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The North American Martyrs

Feast date: Oct 19

Also known as Canadian Martyrs; Isaac Jogues and Companions; Jesuit Martyrs of North America; Martyrs of New France.

Memorial: 19 October; 26 September (Canada)

The eight North American martyrs, also known as the Candian Martyrs, the Jesuit Martyrs of North America or the Martyrs of France, included six priests and two lay brothers. They were heroic members of the Society of Jesus who were martyred in North America in order to bring the Faith that is necessary for salvation to the Huron, the Iroquois and the Mohawk Indians. Five of the eight North American martyrs were put to death in what is now Canada, and three of them in New York State. There is a shrine to the United States' martyrs at Auriesville in New York, and there is a shrine to the Canadian martyrs at Fort Saint Mary near Midland, Ontario. The names of the eight North American martyrs are:

Saint Rene Goupil, a lay brother martyred in 1642 in New York State,

Saint Isaac Jogues, a priest,

Saint John de Lalande, a lay brother, martyred in 1646 in New York State,

Saint Anthony Daniel, a priest, martyred in Canada in 1648,

Saint John de Brebeuf,

Saint Charles Garnier,

Saint Noel Chabanel and

Saint Gabriel Lalemant, all priests, and all martyred in Canada in 1649.

Saint Isaac Jogues, after thirteen months' imprisonment by the Mohawks, had several fingers cut off of his hand. He went back to Europe, but returned again to North America and was killed by tomahawk blows at Ossernenon, now called Auriesville, in New York State. Saint John de Brebeuf declared before he died, "I have a strong desire to suffer for Jesus Christ." He was tortured terribly, and a burning torch was put into his mouth, which strangled him.

Saint Rene Goupil, thirty-five, was the youngest of the martyrs, and cried "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!" as he died. Saint Noel Chabanel was thirty-six, and Saint Isaac Jogues and Saint Gabriel Lalemant were thirty-nine. The oldest of the eight North American martyrs, Saint John de Brebeuf, was fifty-six when the Indians killed him.

They were canonized June 29 of 1930 by Pope Pius XI. Their memorial is October 19, and Spetember 26 in Canada.

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St. Luke the Evangelist

Feast date: Oct 18

On October 18, Catholics and other Christians around the world will celebrate the feast of St. Luke, the physician and companion of St. Paul whose gospel preserved the most extensive biography of Jesus Christ.

St. Luke wrote a greater volume of the New Testament than any other single author, including the earliest history of the Church. Ancient traditions also acknowledge Luke as the founder of Christian iconography, making him a patron of artists as well as doctors and other medical caregivers.

Luke came from the large metropolitan city of Antioch, a part of modern-day Turkey. In Luke's lifetime, his native city emerged as an important center of early Christianity. During the future saint's early years, the city's port had already become a cultural center, renowned for arts and sciences. Historians do not know whether Luke came to Christianity from Judaism or paganism, although there are strong suggestions that Luke was a gentile convert.

Educated as a physician in the Greek-speaking city, Luke was among the most cultured and cosmopolitan members of the early Church. Scholars of archeology and ancient literature have ranked him among the top historians of his time period, besides noting the outstanding Greek prose style and technical accuracy of his accounts of Christ's life and the apostles' missionary journeys.

Other students of biblical history adduce from Luke's writings that he was the only evangelist to incorporate the personal testimony of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose role in Christ's life emerges most clearly in his gospel. Tradition credits him with painting several icons of Christ's mother, and one of the sacred portraits ascribed to him – known by the title “Salvation of the Roman People”-- survives to this day in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Some traditions hold that Luke became a direct disciple of Jesus before his ascension, while others hold that he became a believer only afterward. After St. Paul's conversion, Luke accompanied him as his personal physician-- and, in effect, as a kind of biographer, since the journeys of Paul on which Luke accompanied him occupy a large portion of the Acts of the Apostles. Luke probably wrote this text, the final narrative portion of the New Testament, in the city of Rome where the account ends.

Luke was also among the only companions of Paul who did not abandon him during his final imprisonment and death in Rome. After the martyrdom of St. Paul in the year 67, St. Luke is said to have preached elsewhere throughout the Mediterranean, and possibly died as a martyr. However, even tradition is unclear on this point. Fittingly, the evangelist whose travels and erudition could have filled volumes, wrote just enough to proclaim the gospel and apostolic preaching to the world.

