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

Sunday, December 17, 2006

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.
Peace of Christ
Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity is another great Saint of Carmel. It is through the vitality of Elizabeth's unique spirituality that we gain an insight into what is meant by living a 'Heaven on earth'. Elizabeth makes clear God's awesome Love for His children and she also helps us to understand that God is within reach for each of us. Though Elizabeth lived a short life her teachings on the Trinity will live on and will help many a sojourner to find that Heaven is truly lived within the soul when we love with the Power of God's love.

Read more about this wonderful Saint of Carmel by reading Sister Margaret Dorgan's reflection by clicking here.
Peace of Christ to ALL

Monday, September 04, 2006

Saint Gregory the Great

For a man of immense intelligence and who was born into a noble and holy family, Gregory did all he could to avoid both the power and the glory which the Church would afford him.

At the heart of Gregory was a simple but complex man. A man of simple tastes who longed to live a contemplative life of prayer as a Monk, yet glory shadowed his steps. It is a well known truth that the most capable men are those who do all they can to avoid power and ostentation.

Gregory not only tried to avoid it he virtually ran away from it. Still like a whisper on the breeze it caught up with him, this man of simple tastes.

Gregory was born around the year 540 while the Church was still in its birth pangs and heresies still lured the unaware. Whenever the Catholic Church has been threatened God produces Great Sons of the Church not to save it but to enrich and make known what is already there. So it is that Gregory stepped into a time of history that was not only tumultuous, but lusty in both ideas and manners.

As the Roman Empire fell and the robust and brutal barbarians brought in their own beliefs which was not based on Christian Doctrine but on the heresy of Arianism. Into this arena came Gregory a man both gentle and inflexible in matters of Divine Truth. A man who would persuade the masses to follow him and the Teachings of the One True Church, yet he insisted on forcible conversions to the Catholic Church. Gregory was a diplomat who respected the Jewish Traditions and yet was intransigent with those who held pagan beliefs. Perhaps Gregory had seen the bitters tears shed by those who suffered under the governing of the Lombards.

In order to combat these heresies Gregory wanted much to evangelize what was then known as the Angles(English). With the Pope's permission Gregory set sail to do just that, unfortunately there were others who strongly objected to losing this great man of fire from the Church and so Gregory was recalled back to Rome.

These were difficult and fraught years for Gregory, he had clashed with the Byzantines, and his mission to Constantinople was not seen as an enormous success. Now he could not follow his heart and evangelize the faith to the Angles, but as always Gregory was an obedient son of the Church and so with filial love he returned to Rome.

The great city though would endure its own agony as floods ravaged many areas bringing forth disease and pestilence. Rome had come to resemble a land of corpses rather than the land of the living. During this terrible upheaval and tragic episode in Roman history the Pope also succumbed and died from the aftermath of the great floods and the plague which was running rampant throughout Rome and other area's. This left the land without a shepherd but not for long.

Upon hearing the rumor that he would become the next Pope, Gregory with great trepidation tried to flee such a heavy task. This was not done in a spirit of craven fear but of a longing to remain as he was a simple man who's life revolved around prayer and mortifications. A man who's own soul was pure and self controlled who did not seek after vain glories or have need of politics. Gregory was to learn though what he longed for and what God ordained to be were two different things. God won!

Gregory was Consecrated as Pope in 590. The gentle breeze that had touched Gregory with greatness had become a hurricane and so the people turned to Pope Gregory to lead them through this momentous time in history.

Pope Gregory would do just this with such aplomb that greatness would attach itself to this simple man of faith and his awesome intellect. To read more about Pope Gregory's reign as Pope click here.
New Advent

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Blessed's Edward Bamber & Thomas Whitaker

King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church thereby proclaiming himself 'Supreme Head of the Church of England' in 1534. This would bring untold misery to those who still professed the Catholic Faith. His reign of tyranny against Catholics would be continued under the reign of his daughter Elizabeth I.

Once King Henry broke with Rome this laid the ground work for all those who followed him including the short time span in history where England was without a Monarch. Though there was no Monarch, Catholics were still not safe from the English Parliament as different factions fought for supremacy among them was one Oliver Cromwell. It seems that Charles I did not seem to have the ruthless hold that both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I enjoyed in their blood thirsty reigns.

It wasn't long before the country erupted into warring factions some who supported the claim of Charles I while the parliamentarians supported Cromwell. During this tremendous upheaval Charles I surrendered to the Scots and in 1648 Cromwell is victorious in defeating the Scottish incursion of England. Charles I was eventually beheaded, as England embraced republicanism.

One would have hoped that upon ridding the nation of tyrants England when then enjoy a time of peace and open mindedness towards those of other faiths, this was not to be.

Because of the persecutions faced by Catholic families in England many families sent their sons to be educated and Ordained Priests while they were abroad. Upon their return many chose to head towards Lancashire which had become known as sympathetic to the Catholic Faith. This was not to last.

Both Thomas Whitaker and Edward Bamber received their education in England and were then sent abroad to study for the Priesthood at Valladolid.

Upon returning to the shores of England Edward was seen to kneel and praise God for bringing him back to his native shore, a devout Priest. Unfortunately his prayer was noted by the Governor of the Castle and he was then reported to the authorities whereupon Edward found himself under arrest! He found himself banished but Edward was not here to obey the orders of man but instead to give witness and preach the Catholic Faith. Edward continued to Minister to the people despite the perilous position of Catholic Priests within the region. Like many Priests during these times of tyranny many families including those of noble birth hid Priests within their homes and castles so as to receive the Sacraments.

It surely is a testament to the strong and courageous Catholic families of England that they disregarded an unholy law and at risk of their lives they remained true to their faith. This was not a time for cold or cowardly hearts, it was also not a time for lukewarmness as English Catholics held their faith dear to them and were willing to die for their beliefs. A lesson which is much needed in these days of liberal progressives.

Edward did not have a lucky time of it and once again he found himself re-arrested not once, not twice but three times. This also shows an undue amount of courage on the part of this Priest, that he would choose to stay rather than flee and thereby save his life. Edward knew to save his life at the expense of his faith would be to enjoy no life at all. Edward refused to flee, and though he was helped and hidden by different people Edwards luck would soon run out.

Thomas Whitaker was also sent abroad upon completing his education to Valladolid where upon completing his studies he was Ordained into the Priesthood. In 1638 Thomas decided to return to England in order to give his beleaguered people recourse to the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. He pastored in the region of Lancaster where he was hidden by many of the nobility so as to conduct Mass.

The courage of these two Priests and many more like them can not be understated as they withstood the terrors that capture would bring. The English were not known for their compassion to the Catholics and many still felt threatened by anyone who would preach the One True Faith, Catholicism.

Thomas Whitaker also found himself arrested he was able to escape once and was then re-arrested. He then spent three years of imprisonment, these were severe years for a man known for his gentleness and compassion. Though he was placed under undue pressure to convert to Anglicanism Thomas refused. He continued to refuse to the end saying quietly and gently to his captors, "Use your pleasure with me, a reprieve or even a pardon upon your conditions I utterly refuse". This refusal would lead to his martyrdom.

Both Edward Bamber and Thomas Whitaker were to choose martyrdom rather than betray their Faith. This was no easy decision. Execution in those days were a terrible sight to see, many Priests would be dragged through the streets sometimes upside down hitting obstacles along the way. Once arriving at their place of execution they were then hung drawn and quartered a most despicable form of torture. Even after their death the bodies of these heroic Priests would be left on display as a warning to all other Catholics the danger of practicing their Faith.

