Mother of Sorrows

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Mother of Sorrows
Patron of: Grief

When we are overwhelmed with grief, we turn to Mary, Mother of Jesus for help in our suffering. Throughout her life she endured much pain and sorrow and is fully able to empathize with anyone’s personal anguish. She endured the shame of being pregnant and unmarried, being poor, homelessness and having her only son unjustly imprisoned and executed. Most astonishing, Mary knew what was to befall her son yet had to see these events from God’s point of view and have faith that this was all for the good of mankind.

By meditating on the Seven Sorrows of Mary, a devotion from the Middle Ages, which uses scenes from the life of the Virgin Mother as a meditation on accepting the sorrowful part of life with grace.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary are:

1) The Prophecy of Simeon. As a young child, when his parents presented him in the temple, Jesus was met by the holy man Simeon who predicted everything that would happen to him in his address to Mary: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted – and you yourself a sword will pierce so that thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35).

2) The Flight into Egypt. In Bethlehem, after the birth of Christ, Joseph had a vision of an angel warning him of the impending slaughter of any male child under the age of two by King Herod in order to prevent the coming Messiah. The Holy Family had to travel a secretive route to Egypt and remain in that country until Herod died. Mary not only worried for the welfare of her own son but mourn for the murdered children left behind.

3) The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple. While on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the 12 year old Jesus vanished from his family. His heartsick parents finally found him three days later, arguing with elders in the temple.

4) The Meeting of Jesus with His Cross. Mary watched helplessly as her son was ridiculed and mocked as he stumbled, carrying the cross he was to be executed on.

5) The Crucifixion. As he was nailed to the cross, most of his disciples ran away. Mary never wavered as she stood at the foot of the cross, witnessing her son’s agony and death.

6) Jesus Taken Down from the Cross. Mary held her dead son’s wound covered body. This, her greatest sorrow is known as the “Pieta”.

7) The Burial of Jesus. As the stone was rolled, closing up his tomb, Mary had to say her final goodbye to her earthly son. Her faith had to be sincerely tested as there was no hint of the resurrection to come.
Prayer

Most holy and afflicted Virgin, Queen of Martyrs, you stood beneath the cross, witnessing the agony of your dying son. Look with a mother’s tenderness and pity on me, who kneel before you. I venerate your sorrows and I place my requests with filial confidence in the sanctuary of your wounded heart. Present them, I beseech you, on my behalf to Jesus Christ, through the merits of his own most sacred passion and death, together with your sufferings at the foot of the cross. Through the united efficacy of both, obtain the granting of my petition. To whom shall I have recourse in my wants and miseries if not to you, Mother of Mercy? You have drunk so deeply of the chalice of your son, you can compassionate our sorrows. Holy Mary, your soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow at the sight of the passion of your divine son. Intercede for me and obtain from Jesus (mention your request) if it be for his honor and glory and for my good. Amen.

Feast of St. Monica, August 28

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St. Monica 331-387
Patron of: Wayward Children, Abuse Victims, Adultery Victims, Alcoholics, Housewives, Married Women, Mothers, Patience.

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.

Novena

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

February Saint of Health: Breast Cancer

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Saint Agatha 

D. 251

Feast Day: February 5

Patron of: Breast Cancer

Quote: “Do not offend Agatha’s nation, because she will avenge all insults”. – Inscription on the façade of the Cathedral of St. Agatha in Catania, Sicily

Keywords; breast cancer, burns, pulmonary diseases, bell ringers, bell makers, brass workers, cloth makers, glass workers, wet nurses, nursing mothers, nurses, fires, volcanic eruptions

Symbols: breasts on a dish, palms

A national heroine to Sicilians, a great figure in art and one of the few saints mentioned in the Catholic mass, St. Agatha is a fierce and fearless role model for anyone who lives in modern times. A martyr, she is most often invoked by those suffering from diseases of the breast. Her tomb has been a place of miraculous healing since her death. Because of her courage in standing up to the Roman authorities, anyone persecuted by them, Pagans, Jews and Christians all made pilgrimages in her honor. In modern times, her feast day is an important holiday, attracting hundreds of thousands of devotees who process through the streets of Catania.

An orphaned daughter of wealthy Christians, Agatha was considered an attractive marriage prospect by  Quintianus, the ruling Roman consul of Sicily. Taking advantage of  the recent Roman decree outlawing Christianity, Quintianus assumed Agatha would renounce her religion and acquiesce to his proposal of marriage. She refused him on both counts, telling him that she had dedicated her virginity to Jesus Christ. Refusing to marry and bear children was considered an act of political defiance in those times. Agatha’s rejection of him so enraged Quintianus that he had Agatha taken to a brothel and forced her to live as a prostitute for thirty days. When she was brought back before him, he ordered her to sacrifice to the Roman gods. She pointed out that no Roman wife would dare live like Venus and no Roman husband could legally do the things that Jupiter was known for, why would she follow such gods? Christ lived what he preached, love and forgiveness; she would follow him instead. Agatha was then tortured by having her breasts slowly rushed and cut off. Thrown back in prison and left to die, an elderly man and a young boy came into her cell. Revealing himself as St. Peter, Agatha was miraculously healed. The next day, Quintianus ordered her to be rolled in broken pottery and hot coals. As this torture was being inflicted, an earthquake leveled Catania. The citizens of that city, declaring that this was God’s vengeance for what was happening to Agatha, chased Quintianus out of town and the terrified consul drowned in the river. Agatha offered her soul up to Christ and died.

