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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.
 

St. Pius V

It is never easy being the pope, but occupying the chair of Peter when the Church itself is trying to recover from great turmoil demands a person of constant prayer, deep humility and great holiness.  Thankfully, Pope St. Pius V possessed all those qualities, for he had the enormous responsibility of implementing the sweeping changes that accompanied the Council of Trent in the mid-16th Century.
 
Born in Italy in 1504 to poor parents, Antonio Ghislieri, as he was then known, spent his youth working as a shepherd; he later joined the Dominican Order and was ordained a priest in 1528.  For the next 16 years, he taught theology and philosophy in various Dominican houses.
 
During that time, however, the wider Church was in the midst of great upheaval.  Martin Luther had nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg chapel in 1517, thus inaugurating the Protestant Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church, which actually had been in need of reform, now found itself having to confront the issue head-on in the face of both resistance from within and challenges from without.
 
When Pope Paul III opened the Council of Trent in 1545, organized, concrete reform could finally begin.  For 18 years the Church wrestled with questions of renewal; finally, after much discussion and debate, the Council agreed on a plan of action and came to a formal end in 1563.  Now it was up to someone to actually implement these extensive changes.
 
When Antonio Ghislieri, now Pius V, was elected pope in 1566, he brought with him a personal history of piety, personal austerity and zealous opposition to any form of heresy. He had been appointed inquisitor of the faith in Como and Bergamo, Italy, in 1551 and later, Pope Julius III named him commissary general of the Inquisition.  His reputation for zealousness put him at odds for a time with his predecessor, Pope Pius IV, but it turned out that he would need every ounce of that strength of spirit to carry out the will of the Council of Trent.
 
One of the first things he did was to establish seminaries for the proper and thorough training of priests.  Under his direction, a new missal, a revised breviary and a new catechism were promulgated.  He enforced legislation against abuses in the Church.  And despite his responsibilities as pope, he continued to serve the poor and sick, giving the money that had been used for papal banquets to feed the destitute instead.
 
In addition to encountering disagreements within his own Church, Pius V also had to contend with strong opposition from such heads of state as Queen Elizabeth I of England and Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II. The threat of a Turkish invasion was also never far from his thoughts and he was working toward a Christian European alliance to deal with this issue when he died in 1572.
 
Pius V’s feast day is April 30; he is the patron of Bosco Marengo, Italy.
 

Sources for this article include:
 
www.americancatholic.org
 
www.catholiconline.com
 
Lataste, Joseph. "Pope St. Pius V." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911.
 
“Pope Saint Pius V“. CatholicSaints.Info. 7 November 2016.
 
Schreck, Alan.  “The Compact History of the Catholic Church.”  Ohio: Servant Books, 1987.

St. Augustine of Canterbury

Although the Christian faith had been introduced in the British Isles prior to his arrival in 596, it is St. Augustine of Canterbury who is known as the “Apostle of England.” This extraordinarily human saint, whose missionary activity turned out to be surprisingly modern, established, in a mere eight years, a Christian presence in that island nation that persists to the present day.
 
This does not mean, however, that Augustine met with no difficulties.  A monk and abbot of St. Andrew’s Abbey in Rome, he likely thought – as did many of his contemporaries – that he would live out his days quietly in that position.  However, Pope St. Gregory I, who had founded the abbey, had different ideas; he called upon Augustine and 40 of his monks to leave Italy in order to evangelize the Christians of “Angle-land” and to convert the pagans they encountered there.
 
The group had gotten as far as Gaul (present-day France) when tales of the savagery of the Anglo-Saxons and the dangers of crossing the English Channel frightened them enough to cause them to return to Rome.  There, Gregory assured Augustine that he and his monks would not meet with the dire consequences they had heard about, and so they were sent off on their journey once more.
 
This time, they arrived in England and landed at Kent, which was then under the rule of King Ethelbert.  Although the king was a pagan, his wife, Bertha, was a Christian, and so the missionaries were greeted with kindness rather than cruelty; the king allowed them to settle in and preach the faith from Canterbury.  Within the year, Ethelbert had converted but, unlike many other kings of his time, did not require his subjects to do so unless they wished to.
 
Following the advice of Pope Gregory, Augustine’s method of conversion did not set out to destroy pagan culture, but to build on it. Rather than raze the temples dedicated to other gods, for instance, he “converted” them to the worship of Christ.   Pagan festivals were transformed into Christian feasts and, wherever possible, Augustine retained the local traditions of the people.   Apparently these actions, coupled with the example of the king, were enough to convince many Anglo-Saxons that they, too, should be baptized.  As the faith spread, Augustine built a church and a monastery near where the present-day Canterbury cathedral still stands, and soon established sees in London and Rochester.
 
Although he was somewhat successful with the pagans he encountered, Augustine did not fare as well with evangelizing Briton Christians, who had been driven into western England when the Anglo-Saxons had invaded nearly 150 years earlier.  Separated as they had been from Rome, many of the practices Briton Christians had evolved during that period were now at variance with the wider Church.  This, combined with their lingering bitterness toward the Anglo-Saxons, made it nearly impossible for Augustine to convince them to change.
 
Augustine died in 605; the patron of England, his feast day is May 27.
 
 
Sources for these articles include:
 
 
www.americancatholic.org
 
www.catholiconline.com
 
Clifford, Cornelius. "St. Augustine of Canterbury." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907.
 
“Saint Augustine of Canterbury“. CatholicSaints.Info. 9 October 2016.
 
Schreck, Alan.  “The Compact History of the Catholic Church.”  Ohio: Servant Books, 1987.
 
 
 
 

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.
 
 
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