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St. Dominic of Silos

In 11th-Century Spain, if the king demanded something, he generally got it.  Not so in the case of one Benedictine monk, however. 
 
Saint Dominic of Silos stood his ground and, although he lost one monastery, he gained another,  greater one instead.
 
Born in about the year 1000 to a peasant family in Navarre, Spain, Dominic spent his early years as a shepherd, cultivating a love of solitude and prayer. In adulthood, he entered the Benedictine order, was ordained a priest and became abbot of the monastery at San Millan de la Cogolla.  When a dispute over monastery lands arose, the king of Navarre ordered the Benedictines to leave; when Dominic refused, he and two of his monks were forcibly removed and exiled.
 
They sought refuge in Castile; there they became part of the monastery of San Sebastian at Silos, which was in desperate need of reform. Under Dominic’s leadership, the house was reinvigorated both physically and spiritually and became one of the most famous monasteries in Spain.  It was reputed to be a place of healing, due primarily to the holiness associated with Dominic.
 
Dominic died in 1073 of natural causes.  His feast day is Dec. 20.
 
Sources for these articles include:
www.americancatholic.org
www.catholiconline.come
“Saint Dominic of Silos." CatholicSaints.Info. 14 June 2016.
 

St. Nicholas of Myra

One of the most popular secular figures associated with Christmas, Santa Claus, actually began as a very Christian saint – St. Nicholas.  Although we have few facts about this Fourth-Century bishop, the many stories which grew up about him, coupled with the widespread devotion people have expressed toward him in many times and cultures, give us a glimpse into the holiness of the man.  And the picture it paints is very appealing.
 
Nicholas was born into a wealthy family during the latter part of the Third Century on what is now the southern coast of Turkey; his parents, devout Christians, died in an epidemic when Nicholas was still a very young man. As a result, he suddenly found himself in possession of a fairly substantial fortune. However, rather than keep his money, he obeyed Jesus’ command to “sell all you have and give it to the poor” and distributed his earthly wealth among the poorest and neediest around him.
 
Nicholas was ordained a priest and was subsequently made bishop of Myra, a city in Lycia, which was a province of Asia Minor. Sources tell us that he was imprisoned during the Christian persecution, which took place under the Roman Emperor Diocletian but lived to see the legalization of the faith under Constantine. Likely present at the Council of Nicaea in 325, Nicholas died in the city of Myra on Dec. 6, 343.
 
Nicholas was known during his lifetime for his expansive generosity.  One of the most popular stories about him concerned a man who was too poor to provide dowries for his three daughters; at the time, a lack of dowry meant that a woman could not marry, and so it was likely that these girls would end up being sold, either into slavery or prostitution. When Nicholas heard of the situation, he is said to have gone to the house on three separate occasions, each time tossing a bag of gold through the window, thereby providing each daughter with the needed dowry.  According to legend, the gold landed in the stockings of the young women, which they had washed and hung over the fireplace to dry – thus beginning the tradition of hanging stockings at Christmas that persists to this day.
 
Miracles also were attributed to Nicholas after his death. One of the oldest stories tells of a young boy who was kidnapped from Myra by pirates who raided the city during the celebration of the saint’s feast day. A year later, as the child’s grieving mother prayed for his safe return, Nicholas is said to have appeared to the boy where he was being held as a slave, sweeping him up and returning him to his parents.
 
Another story has Nicholas restoring to life three children who were murdered by a wicked innkeeper.  Still another, which reportedly took place during the saint’s lifetime, says that while on a voyage to the Holy Land, the ship on which he was traveling was caught in a terrible storm. The terrified sailors were sure that the ship would be lost and that they would drown, but Nicholas calmly prayed for their safety. Within minutes, the waves were stilled and the storm abated, sparing everyone on board.
 
While many of these tales are unsubstantiated, their persistence over the centuries nevertheless point to a man who was both generous and holy, a model for those who would also live a compassionate life. There are many who claim him as their patron, among them children, sailors, brides and the country of Greece. 
 
His feast day, which falls near the beginning of Advent, is Dec. 6.
 
Sources for this article include:
www.americancatholic.org
www.catholiconline.come
Ott, Michael. "St. Nicholas of Myra." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911.
“Saint Nicholas of Myra." CatholicSaints.Info. 11 June 2016.
 www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/who-is-st-nicholas/
 

Pope offers new beatitudes for saints of a new age

MALMO, Sweden (CNS) -- The saints are blessed because they were faithful and meek and cared for others, Pope Francis said.
 
