Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saint of the Day: Our Lady of Lourdes

February 11th, 2012

The year was 1858 and the place was the French foothills of the Pyrenees. A young girl named Bernadette Soubirous, her sister Toinette, and their friend Jeanne Abadie were out gathering firewood for their families. Toinette and Abadie crossed a stream to gather wood on the other side, but Bernadette hesitated, fearing that wading in the cold water would bring on an asthma attack.

When her sister and friend moved out of her sight, she decided to take a chance anyway, and started to remove her shoes. It was at that moment that she was startled by a great noise like thunder. Turning towards a grotto behind her, she saw a single rosebush swaying as if being blown by a strong wind. Almost immediately she also saw a golden cloud form over the rosebush and a young and beautiful lady appear in the cloud. The lady smiled at Bernadette and motioned for her to come closer. All the fear that Bernadette had felt a few moments earlier faded away at the sight of this lady. She felt safe as if with her mother.

The Lady was dressed in an ivory-colored robe tied at the waist with a sapphire-colored 
sash. A long ivory-colored mantle trimmed in gold hung in folds flowing down to her feet. On her bare feet were two golden roses than shone like the gold trim on her mantle. Bernadette was awestruck by the vision of this Lady and didn’t speak, nor did the Lady. 
Bernadette found herself reaching for her rosary, which she always carried with her, and dropping down on her knees. It was then that Bernadette noticed the pearl rosary hanging on the Lady’s right arm, which she now also took into her delicate hands. Bernadette tried to lift her hand to cross herself before reciting the rosary, however, her arm seemed paralyzed. It was only after the Lady crossed herself that Bernadette was able to move her arm and do likewise. Bernadette prayed aloud, by herself. The Lady was silent except at the end of each decade when she recited, with Bernadette, the Gloria. When Bernadette finished praying the Rosary, the Lady and the golden cloud disappeared.

Bernadette had many other visions of the Lady in the grotto. At first her parents were very upset and unbelieving of the visions. Her mother thought that either Bernadette was imagining things or that what she was seeing was demonic. Word spread in the small village about her visions of this mysterious lady and crowds of people started following Bernadette to the grotto. Many ridiculed her, but some were supportive. One woman thought Bernadette might be encountering the spirit of one of her deceased friends. Bernadette’s family implored her to take holy water and throw some on the Lady. She did take some with her, but poured in on the ground.

The Lady repeatedly asked Bernadette to pray for the conversion of sinners and asked for 
penance for sins. When she instructed Bernadette to wash herself and drink from a place at the base of the grotto, Bernadette was perplexed. She looked, but could find no water. The Lady told her to dig in the ground, which Bernadette did, which caused quite a stir among the onlookers. Some thought she was insane. Bernadette continued to dig in the gravel and dirt until the ground started to feel damp. Then a trickle of water appeared and more started bubbling up from the ground forming a small puddle. Following the Lady’s instructions, Bernadette rubbed the water on her body and cupped some in her hands and drank it.

Still Bernadette’s mother refused to believe her daughter and other family members continued to ridicule her. When Bernadette spoke to the Lady about this, the Lady replied, “I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the next.”

The next request of the Lady to Bernadette was to have a chapel built on the site of her visits. For Bernadette, a shy, 14-year-old girl, this was an impossible task. She felt compelled, though, to go to the parish priest with the request. She received a curt dismissal from him with these words: “Tell the beautiful Lady that the Cure of Lourdes is not in the habit of dealing with mysterious strangers. If she wants a chapel and has the right to one, she must reveal her identity.”

On the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1858, Bernadette got the answer to her 
question. “I am the Immaculate Conception,” replied the beautiful Lady. Bernadette was so excited to have an answer for the priest that she immediately set out for the rectory, repeating the words over and over to herself so as not to forget them. Although Bernadette didn’t understand the words, when she repeated them to the priest he was convinced that the mysterious Lady was the Blessed Virgin Mary. He knew that Bernadette, a poor, uneducated young girl, could not have been aware of the term “Immaculate Conception,” especially since this was a newly-proclaimed dogma in the Church that most people were not familiar with.

In 1864, Bernadette entered the order of the Sisters of Nevers and went to live in a 
convent. Two years later a chapel was erected and dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. The puddle that had appeared when Bernadette scratched at the soil continued to get larger and larger and today produces 32,000 gallons of water daily. Thousands of pilgrims visit Lourdes each year to bathe in the miraculous waters. Today Lourdes is the most well-known healing and pilgrimage site in the world.

On January 18, 1862, the Church officially confirmed the apparitions at Lourdes. Sixteen years later, in 1879, Sister Bernadette died. Her body, however, on display in the Sister’s Chapel, has never decomposed. Bernadette was canonized on December 8, 1933.

We pilgrims to Lourdes

Anyone who has made a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Lourdes will not have missed the opportunity to pray at the Grotto where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared on the 11th of February 1858. A mystical place, similar to the welcoming “bosom” of a mother, almost a baptismal font, in which to immerse ourselves and rediscover the unrivalled beauty of being Christians: having God as our Father and Mary as our Mother!

Lourdes is one of the most important “places of grace” known to the Church. It is like a vast basin of purity where countless souls have removed the clothes of sin and put on the snow white garments of spiritual rebirth! Some, like the author, found the light necessary to embrace the call to the priesthood, others, the strength to remain faithful to this commitment.