As we in this modern era come under increasing threat by the secular world let us remember the courage of these Saints and Martyrs and hopefully follow their example. Lest they died in vain.

Edward Bamber died in 1646.

Blessed Edward Bamber was beatified in 1987 by Pope John Paul II.

Thomas Whitaker died in 1646.

Blessed Thomas Whitaker was beatified in 1987 by Pope John Paul II.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Saint Bartholomew the Apostle

Saint Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles, and probably a close friend of the Apostle Saint Philip. He was brought to Jesus by Philip, and Bartholomew’s name is usually mentioned in the Gospels in association with Philip.

He is called Bartholomew in the Gospels of Saints Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Most scholars believe that Bartholomew is called Nathaniel in the Gospel of John, and that Bartholomew was actually his last name. The name Bartholomaios means “son of Talmai” (Tolomai or Tholmai), an ancient Hebrew name. (The King of Gessur, whose daughter was a wife of David, bore the name; see 2 Samuel 3:3.) So, in this article, I will refer to him as Saint Nathaniel bar Tolomai (this would amount to him being known as Nathaniel son of Tolomai, just as Peter was called Simon bar Jonah, which would mean Simon son of Jonah.)

We see Saint Nathaniel bar Tolomai mentioned sixth in order as follows in the synoptic (this refers to the first 3 Gospels being similar in content, order, and statement) Gospels:

Matthew 10:3. James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the publican, and James the son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus

Mark 3:18. And Andrew and Philip, and Bartholomew and Matthew, and Thomas and James of Alpheus, and Thaddeus and Simon the Cananean:

Luke 6:14. Simon, whom he surnamed Peter, and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew,

And then again in the Gospel of Saint John:

John 1:45. Philip findeth Nathanael and saith to him: We have found him of whom Moses, in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth.
1:46. And Nathanael said to him: Can any thing of good come from Nazareth? Philip saith to him: Come and see.
1:47. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him and he saith of him: Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.
1:48. Nathanael saith to him: Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said to him: Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
1:49. Nathanael answered him and said: Rabbi: Thou art the Son of God. Thou art the King of Israel.
1:50. Jesus answered and said to him: Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, thou believest: greater things than these shalt thou see.
1:51. And he saith to him: Amen, amen, I say to you, you shall see the heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

Once more in John:
John 21:2. There were together: Simon Peter and Thomas, who is called Didymus, and Nathanael, who was of Cana of Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee and two others of his disciples.

The last time that Saint Nathaniel bar Tolomai is mentioned in the New Testament is in The Acts of the Apostles:

Acts 1:13. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James of Alpheus and Simon Zelotes and Jude the brother of James.

Outside the references mentioned, there are no other instances of the name of Saint Nathaniel bar Tolomai being mentioned in the New Testament. What we know of him after the New Testament is not certain. There is no mention of him in ecclesiastical literature before Eusebius, who mentions that Pantaenus who was the master of Origen, was evangelizing in India, and was told that Saint Nathaniel bar Tolomai had preached there before him, and had given them a copy of the Gospel of Saint Matthew written in Hebrew. This was treasured by the Church there. India, was the name given to a vast area, and was not limited to the geographical area we know as India today. Other traditions indicate that Saint Nathaniel bar Tolomai also preached and evangelized in Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Armenia, Lycaonia, Phrygia, and on the shores of the Black Sea.

There are conflicting traditions regarding his death. According to one, he was beheaded at Albanopolis in Armenia. According to another he was flayed (skinned alive) alive and crucified head down by order of Astyages, for having converted his brother, Polymius, King of Armenia. Because of the latter legend, he is often represented as a man holding his skin. His relics are at Saint Bartholomew-on-the-Tiber Church, in Rome, and in the cathedral in Canterbury, England.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard of Clarivaux was born into the nobility of Burgundy, his father being, Tescelin, Lord of Fontaines and his mother Aleth of Montbard in the year 1090.

From his earliest years, Bernard showed an aptitude for learning he was also deeply devout with a zealousness not usually found in one so young. This young man even from his earliest years showed himself to be a very forceful and charismatic figure who had the ability to draw people to himself and to illuminate the love he held for his Faith to those who would listen to him.

So it was no surprise despite his delicate health that at only 22 years of age he decided to join a Monastery and live the rest of his days as a monk. Due to his charismatic personality 35 other members of his family joined him in his pursuit of the monastic way of life. Quite an achievement for one so young.

One can see even from an early age Bernard was of a determined disposition and did not suffer fools gladly. His rule was so severe that it not only caused him health problems but also his fellow brothers within the Monastery compound. Upon becoming ill, Bernard was able to rest and re-think his strict regime as many of his fellow brothers were flagging under such extreme asceticism and mortifications. When he recovered Bernard relaxed some of the stricter penances for his fellow brothers but he remained very severe with himself.

Bernard was an astute character with a keen intelligence, but this did not mean he was open to any novelty of the moment and remained true to the Teachings of the Catholic Church. He was also very forthright and was not put off by anyone's position in life, not even if that man were the Pope himself! Bernard would speak the truth and accept the consequences for his outspokenness.

This great man of the Church was also not without fault one of them being that Bernard had a great impatience for those who did not grasp facts as quickly and as easily as himself. He also had no patience for those who were indecisive and would often use his quick wit to good effect when dealing with those who were driven by their own ego's rather than a love of God. Bernard also possessed a love for conveying to all his deep passion for God and the Church and would answer all letters written, from the Pope himself to the most humble peasant. In Bernard's mind, all men should be given equal respect be they pauper or prince.

At times the slow moving of the many ecclesial bodies within the Church would set off Bernard's famous impatience, and he would send them his thoughts on various matters. His replies from Rome were equally confronting he was told in no uncertain terms to mind his own business, and keep his thoughts within his own community. It was a robust relationship between those in authority and this most clever and perceptive of men which was the essence of the character of Bernard of Clairvaux.

The very character of Bernard though would be needed by the Catholic Church when an anti-pope Anacletus II tried to overtake the reigning Pope, Innocent II. It was to Bernard that the Church turned to help sort out the mess of the two popes, and who was the legitimate Pontiff. Bernard rallied to Pope Innocent II and helped dispel the cult of Anacletus II by preaching in many different countries as he gained support for the rightful Pope, Innocent II. This would also take a toll on the health of this well spoken and intellectual son of the Church.

During all this work Bernard was also a prodigious writer and his works are still read to this very day. Bernard wrote some of the most mystical writings within the Catholic Church, which gained the respect of all those who read them, his eloquence when writing about different aspects of the Catholic Church would one day make him a Doctor of the Church and deservedly so.

Bernard was also an unwilling accomplice in the Crusades when Rome once again called upon this eloquent monk to preach to the man in the streets in order to set off for the Holy land and the sights sacred to Christianity. Even though many joined the Crusades after listening to Bernard the Crusades were not a success and many lost their lives in the ensuing battles with the Moors, this grieved Bernard deeply. It was at this time that a man tried to bring dissent within the gentile and Jewish communities as he espoused hatred of the Jews. This incensed Bernard, who then immediately rebutted what this despicable man, Raoul and his hateful rantings which incited violence against the Jewish population. Bernard with his usual forthrightness called Raoul exactly what he was a hate filled and heretical speaker who promoted murder at the cost of the innocent. Bernard's condemnation of Raoul was so strong that it gained the respect and admiration of the Jews who lived within the European provinces. So much so that many named their sons after Bernard with the Jewish dialect of Baruch.

