine Sophie Barat was canonised in 1925 by Pope Pius Xl.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne

The 1700's were volatile years for France, as it waged war against the bourgeoisie in the name of 'freedom' and fought alongside those countries who were also struggling for their independence from Britain. It was France's support of the America's which would infuriate the British Government, as France willingly entered the war in 1778 by sending troops and other military aid to America to help the independents in its defiance of British rule.

But 1769 was to be a providential year for France as both Napoleon Bonaparte and Rose Philippine Duchesne were born. One was to bring untold tragedy upon the French people, as he grew to lust after power at any cost, while the other, Rose Philippine through her great Faith in God would become yet another Saint of France, this nation of tears.

Philippine began her life with ease as her Father was a prosperous business man and her mother was a devout Catholic. It was her mother Rose, who taught all her children a love for their Faith and fired their hearts with zealousness as she read them stories of the lives of previous Saints and martyrs, never knowing that one of her very own would one day become a Saint.

Philippine listened to all her Mothers stories with great attention and with her siblings she would re-enact the previous nights stories of Saintly heroism, during their play time. For Philippine was a born leader, and she thrived on hearing and then reading about these heroic Saints.

But being that Philippine was born into a prosperous family she was sent to school with the Visitation Nuns, where she thrived on its spirit of helping and educating the poor. It was then that she felt a calling to enter the Religious life, upon hearing this, her Father immediately withdraw poor Philippine from the school she so loved.

Philippine was saddened at such a response, but she did not give in and simply obeyed her parents till she came of age. During this time her education was not ignored as she was taught privately at home, excelling in many subjects.

Though Philippine was a model child, upon reaching maturity her independent spirit shone through and she rejected the attempts made by her father to marry her off to a man of suitable means. For Philippine still longed above all to serve her Lord through the Church and most especially the mission field.

But Philippine was to prevail and she entered the Religious Order of the Visitation Sisters at the age of 19. Unfortunately this broke the hearts of her parents and neither attended the ceremony of Profession, still Philippine would not be deterred.

But the French revolution would soon be upon them and during this great destruction Philippine did all she could to assist the poor in her area, despite the governing powers, who were trying to destroy the Church!

Sadly Philippines parents died during this period in time and left their daughter a substantial sum of money which helped her to distribute it to the sick and the poor. But it was in 1801 that Philippine once again re-entered the Order of the Visitation Sisters, once the blood lust of the mob had been sated, and the French revolution became a part of France's tragic history.

Though Philippine returned to her Order it was not the same as it had been before and it was with the intercession of Father Varin that led Philippine to the Order of the Society of the Sacred Heart, in which Mother Madeleine Sophie Barat welcomed her.

All through these troubling times Philippine kept a strong spirit of prayer and a love of solitude as well as a longing to help the poor. No matter the price Philippine was determined to pay it as she longed to be a Saint, not for any honour of self but to proclaim her love of God to all.

So it was that in 1818, Sister Philippine came to New Orleans to help Bishop Du Bourg. Upon settling down, Sister Philippine was then sent in a small group to Missouri, where she commenced to opening a school. These were interesting times as America was very different from her beloved France, its landscape was much harsher and less yielding. It took Sister Philippine time to adjust to this dramatic change in landscape and peoples.

But in every country the poor were everywhere, and Philippine was determined to help educate the dispossessed to become self sufficient. This was to produce a zealous and formidable workload where Sister Philippine seemed to be everywhere, opening orphanages, starting new schools in a never ending attempt to be of assistance to those who needed her help.

She worked diligently to improve the lot of the poor but also to try and help the Native Americans in the terrible injustices she would witness being perpetrated against them. Therefore Philippine also educated and trained Native American girls to help her in her mission hospitals and to help them establish a decent life for themselves.

And though born in the same year as Napoleon Bonaparte who tried to rule the world it was Rose Philippine Duchesne who ended up ruling the hearts of all those she came in contact with, in a spirit of mutual love and respect.

Rose Philippine Duchesne died in 1852.

Saint Rose Philippine was canonised in 1988 by Pope John Paul ll.

Quotes from St. Philippine Duchesne:

"Learn to let others do their share of the work. Things may be done less well, but you will have more peace of soul and health of body. And what temporal interest should we not sacrifice in order to gain these blessings?"