How can we deny that the Mother is the one who knows the Will of the Son better than anyone else and that turning to Her we understand better the mysterious plan God has for each one of us? No one better than Mary can convince us to “do whatever he tells you”!

In Lourdes, like the servants at Cana, we too sincerely open our hearts to the presence of the Mother and, attentive to her words, we are captivated by the mystery of the Son. Then we see His Will for what it truly is: our path to happiness!

Bernardette actually saw the Lady dressed in white, whereas we see her not with our eyes but with our heart, which is aware in faith of her presence on our journey. In front of the Grotto of Massabielle the pilgrim's interior vision is illuminated with a light typical of that place of grace: the light of the spiritual motherhood of Mary who gives Jesus to us as at Christmas, again and again.

Those apparitions have sustained countless souls, encouraging them on the path of conversion and personal sanctification. And their change has helped improve the world because the whole world benefits from the conversion of even one heart.

For us, pilgrims to Lourdes, Mary's universal motherhood is a mystery to discover again and again, so she may accompany us all through life. In Lourdes this Marian light is present everywhere: when we bathe in the waters, in the evening when we mingle with thousands of others to pray the rosary at the torchlight procession; in the afternoon when we join crowds of sick persons taking part in the Blessed Sacrament Procession.

Her presence is a mystery to savor in our soul and to learn, with Mary, to honour her Son, especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The first to witness Our Lady's presence at Lourdes was little Bernardette Soubirous, who became her intrepid messenger. Although she is buried far away in Nevers in the north of France, her body totally incorrupt, as if she were asleep, you can "meet" Saint Bernadette everywhere in Lourdes.

It is sweet to remember her and read the humble words she addressed to Our Lady: “Yes, gentle Mother, you lowered yourself, you came down to earth to appear to a helpless little girl… You, the Queen of Heaven and earth, deigned to make use of what was most humble for the world” (from her Journal dedicated to the Queen of Heaven, 1866).

The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, recalling that “this year (2008) the beginning of Lent coincides providentially with the 150th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Lourdes”, said in his Angelus reflection on the 1st Sunday of Lent “the message which Our Lady still offers at Lourdes recalls the words Jesus said at the beginning of his public mission and that we hear so often in these first days of Lent: ‘Convert and believe in the Gospel, pray and do penance. Let us respond to the call of Mary who echoes that of Christ and let us ask Her to help us ‘enter’ Lent with faith and live this season of grace with deep joy and generous commitment” (Benedict XVI, Angelus 10 February 2008). (Agenzia Fides 13/2/2008; righe 47, parole 662)

— Mgr. Luciano Alimandi

Patron: Bodily ills.

Symbols: The Blessed Virgin ("The Immaculate Conception") who wears a white dress, blue belt, and a rose on each foot.

Things to Do:

Watch The Song of Bernadette, a masterpiece filmed in 1943.

Bring flowers (roses would be appropriate) to your statue of Our Lady at your home altar, especially if you have a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Obtain some Lourdes holy water and give the parental blessing to your children (see link).

Give extra care to the sick in your community — cook dinner for a sick mother's family, bring your children to the local nursing home (the elderly love to see children), send flowers to a member of your parish community who is ill.

Prayer:
Blessed Mother, our Lady of Lourdes, we thank you for appearing to the child Bernadette so as to show the world the power of God. The miracles brought forth then and even until now are a great testimony of His Love and Mercy. Thank you, Mother, not only for the miraculous healing power of the waters of Lourdes, but also for the love and compassion that prevails there. We thank our Father in heaven for you, dear Mother and also for Saint Bernadette and we implore your intercessions for us that we will always be like little children, docile and loving and open to His Will. Amen.

References:


Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes (9 days):





Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Feast Day: Saint Josephine Bhakita



"If I was to meet those slave raiders that abducted me and those who tortured me, I'd kneel down to them to kiss their hands, because, if it had not have been for them, I would not have become a Christian and religious woman." 
St. Josephine Bakhita

On 1 October 2000, the Catholic Church, and especially African Catholics, were enriched with another Saint. Josephine Bakhita, born in Darfur (Sudan) in 1869, died in Schio (Italy) 8 February 1947, was canonized by the Pope in the Vatican, calling her Our Universal Sister. This amazingly strong women made it from an ill-treated slave to a unifying symbol for African Catholics and women.

Bakhita is the first person ever from Sudan to be canonized, or even beatified. She is the first African to be canonized since the early centuries of Christianity, when several North Africans (one of the cores of Christianity before it turned Muslim) were declared Saints. She already has been a symbol of faith and unity for Christians in the war-ravaged country of Sudan for long time, and 8 February is celebrated all over the Christian parts of Sudan.

Her canonization has given great pride to the Christian community of Sudan. Therefore, in celebration of this historic move by the Catholic Church, afrol.com presents a short biography of the life of this great, Sudanese, holy woman.

Childhood
The real name of Bakhita is not known, nor her date of birth, but it assumed that she was born in the small Darfur village of Olgossa in today's Southern Sudan in 1869. There, she grew up with her parents, her three brothers and her two sisters, one of them a twin sister.

Still a little girl, she experiences an omen of what is going to be her destiny. While she helps out her parents in the fields, Olgossa is attacked by slave raiders and her sister, looking out for an infant at home, is captured and abducted. In her autobiography Bakhita later writes: "I remember how much mum was crying and how much we too were crying."