Patronage: artists, bachelors, bookbinders, brewers, butchers, doctors, glass makers, glassworkers, gold workers, goldsmiths, lacemakers, lace workers, notaries, painters, physicians, sculptors, stained glass workers, surgeons.

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St. Ignatius of Antioch

Feast date: Oct 17

On Oct. 17, the Roman Catholic Church remembers the early Church Father, bishop, and martyr Saint Ignatius of Antioch, whose writings attest to the sacramental and hierarchical nature of the Church from its earliest days. Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate his memory on Dec. 20.

In a 2007 general audience on St. Ignatius of Antioch, Pope Benedict XVI observed that “no Church Father has expressed the longing for union with Christ and for life in him with the intensity of Ignatius.” In his letters, the Pope said, “one feels the freshness of the faith of the generation which had still known the Apostles. In these letters, the ardent love of a saint can also be felt.”

Born in Syria in the middle of the first century A.D., Ignatius is said to have been personally instructed – along with another future martyr, Saint Polycarp – by the Apostle Saint John. When Ignatius became the Bishop of Antioch around the year 70, he assumed leadership of a local church that was, according to tradition, first led by Saint Peter before his move to Rome.

Although St. Peter transmitted his Papal primacy to the bishops of Rome rather than Antioch, the city played an important role in the life of the early Church. Located in present-day Turkey, it was a chief city of the Roman Empire, and was also the location where the believers in Jesus' teachings and his resurrection were first called “Christians.”

Ignatius led the Christians of Antioch during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, the first of the emperors to proclaim his divinity by adopting the title “Lord and God.” Subjects who would not give worship to the emperor under this title could be punished with death. As the leader of a major Catholic diocese during this period, Ignatius showed courage and worked to inspire it in others.

After Domitian's murder in the year 96, his successor Nerva reigned only briefly, and was soon followed by the Emperor Trajan. Under his rule, Christians were once again liable to death for denying the pagan state religion and refusing to participate in its rites. It was during his reign that Ignatius was convicted for his Christian testimony and sent from Syria to Rome to be put to death.

Escorted by a team of military guards, Ignatius nonetheless managed to compose seven letters: six to various local churches throughout the empire (including the Church of Rome), and one to his fellow bishop Polycarp who would give his own life for Christ several decades later.

Ignatius' letters passionately stressed the importance of Church unity, the dangers of heresy, and the surpassing importance of the Eucharist as the “medicine of immortality.” These writings contain the first surviving written description of the Church as “Catholic,” from the Greek word indicating both universality and fullness.

One of the most striking features of Ignatius' letters, is his enthusiastic embrace of martyrdom as a means to union with God and eternal life. “All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing,” he wrote to the Church of Rome. “It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth.”

“Now I begin to be a disciple,” the bishop declared. “Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocations of bones; let cutting off of members; let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ.”

St. Ignatius of Antioch bore witness to Christ publicly for the last time in Rome's Flavian Amphitheater, where he was mauled to death by lions. “I am the wheat of the Lord,” he had declared, before facing them. “I must be ground by the teeth of these beasts to be made the pure bread of Christ.” His memory was honored, and his bones venerated, soon after his death around the year 107.

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St. Gerard Majella

Feast date: Oct 16

On October 16, we celebrate the feast of St. Gerard Majella. St. Gerard was born the son of a tailor on April 6, 1726. He grew up about fifty miles south of Naples in Muro Lucano, Italy in a large, poor family. When St. Gerard was only 12, his father Dominic Majella entered eternal rest. Upon the death of his father, his mother, beholden to poverty, sent St. Gerard away to live with his uncle. St. Gerard thereafter became an apprentice to a tailor. This tailor treated him well; however, the foreman treated him poorly. After serving as a sewing apprentice for a couple years, he instead became a servant in the household of the bishop of Lacedonia, who was a cantankerous master. Upon the death of the bishop in 1745, he returned home. At the age of 21, he became a journeyman. He split his earnings for his mother and the poor, and made offerings for the holy souls in purgatory. Afterwards, he opened his own tailor shop.

At a young age, St. Gerard tried to join the local Capuchins, but he was turned down twice due to his youth and poor health. He also tried to become a hermit, but that too was not God's will for him. He then entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in 1749 and professed of perpetual vows under the Redemptorist's founder, Saint Alphonsus Liguori, in 1751.

