The visions of Blessed Catherine Emmerich as recorded in The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary give us an intimate portrait of what the life of a young girl without sin might have been like in the Temple:
“I saw the Blessed Virgin in the Temple, ever progressing in learning, prayer, and work. Sometimes I saw her in the women’s dwelling with the other young girls, sometimes alone in her little room. She worked, wove, and knitted narrow strips of stuff on long rods for the service of the Temple. She washed the cloths and cleansed the pots and pans. I often saw her in prayer and meditation. I never saw her chastising or mortifying her body–she did not need it. Like all very holy people she ate only to live, and took no other food except that which she had vowed to eat. Besides the prescribed Temple prayers, Mary’s devotions consisted of an unceasing longing for redemption, a perpetual state of inner prayer, quietly and secretly performed. In the stillness of the night she rose from her bed and prayed to God. I often saw her weeping at her prayers and surrounded by radiance. As she grew up, I always saw that she wore a dress of a glistening blue color. She was veiled while at prayer, and also wore a veil when she spoke with priests or went down to a room by the Temple to be given work or to hand over what she had done. There were rooms like this on three sides of the Temple; they always looked to me like sacristies. All sorts of things were kept there which it was the duty of the Temple maidens to look after, repair, and replace.”
While these stories show Mary’s life as very holy and set apart in keeping with her dignity, they also give us a glimpse of her humanity. Though sinless, Mary was and is fully and only human. She shows us that it is only our common experience of fallen human nature that says, “to sin is only human.” In God’s plan, Mary models what St. Irenaeus of Lyons taught:
Mary’s divine motherhood broadens the Christmas spotlight. Mary has an important role to play in the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. She consents to God’s invitation conveyed by the angel (Luke 1:26-38). Elizabeth proclaims: “Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43, emphasis added). Mary’s role as mother of God places her in a unique position in God’s redemptive plan.
Without naming Mary, Paul asserts that “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). Paul’s further statement that “God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out ‘Abba, Father!’” helps us realize that Mary is mother to all the brothers and sisters of Jesus.
Some theologians also insist that Mary’s motherhood of Jesus is an important element in God’s creative plan. God’s “first” thought in creating was Jesus. Jesus, the incarnate Word, is the one who could give God perfect love and worship on behalf of all creation. As Jesus was “first” in God’s mind, Mary was “second” insofar as she was chosen from all eternity to be his mother.
The precise title “Mother of God” goes back at least to the third or fourth century. In the Greek form Theotokos(God-bearer), it became the touchstone of the Church’s teaching about the Incarnation. The Council of Ephesus in 431 insisted that the holy Fathers were right in calling the holy virgin Theotokos. At the end of this particular session, crowds of people marched through the street shouting: “Praised be the Theotokos!” The tradition reaches to our own day. In its chapter on Mary’s role in the Church, Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church calls Mary “Mother of God” 12 times.
Other themes come together at today’s celebration. It is the Octave of Christmas: Our remembrance of Mary’s divine motherhood injects a further note of Christmas joy. It is a day of prayer for world peace: Mary is the mother of the Prince of Peace. It is the first day of a new year: Mary continues to bring new life to her children—who are also God’s children.
Saint Francis of Assisi1182—1226 Saint Francis is the Patron Saint of Italy, Animals, Ecologists, Nature His Feast Day is October 4
Ardent love for everything in the universe so consumed Saint Francis of Assisi that he refused to have a full tonsure shaved into his head so that bugs and vermin, his “more simple brethren”, might still have a home in his hair. He called all animals brother and sister and exhorted every creature to honor its creator. It is said that birds became quiet when he preached and that when he walked through their flocks, they never moved unless he asked it of them. A great poet, Saint Francis himself wrote the first part of this novena. Because of the mystical way he experienced the world, in full possession of and living in divine light, he is invoked to change our view of the world and fill our lives with grace.
He was born Giovanni Bernadone in the town of Assisi in the year 1182. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant and an upstanding member of the local upper classes. Everyone called him Francesco instead of Giovanni because his mother was from Provence and he was given to exclaiming in French. Francis lived a pleasure—filled life as a young man, and it was assumed he would inherit his father’s business and social position. When war broke out with neighboring Perugia, Francis went to fight, viewing it all as a great adventure. He was taken prisoner, however, and eventually returned to his family extremely ill. As he recovered, his old way of life seemed to bore him. It was in the neglected Church of San Damiano that he heard the crucifix speak to him: “go and repair my house, which you see is falling down.” He took these instructions literally, enraging his father. Ultimately, he renounced his inheritance, throwing his clothes into the street. The bishop of Assisi provided Francis with his new garments, the brown robe of a monk.
