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Example of the saints

Like stained glass windows, the saints allow the light of God to permeate the darkness of sin in the world, Pope Francis said on the feast of All Saints.
 
Just as light enters a church through multi-colored windows, the lives of saints shine forth "according to their own shade," the pope said Nov. 1.
 
All the saints "have been transparent, they fought to remove the stains and darkness of sin so that the gentle light of God can pass through," the pope said. "This is the purpose of life, even for us."
 
Before reciting the Angelus prayer with people gathered in St. Peter's Square, the pope said the day was a "feast for us not because we are good but because God's holiness has touched our lives."
 
The day's Gospel reading from St. Matthew, in which Jesus proclaims the beatitudes, contains the road map for "a blessed and happy life," which the saints followed through in their own lives and deeds, he said.
 
"Happiness is not in having something or in becoming someone," the pope said. "No. True happiness is being with the Lord and living for love."
 
The beatitudes, he continued, do not require "extravagant gestures" or superhuman strength, but are for those "who live through the trials and hardships of daily life."
"That is how the saints are," Pope Francis said. "Like everyone, they breathe the polluted air of evil that is in the world, yet they never lose sight of Jesus' footsteps along the way."
 
Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope said the feast of All Saints also is "a family feast" that celebrates the lives of people who deserve recognition for helping further God's work in the world.
 
"Today, there are so many," the pope said. "Thanks to these unknown brothers and sisters who help God bring the world forward, who live among us. Let us greet them all with applause."
 
Recalling the first beatitude from St. Matthew's Gospel, Pope Francis said Christians should emulate the lives saints who while "poor in spirit," believed their true treasure was in God and not "in power or money."
 
"At times, we are unhappy because we lack something or we are not recognized as we would like to be," the pope said. "Let us remember: Our beatitude does not lie here but in the Lord and in love. Only with him, only loving others can we live a blessed life."
 
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November saint: Albert the Great

Albertus Magnus, or St. Albert the Great, is the patron saint of scientists and philosophers. However, it might also be appropriate to dub him the “patron saint of the curious,” for he was known to pursue truth and wisdom wherever it could be found, even in places that might have appeared unconventional at the time in which he lived.
 
Albert was born in southern Germany about the year 1200, the son of a powerful and wealthy military nobleman. He came of age at a time when the Catholic Church had reached the zenith of its power and influence in the Middle Ages; not only was the papacy firmly in control of things both spiritual and temporal, but literature had produced such master works of Christian allegorical poetry as Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” The renewal of the Church (following the previous century’s controversy surrounding lay investiture) also inspired the founding of mendicant religious orders such as the Franciscans and the Dominicans.
 
Albert was an extremely well educated young man; at the University of Padua, he first encountered the writings of Aristotle, the study of which would greatly influence the intellectual trajectory of the rest of his life. About the year 1223, Albert apparently had an encounter with the Blessed Virgin, which inspired him, much against the wishes of his family, to enter the novitiate of the Dominican Order. From that point on, he took up the study of theology, first in Cologne and later in Paris.
 
As he had at Padua, Albert proved himself an excellent student. He soon became a lecturer for the order, and by 1245 became a master of theology. He taught at the University of Paris and was appointed chair of yheology at the College of St. James.  As famous as Albert was becoming, he would also become known for one of his more brilliant students – Thomas Aquinas, who, like his teacher, would go on to become both a saint and a Doctor of the Church.
 
Albert’s familiarity with the philosophy of Aristotle would pave the way for his protégé’s own studies. In 1248, the two of them returned to the city of Cologne, where they created a Dominican course of study that would include a curriculum for philosophy. So successful and influential was their work that it would survive to the present day as the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, also known as the “Angelicum” in Rome.
 
Albert’s intellectual interests did not stop there, however. He would become known for his extensive study of natural science, logic, rhetoric, mathematics, astronomy, ethics, economics, politics and metaphysics. It took him 20 years and eight volumes of writing to complete his explanation of his learning; so great was his erudition that, in his time, his work was considered to be on a par with that of Aristotle.  
 