All of this traveling and preaching eventually took its toll on the health of Bernard. A man of fierce intellect and a zealous passion for the Church, his entire life was spent in serving the Church which he so loved.

Bernard of Clairvaux died in 1153.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was canonized in the year 1170 by Pope Alexander III.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was named a Doctor of the Church in 1830 by Pope Pius VIII.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Faith of the Fathers Blogs. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Christian Heroes-Corrie Ten Boom

The Ten Boom family of Holland are world famous for their heroic courage in confronting the Nazi menace which was inflicted upon their country when Germany invaded that peace loving country of The Netherlands.

As the Dutch Queen, Wilhelmina was spirited away to the safety of England as the Nazi's goose stepped in the streets of Holland, the populace was left to face the evil that is National Socialism. From England Queen Wilhelmina encouraged the Dutch resistance to rise up and fight for their freedom and to confront the evil in their time, fascism.

From the beginning of Cornelia Ten Boom's life when she was born in the year 1892 into a very Christian based home in Amsterdam, her entire life was consumed by love of family and love of God. Her father, Casper Ten Boom was a very devout and God fearing man who raised his children in an environment of love and also of Christian discipline. Corrie along with her siblings learnt very early to help those who were less fortunate than themselves. This would pave the way to her family's involvement in helping the persecuted Jews.

The Ten Boom family were very involved in their Church activities and both Betsie and Corrie would spend many afternoons helping and educating those who had mental and physical disabilities. Casper Ten Boom instilled in all his children that in order to love God this must be shown and shared with all peoples but most especially those who had been marginalized in society.

So from the very beginning Corrie was given the example of not only believing in her faith but of living it daily. By helping the disabled Corrie learnt patience and tenacity, even though she struggled with her lack of patience within her interior Corrie never let this aspect show when teaching those who were disabled.

The Ten Boom family were well known in their area of Haarlem and greatly respected in their dealings with others. Casper Ten Boom was a talented clock maker and repairer a talent that he passed on to his daughter, Corrie who became a licensed clock maker. This meant a great deal to Corrie as she also wanted to contribute to her families finances and to become a respected business woman in the mold of her beloved father.

Casper Ten Boom listened to the happenings across the border in the land of Nazi Germany with great misgivings and also with concern as this great man understood that the Jewish people were the apple of God's eye. He understood that to persecute an entire people for simply being themselves would be loathsome in God's Sight and that the German people were igniting the wrath of God's Divine Justice.

This comfortable lifestyle would be interrupted forever with the invasion of the Nazi's into peace loving Holland. As always The Ten Boom family under the guiding hand of their father, Casper kept an open house for all those who were in need, whatever their religion.

Many people in Holland found different ways to confront the Nazi menace as the resistance grew. Some of the Dutch joined different espionage networks where trains and other facilities needed by the Germans were blown up. Many faced the difficult decision of how to overcome the Nazi's and force them to leave their country. The Ten Boom family chose non-violence as the only Christian response they could give when trying to confront and overcome this tyranny of evil. These were difficult times for all of the Dutch populace as their lives came under increasing threat from the Nazi menace.

The people of Holland during this maelstrom of evil showed the true character of what it means to be Dutch. By maintaining their stoical and determined ability to withstand this evil which had been thrust upon them in the only way they knew how, total conviction and total courage in the face of a force greater than themselves. These were a people not easily threatened or overcome by threats and torture, they showed a fierce courage when facing one of the greatest evils of this century, fascism.

Corrie Ten Boom due to her physical health became one of the leaders of the resistance movement known as the 'bege group' which helped both resistance fighters and those who needed to hide from the Nazi's. The Ten Boom family sheltered these refugee's in their own home in a spirit of hospitality and treated those who were in fear of their lives as if they were honoured guests, they showed what it means to be Christian.

Like all people Corrie struggled against the injustices she saw perpetrated by the Nazi's against the Jewish people and her own peoples. It was difficult for Corrie not to hate the Germans for what they were doing to those who were helpless and vulnerable. Corrie had a keen sense of justice and to witness the terrible atrocities taking place was difficult for this noble and Christian woman to accept meekly.

As the Ten Boom family continued to help those who were most in need the persecuted Jews it was not long before a person would betray them, this happened in 1944. Corrie who was ill in bed suddenly heard a car pull up outside their clock maker shop and as she struggled out of bed, the Jews who were hiding quickly made their way to the hiding place which was in Corrie's bedroom. As the Germans entered the house screaming their venom, and slapping the faces of both gentle Betsie and the sick Corrie as Casper their father remained strong and steady in the face of such hatred, they were arrested and sent to prison. Later when an officer reminded Casper Ten Boom of the penalty for hiding Jews Casper's response was simple and eloquent, "It would be an honor to give my life for God's ancient people." This great and noble man died within days of his imprisonment.

Corrie and Betsie were eventually sent to the concentration camp of Ravensbruck a place of such evil that it's name lives in infamy! The women guards were just as brutal as the men if not more so, it was a cruel place where inhumanity seemed to reign supreme. The main object of the Nazi's were to set prisoners against each other, Betsie noted this and so began to pray fiercely that the imprisoned would rise above the evil of their surroundings and be given the strength to overcome evil with good.

Betsie Ten Boom the gentle flower of Ravensbruck taught the imprisoned women that though they may be treated like animals they did not have to behave like one. This is a lesson that the more volatile Corrie also learnt, who's sense of injustice would rise against the terrible deeds that were being perpetrated upon innocent victims within the camp. Corrie hated to see the barbaric cruelties which were meted out to the most sick and vulnerable within the concentration camp. Her feelings of indignation and outrage rose at such gross injustices, this is easily understandable for a woman of Corrie's integrity.

Corrie in this most diabolical of places looked to her sister, Betsie for inspiration and with Betsie's encouragement both women began to witness to their fellow inmates of the saving Grace of God's love. Though Corrie witnessed to the love of God it was hard to be able to maintain this Christian message especially when the guards would brutally beat up Betsie, Corrie would seethe to see these attacks on her beloved and gentle sister, Betsie.

Even though Corrie struggled, she never forfeited her faith and remained true to her beliefs as she tried to live a Christian life in a living hell. The heroic courage shown by the two Ten Boom sisters did help others to embrace the Christian faith as both sisters helped and assisted their fellow inmates even to sharing their meager rations.

As Betsie's health weakened her evident holiness became apparent to all as this gentle flower prayed not only for her fellow prisoners but also for the guards who beat her. The love of God shone in the emaciated features of this most beautiful child of God lending her a luminous quality which touched the hearts of all, including some of the guards. Betsie died in the hell hole known as Ravensbruck, her face in repose was that of an angel her pain was now over.

Corrie was inconsolable though she knew her sister to be in Heaven, still now Corrie found herself alone in a camp of such brutality that it broke even the most stoical of hearts. Corrie though was made of stern stuff and she continued to witness to her faith even though she also struggled not to hate those who were brutal in their treatment of other prisoners.

Not long after the death of her beloved Betsie, Corrie heard her name called out by one of the guards her heart filled with trepidation as she stepped forward, was she about to be executed? No! Corrie was to be released from the living hell known as Ravensbruck. Was this Divine intervention? For a week later all the women of Corrie's age were executed by the Nazi prison guards.

After the war Corrie remembered one of Betsie's visions to have a house of healing for those recovering from the brutal treatment of the Nazi's. This house of hope and love was not only to recover physically but also spiritually. It worked as Corrie's loving care became more well known she became a speaker for human rights and always to witness to the loving kindness of God even in the terror of the Nazi holocaust.