At the end of an ecumenical trip to Sweden, Pope Francis celebrated the feast of All Saints Nov. 1 with a Catholic Mass in a Malmo stadium. He highlighted the lives of the Swedish saints, Elizabeth Hesselblad and Bridget of Vadstena, who "prayed and worked to create bonds of unity and fellowship between Christians."
 
The best description of the saints -- in fact, their "identity card" -- the pope said, is found in the beatitudes from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, which begins, "Blessed are the poor in spirit."
 
And, he said, as Christian saints have done throughout the ages, Christ's followers today are called "to confront the troubles and anxieties of our age with the spirit and love of Jesus."
 
New situations require new energy and a new commitment, he said, and then he offered a new list of beatitudes for modern Christians:
 
-- "Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart."
 
-- "Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness."
 
-- "Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him."
 
-- "Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home."
 
-- "Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others."
 
-- "Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians."
 
"All these are messengers of God's mercy and tenderness," Pope Francis said. "Surely they will receive from him their merited reward."
 
Registered Catholics in Sweden number about 115,000 -- just over 1 percent of the population. But with recent waves of immigration, especially from Chaldean Catholic communities in Iraq, local church officials believe the number of Catholics is double the reported figure.
 
Reflecting the multicultural makeup of the Catholic Church in Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia, the prayer intentions at Mass were read in Spanish, Arabic, English, German and Polish as well as in Swedish.
 
 
  • Published in World

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: Patron saint of widows and seafarers

If you ever had an opportunity to attend Catholic school in the United States, you have Elizabeth Ann Seton to thank for it. The first American-born saint, Mother Seton, as she became known, would end up traveling an often painful road, which led from a privileged upbringing in New York to her eventual vocation as a Sister of Charity in Baltimore, Md.
 
Born Elizabeth Ann Bayley in New York in 1774, she was raised as a staunch Episcopalian by her father, Dr. Richard Bayley. Although the family moved in the highest social circles, Bayley made sure that his daughter learned early the value of love and service to others.
 
At the age of 19, Elizabeth married a wealthy businessman, William Magee Seton, with whom she was deeply in love. Together they had five children, and she felt, at the time, as if she had everything she could want.
 
Ten years into their marriage, however, life began to take a different turn. Seton’s business failed, and he contracted tuberculosis. In an attempt to recover his health, the family moved to Italy, where he had business friends. The move, however, saved neither him nor his finances; he died in 1803, leaving his wife an impoverished widow with five children to raise on her own.
 
While in Italy, however, she came in close contact with Catholicism for the first time through the Filichi family, who took her and her children in. Through their influence, she became deeply devoted to both the Real Presence and the Blessed Mother.  When she converted to Catholicism in 1805, the news was not warmly received by many of her strict Episcopalian family and friends. 
 
Although she considered entering a convent in Canada, then-Archbishop John Carroll (whose cousin Charles had been a signer of the Declaration of Independence) convinced her instead to come to the Diocese of Baltimore. There, she founded a school in 1808 to help support herself and her children; though it was a secular institution, it was run along the lines of a religious community.  In fact, when news of her Catholicism spread, many of the girls enrolled there were withdrawn by their parents.
 
As other young women began to join Elizabeth, the archbishop asked her to establish a free Catholic girl’s school in Baltimore, and the parochial school system in America was inaugurated. In 1809, Elizabeth founded the Sisters of Charity to run the schools, and from that point on, she was known as Mother Seton. Archbishop Carroll officially approved the order in 1812.
 
Both her order and the parochial school system grew. Although she contracted tuberculosis, Mother Seton continued to work with both until her death in 1821.
 
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s feast day is Jan. 4; she is the patron saint of widows and seafarers (two of her sons went to sea), and against loss of parents.
 
Sources for this article include:
 
www.americancatholic.org
  
www.catholiconline.com
 
“Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton“. CatholicSaints.Info. 30 September 2016.
 
Schreck, Alan.  “Catholic Church History from A to Z”.  Ann Arbor, Michigan:  Servant Publications, 2002.
 
 

Street saints and brave martyrs: Pope to declare 7 new saints

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will create seven new saints Oct. 16. Here are brief biographies of the six men and one woman about to be canonized.

-- Blessed Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero, affectionately known as the "gaucho priest," was born in Argentina in 1840 and died in 1914. Ordained for the Archdiocese of Cordoba, he spent years traveling far and wide by mule to reach his flock. Pope Francis, in a message in 2013 for the priest's beatification -- a ceremony scheduled before the Argentine pope was elected -- said Father Brochero "did not stay in the sacristy combing the sheep," but went out in search of the lost.

