Saint Valentine 269 a.d.

st.v2Feast Day: February 14

Patron of: beekeepers, engaged couples, greeting card manufacturers, happy marriages, love, lovers, young people Invoked against: epilepsy, fainting, plague

Symbols: birds, martyr’s palms, rose, sun, sword

His feast day is embedded in Western civilization. His name has become synonymous with a certain type of romantic card, yet few realize that Valentine actually existed. As a saint, his first great work was to unite young couples in marriage.

In the year a.d. 269, when the Roman Empire was under constant attack from barbarian tribes, Emperor Marcus Aurelius Claudius issued an edict outlawing marriage for young men. He speculated that more soldiers would join the legions to defend it if they were unfettered by wives and children. Valentine was a respected healer and priest in the outlawed Christian faith. He had great sympathy for those young couples whose plans for a life together were shattered by the state and he encouraged anyone who wished to wed to come to him to be married in secret. He was arrested and imprisoned in Rome for defying the emperor. But his reputation as a learned man remained untarnished and many of his followers would visit him in prison for counseling; others came for health cures. Personally afflicted with epilepsy, Valentine was particularly drawn to treating those also suffering from the disease.

The jailer, having witnessed many successful healings at Valentine’s cell door, asked the saint to treat his daughter, who had been blind since birth. During her subsequent visits to the prison, Valentine read to the girl, taught her mathematics, and beautifully described the natural world. Valentine’s wisdom and kindness so impressed the jailer and his family that they converted to Christianity despite the fact that the young girl remained blind. This conversion established Valentine’s status as a true threat to the state, a charge punishable by death. His execution came on February 14, the eve of the Roman festival of Lupercalia. Valentine was beaten with clubs and then beheaded. Before his sentence was carried out however, he sent a yellow crocus to the jailer’s daughter enclosed with a note that read, “With love, from your Valentine.” The bright color of this flower was the first thing she ever saw, her eyesight having been miraculously restored. She is said to have planted an almond tree on Valentine’s grave, and to this day the almond tree is
considered a symbol of friendship and devotion.

Valentine was buried on the Flaminian Way in a catacomb that still bears his name. A church was dedicated to him there in a.d. 496. The wall of the city, the original Flaminian Gate, was a pilgrim’s first stop upon entering Rome and was known as Porta S. Valentino until the seventeenth century, when it was renamed Porta del Popolo. In the ninth century, relics of the early martyrs were removed from the catacombs and transferred to local Roman churches. Valentine, too, was reinterred in the church. His body was moved to the church of Saint Praxedes, very near his original burial place. Many cities besides Rome claim his relics, among them Terni, Italy; Madrid, Spain; Dublin, Ireland; Glasgow, Scotland; and Rocamador, France.

It is no coincidence that the liturgical feast day of the patron saint of love falls on the eve of Lupercalia, an erotic Roman fertility festival. It was common practice for church holidays to coopt pagan celebrations. The Romans considered this the official beginning of Spring, a time of reawakening fertility and warming weather. One of the activities held in honor of the goddess Februata Juno consisted of the city’s bachelors drawing the names of unmarried women out of an urn. They would then become a couple for the rest of the year, with many of these matches resulting in marriage. In twelfth century southern France, this practice was reawakened as part of the Langue d’Oc poetry movement. This was a time when art and literature took on a heightened importance to the ruling classes. Noble youths known as gallants wrote missives of love they called galantines.

The local pronunciation confused this with the word valentine and Valentines clubs sprang up. On February 14, after a Mass in honor of Love, a silver casket containing the names of unmarried local men was presented to the single women in town. The men whose names each woman drew was required to be the guardian of that lady, providing her with flowers, poems, and gifts throughout the year. He was to guard her honor chivalrously. Marriage between these Valentines was strictly forbidden. Because of the wide dispersal of his remains, the cult of Saint Valentine became extremely popular in Northern Italy, southern France, and England. His head, which was reputed to be in England, was said to bestow incredible miracles and healings on those who kissed it. Since the middle of February was considered the time of year when birds began to pair, the English, like the Romans a thousand years before them, looked upon this as the beginning of mating season. Celebrating the Feast of Saint Valentine by citing the fidelity of doves seems to be an English tradition.