...." the dear Lord has favored us with a share of His cross. The greatest and undoubtedly the hardest to bear is the lack of success in our work here. If a saint had been in charge, all would have gone well. "

"You may dazzle the mind with a thousand brilliant discoveries of natural science; you may open new worlds of knowledge which were never dreamed of before; yet, if you have not developed in the soul of the pupil strong habits of virtue which will sustain her in the struggle of life, you have not educated her, but only put in her hand a powerful instrument of self-destruction."

"Humility is the virtue that requires the greatest amount of effort."
St. Philippine Duchesne

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Saint Angela Merici

Italy in the fifteenth century was one of division as noble families fought for supremacy in order to rule over all Italy. But it became a place of different factions, where some cities prospered and flourished, whilst others floundered. The larger cities would later amalgamate to form a pact of non aggression as they subsisted beside each other.

During these years Italy was a place of political intrigue, which required many leaders to become accomplished diplomats. But as the course of history runs, peace was always under threat as the French invaded Italy in an attempt to capture for themselves the prosperous city of Florence.

Once again the Pope came under threat and fled to Castel, to elude the French invader Charles Vlll, who upon capturing Florence endeavoured to make himself its King. Under the guidance of Pope Alexander Vl, the neighbouring cities unite to defeat Charles Vlll, which was successful, as the King fled back to his homeland, France.

But it was in the year 1474 that a young child would be born, to parents, Giovanni and Caterina Merici, but it was her mother Caterina who came from a more prosperous family. So though Angela was not born into poverty still they were also not overly wealthy.

Both parents were devout and instilled a great love for their Faith into their children, often reading them stories of the great Saints when the evening meal had been finished and the family gathered around the hearth. Angela particularly loved to hear her Father read the stories of these heroic Saints and in her young heart she longed to become a Saint too, her longing would be fulfilled.

But tragedy was to strike the Merici family when both of Angela's parents died leaving them orphans, they then went to live with their Uncle who did his best to raise them as good children and to love their Faith. Angela and her siblings missed their loving parents dreadfully, this was a heartbreaking time for Angela as she turned to a deeper prayer life to help her cope with such a loss.

Both her Aunt and Uncle took the children to attend the local Church run by the Franciscans, where Angela in particular was drawn to the austere spirituality of the Franciscan Order, with a love for poverty and prayer. This would become the corner stone of Angela's life, and one which her Aunt and Uncle encouraged.

Once Angela had come of age she returned to Desenzano, where she lived a life of deep prayer and mortification, and practiced the works of mercy in her region. It was also during this time that Angela was to be the recipient of Divine Visions, which was to set her on the path to fulfil the Lords Will for her life.

Angela's holiness was to draw many young people into her life who like Angela wished to serve the poor and to love God with all their hearts and minds. It was in 1542 that Angela embarked on a journey to the Holy Land, it was during this trip that Angela was to suddenly suffer from loss of vision but unperturbed she continued with her journey and on her return she regained her sight.

Angela's great concern was for the lack of knowledge of young people in her home area of Desenzano and she sought to remedy this situation by teaching young women the faith. Angela would soon be joined by other ladies who also wished to improve the lot of the poor and to instil in them a love for the Church.

Angela would also visit Rome, even meeting the Pope Clement Vll, who was impressed with her level of devoutness to our Lord and Savior. For Angela harboured in her heart a desire to found a new Order to teach young girls the Faith and to educate them to live holy and responsible lives.

So it was that in 1535, Angela and some female companions made Vows of poverty, to serve God through helping to educate the poor girls of their region. And through Angela's divine visions she placed her Order under the protection of Saint Ursula, who had appeared to her in one of her visions. So even though war was in the air Angela persevered to fulfil God's Will in helping the poor, despite the hardships she was encountering nothing would deter Angela from this course.

Angela and her companions worked hard to educate the young girls, even though they had no formalised Order still they worked diligently while observing a life of prayer, poverty and mercy towards all who came into their path.

Angela Merici's Order was to be formally recognised by the Church by Pope Paul lll four years after Angela's death.

It was in 1568 that Angela's group of female companions would formalised into a cloistered Religious Order, which became world wide as The Ursuline Order of Religious.

Angela Merici died in 1540.

Saint Angela Merici was canonised in 1807 by Pope Pius Vll.

Peace of Christ to you ALL

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.
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