He served as tailor and infirmarian and became known for his extraordinary supernatural gifts of bilocation, prophecy, ecstasies, visions, and infused knowledge. Though not ordained to the holy order of priest, his spiritual direction and advice were sought by many among the clergy and communities of nuns, to which he also gave conferences. He was most successful in converting sinners, and was widely known for his sanctity and charity.

In 1754, he was calumniated and accused of lechery by a woman named Neria Caggiano. Caggiano later admitted her charge was a lie. Even before she admitted to her falsehood, St. Gerard did not deny her charges. As these charges were still up in the air, his superiors became suspicious, so they put him under surveillance and excluded him from communion for months until the girl admitted that she had lied. When asked by Saint Alphonsus why he had kept silent in such circumstances, St. Gerard replied that he thought such patience was required in the face of unjust accusations. As St. Gerard bore this calumny with such humility and patience, Saint Alphonsus said, "Brother Gerard is a saint."

St. Gerard was sent to Naples soon after, but when the house was inundated by visitors wanting to see him, he was sent to Caposele a few months later. He served as the porter there and ministered to the poor of the town. St. Gerard spent the last few months of his life raising funds for new buildings at Caposele.

Just prior to his death, St. Gerard visited his friends, the Pirofalo family. One of the daughters ran and called after him as he left the home, as he dropped his handkerchief. Speaking through the gift of prophecy, he replied, "Keep it. It will be useful to you someday." Years down the road, when this young women was in danger of childbirth, she recalled these words of St. Gerard, and requested the handkerchief. The handkerchief was applied to her, thus a miracle: her pain immediately ceased and she gave birth to a healthy child.

St. Gerard died of tuberculosis on October 16, 1755 at the age of 29 in Caposele. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on January 29, 1893, and was canonized on December 11, 1904 by Pope Saint Pius X. He is the patron saint of mothers, motherhood, expectant mothers, childbirth, children, pregnant women, unborn children, the pro-life movement, the falsely accused, good confessions, and lay brothers.

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St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Feast date: Oct 16

On Oct. 16, Roman Catholics celebrate the life of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the French nun whose visions of Christ helped to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart throughout the Western Church.

Margaret Mary Alacoque was born in July of 1647. Her parents Claude and Philiberte lived modest but virtuous lives, while Margaret proved to be a serious child with a great focus on God. Claude died when Margaret was eight, and from age 9-13 she suffered a paralyzing illness. In addition to her father's death as well as her illenss, a struggle over her family's property made life difficult for Margaret and her mother for several years.

During her illness, Margaret made a vow to enter religious life. During adolescence, however, she changed her mind. For a period of time she lived a relatively ordinary life, enjoying the ordinary social functions of her day and considering the possibility of marriage.

However, her life changed in response to a vision she saw one night while returning from a dance, in which she saw Christ being scourged. Margaret believed she had betrayed Jesus, by pursuing the pleasures of the world rather than her religious vocation, and a the at the age of 22, she decided to enter a convent.

Two days after Christmas of 1673, Margaret experienced Christ's presence in an extraordinary way while in prayer. She heard Christ explain that he desired to show his love for the human race in a special way, by encouraging devotion to “the heart that so loved mankind.”

She experienced a subsequent series of private revelations regarding the gratitude due to Jesus on the part of humanity, and the means of responding through public and private devotion, but the superior of the convent dismissed this as a delusion.

This dismissal was a crushing disappointment, affecting the nun's health so seriously that she nearly died. In 1674, however, the Jesuit priest Father Claude de la Colombiere became Margaret's spiritual director. He believed her testimony, and chronicled it in writing.

Fr. de la Colombiere – later canonized as a saint – left the monastery to serve as a missionary in England. By the time he returned and died in 1681, Margaret had made peace with the apparent rejection of her experiences. Through St. Claude's direction, she had reached a point of inner peace, no longer concerned with the hostility of others in her community.

In time, however, many who doubted her would become convinced as they pondered what St. Claude had written about the Sacred Heart. Eventually, her own writings and the accounts of her would face a rigorous examination by Church officials.

By the time that occurred, however, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque had already gained what she desired: “To lose myself in the heart of Jesus.” She faced her last illness with courage, frequently praying the words of Psalm 73: “What have I in heaven, and what do I desire on earth, but Thee alone, O my God?”