Living alone, Francis rebuilt San Damiano, sometimes begging for the money for supplies. He was eventually joined by a few other young men of his status, and in 1209 he wrote his first holy rule. He embraced poverty and was intent on living as the original apostles of Christ did, traveling, preaching and begging for alms. When he prayed, the bright light in his raptures caused him to cry, but he could not bear to stop. His followers, worried that he would ruin his eyesight, attempted to intervene, but he replied, “We are the same as the flies, attracted to light.” In 1224, while praying alone on the secluded mountain of La Verna, Francis became the first saint to know the suffering of the crucified Christ by receiving the stigmata. These wounds stayed with him for the remaining two years of his life.
Saint Francis of Assisi is one of the greatest saints of the Catholic Church and is the founder of the Franciscan friars. Yet, so true was his embrace of humility that he himself was never ordained a priest, only a deacon. He lived out his life in the order he founded as a humble member with no official status. He was canonized a saint in 1228. Because of his extensive travels in his native country and his love for its natural beauty, Saint Francis is the Patron Saint of Italy.
Prayer by Saint Francis of Assisi with Novena
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O divine master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, in pardoning that we are pardoned, and in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen
Saint Francis of Assisi, reflection of Christ through your life of poverty and humility, grant us through your intercession the graces we so much need for soul and body. Especially during this novena, we ask for
mention your request
We also ask your blessings on all those whom we love. Amen
Let’s not forget to pray for all The Forgotten Souls today.
Whilst praying for the dead is an ancient Christian tradition, it was Odilo, Abbot of Cluny (France) who, in 998AD, designated a specific day for remembering and praying for those in the process of purification. This started as a local feast in his monasteries and gradually spread throughout the Catholic Church towards the end of the 10th century AD.
All Souls’ Day is marked on 2nd November (or the 3rd if the 2nd is a Sunday), directly following All Saints’ Day, and is an opportunity for Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholic churches to commemorate the faithful departed. They remember and pray for the souls of people who are in Purgatory – the place (or state) in which those who have died atone for their less grave sins before being granted the vision of God in Heaven (called Beatific vision).
Reasoning behind this stems from the notion that when a soul leaves the body, it is not entirely cleansed from venial (minor) sins. However, through the power of prayer and self-denial, the faithful left on earth may be able to help these souls gain the Beatific Vision they seek, bringing the soul eternal sublime happiness.
The earliest certain observance of a feast in honor of all the saints is an early fourth-century commemoration of “all the martyrs.” In the early seventh century, after successive waves of invaders plundered the catacombs, Pope Boniface IV gathered up some 28 wagon-loads of bones and reinterred them beneath the Pantheon, a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods. The pope rededicated the shrine as a Christian church. According to Venerable Bede, the pope intended “that the memory of all the saints might in the future be honored in the place which had formerly been dedicated to the worship not of gods but of demons” (On the Calculation of Time).
But the rededication of the Pantheon, like the earlier commemoration of all the martyrs, occurred in May. Many Eastern Churches still honor all the saints in the spring, either during the Easter season or immediately after Pentecost.
How the Western Church came to celebrate this feast, now recognized as a solemnity, in November is a puzzle to historians. The Anglo-Saxon theologian Alcuin observed the feast on November 1 in 800, as did his friend Arno, Bishop of Salzburg. Rome finally adopted that date in the ninth century.
This feast first honored martyrs. Later, when Christians were free to worship according to their consciences, the Church acknowledged other paths to sanctity. In the early centuries the only criterion was popular acclaim, even when the bishop’s approval became the final step in placing a commemoration on the calendar. The first papal canonization occurred in 993; the lengthy process now required to prove extraordinary sanctity took form in the last 500 years. Today’s feast honors the obscure as well as the famous—the saints each of us have known.
The Beatitudes are the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-10). Jesus teaches us that if we live according to the Beatitudes, we will live a happy Christian life. The Beatitudes fulfill God’s promises made to Abraham and his descendants and describe the rewards that will be ours as loyal followers of Christ.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
St. Dymphna 605 – 620 Feast Day: May 15 Patron of: Mental Illness
“Saint Dymphna, renowned for many miracles, please hear my plea.”
As a victim of a mentally ill father, Saint Dymphna offers much solace to those suffering from psychological problems as well as their families. She is invoked to bring peace to the unbalanced as well as create an aura of calm and consolation for those who live in the midst of instability.