"This is what Jesus wants today, missionary disciples, street priests of faith!" the pope said.

The new saint gained particular fame for caring for the sick and dying, devoting himself to ensuring they received the sacraments. He eventually contracted Hansen's disease, commonly known as leprosy, possibly from sharing a cup of mate tea with someone who was infected.

-- Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio was martyred several weeks before his 15th birthday in 1928. Born in Michoacan, he wanted to join his brothers in the Cristero War, a civil war between rebels and the government of Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calles who introduced tough anti-clerical laws and confiscated church property.

Although his enlistment was refused, the young boy's persistence wore down the rebel general and he was allowed to be the flag bearer of a unit. During an intense battle, he was captured by government forces and threatened with death if he didn't renounce his faith. In an attempt to break his resolve, he was forced to witness the hanging of a fellow soldier. Instead, the young boy encouraged the soldier, saying they would soon meet in heaven.

After enduring two weeks of torture following his capture, Blessed Sanchez was executed. Witnesses say that before his death, he drew a cross in the dirt and kissed it. He was declared a martyr by St. John Paul II and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

-- Blessed Guillaume-Nicolas-Louis Leclerq, commonly called by his religious name, Salomone, entered the De La Salle Christian Brothers in 1767. After serving several years as a teacher and provincial, Blessed Leclerq along with his confreres found themselves and other Catholic clergy targeted during the French Revolution.

The Christian Brothers were among the many Catholic institutions deemed illegal for refusing to pledge the oath of allegiance to the new government after King Louis XVI was deposed. Despite being monitored, Blessed Leclerq continued to write to his relatives and even planned to form a new religious congregation.

However, he was arrested and imprisoned with other priests in a convent in Paris in 1792. Several weeks later, he and his fellow inmates were executed in the convent garden.

-- Known as the "bishop of the tabernacle," Blessed Manuel Gonzalez Garcia was deeply devoted to eucharistic adoration. Born in Seville, Blessed Gonzalez felt called to the priesthood at the age of 12. After his ordination in 1901, he was sent to preach at a church that he found was unclean and abandoned.

It was there, praying before the tabernacle that he decided to dedicate his life to bringing souls back to the church and founded the "Union Eucaristica Reparatoria" ("Eucharist Reparation Union"), an order devoted to the Eucharist and caring for the sick, the poor and abandoned children.

He was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Malaga and later named bishop of Palencia in 1935 by Pope Pius XI. He died in 1940 and because his final request was to be buried at the foot of the tabernacle, he was buried at the main altar of the Cathedral of Palencia.

-- Blessed Ludovico Pavoni was born in Brescia, Italy, in 1784. Ordained to the priesthood in 1807, he opened an oratory dedicated to the personal and social education of young people.

With his bishop's support, he also opened an orphanage and vocational school, which was among the first schools to admit deaf children. He established the Sons of Mary Immaculate, now commonly known as the Pavonians, to continue his work. He died in 1849.

-- Blessed Alfonso Maria Fusco was born in Angri, Italy, to parents who, hoping for a child, went to pray at the tomb of St. Alfonso Maria de Liguori. A priest there told them they would have a son, who they should name Alfonso and that he would become a priest. One year later, the baby was born.

After his ordination to the priesthood in 1863, he dedicated himself to evangelization and gained fame as an understanding confessor. He founded the Congregation of the Baptistine Sisters of the Nazarene and opened the Little House of Providence, a home for abandoned children. After dedicating his life to opening similar houses throughout Italy, he died in 1910.

-- Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity was born Elisabeth Catez in France in 1880 and died in 1906.

Against the wishes of her mother, who wanted her to marry, she entered the Discalced Carmelite Order in 1901. Throughout her life, she desired a deeper understanding of God's love, which she expressed in her writings. A writer and mystic, she died at the age of 26.
  • Published in Vatican

St. Clement I

St. Clement I
 
Pope St. Clement I occupied the Chair of Peter in the very early years of the Church. Known as one of the Church’s “Apostolic Fathers,” he provided a direct link between the apostles who knew Jesus and the later generations who succeeded them.
 
The most concrete information we have about him comes from a letter he wrote to the Church in Corinth around the year 96. In it he admonishes a group within the community who were actively trying to split away from the established clergy, to instead seek reconciliation. Like other Apostolic Fathers of the time, he stressed unity over division and understanding over conflict.
 
“Charity unites us to God…,” he wrote in his First Epistle to the Corinthians. “There is nothing mean in charity, nothing arrogant. Charity knows no schism, does not rebel, does all things in concord. In charity, all the elect of God have been made perfect.”
 