The oldest valentine note in existence today was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife in 1415, while he was imprisoned in the tower of London. By the middle, nineteenth century sending and receiving anonymous Valentine’s cards and poems declaring one’s love became common in both America and England. By then, the story of the saint who had inspired this industry might have faded away, but his name and feast day is celebrated universally.

Prayer to Saint Valentine

O glorious advocate and protector, Saint Valentine, look with pity upon our wants, hear our requests, attend to our prayers, relieve by your intercession the miseries under which we labor, and obtain for us the divine blessing, that we may be found worthy to join you in praising the Almighty for all eternity; through the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

St. Gerard Majella 1726 – 1755

Feast Day: October 16
Keywords: expectant mothers, infertility, lay brothers, mothers, pregnancy
Mystic

A quiet and humble lay brother in the newly found Redemptorist order, St. Gerard Majella did not display his great mystical gifts until the last three years of his life. Before his early death at the age of twenty-nine, he was known as “The Wonderworker of the Eighteenth Century”, for his ability to read consciences, predict the future, be in two places at once, heal the dying and infuse his surroundings with serenity. He is most invoked by women who want to conceive a child and though there are many different novenas to him, The Prayer for Motherhood is particularly popular throughout the world.

Born in a town south of Naples to a tailor and his wife, Gerard was a sickly child, contemplative by nature. At the age of twelve, his father died, plunging his family into poverty. Gerard was apprenticed to a tailor in order to support his mother and three sisters. He suffered brutally at the hands of this abusive man and eventually got a job as a servant for the local bishop. His hopes of entering the Capuchin order were dashed due to his poor health. Upon returning home, his devout nature and his kindness, especially to children, was noticed by St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorist order. He invited Gerard to join as a lay brother and work in the slums among the poor. It was while he was serving on this mission that Gerard faced the greatest challenge of his life. A young woman accused him of fathering her unborn child. When Gerard refused to comment on these charges or defend himself, the Redemptorists had no choice but to deprive him of the privilege of working with them. Months later when the woman admitted that she had lied, a bewildered Alphonse Liguori asked Gerard why he had remained silent. He answered that he had complete faith in God and that silence was the only answer to unjust accusations.

Raised as the only male in a household of women, St. Gerard was particularly sensitive to the problems women had in conceiving and giving birth. While visiting family friends, he dropped his handkerchief while leaving. The young woman of the family ran to give it to him and he refused to take it saying, “Keep it. One day it will be of service to you.” Though puzzled, she did as he said. Years later, while dying in childbirth she remembered his words and had the handkerchief brought to her and placed on her womb. All deadly complications stopped and she gave birth to a healthy baby. The handkerchief of St. Gerard’s was passed from mother to mother until his canonization in 1904. The remaining shred is still used to bless relics for those seeking to conceive a child or have a safe delivery.

Novena Prayer to the Saint Gerard Majella for Motherhood
O good St Gerard, powerful intercessor before God and wonder worker of our day, confidently I call upon you and seek your aid. On Earth you always fulfilled God’s designs, help me now to do the holy will of God. Implore the Master of Life, from whom all paternity proceeds, to render me fruitful in offspring, that I may raise up children to God in this life, and in the world to come, heirs to the Kingdom of His Glory.

Amen.

SAINT RAYMOND NONNATUS: PATRON OF NEWBORNS

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Feast Day: August 31

Patron of: Newborns

Keywords: midwives, obstetricians, expectant mothers, women in labor, falsely accused, secrets, fever

Quote: “For many hours you did not die in the womb of your dead mother and you were successfully delivered from her side to be the joy of the world.”

Symbols: monstrance, palms with three crowns, cardinal’s hat, padlock

‘Non natus’ is Latin for “never born” and Saint Raymond was given his surname because his mother had died in labor two days before he was delivered by cesarean section. The fact that he did not die in his mother’s womb was considered an extraordinary event in the early thirteenth century, when a good number of mothers and infants were lost during childbirth.  Because of the extraordinary circumstances of his birth, he always felt an affinity for the precarious state of women in labor and their infants. For this reason, midwives, obstetricians and expectant mothers call on him for help in the safe delivery of healthy newborns.