Corrie Ten Boom truly lived out this Scripture, "Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good."(Romans 12:21).

Corrie Ten Boom died in 1983, where she has received her Heavenly Reward as a servant of God.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Saint Vincent Pallotti

"Holiness, is simply to do God's Will."

These simple words were spoken by a simple Priest yet in this one sentence contains the meaning of what being a sincere Catholic is, to do God's Will.

Vincent Pallotti was born in the year 1795 in Rome. His parents, Peter and Maddalena Pallotti were very devout Catholics and passed on this love for their faith to their children. From his early days there was nothing to denote that Vincent would be any different from any other boy in his region. Especially as at first Vincent struggled with his studies and seemed unable to understand the most simplest things in matters of Faith. This worried his mother so much she sought out the advice of a Priest, who then consoled this erstwhile mother and advised her to begin a novena to the Holy Spirit for the illumination of Vincent's mind to grasp the Mysteries of Faith and the Teachings of the Catholic Church. One can only say the Novena was a success.

Even though Vincent went from being rather obtuse to becoming the head of his class the one thing that Vincent knew from the beginning was that love did not require a great intelligence it required greatness of heart, this Vincent had with abundance from the beginning. His love for the poor and destitute would stay with him his entire life, but it was not a simpering show of love for the poor. Vincent's love of the poor was as real as his love for God, he understood from the beginning to love the poor is to love God. He treated the poor even from a young age with the greatest respect and treated them as if he were serving Jesus Himself, there were no 'airs and graces' from Vincent just a profound and deep empathy with those who's struggles were incompatible with the Churches Teaching on charity.

Vincent even from his youth encapsulates what true charity is and it is not a giving of things to the poor it is a giving of self to those in need. Charity is Spirit not goods. This love for the poor and also the mire of sin he could see enveloping the lifestyles of those who did not know God only increased Vincent's longing to help them in a meaningful way. So Vincent began acts of Penance by denying himself the rich dishes which his mother cooked and instead choosing to eat little and plainly. Once again his mother Maddalena worried for this loving son of hers and again chose to confide her concerns to her Priest whereupon the Priest replied, "Let us leave Vincent undisturbed. It appears to be a higher call than we have been given. It seems to come from God."

All throughout his youth Vincent had a great longing to the Priesthood and also nurtured a great devotion towards the Blessed Mother through the youth groups he had joined. At an early age he joined the Sapienza University where he studied theology. This was also a time where the Catholic Church and its people were undergoing a persecution by the secular government and from this Vincent decided courageously to wear clerical habit throughout his years of studying in the Seminary.

At the age of 23 years Vincent's dream was fulfilled as he was Ordained into the Priesthood and gained his doctorate in theology. Father Vincent though was not a Priest with his head in books his first true love was always for the people mainly those who most needed his help. He resigned his professorship and instead devoted himself to pastoral work amongst his people, the poor, sick and lonely.

Once again though Father Vincent would prove that his love for the poor was not a theoretical one but one of practicalities as he organized schools who could help the poor gain professions in the fields of shoemaking, carpenters, gardeners, coachmen etc. He was so zealous in his love and devotion to help the poor that many were calling him the 'second Philip Neri'. Vincent was always himself, this is a burning love he had held within him from his youth. He was simply putting into practice the love and the true meaning of charity which is to give the poor their dignity. Father Vincent also gave away his own belongings when beggars would knock at his door even at one time giving away his own bed! There was no end to this Priest love just as there is no end to the love God has for His children.

Vincent understood that when a Priests love grows cold towards the poor, lonely and dispossessed then the heart has also grown cold towards God Himself. Vincent's love was not cold, he had a passionate love for ALL people not in a whimsical sense but in the Truth that peace and happiness can only be found with God through His Church.

It would not be long before Father Vincent's efforts were needed elsewhere and he was approached by the diocesan authorities who needed the help of this passionate Priest in the area of Trastevere. This was an area which had many poor people and the youth who had been given very little in the way of instruction were running wild. It would take the erstwhile and loving efforts of this valiant Priest to reach these hardened and cynical youths. What lay at the heart of Vincent was a belief in peoples goodness if only they were given hope. It was this that Father Vincent wanted to give to these poor and roughened youths, hope for themselves and a restoration of their dignity through hard work.

The roughened youth of the area took to this Priest obvious holiness without the false or patronizing largesse of the wealthy. Father Vincent was able to connect with these young people and bring hope back into their lives as they struggled to make the best of themselves and to strive to live virtuous lives despite their poverty. Through the work of Father Vincent the rebellious youths were given back their self respect and encouraged to rise above their birth and live lives of piety and of good works.

Through these years Father Vincent also began a new movement called the Union of The Catholic Apostolate. The charism was to attract those who did not know the Catholic faith and to help others return to the faith of their fathers. It was an outreach mission to touch and reignite the flame of the laity towards the Catholic Church through a true spirit of charity towards their neighbor. All the people who joined this Apostolate were also to pray for the work of the Holy Father and for the Church as it missioned to the needs of the people all over the world. Pope Gregory XVI was greatly moved and approved of this new movement which gained members by the hundreds.

Father Vincent Pallotti had the uncanny brilliance to re-ignite the flames of the faithful that had grown dim from lack of heat. In order to re-ignite these flames one must draw close to God through prayer and good works and the receiving of the Sacraments. This deeply devout Priest simply re-awakened the love of the faithful towards their vibrant Church which had come alive through the work of Father Vincent, and the example he gave to all through his own life and his love for God and the Church.

Just when everything was going along smoothly and Father Vincent was working as diligently as he could an epidemic spread through the area, the dreaded disease of cholera. Personal tragedy would now cloud Father Vincent's life as his own father succumbed to this deadly disease as did his friends Father Fazzani and Father Gaspare del Buffalo. It was a blow as children lost their parents and parents lost their children. The poor and destitute roamed the streets in search of lodging and food, as the town was ravaged by this deadly outbreak.

Father Vincent was heartbroken at the scene he saw day after day as people walked around aimless and in abject poverty and young girls were driven onto the streets to make a living anyway they could. It was like a knife through this loving Priest heart to see such a calamity and he drove himself day and night to try and alleviate the pain of the suffering people.

This most compassionate Priest along with his friend Mr. James Salvatie acquired a small residence that had housed former seminarians. It was here that he brought the young girls who had been orphaned through this catastrophe in order to save their virtue and provide a stable and safe place so they could heal from the pain of losing their loved ones. Father Vincent encouraged a group of women to instruct these young girls in the domestic sciences so they could one day gain employment and become self sufficient, the orphanage was given the name Pious House of St Agatha. These lady volunteers would later become the foundation of the Order of the Pallottine Sisters.

Throughout his life Father Vincent Pallotti did not dignify poverty in its rawness and starkness, but he did give back dignity to the poor for it is not a sin to be poor...He gave the poor a chance to better as they became better and to rise above their circumstances rather than be trapped by them. He visited the imprisoned spent time with those who were condemned to death and would hold the Crucifix before them as they were executed. He visited hospitals and even the homes of atheistic revolutionaries in order that they obtain the Last Rites even under disguise. This simple Priest gave the poor....hope..and shared his compassionate love with them which is the key to God's Heart.

Father Vincent Pallotti died in the year 1850.

