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Communion of Saints: St. Hyacintha of Mariscotti

Feast day January 30

Often, the stories of the saints inspire by showing us, not so much the holiness they eventually attained, but the very human obstacles they overcame to get there. St. Hyacintha of Mariscotti is one such example; although indulging in a luxurious, spoiled existence – even in the midst of convent life – God found a way to soften her heart and reform her ways, so that it was her humility and penitential heart that eventually inspired those who lived with her.

Hyacintha was born in 1585 near Viterbo, Italy, and entered the Convent of St. Benardine after her hopes for marriage did not come to pass. For 10 years, however, she virtually ignored her vows, using her family's wealth to provide herself with rich foods and luxurious clothes. It was only when a serious illness forced her confessor to bring Communion to her in her cell that he observed her manner of life; he advised her most strongly to cease what she was doing and cultivate a life of humility instead. Inspired by his words, Hyacintha changed completely; by the time she died in 1640, she had become a model of humble service to others and an inspiration to all.

St. Hyacintha's feast day is Jan. 30.

Sources for these articles include: www.americancatholic.org

Butler, Edward Cuthbert. "St. Anthony." The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907.

Mershman, Francis. "St. Hyacintha Marisco_i." The Catholic Encyclopedia, 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.

"Saint Anthony the Abbot". CatholicSaints.Info. 1 July 2015.

"Saint Hyacintha of Mariscotti". CatholicSaints.Info. 29 January 2013.

Shrek, Alan. "Catholic Church History from A to Z." Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 2002.

 

St. Anthony of Egypt: Feast Day Jan. 17

Feast day January 17

It is interesting that someone who once hoped to be a martyr would instead live to be 105 years old – thus it was with St. Anthony (or Antony) of Egypt. Born in the year 251, he would not only live through the last of the persecutions of Christians by the Roman Empire, but he would then go on to fight the heresy of Arianism and eventually become known as "the father of monasticism."

Anthony was born in Coma, Egypt, to affluent parents who died when he was only 20 years old. Left with a substantial material inheritance, it would be the spiritual foundation that his family had impressed upon him which would have the greatest influence on his life. Not long after their death, Anthony heard a Gospel reading at church that he felt was spoken directly to him: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven." (Mt 19:21)

Much like St. Francis of Assisi, Anthony took this Scripture passage quite literally; after providing for a younger sister, he gave up all his material belongings and began to live a life of self-denial and asceticism. Unlike Francis, however, Anthony went on to live the majority of his life in solitude, devoting himself to prayer and contemplation of the bible.

Anthony began his spiritual journey not too far from his home, in an empty tomb where he remained apart from the world for 15 years. During this time, St. Athanasius, whose Life of St. Anthony is the source for much of what we know of the saint, tells us that he did battle with demons, which often came to him in the guise of wild beasts. Not only did they torment him spiritually, but physically as well, occasionally leaving him nearly dead.

At about the age of 35, Anthony felt God calling him to even greater solitude, and so he moved into the desert, occupying an abandoned fortress there for the next 20 years. During that time, which was filled with intense prayer, further battles with demons, and the overwhelming presence of God, it is said that he never saw the face of another human being. When Anthony finally emerged from solitude, it was not as an emaciated, damaged man, but rather as one who was robust, healthy, and on fire with the love of Christ.

Despite his desire for solitude, Anthony's reputation for holiness and joy had a_racted others to him, and he soon found himself providing them with spiritual guidance and even physical healing. Many of them wanted to follow the same kind of vocation as Anthony, and so the solitary saint organized a "monastery" of sorts, composed of individual cells scattered around his retreat, where monks could live their lives in prayer and contemplation. For about six years, this "desert father" ministered to them, and it was for this reason that he became known as the father of the "eremitical" life – that is, the life of a hermit.

Although the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire ended in 313 with the Edict of Milan, the Church would go on to endure an even greater threat – the Arian heresy. At the age of 88, Anthony became a vigorous opponent of this teaching, which maintained that, although Jesus is Lord and Savior, he is not equal to the Father, but instead is merely the highest creation of God.

Anthony spent the last years of his life as a hermit but, unlike his earlier withdrawal from the world, he did meet periodically with the pilgrims who came to seek his advice. He died in solitude in the year 356, at the age of 105. His feast day is Jan. 17.

Articles written by Kay Winchester Vermont Catholic staff writer

 

St. Scholastica: Feast Day Feb. 10

It is certainly not unusual for siblings to develop similar interests or to spend time, either together or apart, pursuing the same activities. This is particularly true when the siblings are twins; such was the case with St. Scholastica and her twin brother, St. Benedict. Between the two of them, they found the tradition of Western monasticism – he for men and she for women – that persists in the Church to this day.

