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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.
 

St. Faustina Kowalska

Sometimes that which seems most ordinary is, in fact, the hiding place of something truly extraordinary.  Such was the case with Maria Faustina Kowalska, who is known today as the saint through whom God chose to communicate His Divine Mercy to the world.  Her humility was such that most people didn’t realize what a remarkable soul they had had the privilege of encountering until after her death.
 
St. Maria Faustina was born Helena Kowalska in a small village in western Poland in 1905.  The third of ten children in a poor family, Helena received only three years of formal education before going to work as a housekeeper in the homes of more well-to-do families.  She had had a desire early on to enter religious life, but her parents were reluctant to give her permission to do so.  Consequently, it was not until she was 20 that she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw, Poland, where she took the name Sister Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
 
The Order to which Maria Faustina belonged was devoted in particular to the care and education of troubled young women.  Although her place within the congregation was very unpretentious – Maria was a cook, gardener and porter in various houses during her 13 years as a nun – it was not long before she began to receive visions and revelations.  These she recorded in a diary which her confessors – and God – requested her to keep.
 
The essence of these messages to Sister Maria and the world was the incredible extent of God’s Divine Mercy.  It was a time when many Catholics harbored an image of God as such a strict judge that some were tempted to despair of ever being truly forgiven by Him.  What God revealed to Sister Maria was quite the opposite:  “Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world,” Jesus once said to her.  “I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart” (Diary, 1588).
 
Outwardly, Sister Maria did not seem to be anything special.  She went about her work within the order with kindness and serenity, observing its Rule and treating those around her with mercy and love.  In her heart, she grew in child-like trust in God, offering her own life in imitation of His for the good of others.
 
In the 1930’s, Sister Maria was directed by Jesus to have a picture painted of Him containing the inscription “Jesus, I Trust in You.”  The image, which she commissioned in 1935, also has a red and white light emanating from Christ’s Sacred Heart and is the portrait of Divine Mercy which hangs in many chapels and churches throughout the world today.
 
Sister Maria Faustina died in 1938 of tuberculosis.  Although she had a reputation for holiness, it would be three decades before her beatification process would begin.  Her diary, written as it was by a barely literate woman, was composed phonetically with no punctuation or quotation marks, so when a bad translation of it reached Rome in 1958, it was initially rejected as being heretical.  However, when a later and more accurate translation was undertaken, the Vatican realized that Sister Maria had actually left the world, not a heretical document, but a beautiful work proclaiming God’s love.  Called “Divine Mercy in My Soul," it has been translated into more than 20 languages. 
 
Sister Maria Faustina was canonized in 2000, and her feast day is commemorated on Oct. 5; Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter.
 
 
 

Thomas of Villanova

St. Thomas of Villanova would never have been accused of being a practical man.  Given his habits and proclivities, some might have termed him “eccentric,” and considered that a kind judgment.  But so often what the world considers impractical, God declares to be holy.  So it was with Thomas of Villanova, who lived from 1488 until 1555.

Thomas was an intelligent and well educated man — he graduated from the University of Alcala and stayed on to become a professor of philosophy there — but he also suffered from absentmindedness, which was probably the result of his poor memory.

When he became an Augustinian friar, he continued to teach but became better known for his embrace of personal poverty and love of the poor.  Throughout his life, he wore the same habit he had received in the novitiate, mending it himself year after year.  The poor flocked to his door in droves and he never refused them, even when others said he was being taken advantage of.   He took in orphans and dealt mercifully with sinners.  All of these things resulted in criticism from his contemporaries, including members of his own order, but Thomas never wavered from what he felt God was calling him to do.

He died peacefully at age 77, his last words being, “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.”  His feast day is Sept. 10.    


Sources for these articles include:

www.americancatholic.org

Dohan, Edward. “St. Thomas of Villanova.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York:
        Robert Appleton Company, 1912.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Nobel Lecture, 11 December, 1979

“Saint Teresa of Calcutta.” CatholicSaints.Info. 12 July 2016. 

“Saint Thomas of Villanova.” CatholicSaints.Info.
        19 May 2016.

Schreck, Alan.  “Catholic Church History from A to Z.”  Ann Arbor, Michigan:  Servant Press, 2002.