Saint Vincent Pallotti was canonized in 1963 by Pope John XXIII.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Saint Alphonsus Liguori-Doctor of The Church

Alphonsus Liguori was born into a relatively prosperous family of the nobility in the year 1696 near Naples. The young Alphonsus was lucky in that both his parents were devout and raised their children in the same vein. When it came to Alphonsus though the parents had their work cut out for them not because he was a rebel but due to his determination and obstinate will, from an early age Alphonsus had a clear idea of what he liked and what he did not!

In these days Alphonsus would be considered a gifted child, perhaps even a prodigy as his keen intelligence and love of learning would impress all those around him including his father Don Joseph Liguori. Though Alphonsus loved his faith he was not a cold ascetic who remained untouched but rather embraced all forms of art from music to books to art. He also loved the various sports of the day including fencing and cards.

His parents most especially his father guarded the young Alphonsus from any undue harm and rather than send his brightest child to school Alphonsus was tutored at home under the watchful guidance of his father. Alphonsus was so bright and intelligent that he soon was able to progress much further than any other youth of his age. This could be due also to the fact that Alphonsus was a perfectionist. In every activity that Alphonsus undertook he tried to be the best in his chosen field, not in a sense of competitiveness but from a need to push himself to the limit.

Alphonsus quick intelligence allowed him to study and gain a degree as Doctor of Laws at the young age of 16. Being small in stature it was quite a sight to see this young boy being swamped by the Doctorate gown he had to wear much to the mirth of the gathered crowd.

By the age of nineteen Alphonsus was already practicing his profession in the law courts and though was to be a very able lawyer the job itself did not fulfill the need that was growing in the heart of this astute but also profoundly gifted young man. Alphonsus was not one for the bright lights and merriments enjoyed by others of his age this would change as he grew older. If anything he had an abhorrence for the theatrics and refused to take part in family entertainments, much to the disappointment of his father and siblings. Though Alphonsus loved the arts he was a purist in that he hated the contrived atmosphere of the actors profession and preferred instead to simply listen to the music at theatrical events.

From a young age Alphonsus had a deep and profound love for his faith to the extent that he took no part in anything that could corrupt his senses or lead him astray from the Churches Teachings. But still Alphonsus would have been treated much as a movie star would be treated in these days and like many movie stars some of this attention went to Alphonsus head as he enjoyed the good life with his companions though he did not do anything that would place his soul in mortal sin. Prayer soon fell on the backburner as Alphonsus often came home late from night spots. He found himself at 26 years of age being feted amidst high society as he attended banquets, assorted entertainments and other distractions.

This would not last long as God had other plans for this astute and intelligent young man and as usual it took a catastrophic even to stop Alphonsus in his tracks and re-evaluate his life. This was a lawyer who was greatly respected among his own and could hold his head high as he had purportedly never lost a case, this was to change, it would also change his life. Alphonsus took on a case and proceeded so quickly that he had forgotten to check all his facts and neglected to read relevant documents to this particular case. His belief in himself and in the courts was shattered as he learnt that he had been gravely mistaken in the man he was representing, and with an ashen face he said to his opposing lawyer upon reading the document, "You are right. I have been mistaken. This document gives you the case." All the early learning about his faith taught to him came to Alphonsus aid as he had an abhorrence towards lies and so Alphonsus was to leave a profession of which he loved, the law.

This loss of face shook poor Alphonsus to the core as he looked back and began to feel a deep and sincere sorrow for what his life had become, a mixture of frivolity and duplicity. Alphonsus would have none of it and instead turned to pray to help lead him to find what God wished for him to learn and to become. What helped Alphonsus through this difficult time was the faith which had been instilled in him by his parents from a very young age. Slowly but surely Alphonsus took slow steps away from the world and its seductions to the poor and their helplessness. It was as he was visiting a charitable hospital that Alphonsus would 'hear' an interior message as the Lord spoke to him, "Leave the world and give thyself to Me."

Upon receiving this Divine calling Alphonsus committed himself to work for the Lord through the Priesthood. This was to be no easy task for Alphonsus as his father Don Joseph strenuously objected to this new profession and instead tried to return Alphonsus back to the law. This brought great stress to Alphonsus and his family as his will and his mind was made up and he would not go back to his former lifestyle. After many disputes a compromise was reached between father and son, Alphonsus would be allowed to join the Priesthood so long as he remained at his home. After reaching this compromise Alphonsus had much studying to do and so came the steps that would eventually lead to Ordination into the Priesthood. Alphonsus in the year 1726 became an ordained Deacon, later that same year Alphonsus was Ordained a Priest at the young age of 30 years.

These were learning years for Father Alphonsus as he studied and met different men of the Faith one of whom would have a profound influence on his life this man being, Father Thomas Falcoia. These two men would be drawn into long discussions about their Faith the Mystery of God and other discourses which change Alphonsus life for the better.

Through the influence of Father Falcoia Alphonsus would be led through much adversity to begin a new Order and though he faced much opposition Alphonsus had never been fainthearted when faced with adversities, he simply persevered. So it was that in 1732 the 'Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer' began which would later become known as The Redemptorists. During this time Father Alphonsus was also a prolific writer and a great theologian as he was determined to never waste another minute on anything that was frivolous.

Things would not always run smoothly though as the new Order came under attack from within as dissension filled the ranks and Alphonsus would soon find himself abandoned by many of his former friends. This did not deter this man of steel from doing what was God's Will and not his own, as always Alphonsus obstinacy would hold him in good stead. Through all this discord Alphonsus never lost track of what he was about and that was to preach the Good News to all who would listen. As in many Orders Alphonsus also embraced the Mission field and he himself traversed many parts of Italy spreading the love of Jesus Christ to all people.

During all these travels trouble was never far away from Alphonsus as with any good thing Satan will also be working for its downfall. So it was that when a new government was formed under the leadership of Charles III this would bring further anguish to Alphonsus as suppression of religious Orders became the name of the game. Father Alphonsus would fight against this edict for many years at times near falling into despair until a friend cautioned the sensitive Alphonsus with these wise words, "It would seem as if you placed all your trust here below"; with these words ringing in his ears Alphonsus let go and put all things into the hands of God.

Though Alphonsus sought out no honors for himself still they sought him out and in 1762 Father Alphonsus was appointed Bishop of St. Agatha of the Goths. Considering his age this was a huge responsibility as Bishop Alphonsus found himself in a mission field where hundreds of thousands were ignorant of the faith and the rest remained indifferent. Even Religious Orders had become so secularized that Priests and Nuns took little note of obedience or in following the Will of God.

This was a desolate time for Alphonsus as he tried to instill in all those around him a love for their Faith through education and a renewed vigor for those who had embraced the Religious life to return to their original Vows. Not everyone was pleased with this Bishop and some even attempted to take his life rather than submit. This brought much suffering to Alphonsus not for his own sake or popularity but that the people were rejecting the love of God and the ramifications this would have upon their souls. During all these persecutions Alphonsus struggled on and continued his prodigious literary works which even today stand the test of time.

These last years were ones of dry martyrdom for Bishop Alphonsus as he struggled with one illness after another in a desolate landscape. It would be a severe case of rheumatic fever that would leave Alphonsus paralyzed to the end of his life. It was this illness that crippled Alphonsus head so that it rested on his chest which then began a serious of infections. This is why many portraits show him with a bent head, now we know the cause.

This great man of the Church was also touched with the Mystical as he was able to read hearts and also heal the sick. He was also present in spirit at the death bed of Pope Clement XIV.

The Catholic Church even to this day has been greatly blessed with the writings of this most wonderful son of the Church.