She died on October 17, 1690, and was canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.

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St. Teresa of Avila

Feast date: Oct 15

On Oct. 15, Roman Catholics celebrate the Spanish Carmelite reformer and mystic St. Teresa of Avila, whose life of prayer enriched the Church during the 16th century counter-reformation.

Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada was born in the Castilian city of Avila during the year 1515,  the third child in a family descended from Jewish merchants who had converted to Christianity during the reign of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Her father Alphonsus had become an ardent Catholic, with a collection of spiritual books of the type his daughter would later compose herself.

As a child, Teresa felt captivated by the thought of eternity and the vision of God granted to the saints in heaven. She and her younger brother Rodrigo once attempted to run away from home for the sake of dying as martyrs in a Muslim country, though they soon ran into a relative who sent them back to their mother Beatrice.

When Teresa was 14, her mother died, causing the girl a profound grief that prompted her to embrace a deeper devotion to the Virgin Mary as her spiritual mother. Along with this good resolution, however, she also developed immoderate interests in reading popular fiction (consisting, at that time, mostly of medieval tales of knighthood) and caring for her own appearance.

Though Teresa's spiritual directors in later life would judge these faults to be relatively minor, they still represented a noticeable loss of her childhood zeal for God. Alphonsus decided his teenage daughter needed a change of environment, and sent her to be educated in a convent of Augustinian nuns. Teresa found their life dull at first, but soon came to some understanding of its spiritual advantages.

Illness forced her to leave the convent during her second year. But the influence of her devout uncle Peter, along with her reading of the letters of the monk and Church Father St. Jerome, convinced Teresa that the surest road to salvation lay in forsaking marriage, property, and worldly pleasures completely. Against the will of her father, who wanted her to postpone the decision, she joined the Carmelite Order.

Teresa became a professed member of the order at age 20, but soon developed a serious illness that forced her to return home. She experienced severe pain and physical paralysis for two years, and was expected to die when she went into a coma for four days. But she insisted on returning to the Carmelite monastery as soon as she was able, even though she remained in a painful and debilitated state.

For the next three years the young nun made remarkable progress in her spiritual life, developing the practice of recalling herself into the presence of God through quiet contemplation. As her health returned, however, Teresa lapsed into a more routine prayer life. While she remained an obedient Carmelite, she would not re-establish this close personal connection to God for almost twenty years.

When she was nearly 40, however, Teresa found herself dramatically called back to the practice of contemplative mental prayer. She experienced profound changes within her own soul, and remarkable visions that seemed to come from God. Under the direction of her confessors, Teresa wrote about some of these experiences in an autobiography that she completed in 1565.

Teresa had always been accustomed to contemplate Christ's presence within her after receiving him in the sacrament of Holy Communion. Now, however, she understood that the presence she received did not simply fade: God was, in fact, with her always, and had been all along. It was simply a matter of putting herself in his presence, with love and attention – as one could do at any moment.

This revolution in her spiritual life enabled Teresa to play a significant role in the renewal of the Church that followed the Council of Trent. She proposed a return of the Carmelites to their original rule of life, a simple and austere form of monasticism – founded on silence and solitude – that had received papal approval in the 12th century and was believed to date back to the Old Testament prophet Elijah.

Together with her close collaborator, the priest and writer later canonized as Saint John of the Cross, she founded what is known today as the Order of Discalced Carmelites – “discalced,” meaning barefoot, symbolizing the simplicity to which they chose to return the order after a period of corruption. The reform met with fierce opposition, but resulted in the founding of 30 monasteries during her life.

Teresa's health failed her for the last time while she was traveling through Salamanca in 1582. She accepted her dramatic final illness as God's chosen means of calling her into his presence forever.

“O my Lord, and my spouse, the desired hour is now come,” she stated. “The hour is at last come, wherein I shall pass out of this exile, and my soul shall enjoy in thy company what it hath so earnestly longed for.”

St. Teresa of Avila died on Oct. 15, 1582. She was canonized on March 22, 1622, along with three of her greatest contemporaries: St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Philip Neri.

In 1970, Pope St. Paul VI proclaimed St. Teresa as one of the first two woman Doctors of the Church, along with 14th century Dominican St. Catherine of Siena.

