Today’s feast celebrates Mary’s Assumption into heaven. It is one of three feasts of Mary that are Holy Days of Obligation for Catholics in the United States. January 1 is the feast of Mary, the Mother of God, and December 8 is the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven has long been held as an important Catholic belief. The belief was not defined as dogma, however, until 1950 by Pope Pius XII. The dogma teaches that Mary, who was without sin, was taken, body and soul, into the glory of heaven.
The Gospel for this holy day recalls Mary’s actions after the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the Angel Gabriel. Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth who is also with child. Elizabeth greets Mary with full recognition of the roles they and their unborn children will play in God’s plan for salvation. Mary responds to Elizabeth’s greeting with her song of praise, the Magnificat. Both women recall and echo God’s history of showing favor upon the people of Israel. Mary’s Magnificat, in particular, echoes the song of praise offered by Hannah, the mother of Samuel.
The Gospel for this day reminds us that Mary’s Assumption into heaven is best understood with regard for the full spectrum of Catholic beliefs about the person of Christ and the person of Mary. Only Mary, who was born without stain of original sin—the Immaculate Conception—could give birth to Christ, who is fully God and fully human. This is called the Immaculate Conception. Because of Mary’s role in God’s plan of salvation, she does not suffer from the effects of sin, which are death and decay. Mary is the first to receive the fullness of the redemption that her son has won for all of humanity. The Church, therefore, recognizes Mary as the sign of the salvation promised to all.
Today’s Gospel highlights Mary’s faith. Mary’s faith enabled her to recognize the work of God in her people’s history and in her own life. Her openness to God allowed God to work through her so that salvation might come to all. Mary is a model and symbol of the Church. May we be like Mary, open and cooperative in God’s plan of salvation.
For more than two thousand years, the legends and stories of the Christian saints have greatly affected the course of Western civilization. The saints have influenced our holidays, our school systems, the boundaries of nations, our poetry, music, and visual arts. They have been great philosophers, uneducated savants, mystics, administrators, farmers, housewives, and soldiers, hailing from every social strata of society.
Every town and country has saints that are familiar to the local residents and obscure to the rest of us. Since it is estimated that there are more than ten thousand formally recognized saints, it was possible to profile only a very few for this book. Instead of brief biographies and images of many significant saints, we opted to go into detail about a varied handful that have an ongoing influence in modern life. The saints we have chosen are in no way the most important or exalted; many are extremely popular, some less well known. They bring with them a mix of personalities and ethnic cultures that reflect the makeup of today’s diverse society.
For this book, we have divided the first two thousand years of Christianity into ancient and modern time periods. The ancient saints span from prehis-tory to the year A.D. 1000. These saints tend to have more legendary aspects to their stories, resulting from the strong oral tradition in which they thrived. However, the modern saints are well documented by contemporary historical texts. These comprise the second thousand years. Some of these saints have influenced whole nations while others, through their particular state of life, encourage us to have a more personal relationship with them.
memory a barefoot contessa walking down mulberry street wearing the robe of St. Anthony the brown two shades darker then her sicilian skin a thick white rope around her waist a rosary draped around her hands she was one of many this sea of brown lips moving silent prayers what visions were forming and how they formed me in silence her stories were ancient a person named angela
This term refers to the first thirteen days of preparation for the feast of St. Anthony, which takes place on June 13. The Tredicina is repeated again nowadays in the Basilica and in other Franciscan churches or Anthonian shrines, as well as in many families. The same term, however, is also used for a prayer consisting of “thirteen smaller prayers”, which highlight the most significant aspects of the Saint’s life and holiness. These prayers are recited alongside standard Catholic prayers.
“I know by experience that the glorious Saint Joseph assists us generally in all necessities. I never asked him for anything which he did not obtain for me.” —Saint Teresa of Avila St. Joseph First Century AD Patron of: Fathers, Carpenters, Catholic Church, Families, Homeless, Pregnant Women, Unborn Children, Workers, Family Protection, To Find Work, A Happy Death, To Sell A Home.
A righteous man who never shirked his responsibilities as protector of his family, Saint Joseph offers a perfect example for fathers everywhere. He is invoked by families for all matters of support needed to sustain a household, both material and spiritual.
A descendant of the House of David, there is very little written about Joseph in the gospels. He was said to be betrothed to Mary when she became pregnant with Jesus. Instead of leaving her in scandal, he accepted the word of the angel Gabriel who told him that the child was divinely given and Joseph and Mary were chosen by God to be his earthly parents. It was Joseph who protected Mary on the journey to Bethlehem when Jesus was born. He also suffered the frustrations of a man who could not find proper shelter for his family as his wife was about to give birth. Upon returning to their native city of Nazareth, Joseph was once again visited by an angel warning him of the impending slaughter of the innocents. On faith alone, he dispensed with his business and personal effects, taking Jesus and Mary to Egypt where they stayed for seven years until Herod’s death. It fell upon Saint Joseph to support his young family in this foreign country.
The last mention of Joseph comes when Jesus is twelve years old and strayed from his family while on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It is thought that he died well before Jesus began his mission with Jesus and Mary at his deathbed. For this reason, more than any other saint, he is invoked for a happy death, one where a person is older and has their family at their side.
Though of noble lineage, Joseph was a carpenter and it was from him whom Jesus learned his trade. Because he worked with his hands and frequently put his family ahead of any personal ambitions, workers everywhere who live similar lives call on him as a patron. It is no mystery that the cult of Saint Joseph became more popular in modern times with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Many saints throughout the ages have declared him to be a powerful advocate as well, since it is thought that Jesus obeyed him in his earthly life, he is inclined to listen to Joseph in his heavenly life. Teresa of Avila always buried medals with his image when she needed land for a new convent. This tradition has extended itself to realtors of all faiths who bury statues of Saint Joseph on properties they wish to sell.
Symbols: It is assumed that since Joseph respected his wife’s virginity that he was an older man when he married. He is depicted in art with a staff, which he led his family ( precursor to the bishop’s staff) a lily for purity, and with carpenter tools or holding the baby Jesus
Novena O glorious Saint Joseph, faithful follower of Jesus Christ, to you we raise our hearts and hands to ask your powerful intercession in obtaining from the compassionate heart of Jesus all the helps and graces necessary for our spiritual and temporal welfare, particularly the grace of a happy death, and the spiritual grace for which we now ask. (Mention your request.) O guardian of the Word Incarnate, we feel animated with confidence that your prayers for us will be graciously heard at the throne of God. (The following is to be said seven times in honor of the seven joys and seven sorrows of Saint Joseph.) O glorious Saint Joseph, through the love you bear for Jesus Christ, and for the glory of his name, hear our prayers and grant our petitions.
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