Outside the established empires where protection was given, the entire Sudan belt at that time still constituted a raiding ground for various groups of armed slave raiders. The slave trade had, at this time, turned from the American market (the trans-Atlantic slave trade was practically abolished) to Arab markets in the north, and internal slavery in African empires. Darfur nominally belonged to the British-Egyptian Dominion of Sudan, were the slave trade had been forbidden in 1856. The trade, however, was not checked by government, and outside the colonial centres, the only places with a strong European presence, slave raiding went on as it had still for decades. Only after the effective occupation of the Sudan interior, early 20th century, the practice of slave raiding slowly was abolished in practical terms. Slavery, on the other hand, has persisted until our days.

Bakhita tells about her personal meeting with these slave raiders.

I was approximately nine years old when I, one early morning, walked around the fields, a bit far away from home, with a companion. Suddenly, we saw two strangers appear from behind a fence. One of them told my companion: 'Let the small girl go into the forest for me to pick me some fruits. Meanwhile, you continue on your walk. We'll catch up with you soon'. His objective was to fool my friend so that she wouldn't give the alarm while they were capturing me.

I, of course, did not suspect anything and hurried to obey, which my mother had accustomed me to do. Once we were in the forest, I saw two persons behind me. One of them briskly grabbed me with one hand, while the other one pulled out a knife from his belt and held it to my side. He told me "If you cry, you'll die! Follow us!" with a lordly voice.

Bakhita means "fortunate one" - a name given her by the same slave raiders that forcefully removed the nine year old girl from her family and village. The girl was so traumatized by the experience that she was unable to remember her name. The abductors reportedly noted her special charisma and chose the name Bakhita for her.

In slavery
Bakhita was taken to the Kordofan town of El Obeid and held as a slave by the Arab slave traders that had captured her for a few years. She was soon sold on the slave market, however. All in all, she was subject to this trade in humans five times, on the slave markets of El Obeid and Khartoum, the colonial capital. She tried to escape several times, but did not succeed. Her fourth owners, in Khartoum, were those who treated her worst and subdued her to various forms of humiliations and torture. Her most terrifying memory was that of being tattooed with the age of 13, she later recalled. All in all 114 marks were cut into her body and treated for one month pouring salt into the wounds. "I felt I was going to die any moment, especially when they rubbed me in with the salt," Bakhita wrote in her biography.

Her fifth and last buyer was the Italian Consul and trader Calixto Leganini. Calixto bought Bakhita on the Khartoum slave market in 1882, and for the first time was treated well. "This time," Bakhita wrote, "I really was the fortunate one, because the new master was a very good man and started to like me. I was not punished or whipped, so that it all seemed unreal to me, being able to enjoy such peace and tranquility."

As the Mahdist troops reached Khartoum in 1884 and expulsed the Anglo-Egyptian colonists, Laganini, along with other Europeans fled the Sudan. Bakhita begged Leganini and finally was allowed to follow her fleeing patron and one of his friend, Augusto Michieli, to Italy.

Arriving Italy, Michili's wife expected them at the harbour. On the sight of the accompanying African servants, Mrs. Michieli begged to obtain one of them, and she was given Bakhita. Thus, Bakhita followed her new "family" to Ziango, a village in the province of Venice. During the three years she lived together with the Michieli family, Bakhita served as the nanny and friend of their daughter Minnina. However, in 1888, the family bought a hotel in Suakin, the Red Sea coast of Sudan, and Mrs. Michieli followed her husband to help maintaining the hotel. Bakhita stayed in Italy.

Becoming a religious woman
Taking advice from the order of the Canossa Sisters of Venice, Bakhita and Mimmina, Michieli's daughter, went to live in the Institute of Catechism in Venice. The congregation had been founded in 1808 by the holy Magdalena Gabriela di Canossa, which called it the Institute of the Daughters of Charity, but it is more commonly called the Canossa Sisters. Their aim was to educate poor girls, serve in hospitals and catechize in the parishes.

Here, in the Institute, she learned to know the God of the Christians, and she said that here, she recognised the God that she had "experienced in her heart without knowing who it was" since she had been a child, and which had given her force while in slavery. She was baptised on 9 January 1890, and received, at the same time, her first communion and confirmation by the Cardinal Patriarch of Venice. At this occasion, she took the Christian name Josefina Margarita Afortunada.

It is told that Bakhita did have problems expressing her joy. But the joy she experienced through her religion was often observed at the font where she was baptised, kissing it and saying: "Here I became one of the daughters of God!" Here biography expresses that she, for each day she spent at the Institute, became more and more aware of who this God was, "that had lead here to him in such a strange way." 

As Mrs. Michieli returned from Sudan, she came to take the daughter and Bakhita with her to Africa. But, with unheard of firmness and courage, Bakhita said she would not go, and that she preferred to serve her God together with the Canossa Sisters. It is said that this very much infuriated Mrs. Michili, and that she insisted on that Bakhita went with her. However, the Institute leader contacted the Cardinal and the Royal Governor, which declared that, since slavery was illegal in Italy, Bakhita was free to make her own, autonomous choices. Thus, she stayed in the Institute, and soon realised her vocation to become a sister of the order. She reached that goal on 7 December 1893, 38 years old.