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St. Callistus I

Feast date: Oct 14

Pope Callistus I is celebrated in churches throughout the world as a saint and martyr on October 14. The saint caused a major controversy, including a schism that lasted almost two decades, by choosing to emphasize God's mercy in his ministry. However, the early Pope's model of leadership has endured, and his martyrdom in the year 222 confirmed his example of holiness.

Because no completely trustworthy biography of Pope Callistus I exists, historians have been forced to rely on an account by his contemporary Hippolytus of Rome. Although Hippolytus himself was eventually reconciled to the Church and canonized as a martyr, he vocally opposed the pontificate of Callistus and three of his successors, to the point of usurping papal prerogatives for himself (as the first “antipope”). Nevertheless, his account of Callistus' life and papacy provides important details.

According to Hippolytus' account, Callistus – whose year of birth is not known - began his career as a highly-placed domestic servant, eventually taking responsibility for his master's banking business. When the bank failed, Callistus received the blame, and attempted to flee from his master. Being discovered, he was demoted to serve as a manual laborer in Rome. Thus, under inauspicious circumstances, Callistus came as a slave to the city where he would later serve as Pope.

Matters went from bad to worse when he was sent to work in the mines, possibly for causing a public disturbance, if Hippolytus' account is to be trusted. However, Callistus may also simply have been sentenced due to a persecution of Christians, as he was among the many believers eventually freed on the initiative of Pope St. Victor I.

During the subsequent reign of Pope Zephyrinus, Callistus became a deacon and the caretaker of a major Roman Christian cemetery (which still bears his name as the “Cemetery of St. Callistus”), in addition to advising the Pope on theological controversies of the day. He was a natural candidate to follow Zephyrinus, when the latter died in 219.

Hippolytus, an erudite Roman theologian, accused Pope Callistus of sympathizing with heretics, and resented the new Pope's clarification that even the most serious sins could be absolved after sincere confession. The Pope's assertion of divine mercy also scandalized the North African Christian polemicist Tertullian, already in schism from the Church in Carthage, who also erroneously held that certain sins were too serious to be forgiven through confession.

Considered in light of this error, Hippolytus' catalogue of sins allegedly “permitted” by Callistus – including extramarital sex and early forms of contraception - may in fact represent offenses which the Pope never allowed, but which he was willing to absolve in the case of penitents seeking reconciliation with the Church.

Even so, Callistus could not persuade Hippolytus' followers of his rightful authority as Pope during his own lifetime. The Catholic Church, however, has always acknowledged the orthodoxy and holiness of Pope St. Callistus I, particularly since the time of his martyrdom – traditionally ascribed to an anti-Christian mob - in 222. 

St. Callistus' own intercession after death may also have made possible the historic reconciliation between his opponent Hippolytus, and the later Pope Pontian. The Pope and former antipope were martyred together in 236, and both subsequently canonized. Read more

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St. Edward the Confessor

Feast date: Oct 13

St. Edward was born in 1003 as the son of the Duke of Normandy and nephew of King Edmund Ironside of England. He grew up in exile in Normandy from the age of 10 when the Danes gained control of England, and the early experience of loss, coupled with his earnest religious piety, caused him to renounce worldly ambition and devote himself to the love of God.

On the death of the Danish king, Canute, in 1042, he was called to the throne of England, which he accepted dutifully and held until 1066. His saintly bearing made him a popular sovereign, and his actions even more so. He abolished an unjust tax and was known to cure people with his touch.

Having made a vow of chastity, he accepted marriage for the sake of his kingdom, but lived with his queen in celibacy, as brother and sister.

Unable to fulfill a vow to embark on a pilgrimage to Saint Peter’s tomb without leaving his subjects vulnerable to attack, his vow was commuted by the pope to the rebuilding of Saint Peter’s Abbey in Westminister, where he was buried upon his death a week after it’s dedication.

Edward died on January 5, 1066, and was canonized by Pope Alexander III in 1161.

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Nuestra Senora del Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar)

Feast date: Oct 12

The first Marian apparition in history appeared to Saint James the Apostle, the brother of Saint John the Evangelist, on the bank of the river Ebro in Saragossa, Spain. Unlike every other recorded apparition, this one took place during the earthly life of the Mother of God.

 

According to tradition, she had promised Saint James that when he needed it most in his difficult mission to the pagans in today's Spain, she would appear to him to encourage him.