Clement I died in about the year 100, and his feast day is celebrated Nov. 23.
 
 
Sources for this article include:
 
www.americancatholic.org
 
www.catholiconline.com
 
Chapman, John. "Pope St. Clement I." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908.
 
“Pope Saint Clement I“. CatholicSaints.Info. 5 May 2016. 

St. Charles Borromeo

St. Charles Borromeo
 
To say that St. Charles Borromeo moved in the highest circles of his time would be an understatement.  Born in 1538 into Milanese nobility, he was not only related to the powerful Medici family of Florence, Italy, but was also a nephew of Pope Pius IV, who ruled from 1559-1565. Because of his family connections, Charles became a prominent member of the administration of the Church, even while he was still a layman; the unexpected death of both his father and elder brother, however, set him on a path that would become synonymous not with power and prestige but with charity and reform.
 
The Church of Charles’ time was undergoing a period of great turbulence; Martin Luther had instigated the Protestant Reformation and Rome was responding with a Counter-Reformation. Although many religious orders had been founded to help with Church renewal – the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, being perhaps the most prominent of these – an ecumenical council of the entire Church was necessary to complete needed reforms. The Council of Trent, which convened from 1545 to 1563, thus became known as the Reform Council. Due primarily to political circumstances, the Council met in a series of three periods, and it was during the last one, from 1562 to 1563, that Charles Borromeo proved himself to be such an able leader.
 
Charles was both intelligent and well educated, thus perfectly suited to the weighty responsibilities that were ultimately placed upon him. Although his family pressured him to marry when both his father and elder brother died, he chose instead to become a priest. It was about the time of his ordination (at age 25) that he participated in St. Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises, an experience that changed him radically. From then on, until the end of his life, his purpose became not power but holiness, and he eschewed all luxury, devoting himself instead to charitable works and the poor.
 
Charles was named cardinal-archbishop of Milan in 1561, but because he was so involved in the workings of the Council, he was not permitted to actually live in his diocese until the Council proceedings were concluded. He deserves the lion’s share of the credit for keeping Trent in session, even as internal circumstances threatened to break it up. He conducted all correspondence at the end and guided the drafting of the Roman Catechism.
 
The close of the Council did not mean the end of Charles’ work. Upon returning to Milan, he found his local church much in need of religious education and practical reform. To help address these issues, he established the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine and founded seven seminaries designed to better educate and reform the clergy. 
 
Not everyone greeted his work with enthusiasm, however. Because he insisted on strict enforcement of ecclesiastical discipline, there was an attempt on his life by a group of disgruntled monks in 1569. Though he was seriously wounded in the attack, he was not killed.
 
Charles believed strongly that if he were to insist on reform, he himself had to lead by example. When famine struck Milan in 1570 and the plague followed from 1576 to 1578, it was the archbishop who fed and cared for thousands of his fellow citizens, even as civil authorities fled the city. Although the circumstances of his birth would have entitled him to wealth, luxury and honors, he did without them all to become as poor as his people. 
 
Worn out with work and the burdens that had been his since his youth, Charles Borromeo died in 1584 at the age of 46. The patron saint of catechists, catechumens and seminarians, his feast day is Nov. 4.
 
 
Sources for this article include:
 
www.americancatholic.org
 
www.catholiconline.com
 
Keogh, William. "St. Charles Borromeo." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 
 
“Saint Charles Borromeo“. CatholicSaints.Info. 26 May 2016.
 
 
 

St. John Leonardi

St. John (or Giovanni) Leonardi was born about 1541 into an interesting time in European history.  The Protestant Reformation was underway, and the Church, though disagreeing with the separation that had occurred, acknowledged that reforms within Catholicism needed to be undertaken.
 
The youngest of seven children, Giovanni at first studied to be a pharmacist, but by the age of 27 had decided that his true vocation was to the priesthood.  Ordained in 1572, Giovanni soon attracted a small group of men who were also interested in religious life.  He became their spiritual director, and the communal form of life they lived eventually led to the formation of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God.
 
Becoming a recognized order did not go smoothly, however; the political pressures of the time forced Giovanni and his fellow priests into a kind of exile outside their native town of Lucca.  When they were finally approved in 1595, Giovanni sought to aid the efforts of the Church’s Counter Reformation by educating both the clergy and the laity, emphasizing the need for holiness for all.  His work laid the foundation for the Vatican department now known as the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
 
St. Giovanni Leonardi died in 1609 of disease contracted while tending the victims of plague.  His feast day is Oct. 9, and he is the patron of pharmacists.
 
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