Hailing from Catalonia in Spain, Raymond’s family were from a noble class.  His father attempted to train him to take over the family farms but because of his great devotion to the Virgin Mary, he chose instead to join the Mercedarians, a religious order dedicated to ransoming Christian slaves from the Moors, who occupied much of Spain. The Mercedarians also spiritually administered to Christian slaves in Moorish regions. As the Spanish territory was recaptured, and the Moors driven into North Africa, Raymond Nonnatus followed Christian slaves into Algeria. It was said he spent his entire inheritance ransoming slaves and when he ran out of money he substituted himself for another man’s freedom. He was soon imprisoned for his religious proselytizing and when he succeeded in converting several of his jailers, the Moors bored holes in his lips and sealed his mouth shut with an iron padlock to keep him from preaching. Though he was sentenced to death, the Mercedarians managed to ransom him home to Spain. As he was enroute to Rome to receive the hat of a cardinal, he was struck down by a fever and died in Cardona, 60 miles from Barcelonia. It was said that angels fed and administered communion to Raymond on his deathbed and he is frequently depicted in the company of angels.

Because of the padlock put on his lips, Raymond Nonnatus is invoked against gossip and the temptation to gossip. He is also invoked for help in keeping secrets as well as by priests for protection of keeping the sacred silence of the confessional. On the feast of Saint Raymond Nonnatus, it is customary for those who are victims of slander and gossip to put locks on the saint’s altar to silence their persecutors. In many images Saint Raymond Nonnatus carries the palm of martyrs signifying life defeating death, his palm has three crowns, for chastity, eloquence, and martyrdom.

Invoked for: safe childbirth, a healthy newborn, to silence gossip, against fever

Prayer to St. Raymond Nonnatus

(Prayer to obtain some special favor through the intercession of St. Raymond. Novena from August 23-31.)

Glorious St. Raymond, filled with compassion for those who invoke thee and with love for those who suffer heavily leaden with the weight of my troubles, I cast myself at thy feet and humbly beg of thee to take the present affair which I recommend to thee under thy special protection. ( your request here) Vouchsafe to recommend it to the Blessed Virgin Mary and lay it before the Throne of Jesus, so that He may bring it to a happy issue. Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted. Above all obtain for me the grace of one day beholding my God face to Face, and with thee and Mary and the saints praising and blessing to all eternity. Amen.

Good St. Raymond, pray for us and obtain our request.

Good St. Raymond, pray for us and obtain our request.

Good St. Raymond, pray for us and obtain our request.

Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be.

 

excerpted from the novena app

 

 

SAINT MONICA: PATRON OF WAYWARD CHILDREN

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331 – 387
Feast Day: August 28

Patron of: Wayward Children

Quote: “Nothing is far from God.”

Keywords: abuse victims, adultery victims, alcoholics, housewives, married women, mothers, patience, wayward children

Symbols: tears, girdle

Though she was greatly hurt and disappointed by her firstborn son, St. Monica never gave up the idea that he would change his way of living. After 17 years of what seemed like fruitless prayers, her son turned his life around, converted to her faith and became one of the world’s greatest philosophers and Catholic saints, St. Augustine of Hippo. We invoke St. Monica to help us when our own children disappoint us. She serves as a reminder that there are no lost causes in this world and that absolutely anyone can reform and change their life.

Born into a Berber tribe in North Africa, Monica was brought up a Christian. Her parents arranged her in marriage with a prominent pagan Roman citizen of Carthage by the name of Patricius. Monica had a hard time in her early married years as she had to put up with a cantankerous mother-in-law as well as a dissolute husband. There are some accounts which say that she turned to alcohol and was herself an alcoholic who recovered her sobriety through faith and prayer. She had three children who she raised as Christians. The eldest, Augustine, was the most brilliant and his parents had high hopes for his career. Both Patricius and Monica worked hard to get the best education for their son and it was the greatest sorrow of Monica’s life when Augustine turned out to live a lazy, pleasure-filled life. It hurt her even more when he threw out his Christian beliefs to embrace the Manichean heresy – a popular cult believing in the natural good and evil of every soul. In order to keep his blasphemous beliefs from misleading her younger children, Monica forbade Augustine to come back to their home. Inconsolable in her grief, Monica had a vision of a radiant being pointing to Augustine in a beam of light next to her, saying, “Your son is with you.” When she related this vision to Augustine he laughingly said it would all be true if she would only give up her religious piety. “He did not say that I was with you,” she answered him. “He said you were with me.”