 

In the year 40 A.D., while praying one night on the tobrt bank, the Virgin appeared with the Child Jesus standing on a pillar and asked Saint James and his eight disciples to build a church on the site, promising that “it will stand from that moment until the end of time in order that God may work miracles and wonders through my intercession for all those who place themselves under my patronage.”

 

The church of Our Lady of the Pilar in Zaragoza, is the first church dedicated to Mary in history and it remains standing to this day, having survived invasions and wars – in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 three bombs were dropped on the church and none of them exploded.

 

Our Lady is also said to have given the small wooden statue of the apparition to Saint James which now stands on a pillar in the church.

 

Nuestra Señora del Pilar is the patron of Spain and all Hispanic peoples. October 12, 1492, the feast of the Virgin of the Pillar, is the day Christopher Colombus first sighted American land, and when the first Mass in the Americas was celebrated.

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Pope Saint John XXIII

Feast date: Oct 11

Born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli at Sotto il Monte, Italy on 25 November 1881, Pope John XXIII was elected Pope on October 28, 1958. He died June 3, 1963 in Rome and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000.

Angelo was the fourth child of 14, born to pious parents. His religious education was entrusted to his godfather, who instilled in him a deep love and admiration of the mystery of God.

He entered the minor seminary in 1892 at the age of 11, became a Secular Francsican in 1896 and in 1901 he entered the Pontifical Roman Seminary. On being ordained in 1904, he was appointed secretary to the bishop of Bergamo and taught in the seminary.

His great friends among the saints during this formative period were St. Charles Borromeo and St. Francis de Sales, two outstanding intellectuals and also formidable pastors.

He served as a military chaplain during the First World War, served as spiritual director of a seminary, and in 1921 served as the Italian president of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

In 1925 Pius XI made him a bishop and sent him to Bulgaria as the Apostolic Visitator. For his Episcopal motto he chose Oboedientia et Pax.  In 1935 he was assigned to Turkey and Greece where he ministered to the Catholic population and engaged in dialogue with Orthodox Christianity and with Islam.

During the Second World War he used his diplomatic means to save as many Jews as he could by obtaining safe passage for them. 

He was created cardinal and Patriarch of Venice in 1953 and was a much loved pastor, dedicating himself completely to the well being of his flock.

Elected Pope on the death of Pope Pius XII, he was an example of a ‘pastoral’ Pope, a good shepherd who cared deeply for his sheep. He manifested this concern in his social enyclicals, especially Pacem in Terris, “On peace in the World.”

His greatest act as Pope however was undoubtedly the inspiration to convoke the Second Vatican Council, which he opened on October 11, 1962.

Pope John’s spirit of humble simplicity, profound goodness, and deep life of prayer radiated in all that he did, and inspired people to affectionately call him “Good Pope John.”

He was canonized by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square on April 27, 2014, alongside the man who beatified him, Pope St. John Paul II.

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St. Francis Borgia

Feast date: Oct 10

Francis Borgia was born October 28, 1510 in Gandia, Valencia, Spain as the son of the Duke of Gandia, the great grandson, from his father’s side, of Pope Alexander VI, the notorious Borgia pope, and from his mother’s side, the great grandson of King Ferdinand of Aragon.

Francis’ grandmother joined her daughther in a convent of Poor Clares after the death of her husband and held a pious influence in the court of the Borgia, to which Francis is indebted. It was with these two women that holiness penetrated into the scandalous lineage of the Borgia family.

Francis grew to be a pious young man, posessed of many natural gifts and a favorite at the court of Charles V.  It is recounted that one day Francis passed through Alcalá, followed by his escort, and exchanged an emotional glance with a poor man being escorted to prison by the Inquisition. This man was Ignatius of Loyola, and at this moment Francis could not have had any idea what an important role this man would play in his destiny.

In 1539 Francis was appointed Viceroy of Catalonia, and four years later, upon the death of his father, the Duke of Gandia. He built a university there, received the degree of Doctor in Theology, and invited the Jesuits to his duchy.

His wife died in 1546, and Francis entered the Society of Jesus in 1548, but was ordered by the Pope to remain in the world until he had fulfilled his obligations to his ten children and his duchy.

Two years later he left Gandia, never to return, and joined the Jesuits in Rome. He immediately set about initiating grand projects – he convinced Ignatius to found the Roman College, and a year later he left for Spain, where his preaching and example sparked a renewal of religious fervour in the country, drawing pilgrims from far and wide to hear him preach.