Bakhita, the nun
Her remaining 50 years of life, she served as a nun. In 1902, the was transferred from Venice to Schio, in the Northern Italian province of Vicenza, were she worked as a sewer, cook and porter and took care of the poor. Soon, she got a reputation for being a holy person. However, she was known for neither miracles nor supernatural experiences - on the contrary. She is known to have been modest and reserved, taking the faith into her spiritual inners and performing the most usual day to day routines.

Therefore, it is a hardship for her, being ordered to write her autobiography and to travel around to tell about her incredible life story. She started on her memoirs in 1910, and they finally were published in 1930. In 1929, she was ordered to go to Venice and start telling about her experiences. After the biography was released, Bakhita soon became a famous personality all over Italy, and she had to travel around the country making speeches and collecting donations for the order.



On her old days, Bakhita was troubled with a failing health, and she was forced into a wheelchair. However, she continued traveling and figuring a model of charity, even if her last years were marked by pain and diseases. In her pain, she went through the terrible experience of slavery once again, and reportedly told the nurse taking care of her several times "Please loosen the chains ... they are so heavy!" When she died on 8 February 1947 in Schio, her last words were "Madonna! Madonna!"

Her dead body was put on lit-de-parade for three days. Thousands passed her bier to express their mourning and respect. She had become famous for her charity and piety all over the country. The mourning crowd is said to have noted that her joints stayed flexibles all these days, and mothers took her lifeless hand and put it on the heads of their children praying for salvation. Her reputation as a holy woman had been consolidated. Josephine was for ever to be remembered and respected as "Our Black Mother", nostra Madre Moretta, in Schio.




From slave to Saint
As the popular voices arose to sanctify her, in 1959, already 12 years after her death, the local diocese started its investigations whether Bakhita could be found honourable. The investigations turned out positive, and she was declared Venerabilis (Honourable) on 1 December 1978. Thus the process of declaring her a Saint could start, and on 17 May 1992, she was beatified. 8 February was declared her official day of worship.

On the occasion of her beatification, Pope John Paul II praised her for "leaving us a message of reconciliation and evangelic forgiveness in a world so much divided and hurt by hatred and violence. She, that was the victim of the worst injuries of all times, namely slavery, herself declared: 'If I was to meet those slave raiders that abducted me and those who tortured me, I'd kneel down to them to kiss their hands, because, if it had not been for them, I would not have become a Christian and religious woman'."

On 1 October 2000, she is canonized, or made a Saint of the Catholic Church. Catholic missionaries afrol.com has been in contact with state that this was a long needed symbol to honour African Christianity, African women and making a statement against the brutal history of slavery, were also the Catholic society once was deeply involved.

- What can this African Saint teach us people of today? the Spanish missionary journalMundo Negro asked. The editor José Luis Lisalde answers by saying that "Bakhita taught us the path of liberation. The path she followed and that lead her from slavery to freedom still has to be walked by so many people that are subject to a variety of forms of slavery."

Bakhita is truly the most African Saint, and her life story is a story of the Continent, concerning Catholics, Protestants, Muslims or followers of traditional African religions. Her spirituality and endurance makes her Our Universal Sister, as the Pope called her.

Prayers to St. Josephine Bhakita

Loving God, rewarder of the humble, you blessed St. Josephine Bakhitawith charity and patience. May her prayers help us, and her example inspire us to carry our cross and to love you always. Pour upon us the spirit of wisdom and love with which you filled St. Josephine Bakhita.

By serving you as she did, may we please you by our faith and our actions. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

To obtain favor from St. Josephine Bakhita please say an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be and kindly remember to pray for our suffering Christian brothers and sisters in Sudan, her native land, who at this very moment are being persecuted, sold into slavery, and converted against their will to the Muslim religion.

O God, Father of mercy, you have given us Blessed Josephine Bakhita as a “universal sister”, an evangelical model of humble faith and ardent charity. Grant also to us the will to believe and to love in the spirit of the gospel, and listen favorably to the prayers of those who ask for intercession. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. - prayer for the canonization of Saint Josephine

O Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we thank you for the gifts of humility and charity which you bestowed on Saint Josephine Bakhita Deign to glorify her for her singular virtues and grant the prayers of those who invoke her, Amen - prayer for the virtues of Saint Josephine
Quotes of St. Josephine Bhakita 
Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself, ‘Who could be the Master of these beautiful things?’ I felt a great desire to see him, to know him and to pay him homage. - Saint Josephine Bakhita

I have given everything to my Master: He will take care of me… The best thing for us is not what we consider best, but what the Lord wants of us! - Saint Josephine Bakhita

I received the Sacrament of Baptism with such joy that only angels could describe… - Saint Josephine Bakhita

O Lord, if I could fly to my people and tell them of your Goodness at the top of my voice: oh, how many souls would be won!- Saint Josephine Bakhita

If I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and Religious today… - Saint Josephine Bakhita

The Lord has loved me so much: we must love everyone… we must be compassionate! - Saint Josephine Bakhita

I can truly say that it was a miracle I did not die, because the Lord has destined me for greater things… - Saint Josephine Bakhita

Mary protected me even before I knew her! - Saint Josephine Bakhita

When a person loves another dearly, he desires strongly to be close to the other: therefore, why be afraid to die? - Saint Josephine Bakhita