Albert’s health began to fail in 1278, and he died on Nov. 15, 1280.  Beatified in 1622, he was canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1931 by Pope Pius IX.  His feast day is Nov. 15.
 
Sources for this article include:
americancatholic.org
catholiconline.com
“Saint Albert the Great“. CatholicSaints.Info. 13 January 2017.
Schreck, Alan.  “Catholic Church History from A to Z”.  Michigan:  Servant Publications, 2002.
Schreck, Alan.  “The Compact History of the Catholic Church”.  Ohio:  Servant Books, 1995.
 
 

Fourth pathway to possible sainthood

Pope Francis has approved a fourth pathway to possible sainthood -- giving one's life in a heroic act of loving service to others.
 
In a new apostolic letter, the pope approved new norms allowing for candidates to be considered for sainthood because of the heroic way they freely risked their lives and died prematurely because of "an extreme act of charity."
 
The document, given "motu proprio" (on his own initiative) went into effect the same day of its publication July 11, with the title "Maiorem hac dilectionem," which comes from the Gospel according to St. John (15:13): "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."
 
Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, said the addition is meant "to promote heroic Christian testimony, (that has been) up to now without a specific process, precisely because it did not completely fit within the case of martyrdom or heroic virtues."
 
For centuries, consideration for the sainthood process required that a Servant of God heroically lived a life of Christian virtues or had been martyred for the faith. The third, less common way, is called an equivalent or equipollent canonization: when there is evidence of strong devotion among the faithful to a holy man or woman, the pope can waive a lengthy formal canonical investigation and can authorize their veneration as saints.
 
While these three roads to sainthood remain unchanged, they were not adequate "for interpreting all possible cases" of holiness, the archbishop wrote in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, July 11.
 
According to the apostolic letter, any causes for beatification according to the new pathway of "offering of life" would have to meet the following criteria:
 
-- Free and willing offer of one's life and a heroic acceptance, out of love, of a certain and early death; the heroic act of charity and the premature death are connected.
-- Evidence of having lived out the Christian virtues -- at least in an ordinary, and not necessarily heroic, way -- before having offered one's life to others and until one's death.
-- Evidence of a reputation for holiness, at least after death.
-- A miracle attributed to the candidate's intercession is needed for beatification.
 
Archbishop Bartolucci wrote that the new norms arise from the sainthood congregation wanting to look into the question of whether men and women who, "inspired by Christ's example, freely and willingly offered and sacrificed their life" for others "in a supreme act of charity, which was the direct cause of death," were worthy of beatification. For example, throughout history there have been Christians who willingly put themselves at risk and died of infection or disease because of aiding and serving others, he wrote.
 
Pope Francis approved the congregation carrying out an in-depth study of the new proposal in early 2014, the archbishop wrote. After extensive input, discussion and the work of experts, the cardinal and bishop members of the Congregation for Saints' Causes approved in 2016 "a new pathway for beatification of those who offered their lives with explicit and recognized Christian" reasons.
 
Archbishop Bartolucci wrote that the new provisions do nothing to alter Church doctrine concerning Christian holiness leading to sainthood and the traditional procedure for beatification. Rather, the addition offers an enrichment, he wrote, with "new horizons and opportunities for the edification of the people of God, who, in their saints, see the face of Christ, the presence of God in history and the exemplary implementation of the Gospel."
 
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Fatima children canonized

Standing before the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, Pope Francis canonized two shepherd children who saw Mary at Fatima, but more importantly, he said, they heeded the call to pray for sinners and trust in the Lord.
 
"We declare and define Blessed Francisco Marto and Blessed Jacinta Marto as saints," the pope said May 13 as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims broke out in applause before he finished speaking.
 
The relics of the young shepherd children, encased in two thin golden crosses, were placed in front of the famed statue of Our Lady of Fatima, the "lady dressed in white" as the siblings and their cousin described her.
 