When Augustine openly took a mistress and further humiliated his mother by having an illegitimate son, Monica turned to her Bishop for help. He advised her to pray and be patient saying, “It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” After the death of his father, Augustine decided to move to Rome to increase his worldly success, Monica vowed to follow him. In his own great treatise “Confessions”, Augustine relates how as his mother spent the night in prayer before their voyage, he tricked her and slipped away on an earlier ship. Devastated, she traveled to Rome anyway. By the time she arrived Augustine, had already left that city for Milan. By the time Monica tracked him down, she was overjoyed to find that Augustine was no longer a Manichean. He had met Ambrose, the bishop of Milan and was studying with him. Eventually, after several more years, Monica lived to see Augustine baptized a Christian. While waiting for a ship at Ostia to take mother and son back to Africa, Monica told her son that she had accomplished everything that she had set out to do in this life and did not need to live any longer. She died in Ostia, never returning to her native land.

It is interesting to note that there are many great saints from Africa, especially the earliest ones and they are rarely depicted as anything but European in visage.

Explanation:
Light from sky: Grace. Through prayer, Monica channeled grace to convert her son.
Outstretched arms: pointing to Africa, her homeland.
Palm tree: the shore of Ostia Antica, where Monica’s earthly life ended.

Novena Prayer to Saint Monica

Dear Saint Monica, once the sorrowing mother of a wayward son, be pleased to present our petition to the Lord God of heaven and earth. (Your intention here.) Look down upon our anxieties and needs, and intercede for us, as you did so fervently for Augustine, your firstborn.

We have full confidence that your prayers will gain favorable hearing in heaven. Mother of a sinner-turned saint; obtain for us patience, perseverance, and total trust in God’s perfect timing. In His appointed hour, in His merciful way, may He respond to your prayer and ours, which we offer through you. Amen

excerpted from the Novena App

 

August Novena App: St. Clare of Assisi, Occupations: Patron of Television Workers

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Feast Date: August 11
Abbess and Founder of the Poor Clares
Patron of: Television Workers
Quote: “Totally love Him, Who gave Himself totally for your love.”
Keywords: clarity, blindness, embroiderers, eye diseases, gilders, goldsmiths, laundry workers, telephones, telegraphs, television
Symbols: monstrance, lamp, lily

Together with her mentor and friend, Francis of Assisi, St. Clare shook the foundations of Medieval society by revolutionizing religious expression. Her given name, Chiara means clarity and we call on St. Clare whenever we need to shine a light on a situation or to find a way to communicate more clearly. She is also invoked to protect the blind and to help those with eye trouble.

Chiara Offreduccio, as the beautiful daughter of minor royalty was offered every worldly advantage available to one in her social class. When she heard St. Francis preach the Lenten service at her church in 1212, his simple message of living with complete trust in God inspired her to abandon going through with her arranged marriage in order to join the Franciscan movement. The first followers of Saint Francis were the wealthy sons of his town of Assisi. Their act of turning their backs on the material world to live at the mercy of the elements and on whatever alms they could beg was disturbing and controversial to both their families as well as to the church authorities. Attracted by the joyous way in which they comported themselves, as well as the enthusiasm they brought to religious worship, Clare was the first woman to join their order.

Fervently believing in a life devoted to the precepts of the gospel, the Franciscans did not believe in personal property. When Clare escaped her family to join them on Palm Sunday, Francis himself cut off her long blond hair and handed her the simple woolen robe worn by his followers. He then left her in the local Benedictine convent as there were no facilities in his order for women. It was not long before her entire family attempted an intervention type rescue of the girl. Revealing her shorn hair to her horrified father made them realize that she would never return to their world. Her younger sister, as well as other wellborn young women from the town soon followed her. In 1215, Saint Francis installed Clare as the Abbess of the Order of Poor Ladies. True to the Rule of St. Francis, they accepted no dowries from their families as other religious orders did. When they were left inheritances, the money was distributed to the poor. Highly intelligent, and known for the efficacy of her prayers, popes, cardinals, royalty and St. Francis himself came to her for spiritual advice. Her own correspondence shows her to be a clever, happy person.