Death brings us to God! - Saint Josephine Bakhita

Rejoice, all of Africa! Bakhita has come back to you: the daughter of the Sudan, sold into slavery as a living piece of merchandise, and yet still free: free with the freedom of the saints. - Pope John Paul II

In our time, in which the unbridled race for power, money, and pleasure is the cuase of so much distrust, violence, and loneliness, Sister Bakhita has been given to us once more by the Lord as a universal sister, so that she can reveal to us the secret of true happiness: the Beatitudes….Here is a message of herioc goodness modeled on the goodness of the Heavenly Father. - Pope John Paul II

One day I unwittingly made a mistake that incensed the master’s son. He became furious, snatched me violently from my hiding place, and began to strike me ferociously with the lash and his feet Finally he left me half dead, completely unconscious. Some slaves carried me away and lay me on a straw mat, where I remained for over a month. A woman skilled in this cruel art [tattooing] came to the general’s house…our mistress stood behind us, whip in hand. The woman had a dish of white flour, a dish of salt and a razor. When she had made her patterns; the woman took the razor and made incisions along the lines. Salt was poured into each of the wounds. My face was spared, but six patterns were designed on my breasts, and 60 more on my belly and arms. I thought I would die, especially when salt was poured in the wounds…it was by a miracle of God I didn’t die. He had destined me for better things. - Saint Josephine Bakhita, describing some miseries during her time as a slave

Patronage
Sudan

Name Meaning
the lucky one; fortunate ( = bakhita); whom the Lord adds (Joseph)

References












Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Feast Day: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821)

August 28, 1774 – January 4, 1821 

Early Life
Despite being born into the wealthy and Prominent Bayley family of New York, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton's story is one stalked by tragedy and the death of her loved ones.

Both her maternal and paternal grandparents came from strongly religious backgrounds and the young Elizabeth was raised in the Episcopalian church. This combined with the loss of her mother aged 3 probably led to her quiet lifestyle of reading and contemplation.

Although Elizabeth's father remarried the year after his wife's death, her stepmother rejected both Saint Elizabeth and her sister so their father was forced to pack them off to live with their uncle, they stayed with him until their father's new marriage ended in separation. Elizabeth later identified this as one of many dark periods in her life.

Even in the darkest life there are moments of happiness and Saint Elizabeth's was her marriage to William Magee Seton. It was blessed with four children but yet again tragedy struck after four years when Will's father died.

Will was left with responsibility for the family business and his seven half brothers and sisters. Shortly afterwards the business lost several ships at sea, this loss was never recovered and bankruptcy was the only possible solution.

The stress damaged Will's health irrevocably and he succumbed to Tuberculosis. Desperate to improve his failing health, Elizabeth and their oldest daughter Anna Maria set sail with him to Italy where they hoped the warm climate and company of friends (The Filicchis) would improve Will's prospects.

This was not to be as when they arrived the Italian authorities quarantined them in a cold, dank lazaretto for a month due to fears of yellow fever. Will died a mere two weeks after they were released.

This left St Elizabeth a widow at 29 with sole charge of five young children. She remained in Italy with the Filichis for a year and in a desperate attempt to provide her with some measure of peace they introduced her to Catholicism.

Although this was to guide her steps towards her charity works and eventual canonization, initially it created many problems due to Elizabeth's Episcopalian background and doubts over conversion. It infuriated her family and friends who universally turned their backs on her leaving her reliant on the good will of her Italian friends.


Saint Elizabeth's conversion to Roman Catholicism
Death continued to take its toll with the loss of her daughter Anna Maria and her beloved sister in law Rebecca and there were the on-going problems of caring for young children with a minimal income.

In 1805, two years after her husband's death, Saint Elizabeth's doubts resolved and the Reverend Matthew O’Brien received her into the Catholic faith.

Despite this happy event Saint Elizabeth struggled for the next few years with the twin spectres of prejudice and poverty as she tried to acquire teaching work that would support her children. Despite her belief in God she remained a mother above all things.

For her unstinting faith Saint Elizabeth was rewarded in due course by her providential meeting with the Reverend Louis William Dubourg in 1806.

She accompanied him back to Baltimore where with the aid of the Sulpicians she would be a schoolmistress in a small school for children.

The Sulpicians were in the process of forming a small community based on the Daughters of Charity in Paris and Soon Saint Elizabeth joined this growing community. On March 25 1809 She swore vows of chastity and obedience to Archbishop John Carroll, he gave her the title ‘Mother Seton’ and in June she appeared with the sisters who were all dressed in black dress, cape and bonnet styled on Italian mourning dress.

The Sisters of Charity of St Josephs
A wealthy convert named Samuel Sutherland Cooper wished to begin an educational program for catholic girls and he made the wise choice of Saint Elizabeth to run it.



He purchased 269 acres near Emmitsburg in Maryland .

Tradition has it that Saint Elizabeth named the area St Joseph's valley and opened St Joseph's free school in 1810. This was the first Catholic free school for girls in America and with the opening of the St Joseph's Academy which accepted boarders meaning that the Sister's could subsidize their charitable mission the number of girls they could educate grew and grew.

Saint Elizabeth Seton was elected Mother of the Order and continued to fulfil that capacity until her death. In this capacity she dispatched sisters across America to combine education with social ministries such as St Joseph's Asylum, which was the first Catholic Orphanage in the US.

Combined with her inspirational writings and her care of poor families, orphans and widows Mother Seton made a lasting impact on catholic education and charity not only in America but also across the world.