Bishop Alphonsus Liguori died in 1787.

Saint Alphonsus Liguori was canonized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Blessed Anne Marie Javouhey

Anne Mary was yet another child born under the threat of the French Revolution a very tragic and blood thirsty time for the Catholics of war ravaged France.

Anne Marie Javouhey was born in the year 1779 to a wealthy farming family her parents were Balthazar and Claudine, who were both devout Catholics and so raised their children to be equally devout.

During the revolution Anne Marie's parents would hide the Priests who refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the State. So Anne Marie grew up used to the fact that it was quite unsafe to be Catholic and wealthy during this time.

The Javouhey family showed particular courage as they hid the Priest who were then able to have Mass at their family home. It was at these times that the young Anne Marie would keep watch as the family worshipped at Mass in case the authorities did a random search so Anne Marie learnt that at times faith came at a price and that it was a price worth paying.

Perhaps it was here that the first longing to become a Religious began to stir in the inner depths of Anne Marie's heart as she also watched in horror the terrible toll the revolution was taking on the poor. The young Anne Marie longed to help these poor souls not only with food but also with food for the soul that food which leads a soul to Heaven.

So it was that upon the ending of the French revolution Anne Marie took the veil. It was also in the year 1800 that Sister Anne Marie had a vision of poor negro children who were starving which wrenched at the heart of this young woman of immense compassion.

Anne Marie's entry into the Religious life was not without its flaw's so after several attempts to enter the Religious life and also leaving particular Orders, Anne Marie upon much prayer decided to begin one of her own. Anne Marie would be joined in this endeavor by eight companions so began the Order of Saint Joseph of Cluny in 1805. It was in 1807 that the sisters under the Guidance of their Mother Anne Marie were able to buy a friary and then from this base the Sisters of St. Joseph began their teaching Order.

Mother Anne Marie never forgot the misery she saw when her fellow Frenchmen suffered under the misery of the revolution. This fired her heart with a zeal to help these very people not only rise above their circumstances but to educate them in the Faith, for Mother Anne Marie knew that money was not the answer to their problems, it would be faith that gave people back their hope.

In the year 1819 Mother Anne Marie's vision of seeing the poor suffering Negro children would come back to her and through this vision Anne Marie would extend her Religious Order to the mission fields. This meant sending Sisters to the countries of West Africa, Gambia and French Guiana where Mother Anne Marie set off with 36 fellow Sisters in 1828, she soon established a self supporting system which helped educate those who were most in need.

During these missionary missions Mother Anne Marie Javouhey also met up with obstacles and adversities not of which stopped her religious zeal and also her compassion towards those who were being so mistreated because of the colour of their skin. Mother Anne Marie's influence upon the white population was so great and she was so admired that when emancipation came to the Negroes there was no severe violence which had happened in other regions by the colonists.

Mother Anne Marie Javouhey did not stop there as she also opened missions for the lepers near Accarouary. As we see from the heat of the revolution came this woman of amazing stamina who inspired by the missionary zeal and love of God she sought to spread this love to as many people as she could. Mother Anne Marie Javouhey succeeded.

Mother Anne Marie Jovouhey died in the year 1851.

Blessed Anne Marie Jovouhey was beatified in the year 1950 by Pope Pius XII.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

St. Margaret of Antioch

Not much is known about the this holy and noble woman of Antioch but let us examine what led this woman to become a great Saint of the Catholic Church.

Legend tells us that Margaret was born in Antioch in the early centuries. Her parents were pagans which was not unusual for those times. As was normal in that particular era many mothers preferred a wet nurse to feed their offspring as they went about their social lives and concentrated on their wifely duties to their husbands. In the case of Margaret her wet-nurse also happened to be a Christian, so one can imagine the stories that this servant would have conveyed to Margaret as she grew in age and understood the words that were spoken.

Christianity in the early centuries were regarded as suspicious by many groups who felt threatened by it's merciful message of love. In these early centuries there was not a very high moral code as people behaved just as they wished with no repercussions and worshipped whatever 'god' was popular at that time. So it is very unusual that a child of pagans parents would embrace the Christian faith.

From what we know Margaret seemed to be not so much head strong as very decisive in what she believed and from this belief in God and the Christian faith she would not be moved. The stories that her wet nurse had told her gained ground and then flourished within the soul of this most astounding young lady who then grew up a believer in the one true God and not the pagans 'gods' of her parents. This would also set Margaret on the path of martyrdom.

Considering the times she lived in where sanitary conditions would have been abysmal by today's standards, Margaret must have grown to be a beautiful woman and very pleasing to the eye. Soon offers of marriage would come for the hand of this lovely woman of Antioch. This would be the beginning of Margaret's problems.

It was here that Margaret caught the attention of Olybrius who wanted her to be either his wife or mistress, Margaret of course held strong to her faith declined his offer as graciously as she could. Unfortunately for Margaret Olybrius took her rejection personally and set out on a vindictive path to make her pay for his feelings of humiliation.

During this time Margaret was also the recipient of visions and also visits from the evil one who tried to tempt her to fall away from her faith but Margaret being the strong woman that she was fought off these attacks by the evil one. Olybrius meanwhile had not forgotten his rejection and through sheer malice he reported her to the authorities as being a Christian. Margaret was arrested.

During this time there was a despotic leader named Diocletian who ruled from about the year A.D. 303 during his reign he began a persecution of Christians like so many other evil leaders of that time. It is not known for sure, but there is speculation that it was under the rule of Diocletian that Margaret was arrested.

There were many attempts to kill Margaret by both fire and water she was able to survive which amazed all those who were able to watch this incredible woman's courage in the face of this torture. Through her bravery, many people believed the witness of Margaret and in turn they also embraced the Christian religion.

Finally the authorities had had enough of this troublesome woman and Margaret was beheaded. According to legend her body was then taken and buried by a women of noble birth.

It is also worth mentioning that it is this Margaret who was one of the 'voices' named by Joan of Arc who gave her messages which helped France regain its freedom from the English hordes.

Saint Margaret was martyred in the year c. 304.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Saints of the Faith: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Elizabeth was born a Catholic at heart if not at birth. Her entire soul was consumed from an early age with a love of Jesus and a longing to live out the Gospel message in her own life.

Elizabeth Ann Bayley was born in the year 1774 in the city of New York, a place known for its shanty towns and roughened people many of whom had escaped impoverished conditions in their own place of birth and fled to America in order to begin again. It was also a time of tumult as revolution was whispered in quiet corners and anger gathered speed among American patriots at the hardheadedness of the English Government and its attempted subjugation of the America's.

Though for Elizabeth Ann the political maelstrom had not yet touched her personally, what did affect her life was the death of her beloved mother when Elizabeth Ann was only 3 years old. The heartache that Elizabeth Ann felt was not assuaged when her father remarried to a woman who had no affection for Elizabeth and her siblings.

Elizabeth Ann was fortunate in that her father was a well learned man who passed on his intellectual abilities to all his children. Elizabeth grasped the opportunity to open her mind and strengthen her learning capabilities as she grew more and more curious about the world around her. This would also help Elizabeth Ann cope as her father and step mother were having marital difficulties, as she threw herself into intellectual pursuits rather than fall prey to depression.

