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Kay Winchester

Kay Winchester

Kay Winchester lives and works in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York. Website URL:

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

 

'Pray with Me: Seven Simple Ways to Pray with Your Children'

"Pray with Me: Seven Simple Ways to Pray with Your Children"

By Grace Mazza Urbanski. Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2015. 160 pages. $14.95 paperback, $11.99 Kindle, $10.49 Nook.

This beautiful little book should be among the items any new Catholic mother receives at her first baby shower. Urbanski, herself the mother of five children, outlines in gentle terms just how parents can convey a love of prayer to their children, even if those same parents start out feeling uncomfortable or inadequate to the task. As the author states in her introduction, "We think a prayerful person should also be a perfect person," an expectation which is precisely the opposite of what many parents feel on any given stressed-filled day. However, that is not a prerequisite for helping children form a prayerful relationship with God. Instead, she says, "Jesus invites us to focus on the beautiful hope he plants deep in our hearts, our fundamental desire for our children's good."

Urbanski approaches praying in seven different ways, some which may be familiar and others which may show a new way of relating to God. Her first chapter, Spontaneous Prayer, speaks of praying from the heart and from the "stuff" of everyday life. "Like an enthusiastic best friend, God loves to hear from us about even the most mundane details of our lives," she says. "Nothing is omitted. Spontaneous prayer invites God into the fullness of each day." In the second chapter, Praying from Memory, she explores the area most of us think of when we "say our prayers" – those beautiful words we learned so thoroughly and so long ago that they spring to our minds and lips almost without thinking. (The appendix of the book is, in fact, "A Treasury of Memorized Prayer"). In the face of differing thoughts (mostly in educational settings) about the value of memorization, she points out another way of looking at it: "Memorized prayer," she notes, "can become robotic, but consider another phrase we use to describe memorization: learning by heart." It is the heart which allows such prayer to nourish us.

In chapters three and four, Urbanski urges parents and children to pray both with Scripture and song. Chapter three essentially explores Lectio Divina on a child's level (with a good dose of St. Ignatius thrown in), while even the most "can't carry a tune in a bucket" parent may be amazed at the science behind the value of music for the human mind, heart and soul. "Biologically, singing releases chemicals in the brain that make us happier, more hopeful, and more trusting," Urbanski notes. "Spiritually, lifting our voices in sung prayer opens our hearts as well." And if the idea of singing seems intimidating, she reminds us that "like any activity that is a little new, singing together gets easier when we do it every day."

"Silence takes practice" the author tells us in the next chapter, but it is in silence that we most often hear the voice of God. In a world in which we are all – children included – bombarded by constant noise, cultivating the ability to find quiet time leads us to God, and then naturally to what Urbanski discusses in chapter six, Reflection. "Reflective prayer," she says, "invites us to see ourselves as we truly are: unique, beloved children of God." Finally, she talks about the Apostleship of Prayer, the Morning Offering, and praying with the Pope. "Faithfully remembering the pope's prayer intentions each month expands a child's worldview," she concludes. "By the end of a calendar year, children have considered 24 diverse groups of people and global issues."

This is an encouraging book, one that not only shows parents how to pray with their children, but how to pray better themselves. Highly recommended.

 
  • Published in Reviews

Communion of Saints: St. Valentine, Feast day Feb. 14

Although his name is very well known (especially in the greeting card, candy and flower industries), the actual identity of St. Valentine is not as clearly defined. In fact, there are three Valentines associated with February 14th who are mentioned in the early martyrologies; however, some scholars believe that two of them, one described as a priest and another as a bishop, may actually have been one and the same person.

What we can say about this saint is that he was likely an Italian who suffered martyrdom in the second half of the third century. According to one account, he was arrested for providing aid to imprisoned Christians; it has also been said that he converted his jailor by restoring sight to that man's blind daughter.

How the feast of an early martyr became associated with love and lovers is unclear, but some have speculated that Valentine may have been martyred as part of the "entertainment" provided during the Roman celebration of Lupercalia, in which young men and women paired up to honor the fertility goddess, Februata Juno. However it happened, there is no question that Valentine's name has been associated with romantic love at least since the Middle Ages, a custom which continues down to the present day.

Sources for these articles include:

www.americancatholic.org

www.catholiconline.com

"Saint Valentine of Rome." CatholicSaints.Info. 1 July 2015.

"Saint Scholastica." CatholicSaints.Info. 2 July 2015.

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

Thurston, Herbert. "St. Valentine." The Catholic Encyclopedia, 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912.

 
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