The Marian apparitions began May 13, 1917, when 9-year-old Francisco and 7-year-old Jacinta, along with their 10-year-old cousin Lucia dos Santos, reported seeing the Virgin Mary. The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.
 
After contracting influenza, Francisco died April 4, 1919, at the age of 10, while Jacinta succumbed to her illness Feb. 20, 1920, at the age of 9.
 
The children, beatified by St. John Paul II in 2000, are now the youngest non-martyrs to be declared saints by the Catholic Church.
 
Before his arrival at the shrine, the pope met privately with Portuguese Prime Minster Antonio Costa and then made his way into the sanctuary that houses the tombs of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta and their cousin Lucia, who died in 2005 at the age of 97. The diocesan phase of her sainthood cause concluded in February and now is under study at the Vatican.
 
Pope Francis stood for several minutes in front of the tombs with his eyes closed and head bowed.
 
In his homily at the canonization Mass, the pope reflected on the brief lives of the young sibling saints, who are often remembered more for the apparitions rather than for their holy lives.
 
But it is Mary's message and example, rather than an apparition, is important, he told the crowd, which Portuguese authorities estimated at about 500,000 people.
 
"The Virgin Mother did not come here so that we could see her. We will have all eternity for that, provided, of course, that we go to heaven," the pope said.
Instead, he continued, Mary's messages to the young children were a warning to all people about leading "a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures."
 
"Such a life -- frequently proposed and imposed -- risks leading to hell. Mary came to remind us that God's light dwells within us and protects us," the pope said.
The hopeful message of Fatima, he said, is that men and women have a mother and like children clinging to her, "we live in the hope that rests on Jesus."
 
Pope Francis called on the pilgrims to follow the example of heroic virtue lived by St. Francisco and St. Jacinta, particularly their insistent prayer for sinners and their adoration of "the hidden Jesus" in the tabernacle.
 
This continual presence of God taught to them by Mary, he said, "was the source of their strength in overcoming opposition and suffering."
 
By following their example, the pope said, Christians can become "a source of hope for others" and counter "the indifference that chills the heart" and "worsens our myopia."
 
"We do not want to be a stillborn hope! Life can survive only because of the generosity of other lives," he said.
 
It is with the light of hope, the pope added, that the Church can radiate "the true face of Jesus" and reach out to those in need.
 
 
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Saint Lawrence

Most people know St. Lawrence’s name, if for no other reason than so many things around us are named for him. This saint, however, made a profound impression in the early Church, and his courage inspires us to this day.
 
We know very little of Lawrence’s early life; by the time he was mentioned in Church history, he was already one of the seven deacons of Rome under Pope Sixtus II. To be so publicly identified with the Church took great courage because this was the period of great persecution ordered by Emperor Valerian. In August of 258, it was decreed that all Christian clergy, from highest to lowest, were to be hunted down and put to death. Consequently, the pontificate of Sixtus was extremely brief, lasting only from 257 until 258, for not only the pope, but all seven deacons would suffer martyrdom.
 
Of all of them, Lawrence was killed last. According to tradition, when Pope Sixtus and six other deacons were arrested and put in prison to await execution, the pontiff assured Lawrence that he would not be left behind, but would join the others “in four days’ time.” It was a mark of his holiness and bravery that Lawrence saw this as an opportunity, not to flee, but to take care of his final responsibilities.
 
As a deacon, one of his primary duties was the distribution of alms to the poor and needy. As such, he was also in charge of much of the material wealth of the Church. Knowing that his time was short, and having been ordered by the emperor to turn over all the treasure the Church possessed, Lawrence took immediate action. What little money he had he gave to Rome’s most destitute; he also went a step further and sold the sacred vessels of the Church, giving that money to the poor as well.
 
At the time appointed by the prefect of Rome, St. Lawrence appeared before him and, as ordered, brought with him the “treasures” of the Church. Surrounding him were a great number of the blind, lame and maimed from the poorest parts of city; in the group were also orphans, widows and lepers, all of whom had been aided by the deacon and the Church. To the prefect’s horror, St. Lawrence presented all of them to him, declaring quite simply, “These are the treasures of the Church.”
 