Having lived such a short life so long ago, there is very little factual information available about Saint Dymphna. According to a written report commissioned by the Bishop of Cambrai seven hundred years after her death, Dymphna was born an Irish princess. Her mother was a devout Christian married to Damon, a pagan king. Dymphna’s mother made sure her daughter was brought up as a Christian, having installed her own confessor, Gerebran into her household. At the age of fourteen Dymphna lost her mother and her father went mad with grief. After a period of mourning, he searched all of Ireland for a new companion but could not find a woman who even remotely resembled his first wife. Because Dymphna was almost the exact image of her mother, Damon decided to marry her and make her his queen, disregarding the fact that she was his own daughter. In order to thwart this plan, Gerebran and Dymphna escaped the castle and went abroad to Antwerp. Eventually settling in Gheel in Belgium, they lived as religious hermits. Dymphna studied to be an anchoress which was a woman who lived in a room connected to a church with a window open to the street. Towns in the middle ages usually supported these people who offered their knowledge to those in need of advice. It took Damon and his men a year to find Dymphna and Gerebran. The priest was executed immediately and Dymphna was offered her father’s kingdom in exchange for returning home with him. When she refused, he decapitated her in a rage. Both bodies were immediately buried. Since epilepsy and mental illness were all thought to be caused by demonic possession, those suffering from mental afflictions were never welcomed to live in one place and were doomed to wander from town to town. Soon after Dymphna’s death, a group of five of these social pariahs slept at the site of her murder and were instantly healed by the blood in the earth.
In the 13th century, the remains of an unknown man and woman were accidentally disinterred at Gheel. The name DYMPNA was written on a brick over the woman’s remains. As the remains were reinterred in a tomb, miraculous healings of the mentally ill and epileptics in the region were recorded. Gheel became a pilgrimage site for anyone suffering from any form of mental illness. By the end of the thirteenth century a major hospital and treatment center was built there for those suffering from nervous disorders. To this day, Gheel offers the most advanced and humane treatment for the mentally ill in the world. Saint Dymphna’s remains, in the church named for her there continues to be a place of pilgrimage.
Symbols: crown because of royal birth, shackled serpent representing the devil who was thought to be responsible for the mentally ill due to demonic possession, book because she was an anchoress and religious scholar, lily for purity, martyrs palm
Novena to Saint Dymphna
O God, we humbly beseech you through your servant Saint Dymphna, who sealed with her blood the love she bore you, to grant relief to those who suffer from mental afflictions and nervous disorders, especially (mention the afflicted person).
Saint Dymphna, helper of the mentally afflicted, pray for us.
Saint Dymphna, comforter of the despondent, pray for us.
Saint Dymphna, renowned for many miracles, please hear my plea.
Saint Anthony of Padua 1195 – 1231 Doctor of the Church Feast Day: June 13
Wonder and miracles are infused with every story of Saint Anthony. Though he has been dead for almost 800 years, he is still the most popular saint in the world and his statue is found in every Catholic Church. Saint Anthony is best known as the patron saint of lost articles but he is invoked for help in all life situations. In his own day he was called the “Wonder Worker’ and credited with the ability to stop the rain, raise the dead and reattach severed limbs. He was such a charismatic preacher that when a crowd of heretics in Rimini refused to listen to his preaching, the fish raised themselves out of the water to hear him.
Born Fernando de Bulhes in Lisbon, Portugal, he disappointed his noble family by rejecting his luxurious life and joining the Augustinian religious order. A scholar by nature, he read every book in the monastery, devoting his time to contemplative prayer. Eventually, he befriended a group of itinerant Franciscan monks and became fascinated with this new religious order. Much impressed by their dedication to simplicity, poverty and their belief in returning to the original words of Christ, he joined their ranks, changing his name to Anthony in honor of Saint Anthony of the Desert, the patron of their little church. Returning home from a failed missionary venture in Morocco, his ship was blown off course and he wound up in Messina, Sicily. A group of Franciscan friars insisted he go north with them for a great gathering of all Franciscans, with their founder Francis of Assisi.
Anthony remained in Italy and discovered his great gift of preaching when a superior ordered him to speak at an ordination, telling him to say whatever the holy spirit had infused into him. He astonished his audience, not only by his skills as an orator but by the depth of his knowledge. He was sent throughout northern Italy and southern France on evangelical preaching missions which gathered crowds in the tens of thousands. His popularity among the people increased as he used his position to get real changes enacted for their protection. While based in Padua, he observed the crushing power of debt upon the common people. At Anthony’s insistence, the local municipality enacted a law protecting those who could not pay their debts that is still enforced today.