It was also during this time that Elizabeth became more reflective as she searched for the meaning of life and the purpose for which she had been born. Elizabeth's Ann prayer life became as important to her as was her studies, as she gained spiritual comfort in her constant prayer life. Elizabeth Ann like many others struggled to understand the vicissitudes of life as she grew strength from her natural surroundings her love of poetry which seemed to reflect her own inner searching and her love of music which lightened her heart. Rather than follow the path of many of her women contemporaries who also contemplated the meaningfulness of life Elizabeth did not go down the path of what many medical practitioners were giving their female patients and that was the dreaded Laudanum.

Finally in 1794 Elizabeth married William Magee Seton who like herself was an Episcopalian, the early years of the marriage were happy ones as Elizabeth gave birth to their five children. As Elizabeth wrote in her journal of her feelings for her husband, "It seemed that I loved him more than anyone could love on earth." Elizabeth's happiness seemed complete as both she and her husband lived devout lives within their Church community.

This happiness though would be interrupted upon the death of Williams father and the burden of caring for his siblings fell on Williams and Elizabeth Ann's shoulders as they struggled to keep the family business afloat. The inner strength that Elizabeth Ann had gone through when she was young now came to fruition as she helped her husband struggle to maintain his financial position whilst caring for his enlarged family. The burden though of being responsible for his entire family soon grew to heavy to bear and William became ill, in order to recuperate both William and Elizabeth set sail for Italy where they would stay with friends.

Though Elizabeth Ann had hoped that Italy would improve her husbands health the opposite occurred and William Seton died in Italy in 1803 this was a terrible blow to Elizabeth Ann as her heart was torn asunder at the loss of her beloved husband. Elizabeth Ann decided to spend time in Italy as she grieved the loss of her beloved William her faith became central to her spiritual wellbeing. Elizabeth stayed with her friends the Filicchi family who were devout Catholics, Elizabeth Ann whose own heart was in disarray soon gained comfort from the Faith shown by the Filicchi family and felt herself drawn to the deep spirituality and the comforting Traditions of the Catholic Church. What truly touched Elizabeth Ann's heart was the belief that Jesus was truly Present in the Eucharist and so this would set Elizabeth Ann on a journey from which she had no wish to return.

Upon returning to her native America Elizabeth Ann was confronted by her families opposition towards her ever deepening love towards the Catholic Faith and Elizabeth Ann from the depths of her heart poured forth these words in her journal, "If I am right Thy grace impart still in the right to say. If I am wrong Oh, teach my heart to find the better way." Through her continuing friendship with the Filicchi family Elizabeth Ann kept up a correspondence with Bishop's Cheverus and Carroll. The gathering storm in Elizabeth Ann's heart could not be quelled not even by her family nor her friends opposition and Elizabeth Ann embraced the Catholic Faith on Ash Wednesday in 1805.

As she embraced and lived with great joy the Catholic Faith Elizabeth Ann also had great difficulties placed in her path as many of her family and friends grew suspicious of the depth of love that Elizabeth Ann displayed to all about the Catholic Church. Many distrusted her influence upon their children and so though Elizabeth Ann attempted to start one school after another worried parents removed their children from Elizabeth Ann's influence. They could see that through this vibrant woman who emanated such joy and a deep feeling of empathy towards all she met that Elizabeth Ann's own personality would soon draw their children away from their Protestant backgrounds, as always fear shows a lack of trust in God's Divine Love.

Through all these trials Elizabeth Ann a most sensible woman did not lose her hope or her love for the Church, she would soon be joined by two of her family members, her sister in laws Cecilia and Harriet who also converted into the Catholic Faith. Because of the fears of many of her friends Elizabeth Ann decided to leave for Baltimore Maryland and start a school there so as to help the poor children overcome their impoverished circumstances and so live fulfilled lives. At the heart of Elizabeth Ann was charity, not in a lady bountiful way but of a charity of spirit which puts into practice that which is spoken of in the Gospels. Elizabeth Ann simply wanted to give, give and give in a practical and common sense manner and to live out the Tenets of her Faith, there was nothing to fear in a woman who was so in love with God.

In the year 1809 Elizabeth Ann Seton made her Vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as she began her first school and from hence forth would be known as Mother Seton. Elizabeth Ann's own winning personality soon draw more people into her school and so began her Order based on the one began by St. Vincent de Paul, they would call themselves ' The Sisters of Charity'.

Elizabeth Ann's life was not an easy one with the death of her beloved mother, followed by the death of one of her sister's. Then came the turning point when her beloved William succumbed with tuberculosis and died while they were in Italy which led Elizabeth on the path towards Catholicism and Sainthood.

From her beginnings of a reflective young lady to one of a mature and loving woman her love of God was never in question, she truly did live her belief in a merciful and loving Redeemer and shared this love with all she met.

Elizabeth Ann Seton died in 1821.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonized in 1975 by Pope Paul VI.

Some Quotes

"We must pray without ceasing, in every occurrence and employment of our lives - that prayer which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant communication with Him."

"The first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills it; and thirdly to do it because it is his will."

"We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty."

Friday, July 14, 2006

Saint Bonaventure-Doctor of The Church

Not much is known about the early life of Giovanni di Ritella, apart from the fact that he was born in the year 1221 in Italy. It is recorded that as a child he suffered from a mysterious ailment but upon praying to St. Francis of Assisi he was miraculously healed.

Perhaps it was this healing that drew the young Giovanni towards the lifestyle and the spirituality of the Franciscans. He joined the Roman Provence of the Franciscans it was around this time that he took the name Bonaventure he was then sent to study and finish his education in Paris. It was also in Paris that he forged a life long friendship with that great saint of the Church, Thomas Aquinas.

Bonaventure was a man of astute intelligence but also had within him that element of charisma that draws people towards himself not from a longing to be popular but because of the warmth he exuded to all he met. This goes towards explaining the title that Bonaventure became known by, that of the 'Seraphic Doctor' because of his kindly but also passionate personality.

You cannot live the Franciscan charism without having a passion for life, not the passion of lusts or pleasures but of an abundant love of all things that God has created and an appreciation that leads to a spirit of joyfulness mixed with earthiness. Bonaventure was certainly not a whimsical or dreamy person by nature, rather he strode the common ground of diplomacy with energetic ability to defend the beliefs of the Catholic Church without compromising his principles or core beliefs. He was assisted in combating many heresies alongside his good friend Thomas Aquinas who with humility and great patience repudiated those who were espousing a wrong doctrine.

Bonaventure didn't have to prove anything to anyone and he didn't he simply was himself to all he met, both friend and foe alike. Nothing would change this man who gained most of his insights from many hours of contemplating the Passion of Christ and from this he gleaned that knowledge is not what counts with God, what does count is love and love alone.

Is it any wonder that an at early age Bonaventure was to become Minister General of the Franciscan Order in the year 1257. These were to be exacting years for the Franciscan Order between those who wished to remain loyal to the original Rule, while other Friars wished for the more taxing parts of the Rule to be relaxed. This inner tension would be felt by many as the warring factions parried back and forth, it would take all of Bonaventure's strength and patience to once again restore the peace of his beloved brothers.

It is during this internal wrangle that Bonaventure truly became a man after Saint Francis own heart, as with delicacy and strength he was able to reach out to both sides and unite them in their singular love of their Order and the Church. From this dispute Bonaventure would become known as the 'Second Founder' of the Friars Minor.

This was also the catalyst from which Bonaventure constructed the Constitutions and began a teaching process so that all friars would be made aware of what it means to be a Franciscan and so spread their spirituality to all who would listen. It would also arm his fellow brothers against those who were taking liberties when it came to the fundamental foundation of the Franciscan spirituality laid down by St. Francis of Assisi himself! While some were espousing a more 'elitist' form of the Order, Bonaventure with his customary good will and common sense was able to negate their influence by teaching his Franciscan brothers to maintain their spiritual integrity rather than follow the whims of those who tried to dilute what St. Francis himself taught his followers.