The Sisters of Charity continue to make Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton s ideals a reality and to improve the lives of those oppressed by poverty to this day.


St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Feast Day
Other than the numerous schools and colleges named after her there is a particular shrine dedicated to Saint Elizabeth Seton.

The town of Emmitsburg where she spent the majority of her life has built an outstanding Basilica where her remains are interred. They also have a museum and visitor center along with many buildings from her time there, which have been preserved for posterity.

Along with regular celebrations throughout the year such as The Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, they hold celebrations of St Elizabeth Ann Seton Feast on the 4th of January to which all are welcome.

Notably there is an annual pilgrimage for those in the Sea Services and their families on the 5th of October celebrating Mother Seton's role as Patroness of the Sea Services.
A shrine to Saint Elizabeth Seton can also be found in her birthplace of New York.
Located on 7 State Street, New York the striking colonial building in which she lived now houses a Catholic community who continue her good works.

It is also the home of the Our Lady of the Rosary Mission. In its time the Mission befriended more than 100,000 immigrant girls (of which 65,000 are listed in the parish archives).

Many of these came to America poor, Starving and friendless fleeing from the famine in Ireland. The shrine fed them, clothed them and sent them out into the new world of America armed with shelter and employment, meaning that there are many families who wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the free help and assistance provided before the inception of Ellis Island.

Around the world The Sisters of Charity of Saint Josephs continue to follow Saint Elizabeth's example by becoming life long pilgrims in Christ's service and celebrating God's love and Saint Elizabeth's example through their daily ministrations to the poor and work in education.

Comment
Elizabeth Seton had no extraordinary gifts. She was not a mystic or stigmatic. She did not prophesy or speak in tongues. She had two great devotions: abandonment to the will of God and an ardent love for the Blessed Sacrament. She wrote to a friend, Julia Scott, that she would prefer to exchange the world for a “cave or a desert.” “But God has given me a great deal to do, and I have always and hope always to prefer his will to every wish of my own.” Her brand of sanctity is open to everyone if we love God and do his will.


Quotes by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Elizabeth Seton told her sisters, “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 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. "

"The accidents of life separate us from our dearest friends, but let us not despair. God is like a looking glass in which souls see each other. The more we are united to Him by love, the nearer we are to those who belong to Him."

"And in every disappointment, great or small, let your heart fly directly to your dear Savior, throwing yourself in those arms for refuge against every pain and sorrow. Jesus will never leave you or forsake you."

"God is everywhere, in the very air I breathe, yes everywhere, but in His Sacrament of the Altar He is as present actually and really as my soul within my body; in His Sacrifice daily offered as really as once offered on the Cross."

“The heart preparing to receive the Holy Eucharist should be like a crystal vase.”"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."


Prayer by Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
O Father, the first rule of Our dear Savior's life was to do Your Will. Let His Will of the present moment be the first rule of our daily life and work, with no other desire but for its most full and complete accomplishment. Help us to follow it faithfully, so that doing what You wish we will be pleasing to You. Amen.

Prayer in Honor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Lord God, you blessed Elizabeth Ann Seton with gifts of grace as wife and mother, educator and foundress, so that she might spend her life in service to your people.

Through her example and prayers, may we, whose Faith Community is dedicated in her honor, learn to express our love for you in our love for all your children.

We ask this through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.


Patronage

  • against in-law problems
  • against the death of children
  • against the death of parents
  • Apostleship of the Sea (two of her sons worked on the sea)
  • opposition of Church authorities
  • people ridiculed for their piety
  • Shreveport, Louisiana, diocese of
  • widows


Miracles
As a pre-condition for canonization, the Catholic Church requires that for a saint who has not been martyred, at least two miracles take place at his or her intercession.[9] The Holy See recognised that this pre-condition was met by attributing three miracles to Elizabeth's intercession:
Curing Sister Gertrude Korzendorfer of cancer;
Curing Ann Theresa O’Neill of acute lymphatic leukemia; and
Curing Carl Kalin of encephalitis.

References

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton



Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Feast Day: The Holy Name of Jesus



O God, who founded the salvation of the human race 
on the Incarnation of your Word, 
give your peoples the mercy they implore, 
so that all may know there is no other name 
to be invoked but the Name of your Only Begotten Son. 
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity 
of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.



From the Jarrow Scriptorium
This feast is celebrated on the second Sunday after Epiphany (double of the second class). It is the central feast of all the mysteries of Christ the Redeemer; it unites all the other feasts of the Lord, as a burning glass focuses the rays of the sun in one point, to show what Jesus is to us, what He has done, is doing, and will do for mankind. It originated towards the end of the fifteenth century, and was instituted by the private authority of some bishops in Germany,Scotland, England, Spain, and Belgium. The Office and the Mass composed by Bernardine dei Busti (d. 1500) were approved by Sixtus IV. The feast was officially granted to the Franciscans 25 February, 1530, and spread over a great part of the Church. The Franciscans, Carmelites, and Augustinians kept it on 14 Jan.; the Dominicans 15 Jan. AtSalisbury, York, and Durham in England, and at Aberdeen in Scotland it was celebrated 7 Aug., at Liège, 31 Jan., atCompostela and Cambrai, 8 Jan. (Grotefend, "Zeitrechnung", II, 2. 89). The Carthusians obtained it for the secondSunday after Epiphany about 1643; for that Sunday it was also extended to Spain, and later, 20 Dec., 1721, to theUniversal Church. The Office used at present is nearly identical with the Office of Bernardine dei Busti. The hymns "Jesu dulcis memoria", "Jesu Rex admirabilis", "Jesu decus angelicum", usually ascribed to St. Bernard, are fragments of a very extensive "jubilus" or "cursus de aeterna sapientia" of some unknown author in the thirteenth century. For the beautiful sequence "Dulcis Jesus Nazarenus" (Morel, "Hymnen des Mittelalters", 67) of Bernardine dei Busti the Franciscanssubstituted a prose sequence of modern origin: "Lauda Sion Salvatoris"; they still celebrate the feast on 14 January.