The prefect was so enraged at Lawrence’s audacity that he ordered him killed at once, but in a manner most painful and gruesome. He prepared a gridiron with hot coals beneath; on this, Lawrence was placed in order that he might slowly roast to death. Even to the end, Lawrence maintained not only his courage but, miraculously, his humor. It is said that after suffering for some time he quipped to his executioners, “Turn me over. I’m done on this side.”
 
It is because of this that St. Lawrence is patron, not only of the poor, but of cooks as well. His feast day is August 10.
 
Sources for this article include:
americancatholic.org
catholiconline.com
Kirsch, Johann Peter. "St. Lawrence." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 
Schreck, Alan. “Catholic Church History from A to Z”. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 2002.
“Saint Lawrence of Rome.” CatholicSaints.Info. 24 November 2016.
 
 
 
 

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene, who is the patron saint of penitents, could also be called the patron saint of mistaken identity. Western tradition has long held that she was a prostitute or an adulteress, but her actual story, according to modern Catholic scripture scholars, is probably less lurid than popular belief. In fact, other than the Virgin Mary herself, Mary Magdalene is one of the most honored female saints of the New Testament.
 
She appears definitively in the Gospel of Luke 8:2 as one of the Galilean women who, along with the apostles, is listed as a follower of Jesus. Here she is identified as one “from whom seven demons have gone out.” Whether this indicated that she was in the throes of extreme demonic possession or severe illness, the fact remains that her healing inspired her to become an ardent disciple of the Savior, and one of those who “provided for [the apostles] out of their resources” (Luke 8:3).
 
Confusion enters in when another unnamed woman appears in the same Gospel. Immediately before the Magdalene is identified as a follower of Jesus in chapter eight, there is a story in chapter seven in which a sinful woman – believed to have been a prostitute – enters the house of Simon, where Jesus is a guest, in order to wash His feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. The juxtaposition of these two stories has created the perception that the two women were one and the same, and that Mary Magdalene was not merely a sinner, but a particularly immoral woman. Modern scripture scholars have concluded that there is really no basis to conflate the two, even though Western tradition has been putting them together for more than two millennia.
 
Actually, it is what happened afterward that led to Mary Magdalene being called the “Apostle to the Apostles.” Near the end of all four Gospels, when Jesus is crucified, it is very clear that, with the exception of John, none of His male companions were present at Golgotha; the only ones who stayed with Him throughout His ordeal were the women who had always accompanied Him. Although the names of the other women change from evangelist to evangelist, Mary Magdalene’s is mentioned specifically and consistently.
 
Even more telling is the fact that, in each Gospel, it is Mary Magdalene who is the first witness of the resurrection. Of all those who could have been given that privilege, it was granted to her; because of the male-dominated culture of the time, scripture scholars note that no Gospel writer would have placed her in such an honored position unless the story was incontrovertibly true.
 
Little is known of Mary Magdalene after the resurrection; tradition has her journeying to Ephesus to live out her life in the company of the Virgin Mary. Whatever happened, it was her witness to and extravagant love for Jesus for which we honor her now. 
 
Mary Magdalene’s feast day is July 22.
 
Sources for this article include:
americancatholic.org
catholiconline.com
Catholic Study Bible, The Pope, Hugh. "St. Mary Magdalen." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.
 

St. Romuald

Anyone who knew Romuald as a youth might have been surprised at what he would eventually become; like many of us, however, the good impulses of his heart needed time  – and, in the case of Romuald, a significant nudge – to come to full fruition.
 
Romuald was born into Italian nobility in the city of Ravenna around the year 950.  Like many young men who were raised in the faith, Romuald desired holiness, but the allure of the world was too much to overcome. His actions and lifestyle were wild to say the least, but they came to an abrupt and unexpected end when he was about 20 years old.
 