What kept Bonaventure grounded from becoming too puffed up with his own accomplishments was his deep and innate spirit of humility and his devotion to Christ's Passion on the Cross, from which he never tired of contemplating. Bonaventure knew that life was short so one must do good now rather than later, he also grasped that in order to love God one must live with an undivided heart, rather than find out too late that they have strayed from the path of righteousness. Bonaventure taught that in order to speak love, one has to first live it only then can one transcend the limitations of their own incompleteness.

This brilliant man did not seek honours or glory for himself, in fact he ran from such acknowledgement but though he may have eluded one title, he could not run forever and so it was that Pope Gregory X proclaimed Bonaventure as Cardinal of Albano. Though internal divisions did interrupt the Order of the Friars Minor at times it was to Bonaventure that his fellow brothers turned to help them through this most difficult process.

Because of the difficulties which was causing much heartache within the Franciscan fold, Bonaventure began to write on the true meaning of what being a true Franciscan means but also what one must become in order to truly love God as he did. His writings were prolific as he attempted to bring peace and order back to his fellow brothers and also the wider Church. Bonaventure understood then if we exclude God from our thoughts then we have also excluded God from our hearts, for what brother can harbour bitterness towards another and still believe themselves to be lovers of God?

Bonaventure understood and tried to teach his fellow Friars that with God there is no disordered love it is man himself who distorts the Beatific vision with his own pride and longing to have their own way. In order to be fully whole to each other and to be community for each other one must first look to the Crucified Christ and understand the cost it took for one human soul, this is what Bonaventure sought to teach his fellow brothers and the wider Church through his writings. He succeeded.

It was during the last few months that Bonaventure working closely with the Pope in preparation for next Ecumenical council, died suddenly from an unknown illness.

Bonaventure died in the year 1274.

Saint Bonaventure was canonized in the year 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV.

Some Quotes

"The outcome or the fruit of reading Holy Scripture is by no means negligible: it is the fullness of eternal happiness. For these are the books which tell us of eternal life, which were written not only that we might believe but also that we might have everlasting life. When we do live that life we shall understand fully, we shall love completely, and our desires will be totally satisfied. Then, with all our needs fulfilled we shall truly know the love that surpasses all understanding and so be filled with the fullness of God."

"When we pray, the voice of the heart must be heard more than that proceeding from the mouth."

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Saint Benedict of Nursia

Saint Benedict has become well renowned as the father of the Monastic Rule, even though the spirit of monasticism began in the middle east many years before. Still once the monastic spirit reached Europe most Religious Orders in their infant years began their Charism under the guidance of the Benedictine Rule.

Not much is known about Benedicts early years but many sources site Nursia as the birth place of this great man of the Church. He was born approximately 480 and many believe that his parents may have been financially secure in that Benedict was able to read and would later attend school, which was unusual for the peasantry of that time. Legend also has it that Benedict was the brother to his equally holy twin sister, Scholastica.

When he was sent to Rome for his education the young Benedict was quickly dismayed to see that his fellow men and women were behaving in a promiscuous fashion. Even from a young age Benedict had an ascetic spirit and was loathe to join in on the ribald and sinful lifestyle of his fellow students.

Finally the young Benedict could stand no more of this promiscuous lifestyle and so left for a place of silent repose where he would be able to study with no worldly distractions. Along with an elderly servant Benedict live for a while in the Sabine Mountains, it was here that one of Benedict first miracles was observed when his servant accidentally broke a bowl and Benedict by merely touching it the bowl was restored as if it had not been broken at all. This miracle also brought Benedict much unwanted attention once news of this incident was heard by others.

Benedict once more decided to travel in order to have complete solitude this time unaccompanied by any servants. He traveled to a place called Subiaco it was here that he met up with a monk called Romanus and it was through conversations with this monk that Benedict revealed his dearest wish, to live his entire life as a hermit, dedicating his entire life to the contemplation of God.

Romanus after listening to Benedict decided to help him live his chosen lifestyle and so both men found a remote cave where Benedict would spend the next 3 to 4 years. The only nourishment that Benedict was able to eat was given to him by Romanus who took the left over's from the Monastic community he lived in. These left over's mainly consisted of bread and water, a very severe form of diet.

According to the writings of Pope Gregory a Priest who lived not far from Benedict was preparing himself a celebratory dinner on Easter Sunday when he suddenly heard this voice say to him, "Thou art preparing thyself a savoury dish while my servant Benedict is afflicted with hunger." When the priest heard these words he set out to find Benedict once he had both Benedict and the priest spoke for many hours about God and their faith. The priest was surprised by the wild appearance that Benedict presented as he was clothed in animals skins for warmth. From this priestly contact others came to know about the wild man living in the caves and many visited Benedict for spiritual guidance.

From the writings of Pope Gregory we read how Benedict this holy man of God also had to overcome temptations and the attacks forced upon him by the devil as Gregory described in his works on Benedict, . "On a certain day when he was alone the tempter presented himself. A small dark bird, commonly called a blackbird, began to fly around his face and came so near him that, if he had wished, he could have seized it with his hand. But on his making the sign of the cross, the bird flew away. Then followed a violent temptation of the flesh, such as he had never before experienced. The evil spirit brought before his imagination a woman whom he had formerly seen, and inflamed his heart with such vehement desire at the memory of her that he had very great difficulty in repressing it. He was almost overcome and thought of leaving his solitude. Suddenly, however, with the help of divine grace, he found the strength he needed." After much struggling the devil left Benedict in peace as he could win no battle with this man who was guided by God Himself.

It wasn't long before Benedict was approached by a religious community to become their Superior after the death of their Abbot. Benedict when first approached refused to take this position as he preferred his life of holy solitude, but the small community of monks prevailed and so Benedict tried to lead the monks into following God's Divine Will as he had throughout the years. Unfortunately after a while many of the monks began to rebel at this strictness of Benedicts Rule and some tried to poison Benedict in order to rid themselves of this holy man. This scheme did not work as before drinking the poisoned wine Benedict blessed it and upon making the blessing the poisoned wine glass smashed. Benedict was disappointed and chastised the small group of monks before taking his leave of them, and returning to his hermitage in Subiaco.

Benedict though was not to be alone for long as many more men who also longed for a more solitary way of serving God were drawn to this holy man and longed to copy his lifestyle. Benedict by now had a growing longing to begin a monastic life for those who wished to follow God with all their hearts. Through this came about the monastic life which would be followed by so many early Religious Orders. Benedict began making the Rules for his community of men and in order that those who joined would be faithful to the Charims of the Monastic movement Benedict kept overall charge and control of those who joined him in living the monastic principle.

Through a life balanced by mortifications and intense prayer, men were able to contemplate God from the purity of their hearts. Through this one man's vision of living and starting a monastic life we have the Traditions within the Church based on the thoughts and teachings of this holy man of God, who is Benedict.

Throughout his life, Benedict was also the recipient of many miracles and had the ability to read souls and thereby direct people to let go of the sins which were holding them back from serving God with all their hearts.

Though Benedict lived a life of uncompromising principles and stayed true to his own Rule, he truly brought many closer to God because of the example he gave of his own beatific vision of God.

Through his many mortifications this weakened Benedict's health and he died of fever.

Benedict of Nursia died in the year 547.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

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