Scholastica and Benedict were born into a wealthy Italian family in the town of Nursia in 480, and while twins are often close, the fact that their mother died in childbirth may have strengthened the bond between them even further. Little is known of the details of Scholastica's early life, but she and her brother were raised together in their father's house until Benedict left for Rome to pursue his studies.

In Scholastica's social class, young women often lived in their father's home until they either married or entered religious life. We do know, thanks to the writings of Pope St. Gregory the Great, that she was dedicated to God from an early age, and may even have gathered some like-minded young women around her while still living in Nursia. Whatever the circumstances, she remained in that house until her father's death.

When Benedict subsequently left the "worldliness" of Rome to live a more ascetic life at Monte Cassino (which is located between Rome and Naples), Scholastica relocated as well. Adhering to her brother's monastic Rule, she established what has become known as the first Benedictine convent either at Plumbariola, which is about five miles from Monte Cassio, or in a group of buildings at the foot of Monte Cassino itself.

Though brother and sister lived physically very close to one another, they only met in person once a year at a farmhouse near the monastery (the Benedictine Rule prevented Scholastica from entering the monastery building itself). During these rare meetings, they would spend the day praising God and discussing spiritual matters.

Very near the very end of her life, in 543, Scholastica and her brother were meeting as they usually did; when night drew on, however, she begged Benedict to stay with her until the next day, as she sensed that her own death was imminent. Because the Benedictine Rule stipulated that a monk must not spend a night away from his monastery, her brother at first refused. It is said that, at that point, Scholastica folded her hands on the table, lowered her head, and began to pray. Suddenly, a thunderstorm broke out that was so severe that neither Benedict nor the monks accompanying him could safely leave the convent.

Benedict then cried out, "God forgive you, Sister. What have you done?" Scholastica replied, "I asked a favor of you and you refused. I asked it of God and He granted it." Realizing that this was God's will, Benedict remained talking to his sister until the next morning, at which time they parted. It was the last time in this world that they saw each other; three days later, as he was praying, Benedict saw a dove rising to heaven and knew that it was his sister's soul returning to God. He announced her death to the other monks and instructed them to bring her body back to the monastery. There he laid her in a tomb that he had prepared for himself. He, in turn, died seven years later, in 550.

Scholastica, whose feast day is Feb. 10, is the patron saint of nuns; she is also invoked against severe storms and heavy rain.

St. George, FEAST DAY APRIL 23

Some of the more colorful stories about this patron of England are not substantiated by fact, but that doesn't mean that the legends surrounding St. George have any less power on the imagination. In fact, the most common depiction of the saint, in which he is slaying a dragon, persists, even though it derives from a 12th century Italian fable.

Pope St. Martin I, FEAST DAY APRIL 13

Because they were resolved more than a thousand years ago, many of the heresies that plagued the early Church are unfamiliar to modern Catholics; often, they had to do with the struggle to understand the true nature of Christ. Arianism, for instance, which taught that Jesus, although the Savior, was not equal to God but merely His highest creation, was one of the most pernicious and took two ecumenical councils, one at Nicea and another at Constantinople, to finally refute.

Another heresy, perhaps less well known, was Monothelitism. This teaching, championed by the Byzantine Emperor himself, maintained that while on earth Jesus, rather than having a human and divine will as well as a human and divine nature, had only one will – a divine one. Although this, too, was finally refuted at an ecumenical council in 680-681, it was not before it was vigorously opposed by a pope, Martin I. Refusing to back down before the Emperor would cost Martin his life, and he thus became the last pontiff to be venerated as a martyr in the Church.

This was in an age when secular rulers – kings and emperors – saw themselves as people who could, and did, make ecclesiastical and theological decisions that should really have fallen within the purview of the Church. When Martin I, for instance, became pope, he did so without the confirmation and consent of the Byzantine Emperor, Constans II. That act alone would have set him on a collision course with royal authority, but when he went one step further and censured the documents that Constans had promulgated containing the heresy of Monothelitism, his fate was virtually sealed.

After trying unsuccessfully to turn the bishops and the faithful against Martin, Constans then decided to have the pope assassinated. This too failed and, enraged by the continued challenge to his authority, the emperor finally had the pope arrested and dragged in chains from Rome to Constantinople. Convicted of treason but narrowly avoiding execution, the elderly Martin none-the-less died in exile in the year 655 from the torture and ill treatment he suffered at the hands of the emperor.

Martin I would be vindicated 25 years later. When the Third Council of Constantinople was convened, the monothelitist heresy was decisively condemned and the teaching that Jesus possessed a perfectly united divine and human nature was upheld. Martin's feast day is celebrated on April 13.

 

Sources for this article includes:
www.americancatholic.org
www.catholiconline.com
Mershman, Francis. "Pope St. Martin I." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.
"Pope Saint Martin I." CatholicSaints.Info. 29 June 2015.
Schreck, Alan. "Catholic Church History from A to Z." Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 2002.
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