It was then that his father, Sergius, obliged him to be his second in a duel. To make matters worse, the person with whom his father was dueling was a relative, and their dispute was over property. When Romuald witnessed his father kill the other man, he was so horrified that he fled to the monastery of St. Apollinare, which was near his home. Though initially intending to stay there for 40 days to atone for his father’s sin, he ended up remaining three years, becoming a Benedictine monk.
 
Romuald soon developed a reputation for extreme holiness, which made his fellow monks uncomfortable. He was eased out of his place at St. Apollinare and spent the next 30 years wandering around Italy, founding hermitages and monasteries wherever he went. In every place, he sought a life of severe penance and continual prayer.
 
At one point, Romuald also greatly desired to be a martyr for the faith; he asked for and was granted permission by the pope to preach in Hungary, but every time he attempted to do so, he was struck with a severe illness that prevented him from proceeding. It became apparent that God had other plans for him.
 
That did not mean that Romuald’s life became easy. At one monastery, for instance, he was falsely accused of causing grave scandal, which resulted not only in severe penance but a brief period of excommunication. He also suffered a prolonged period of spiritual dryness, which was eventually relieved by the words of Psalm 31: “I will give you understanding and I will instruct you.” The spirit he received that day never left him.
 
But the act for which Romuald is most remembered occurred at Camaldoli, in Tuscany.  Here, around the year 1012, he established the Order of the Camaldolese Benedictines, which united both a monastic, or community, way of life with the eremitical, or solitary, way.
 
According to legend, a man named Maldolus had had a vision of monks dressed in white, ascending into heaven; acting on this vision, he gave Romuald the land on which was built the first motherhouse of the Camaldolese Order. To this day, Camaldolese monks live lives of austerity and prayer in the spirit of their founder.
 
St. Romuald died alone in his cell, as he predicted, in 1027; his feast day is June 19. 
 
Sources for this article include:
americancatholic.org
catholiconline.com
 Shreck, Alan.  “Catholic Church History from A to Z.”  Michigan:  Servant Books, 2002.
 “Saint Romuald.” CatholicSaints.Info. Feb. 6, 2017
 Toke, Leslie. "St. Romuald." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 
 

The Whole-Hearted Beauty of St. Anthony

By Father Robert Campagna, OFM
 
The name Anthony spans many cultures and seemed to prophesy a distinguished history, at the very least. St. Anthony of Padua, born Fernando Bulhones, was the only son of a distinguished Portuguese family serving the king and the Church in the early 13th Century. His baptized name, Fernando, meant “seeker” or “peace combatant,” a moniker looking to a future leader’s pathways.
 
Yet, even through childhood, young Fernando made it clear that he aimed to serve Jesus. By the year 1221, Fernando was an Augustinian priest for two years. He was a devout and brilliant young man with a profound love of the Gospel and the poor. With God’s grace, he transferred to a new and radical Franciscan order, taking the name Anthony. He had long hoped to answer a call to radical poverty and hermit life.
 
He learned that surrendering to God’s will is the heart of Christian living. And thus, he became a great teacher, confessor, preacher, father to the poorest of the poor, even a historian in many ways. His homilies still speak to all of us today.
 
This great preacher and priest always got to the heart of the matter. No frills.
 
Speaking of putting God first in our lives, St. Anthony went right to the First Commandment: You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart. His sermons drew thousands, often spilling into fields and village squares. Hold back no corner of your heart, he said, when praying and especially in asking pardon for our sins. He cited dear Lord’s opening his Sacred Heart because of His love for us.
 
When we imitate Our Lord in giving all – even to his Body and Blood, St. Anthony understood, God will take our “all” and give it back to us. But, when touched by
God, whole, purified, cleansed and with a new heart, God waits for us.
 
The moral of his sermon: We all need to make choices. But it is easier to do so with a heart growing to accommodate more love than we could even imagine, a love-filled heart burning with the image of God’s own heart.
 
Father Campagna is provincial of the Province of the Immaculate Conception and director of Franciscan Mission Associates.
 
For more information, go to www.franciscanmissionassoc.org.
 
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