In 1556 he was placed in charge of all the missions of the Society, and his energetic work transformed them. He also initiated the missions to Peru, New Spain and Brazil.

He was elected as general on July 2, 1565, and although in poor health for his last years, he executed the governance and initiated projects of the Society with great energy. He introduced so many reforms to the society of Jesus that he was considered in some ways to be its second founder. Francis was a man of contemplation and action in the fullest sense, and clearly drew much strength from the silence of his prayer.

He died in Rome on September 30, 1572, in Ferrara, Spain, two days after returning from an apostolic journey to Spain.

Saint Francis Borgia is one of the great saints of the Catholic Reformation, and was cannonized by Pope Clement X in 1670.

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St. Denis

Feast date: Oct 09

Saint Denis was a missionary and the first bishop of Paris. He was killed for his Christian faith by pagans on what is known as the “Montmartre” – the mount of martyrs -  in 258, along with Eleutherius and Rusticus, a priest and a deacon.  He is the patron saint of France.

 

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St.Thais

Feast date: Oct 08

Saint Thais was a penitent woman of Egypt in the fourth century. While little is known of her life, she was a sinful woman converted by a monk, perhaps Paphnutius of Thebes, who then lived three years in a narrow cell in most profound penitence.

It is said that she was a courtesan, and the monk entered her chamber to convert her. She acknowledged belief in God, and the monk exhorted her to repentance. She burned all her worldly goods, and lived in an enclosed cell as a penance. After three years she was removed, and she died fifteen days later.

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Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

Feast date: Oct 07

On October 7, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the yearly feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Known for several centuries by the alternate title of “Our Lady of Victory,” the feast day takes place in honor of a 16th century naval victory which secured Europe against Turkish invasion. Pope St. Pius V attributed the victory to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was invoked on the day of the battle through a campaign to pray the Rosary throughout Europe.

The feast always occurs one week after the similar Byzantine celebration of the Protection of the Mother of God, which most Eastern Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics celebrate on October 1 in memory of a 10th-century military victory which protected Constantinople against invasion after a reported Marian apparition.

Pope Leo XIII was particularly devoted to Our Lady of the Rosary, producing 11 encyclicals on the subject of this feast and its importance in the course of his long pontificate.

In the first of them, 1883's “Supremi Apostolatus Officio,” he echoed the words of the oldest known Marian prayer (known in the Latin tradition as the “Sub Tuum Praesidium”), when he wrote, “It has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary.”

“This devotion, so great and so confident, to the august Queen of Heaven,” Pope Leo continued, “has never shone forth with such brilliancy as when the militant Church of God has seemed to be endangered by the violence of heresy … or by an intolerable moral corruption, or by the attacks of powerful enemies.” Foremost among such “attacks” was the battle of Lepanto, a perilous and decisive moment in European and world history.

Troops of the Turkish Ottoman Empire had invaded and occupied the Byzantine empire by 1453, bringing a large portion of the increasingly divided Christian world under a version of Islamic law. For the next hundred years, the Turks expanded their empire westward on land, and asserted their naval power in the Mediterranean. In 1565 they attacked Malta, envisioning an eventual invasion of Rome. Though repelled at Malta, the Turks captured Cyprus in the fall of 1570.

The next year, three Catholic powers on the continent – Genoa, Spain, and the Papal States - formed an alliance called the Holy League, to defend their Christian civilization against Turkish invasion. Its fleets sailed to confront the Turks near the west coast of Greece on October 7, 1571.

Crew members on more than 200 ships prayed the Rosary in preparation for the battle - as did Christians throughout Europe, encouraged by the Pope to gather in their churches to invoke the Virgin Mary against the daunting Turkish forces.

Some accounts say that Pope Pius V was granted a miraculous vision of the Holy League's stunning victory. Without a doubt, the Pope understood the significance of the day's events, when he was eventually informed that all but 13 of the nearly 300 Turkish ships had been captured or sunk. He was moved to institute the feast now celebrated universally as Our Lady of the Rosary.

“Turkish victory at Lepanto would have been a catastrophe of the first magnitude for Christendom,” wrote military historian John F. Guilmartin, Jr., “and Europe would have followed a historical trajectory strikingly different from that which obtained.”

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