In honor of the Solemnity of Mary I would like to share our ebook Visions of Mary. Highlight the link below and download.
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.
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 Day: August 28
Patron of: Wayward Children
“Nothing is far from God.”
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.
St. Alphonsus Liguori
1696 – 1787
Feast Day: August 1
Doctor of the Church
Patron: Arthritis sufferers
Keywords: Confessors, Moral Theologians, Lawyers, Scruples
“Your God is ever beside you, indeed He is even within you.”
Symbols: chin in chest, writing pen, book, bishops’ hat and staff
So crippled with arthritis that he could not lift his head off of his chest, St. Alphonsus Liguori looked on his illness as a grace since it made him use his earthly time in the most productive manner possible. In chronic pain and expecting to die at any moment, he went on to publish over 60 books dealing with theological studies, as well as music and poetry. He is invoked by those suffering with arthritis for a cure as well as those seeking a way to live a productive life while stricken with illness.
Born into a noble but poor family near Naples in 1696, Alphonsus Liguori was the eldest of seven children. Though he was physically small with poor eyesight, he was incredibly intelligent and musically talented. Because of his poor eyesight he could not follow in his father’s military footsteps, but his intellectual brilliance made him the hope of his family, as he received his law degree at the early age of sixteen. He quickly became famous in the Neapolitan courts for never losing a case. A devout Catholic, he credited his success with his daily mass going. After eight years of constant triumph, Alphonsus was stunned to lose an extremely important and public case due to his own oversight regarding a signed document. Humiliated, he looked on this personal disaster as sign from God and fasted and prayed for three days. While doing charitable work in the Hospital for the Incurables, he had a vision commanding him to quit the world and give himself to God. His father was outraged when left the law for the priesthood.
Devoting his work to those on the outskirts of society, he founded the Redemptorist Fathers, an order devoted to doing missionary work among the poor. Though gifted with the ability to argue the most finite facts of law or theology Alphonsus Liguori always preached in the simplest terms, writing many books and pamphlets in the vernacular of the common person. Because of his great popularity as a preacher, his religious order began to attract many young people. Living at a time of great political and religious upheaval and plagued with deteriorating health, Alphonsus Liguori never enjoyed much peace in his life. Instead, he welcomed these obstacles as an opportunity to perfect his soul.
Explanation of symbols:
Banner: declaring him Doctor of the Church because of the incredible range and amount of his writings.
Bishop hat and staff: he was a Bishop and leader of his order.
Crucifix: Total devotion to Christ and His teachings.
Novena to St. Alphonsus Liguori
Glorius Saint Alphonsus, loving fathr of the poor and sick, all your life you devoted yourself with a charity really heroic to lightening their spiritual and bodily miseries. Full of confidence in your tender pity for the sick, since you yourself have patiently borne the cross of illness, I come to you for help in my present need.
(Mention your request).
Loving father of the suffering, Saint Alphonsus, whom I invoke as the Arthritic Saint, since you suffered from the disease in your lifetime, look with compassion upon me in my suffering. Beg God to give me good health. If it is not God’s will to cure me, then give me strength to bear my cross patiently and to offer my sufferings in union with my crucified Savior and His Mother of Sorrows, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, in reparation for my sins and those of others, for the needs of this troubled world, and for the souls in purgatory.
(Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, one Glory Be.)
Saint Alphonsus, patron of the sick, pray for me. Amen
Please see novena app on iTunes if you want your novena’s wherever you go.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga 1568-1591
Patron of: AIDS Patients, AIDS Caregivers, Youth, Vocations.
A duke from the legendary Gonzaga family of Mantua, Aloysius Gonzaga was born to inherit great wealth and to rule alongside the best families of Europe. While still a teenager he defied his powerful father, renouncing his birth rite in order to become a Jesuit novice. Weak in physical health but living a strong interior life, he knew he would not live long. He happily accepted his destiny and put himself into the hands of the Virgin Mary. Despite his fragile constitution, he insisted on caring for plague victims during a particularly virulent outbreak quickly decimating the city of Rome. He fell ill and lingered for months fully knowing his fate. Because his life was cut short at such an early age, and because he understood both the caregiver and patient side of serious illness, he is invoked by those with AIDS as well as those who tend sufferers of that disease. His novena is written by himself, commending his future to the Virgin Mary who he had a strong devotion to.
Though his father wanted him to be a great soldier, Aloysius Gonzaga was always a pious youth. He obediently served as a page in the Florentine court of Lorenzo de Medici and in the more auspicious Spanish noble court. Still, political ambition held no interest for him and he was appalled by the corruption and licentious behavior of the nobility. While in Spain he read a book about Jesuit missionaries in India and decided to join them for foreign missionary work. His father did everything in his power to prevent his son from giving up all his earthly privileges. When it appeared that Aloysius could not be persuaded away from the religious life, his family implored him to at least accept a higher office in the Italian church. Instead, he insisted on his birth rite being transferred to his younger brother and entered the Jesuit house of Sant’ Andrea in Rome as a lowly novice.
The Jesuits found Aloysius too extreme in his devotions and forced him to eat better, mix with his fellows more, and to distract himself with physical recreation. As the plague swept Rome in 1591, the Jesuits opened their own hospital, forbidding Aloysius from working there due to his fragile physical disposition. As many of his brethren were felled by the illness, Aloysius threw himself into the role of caregiver with all his capabilities. No chore was considered too humble for him to do. He himself fell in March of that year and was given the last rites. He surprised everyone by recovering from that bout. Three months later, he was bedridden with a low grade fever. Though his condition seemed routine, he announced his impending death. Once again he was given the last rites and died during the prayers for the departing.
Because of Aloysius Gonzaga’s personal inner strength at such a young age, he is called upon by teenagers at times of peer pressure. Since he knew exactly wanted to be as a teenager, he is also called upon by the young to help recognize an occupation or state of life.
Commending Oneself to Mary by Saint Aloysius Gonzaga
O holy Mary, my Mistress, into thy blessed trust and special blessing, into the bosom of thy tender mercy, this day, every day of my life and at the hour of my death, I commend my soul and body; to thee I entrust all my hopes and consolations, all my trials and miseries, my life and the end of my life, that through thy most holy intercession and thy merits, all my actions may be ordered and disposed according to thy will and that of thy divine Son. Amen.
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.
Patron of: Lisbon, Portugal, Padua, amputees, barren women, domestic animals, draftees, oppressed people, orphans, paupers, the poor, pregnant women, prisoners, sailors
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. Amen
It is customary to donate to Saint Anthony’s Bread, a charity started in Saint Anthony’s lifetime, in gratitude to answered novena prayers.
1726 – 1755
Feast Day: October 16
Patron of: Infertility
Keywords: expectant mothers, infertility, lay brothers, mothers, pregnancy
Quote: “Who except God can give you peace? Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?”
Symbols: skull, lily crucifix, psalter
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.
Explanation of symbols:
Skull: contemplative, the sign of one who knows that this life is temporary.
Psalter: book of devotional texts
Crucifix: devotion to Christ and willing to suffer
Novena Prayer for to St. 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.