The year after her death Mount Etna erupted and a lava flow threatened Catania. Agatha’s death shroud was taken out and held aloft which immediately stopped the lava. This same shroud has been used many times over the years to protect the city. Because of her tortures Agatha is the patron of those suffering from breast disease as well as those suffering from burns. Trades that use burning coals also claim her. Bells, which are signals for fire alarms and also resemble breasts are closely identified with this saint. Saint Agatha’s bread, shaped like breasts or bells are a specialty served around the time of her feast.

Explanation of symbols:

Mt. Etna in the background: Agatha protects Sicilians against its eruptions. She is the patron and protector of Sicily.

Offering breasts on a dish: Agatha suffered the gruesome torture of having her breasts cut off. Because of her faith, she easily endured this torture and offered it up to God.

Palms: a sign of martyrdom. Christ was showered in palms the Sunday before he was executed.

Novena to Saint Agatha

O Saint Agatha, who withstood the unwelcome advances from unwanted suitors, and suffered pain and torture for your devotion to our Lord, we celebrate your faith, dignity, and martyrdom.

Protect us against rape and other violations, guard us against breast cancer and other afflictions of women, and inspire us to overcome adversity.

O Saint Agatha, virgin and martyr, mercifully grant that we who venerate your sacrifice may receive your intercession.

(Mention your request).

Amen.

(Excerpted from the app: Novena:Praying With the Saints by Barbara Calamari and Sandra DiPasqua).

Saint Francis Xavier Miraculous Novena of Grace

Saint Francis Xavier

1506 – 1552

Patron of: Missionaries

Feast Day: December 3

Keywords: foreign missions, grace, hurricanes, missionaries, plague, sailors, tourists

Quote: “It is not the actual physical exertion that counts towards one’s progress, nor the nature of the task, but the spirit of faith with which it is undertaken.”

Symbols: crucifix, lily, flaming heart, torch

Credited with converting hundreds of thousands of people, St. Francis Xavier is considered the most successful missionary since St. Paul. In his own life, he evolved from being a sheltered, wealthy intellectual to becoming a fearless explorer travelling to newly discovered lands, happily living  among the lowest castes of people, improving their lives with love and grace. The novena in his honor, the Miraculous Novena of Grace is said to bring the force of grace into our lives, creating  a more harmonious relationship with the world around us.

Born in the Kingdom of Navarre, the Basque region of Spain, Francis grew up in his family’s castle. Much admired for his intellectual gifts, he was sent to the University of Paris where it was thought that he would become one of its more gifted professors. His life changed drastically when he met an older student named Ignatius Loyola who had a small band of followers. Together with Loyola, St. Francis Xavier formed a new religious order, The Society of Jesus (now known as the Jesuits) with the intention of spreading Christ’s word to the farthest corners of the earth. The King of Portugal sent Francis Xavier on his first mission to Goa in India where his country had a colony. He was concerned about the lack of religious practice available to his people and Francis’s mandate was to form a ministry for his Portuguese subjects. However, the European merchants and traders were more interested in gambling, drinking, slave trading and prostitution than in any religious preachings. When Francis Xavier attempted to meet with the Brahmin or wealthy local people, he was equally rebuffed. He then decided he would work with the lowest of the low, shocking both European and upper caste Indians by openly treating beggars, prostitutes, prisoners and the illegitimate as equals. The many eloquent letters he wrote about his life and work among society’s outcasts are still enlightening reading today. Gifted in languages, Francis Xavier had the ability to easily communicate in the various dialects spoken in the region. He is credited with saving the Paravas, an indigenous people who were pearl divers on the coastal islands from decimation and enslavement by the various Arab and European traders who plagued them.

Excited by his great success, Francis Xavier travelled throughout the Far East and he was the first missionary to travel to Japan. Not always met with the same respect and openness that he offered others, he endured his frustration with good spirits. He died on the island of Chang-Chuen-Shan, never realizing his dream of reaching mainland China. His body was put in quicklime and taken back to Goa, where it lies in a much visited shrine.

 

Miraculous Novena of Grace to St. Francis Xavier


Most amiable and most loving Saint Francis Xavier, in union with you I reverently adore the Divine Majesty. I rejoice exceedingly on account of the marvelous gifts which God bestowed upon you. I thank God for the special graces he gave you during your life on earth and for the great glory that came to you after your death. I implore you to obtain for me, through your powerful intercession, the greatest of all blessings, that of living and dying in the state of grace. I also beg of you to secure for me the special favor I ask in this novena. In asking this favor, I am fully resigned to the Divine Will. I pray and desire only to obtain that which is most conducive to the greater glory of God and the greater good of my soul. 

Amen.

(Here you may mention the grace, spiritual or temporal that you wish to obtain).

(Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, one Glory Be).

 There are two times a year when the Miraculous Novena of Grace is considered especially powerful: from March 4 to March 12 and from November 25 to December 3.

(Excerptef from the App, Novena:Praying With the Saints”).