Altar of the Holy Name of Jesus, with the
IHS monogram at the top, 
Lublin, Poland.
We give honour to the Name of Jesus, not because we believe that there is any intrinsic power hidden in the letters composing it, but because the Name of Jesus reminds us of all the blessings we receive through our Holy Redeemer. To give thanks for these blessings we revere the Holy Name, as we honour the Passion of Christ by honouring His Cross (Colvenerius, "De festo SS.Nominis", ix). At the Holy Name of Jesus we uncover our heads, and we bend our knees; it is at the head of all our undertakings, as the Emperor Justinian says in his law-book: "In the Name of Our Lord Jesus we begin all our consultations". The Name of Jesus invoked with confidence 
  • Brings help in bodily needs, according to the promise of Christ: "In my name They shall take up serpents; and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover". (Mark 16:17-18) In the Name of Jesus the Apostles gave strength to the lame (Acts 3:6; 9:34) and life to the dead (Acts 9:40).
  • It gives consolation in spiritual trials. The Name of Jesus reminds the sinner of the prodigal son's father and of the GoodSamaritan; it recalls to the just the suffering and death of the innocent Lamb of God.
  • It protects us against Satan and his wiles, for the Devil fears the Name of Jesus, who has conquered him on the Cross.
  • In the Name of Jesus we obtain every blessing and grace for time and eternity, for Christ has said: "If you ask the Father anything in my name he will give it you." (John 16:23) Therefore the Church concludes all her prayers by the words: "Through Our Lord Jesus Christ", etc.
So the word of St. Paul is fulfilled: "That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth" (Philippians 2:10).

A special lover of the Holy Name was St. Bernard, who speaks of it in most glowing terms in many of his sermons. But the greatest promoters of this devotion were St. Bernardine of Siena and St. John Capistran. They carried with them on their missions in the turbulent cities of Italy a copy of the monogram of the Holy Name, surrounded by rays, painted on a wooden tablet, wherewith they blessed the sick and wrought great miracles. At the close of their sermons they exhibited this emblem to the faithful and asked them to prostrate themselves, to adore the Redeemer of mankind. They recommended their hearers to have the monogram of Jesus placed over the gates of their cities and above the doors of their dwelling (cf. Seeberger, "Key to the Spiritual Treasures", 1897, 102). Because the manner in which St. Bernardine preached this devotion was new, he was accused by his enemies, and brought before the tribunal of Pope Martin V. But St. John Capistran defended his master so successfully that the pope not only permitted the worship of the Holy Name, but also assisted at a procession in which the holymonogram was carried. The tablet used by St. Bernardine is venerated at Santa Maria in Ara Coeli at Rome.

The emblem or monogram representing the Holy Name of Jesus consists of the three letters: IHS. In the Middle Ages the Name ofJesus was written: IHESUS; the monogram contains the first and last letter of the Holy Name. It is first found on a gold coin of the eight century: DN IHS CHS REX REGNANTIUM (The Lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings). Some erroneously say that the three letters are the initials of: "Jesus Hominum Salvator" (Jesus Saviour of Men). The Jesuits made this monogram the emblem of theirSociety, adding a cross over the H and three nails under it. Consequently a new explanation of the emblem was invented, pretending that the nails originally were a "V", and that the monogram stands for "In Hoc Signo Vinces" (In This Sign you shall Conquer), the words which, according to a legendary account, Constantine saw in the heavens under the Sign of the Crossbefore the battle at the Milvian bridge (312).

Urban IV and John XXII are said to have granted an indulgence of thirty days to those who 
would add the name of Jesus to theHail Mary or would bend their knees, or at least bow their heads when hearing the Name of Jesus (Alanus, "Psal. Christi et Mariae", i, 13, and iv, 25, 33; Michael ab Insulis, "Quodlibet", v; Colvenerius, "De festo SS. Nominis", x). This statement may betrue; yet it was only by the efforts of St. Bernardine that the custom of adding the Name of Jesus to the Ave Maria was spread in Italy, and from there to the Universal Church. But up to the sixteenth century it was still unknown in Belgium (Colven., op. Cit., x), whilst in Bavaria and Austria the faithful still affix to the Ave Maria the words: "Jesus Christus" (ventris tui, JesusChristus). Sixtus V (2 July, 1587) granted an indulgence of fifty days to the ejaculation: "Praise be to Jesus Christ!" with the answer: "For evermore", or "Amen". In the South of Germany the peasants salute each other with this pious formula. Sixtus Vand Benedict XIII granted an indulgence of fifty days to all as often as they pronounce the Name of Jesus reverently, and a plenary indulgence in the hour of death. These two indulgences were confirmed by Clement XIII, 5 Sept., 1759. As often as we invoke the Name of Jesus and Mary ("Jesu!", "Maria!") we may gain an indulgence of 300 days, by decree of Pius X, 10 Oct., 1904. It is also necessary, to gain the papal indulgence in the hour of death, to pronounce at least in mind the Name of Jesus.