Devoted to the eucharist and frequently immersed in prayer, the stories of miraculous occurrences around Clare abound. The most famous is that while she was ill, her convent which was outside of the walls of Assisi was attacked by the Saracen mercenaries of Frederick II . As the invaders stormed the walls with ladders, Clare calmly held up a monstrance containing the host. A child’s voice emanated from inside the monstrance, “I will always guard and defend you.” A feeling of dread overtook the invaders and they ran away from the town.
St. Clare was named the patron saint of television writers and workers due to a vision she had while too ill to attend Christmas Eve mass. She was able to view and hear the entire mass on the wall of her room. She spent much time embroidering linens for use in mass, so she is the patron of embroiderers. Because that trade is hard on the eyes and because of her name, she is the patron of those with eye problems and the blind.

Explanation:
Monstrance: Devoted to the Eucharist, Clare protected her convent by holding up a monstrance, which holds the host. Sometimes in art, this monstrance is re-interpreted as a lamp. Since Chiara means clarity, it is Clare shining the light of clarity.

NOVENA TO SAINT CLARE

O Glorious St. Clare! God has given you the power of working miracles continually, and the favor of answering the prayers of those who invoke your assistance in misfortune, anxiety, and distress. We beseech you, obtain from Jesus through Mary His Blessed Mother, what we beg of you so fervently and hopefully, (mention your petition) if it be for the greater honor and glory of God and for the good of our souls. Amen.

Excerpted from the Novena App

Read more about Saint Clare in “Saints: Ancient and Modern”

SAINTS ANN AND JOACHIM, PATRON SAINTS OF GRANDPARENTS

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First Century B.C.
Feast Day: July 26

Patron of : Grandparents

Keywords: child rearing, childless people, fathers, family crisis, infertility, mothers, pregnancy

Quote: “O blessed couple, all the world is indebted to you, for it is by your means that it can offer to its Creator the most excellent gift possible, her who is worthy to be Mother of His only Son.” – St. John Damascene

Symbols: two white doves, meeting at the golden gate, teaching the Virgin Mary

Grandparents are the foundation of a family and we invoke Saints Joachim and Ann for strength in every sort of family crisis. As parents of the Virgin Mary and the grandparents of Jesus Christ, they offer a vast array of earthly experiences relatable to every human being. Infertility, late parenthood, an unmarried pregnant daughter, a grandson who was imprisoned and executed, are all parts of their life together which they accepted with grace and dignity.

Joachim and Ann are important as moral examples rather than truthful historical figures. According to legend, Joachim and Ann were married twenty years and still had not conceived a child. Living in Nazareth they were upstanding citizens, always tithing one third of their income to the temple. After many years, their barrenness was considered a form of divine judgment and eventually their contribution to the temple was refused and they were ostracized by their community. In shame, Joachim went off to live with his shepherds. There he was visited by an angel who told him, that Ann was pregnant with a child named Mary who was to be dedicated to the Lord. He was to return home and find his wife, who would be waiting at the golden gate, the entrance to the city. Doing as he was told, his joyful reunion with Ann at the golden gate has become a famous image in art history.

Mary was raised according to the instructions of the angel, she was consecrated to the Lord at infancy and sent off to live in the temple, away from the world, at the age of three. Accepting this great sacrifice of giving up what is most cherished to God, Joachim and Ann acted out an almost impossible act of faith. Though Saint Ann was younger and lived much longer than her husband, she and Joachim are inseparable in sharing the important patronage of grandparents.

Explanation:
A rare image of Joachim as an older father, and his wife, Ann, instructing the Virgin Mary. They are divinely inspired by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

 

Novena to Saints Joachim and Ann

Saints Joachim and Ann, grandparents of Jesus and parents of Mary, we seek your intercession. We beg you to direct all our actions to the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. Strengthen us when we are tempted, console us during our trials, help us when we are in need, be with us in life and in death.