Teresa of Calcutta

When Pope Francis officially pronounces Blessed Teresa of Calcutta a saint this month, he will be confirming what many have believed for decades — that those who lived in the 20th century were privileged to watch and learn what a living saint had to teach.  So sure were most people of her sanctity that her name has entered the lexicon as a synonym for holiness.  All of this Mother Teresa would have eschewed, of course.  She once said of herself that she was merely “a pencil in the hand of God,” but she was a pencil that wrote in large letters what an often indifferent world needed to hear.

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in what is now Macedonia in 1910.  Even as a young child she showed an interest in foreign missions and, at age 18, she left her home and her mother (her father had died when she was nine) to join the Loretto Sisters of Dublin.  From there she was sent to India to teach history and geography in a wealthy girl’s school in Calcutta; but even within its sheltered walls Teresa could not avoid the suffering and destitution that surrounded her.

 In 1946, while on her way to her annual retreat in Darjeeling, she heard what she would later term “the call within the call.”  The message was clear, she said.  “I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them…to follow Christ into the slums to serve Him among the poorest of the poor.”

After receiving permission to leave Loretto and found a new congregation, Mother Teresa began to prepare herself for her new vocation.  She took a nursing course and then moved into the slums, where she opened a school for poor children.  She adopted as her “habit” a simple white sari and sandals, because this was the clothing worn by ordinary Indian women.  Visiting her neighbors, she began to learn of their needs and worked to help provide for them.

She was soon joined by other young women, some of them girls she had taught, and the core of the Missionaries of Charity began to take shape.  As more and more people began to learn of what she was doing, they helped as they could with donations of food, clothing and whatever else the sisters needed.  By 1952, the city of Kolkata (Calcutta) gave Mother Teresa a hostel to use as a home for the dying and destitute.

Mother Teresa spent the rest of her life caring for those she called “Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.”  She became known around the globe and traveled extensively, seeking support for the work of the Missionaries of Charity and encouraging others to see the poor as God saw them.  “Find your own Calcutta,” she said.  “Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right there where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools. You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.”

In 1979, Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize.  She died of natural causes on Sept. 5, 1997, and the process for her canonization began soon after. At her beatification in 2003, Pope St. John Paul II called her “one of the most relevant personalities of our age…an icon of the Good Samaritan.”

Mother Teresa’s feast day is Sept. 5.


Sources for these articles include:

www.americancatholic.org

Dohan, Edward. “St. Thomas of Villanova.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York:
        Robert Appleton Company, 1912.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Nobel Lecture, 11 December, 1979

“Saint Teresa of Calcutta.” CatholicSaints.Info. 12 July 2016. 

“Saint Thomas of Villanova.” CatholicSaints.Info.
        19 May 2016.

Schreck, Alan.  “Catholic Church History from A to Z.”  Ann Arbor, Michigan:  Servant Press, 2002.

St. Alphonsus Liguori: Feast Day August 1

An intellectual prodigy – St. Alphonsus Liguori earned a doctorate in both civil and canon law by the age of sixteen – this future Doctor of the Church was not, however, destined to remain in the secular legal profession.  After the humiliating loss of a court case in his mid-twenties, he gave up the law and instead turned his heart and his life toward serving God’s people as a priest and preacher.

Alphonsus Liguori was born in Naples, Italy, in 1696 to a noble and pious family.  Against the wishes of his father, who had encouraged his legal career, Alphonsus was ordained a priest in 1726 and soon became known as a particularly articulate preacher.  His gentleness, especially in the confessional, was a matter of controversy for some, as this was a time when the Church was struggling with the heresy of Jansenism; this teaching, which was actually a form of Calvinism, was condemned by the Pope in 1713, but vestiges of its austerity and scrupulosity were still being felt in the actions of some religious orders and confessors.

In 1732, Alphonsus Liguori founded a religious order dedicated to working among the rural poor.  The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, popularly known as the Redemptorists, lived in community in imitation of Christ and preached parish missions throughout the countryside of Italy. Liguori himself worked at this calling for over twenty-six years but was, ironically, expelled from his own order for a time due to internal strife and the desertion of some of the original members of the community.