Anthony exhausted himself preaching out in fields and in piazzas as there was not cathedral large enough to hold all who came to hear him. At the age of thirty six, his health began to fail him and a local Count donated a woodland retreat for his recovery. One morning the Count heard the sounds of a baby giggling and he looked out to see Anthony surrounded in light, playing with the baby Jesus. That Christ would choose to appear to one of his saints in such a vulnerable state is a testament to the loving and kind nature of Saint Anthony. Because he is depicted holding a baby, women having trouble conceiving invoke his aid. Being of Portuguese descent, Anthony’s feast day is very auspicious for marriages in Portugal and Brazil and in those cultures, he is known to assist women seeking a husband.
According to legend, Saint Anthony earned the title patron saint of lost articles when a novice borrowed his psalter and failed to return it. Saint Anthony prayed to get it back and the novice was visited by terrifying visions that sent him running back to Anthony with the book. In iconography, Anthony always holds the baby Jesus and a lily for purity. Many times the returned book of the gospels is included.
Novena to Saint Anthony of Padua
Holy Saint Anthony, gentle and powerful in your help, Your love for God and charity for His creatures, made you worthy when on earth, to possess miraculous powers. Miracles waited on your word, which you were always ready to request for those in trouble or anxiety. Encouraged by this thought, I implore you to obtain for me (mention your request here). The answer to my prayer may require a miracle. Even so, you are the saint of miracles. Gentle and loving Saint Anthony, whose heart is ever full of human sympathy, take my petition to the Infant Savior for whom you have such a great love, and the gratitude of my heart will be ever yours.
It is customary to donate to Saint Anthony’s Bread, a charity started in Saint Anthony’s lifetime, in gratitude to answered novena prayers.
This is the first of a series of Saints we will be featuring for the month of September.
Explore the stories and enigmatic symbols of some of the most popular saints, their patronages, and their devotions. Meditate and say a novena to your favorite saint or learn something new about a saint that you don’t know much about. Link below to the apple store.
One of the more sugary movies made about Francis of Assisi pictures Clare as a golden-haired beauty floating through sun-drenched fields, a sort of one-woman counterpart to the new Franciscan Order.
The beginning of her religious life was indeed movie material. Having refused to marry at 15, Clare was moved by the dynamic preaching of Francis. He became her lifelong friend and spiritual guide.
At 18, Clare escaped from her father’s home one night, was met on the road by friars carrying torches, and in the poor little chapel called the Portiuncula received a rough woolen habit, exchanged her jeweled belt for a common rope with knots in it, and sacrificed her long tresses to Francis’ scissors. He placed her in a Benedictine convent, which her father and uncles immediately stormed in rage. Clare clung to the altar of the church, threw aside her veil to show her cropped hair, and remained adamant.
Sixteen days later her sister Agnes joined her. Others came. They lived a simple life of great poverty, austerity, and complete seclusion from the world, according to a Rule which Francis gave them as a Second Order. At age 21, Francis obliged Clare under obedience to accept the office of abbess, one she exercised until her death.
The Poor Ladies went barefoot, slept on the ground, ate no meat, and observed almost complete silence. Later Clare, like Francis, persuaded her sisters to moderate this rigor: “Our bodies are not made of brass.” The greatest emphasis, of course, was on gospel poverty. They possessed no property, even in common, subsisting on daily contributions. When even the pope tried to persuade Clare to mitigate this practice, she showed her characteristic firmness: “I need to be absolved from my sins, but I do not wish to be absolved from the obligation of following Jesus Christ.”
Contemporary accounts glow with admiration of Clare’s life in the convent of San Damiano in Assisi. She served the sick and washed the feet of the begging nuns. She came from prayer, it was said, with her face so shining it dazzled those about her. She suffered serious illness for the last 27 years of her life. Her influence was such that popes, cardinals, and bishops often came to consult her—Clare herself never left the walls of San Damiano.
Francis always remained her great friend and inspiration. Clare was always obedient to his will and to the great ideal of gospel life which he was making real.
A well-known story concerns her prayer and trust. Clare had the Blessed Sacrament placed on the walls of the convent when it faced attack by invading Saracens. “Does it please you, O God, to deliver into the hands of these beasts the defenseless children I have nourished with your love? I beseech you, dear Lord, protect these whom I am now unable to protect.” To her sisters she said, “Don’t be afraid. Trust in Jesus.” The Saracens fled.
The 41 years of Clare’s religious life are scenarios of sanctity: an indomitable resolve to lead the simple, literal gospel life as Francis taught her; courageous resistance to the ever-present pressure to dilute the ideal; a passion for poverty and humility; an ardent life of prayer; and a generous concern for her sisters.
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