References:





Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas at Greccio

St. Francis at Greccio
by Terry Nelson
Francis set out again on the roads of Umbria. Again he went up the rugged path along the woodlands of Fonte Colombo and joyously greeted the little church so dear to him. 

The days that followed were among the happiest of his life. Christmas was drawing near. Pleasant weather had returned, and in the cloister formed by the wooded hills, a clear light shone in the joyful, immaculate mornings. Toward evening, the long slow notes of cornemuses rose from the valley, playing ancient pastorals. Tenderly they dwelled on the miraculous dream of the return of the Son of God to earth as a baby, little and poor, clasped to the breast of the Virgin.

Francis wanted everyone to share in the joy of this "feast of feasts." He wanted the poor and the hungry to sit at the tables of the rich and oxen and asses, the humble beasts who had warmed the cold body of the baby Jesus with their breath, to be given more than the usual amount of grain and hay.

"If I could speak to the emperor," he said, "I would ask that a general law be made requiring all who can to scatter corn and other grains along the roads so that the birds might have an abundance of food on such a great and solemn day, especially our sisters the larks."

A few days before Christmas, Francis sent for a noble of Greccio, acastello nearby, a man Giovanni for whom Francis had a very. special love because of his goodness. To him Francis disclosed the plans he had made.

It would be, he said, so good, so edifying, to call to mind the birth of the Christ Child on the night of Christmas, to have "set before our bodily eyes in some way the inconveniences of his infant needs, how he lay in manger, how, with an ox and an ass standing by, he lay upon the hay where he had been placed." His poetic gifts enabled him to give vivid life to the scene. Giovanni was enthralled.

Brothers from nearby Franciscan places were invited. Many torches and candles were needed to make a great light in that night that has lighted up all the days and years with its gleaming star." Men and women worked unceasingly to prepare them. All had been made ready in the forest by Christmas Eve, the Vigil of Christmas: the manger, the hay, the ox and ass. Francis inspected it and was pleased. At last he had found a way to make a living presentation of the concept in which he passionately believed, in a drama that could not fail to stir even the most stolid. The lowly manger would show forth God - small, poor, humble. Greccio would become a new Bethlehem.

Night fell and obscured the dark beech trees, the steep cliffs, the hermitage, the valley. A profound waiting silence lay over the great stage. Then it began to snow, and there was nothing but an immense whiteness in the calm and peaceful night. It seemed that unseen bells were ringing out the ancient invocation: "Peace on earth to men of good will" In the great, white quiet, every petty, malicious, and unworthy feeling died away.

As the hours passed, far-away lights appeared in the valley and began to move up to the hermitage. Again, as once before, shepherds were walking in the night to "come and adore Him."

In reading over the description written by Thomas of Celano, who certainly got his information from someone who was there, we ourselves can see the marvelous scenes.

A thousand torches blaze up in the darkness, joyous moving lights, like the enchanted lights in a festival of fantasy in legends arising from the deeps of a magic forest. And still it is snowing. A whirlwind of flakes dances in the flickering flames of the torches. Great crackling bonfires add their light and voice to the jubilation of flames that shine out on the harsh and lonely mountain. The night, writes Thomas, is "lighted up like the day."

A great throng crowds about the manger, where the ox and the ass bring the ancient miracle to life again. The people, writes Thomas, are "filled with new joy over the mystery."

From the group of kneeling friars arises the mighty chorus: "Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound..." The song rises to the tops of the white oaks on which reflections of the red fires dance; it expands into the invisible sky. It travels to the distant mountains.

Everything proclaims solemnity, beauty, and joy: the priest with the gold chasuble who celebrates the Mass, the altar shining with lights, the brothers in their pure white surplices, the forest ringing with the joyous hymn, the rocks that "make answer to their jubilation." A single harmony unites all things and all creatures - perhaps even the angels who sang on the night that Christ was born are singing again, too, beyond the intense light.

Francis vested as a deacon, sings the beautiful lesson: "She gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger..."

His voice rings out like heavenly music that none of those present could ever forget: "a strong voice, a sweet voice, a clear voice, a sonorous voice." The nobleman Giovanni is so overwhelmed by it that as Francis reads, he sees the baby Jesus "lying in the manger lifeless, and ... the holy man of God go up to it and rouse the child as from a deep sleep."

"This vision was not unfitting," writes the friar, "for the Child Jesus had been forgotten in the hearts of many; but, by the working of his grace, he was brought to life again through His servant Saint Francis and stamped upon their fervent memory.

Then Francis preaches to the people, and "he spoke charming words concerning the nativity of the poor King and the little town 6f Bethlehem." Speaking the word "Bethlehem" (Betlemme) says Thomas, his voice seems to resemble the sound of a lamb.

And the light that shines in the darkness is truly the light of the dawn, the beginning of a new day for all who were there - that light that touches the faces, envelops the motionless plants, reaches into the snow-covered valley and up to the icy heights that still echo with the sound of silvery voices: Rejoice! Rejoice!