His contributions to the life of the Church did not end with the Redemptorists, however.  As a moral theologian, Liguori stressed, not the condemnation of God, but His mercy and readiness to forgive sins.  (Were he alive today, he would no doubt have rejoiced at Pope Francis’ “Year of Mercy.”)  His two-volume work, “Moral Theology”, has become a classic of Catholic teaching, and has subsequently been translated into more than sixty languages.  In addition to his theological writing, he also authored several devotionals, many of which are still readily available today at www.amazon.com. (Simply search under the name “Alphonsus Liguori”.)

Alphonsus Liguori was particularly devoted to the Blessed Mother.  It was she who gave him comfort and strength in times of his greatest struggles.  Although not in the best of health throughout his life, Liguori was especially debilitated during his last years, suffering from arthritis and rheumatism so painful that it deformed his body.  Confined to a wheelchair and nearly blind, his head was permanently bent forward onto his chest; as a result, for years he had to drink from tubes in order to get any nourishment at all.

 It was during this time that his enemies in the government, in an attempt to revise the Rule of the Redemptorists to better suit themselves, tricked him into signing a document that effectively removed him as head of his own order.  This led Liguori to spiral into a “dark night” of fear, uncertainty and scrupulosity, which took years to overcome and was ultimately relieved by his devotion to Mary. 

St. Alphonsus Liguori died peacefully on August 1, 1787 at the age of ninety-one.  Canonized in 1839, he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1871.  The patron of theologians and vocations, his feast day is celebrated on August 1.


Sources for this article include:

www.americancatholic.org

www.catholiconline.com

www.cssr.news

“Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori“. CatholicSaints.

Info. 19 March 2016.

Schreck, Alan.  “Catholic Church History from A to Z.”  Ann Arbor, Michigan:  Servant Publications, 2002.

Pope Francis recognizes miracle needed to canonize Mother Teresa of Kolkata

Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, thus paving the way for her canonization.

Pope Francis signed the decree for Blessed Teresa's cause and advanced three other sainthood causes on Dec. 17, the Vatican announced.

Although the date for the canonization ceremony will be officially announced during the next consistory of cardinals in February, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Vatican office organizing the Holy Year of Mercy events, had said it would be Sept. 4. That date celebrates the Jubilee of workers and volunteers of mercy and comes the day before the 19th anniversary of her death, Sept. 5, 1997.

The postulator for her sainthood cause, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk of the Missionaries of Charity, said the second miracle that was approved involved the healing of a now 42-yearold mechanical engineer in Santos, Brazil.

Doctors diagnosed the man with a viral brain infection that resulted in multiple brain abscesses, the priest said in a statement published Dec. 18 by AsiaNews, the Rome-based missionary news agency. Treatments given were ineffective and the man went into a coma, the postulator wrote.

The then-newly married man's wife had spent months praying to Blessed Teresa and her prayers were joined by those of her relatives and friends when her dying husband was taken to the operating room Dec. 9, 2008.

When the surgeon entered the operating room, he reported that he found the patient awake, free of pain and asking, "What am I doing here?" Doctors reported the man showed no more symptoms and a Vatican medical commission voted unanimously in September 2015 that the healing was inexplicable.

St. John Paul II had made an exception to the usual canonization process in Mother Teresa's case by allowing her sainthood cause to be opened without waiting the usual five years after a candidate's death. He beatified her in 2003.

The order she started – the Missionaries of Charity – continues its outreach to the "poorest of the poor."

Among the other decrees approved Dec. 17, the pope recognized the heroic virtues of Comboni Father Giuseppe Ambrosoli, an Italian surgeon, priest and missionary who dedicated his life to caring for people in Uganda, where he also founded a hospital and midwifery school before his death in 1987. His father ran the highly successful Ambrosoli honey company.

The pope also recognized the heroic virtues of De La Salle Brother Leonardo Lanzuela Martinez of Spain (1894-1976) and Heinrich Hahn, a German surgeon.

Born in 1800, the lay Catholic doctor was the father of 10 children and dedicated much of his activity to providing medical care to the poor. He was also involved in public service, even serving in the German parliament. He founded the St. Francis Xavier Mission Society in Germany and the "Giuseppino" Institute for those suffering from incurable illnesses. He died in 1882. (CNS)

 
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