O divine savior, we thank you for having chosen saint Joachim and Ann to be the parents of our Blessed Mother Mary and so to be your beloved grandparents. We place ourselves under their patronage this day. We recommend to them our families, our children, and our grandchildren. Keep them from all spiritual and physical harm. Grant that they may ever grow in greater love of God and others.

Saints Joachim and Ann, we have many great needs. We beg you to interce

de for us before the throne of your divine grandson. All of us here have our special intentions, our own special needs, and we pray that through your intercession our prayers may be granted. Amen.

(Mention your request here)

Excerpted from the Novena App

More on Joachim and Ann in The Novena Book

More on Saint Ann in “Saints: Ancient and Modern”

Novena Saints for May: St. Peregrine, Patron Saint of Cancer Sufferers

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1265 – 1345

Patron of : Cancer

Feast Day: May 1

 

Quote: “For so many years you bore in your own flesh this cancerous disease that destroys the very fiber of our being, and you had recourse to the source of all grace when the power of man could do no more.”

Keywords: cancer, incurable illness, running sores, medical breakthroughs, AIDS

Symbols: running sore on leg, Christ speaking to him from cross

A victim of cancer himself, Saint Peregrine not only had to accept the reality of his illness, but also the instantaneous healing of that disease through the intercession of Christ. For this reason he is invoked for medical breakthroughs as well as for those suffering from cancer, running sores and other incurable diseases.

A wealthy young man from the town of Forli, Italy, Peregrine was a political leader of the local anti-Papist party.  His rabble rousing against the power of the Pope and his early disdain for the Church makes him an unlikely saint. When a papal representative, Philip Benizi the prior general of the Servants of Mary journeyed to Forli to preach and to attempt a reconciliation between the rival political factions, Peregrine and his men broke up the crowds attending the speech. Peregrine himself slapped Benizi in the face. Instead of inciting Benizi to retaliate, he received a kindly look of forgiveness which so stunned Peregrine, that he collapsed in shame over his actions.

Since the Servants of Mary are devoted to the Blessed Mother, Benizi advised Peregrine to transform his life by cultivating a childlike devotion to Mary. While meditating in the cathedral at Forli, Peregrine had a vision of Mary instructing him to go to Siena and join the religious order of the Servants of Mary. Returning to Forli as a priest in that order, Peregrine devoted himself to the poor, the sick and the outcasts of society. Many reported being healed during his inspirational masses. Peregrine imposed a personal penance on himself of never sitting down unless he had to. He also slept on the ground, using a stone for a pillow. After 30 years of such deprivation he developed severe varicose veins and an incurable running sore down his leg. This led to a diagnosis of cancer, the only cure possible was amputation. Resigning himself to the same fate as those he had served, Peregrine reluctantly agreed to the surgery. Praying in the chapel on the eve of the operation he fell into a trancelike sleep where he experienced the figure of Christ getting off of the cross to touch his leg. When he awoke, there was no trace of illness in his leg and it was deemed to be completely healed. Because of this miracle, the incurably ill flocked to Forli for Peregrine’s healing prayers. Peregrine continued his mission for the next 20 years, dying at the age of 80. In modern times, many still make the pilgrimage to his tomb and there are thousands of healing societies bearing his name throughout the world.

 

Explanations of symbols:

Christ on the cross: Christ actually got off of his cross to heal Peregrine

Bandaged leg: Peregrine had running sores and cancer of the leg.

Religious habit: Peregrine turned from an anti-clerical political figure to a priest in the Servite order.

 

Novena to Saint Peregrine

O great Saint Peregrine, you have been called “the Mighty” and the “Wonder Worker” because of the numerous miracles you have had recourse to, for so many years you bore in your own flesh this cancerous disease that destroys the very fiber of our being, and you had recourse to the source of all grace when the power of man could do no more. You were favored with the vision of Jesus coming down from his cross to heal your affliction. Ask of God, and our Lady the cure of these sick persons whom we entrust to you. Aided in this way by your powerful intercession, we shall sing to God, now and for all eternity, a song of gratitude for his great goodness and mercy.

(Mention your request.)

Saint Peregrine, pray for me and for all who invoke your aid.

Amen.

novena app