Posted in DOGMA, MARIAN TITLES, PAPAL HOMILIES, Pope BENEDICT XVI, SAINT of the DAY, The BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, VATICAN Resources, YouTube Videos

8 December – The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Today, 8 December, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. I wish you all a Blessed and Holy Feast Day!

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Murillo 1678

Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, 8 December 2012

“I would like to emphasise that Mary is Immaculate through a freely given gift of God’s grace, which, however, found perfect willingness and cooperation in her.   It is in this sense that she is “blessed” because “she believed” (Lk 1:45) and because she had steadfast faith in God.   Mary represents that “remnant of Israel”, that holy root which the Prophets proclaimed.   The promises of the Old Covenant find a ready welcome in her.   In Mary, the Word of God is met with listening, acceptance and a response, He encounters that “yes” which enables Him to take flesh and to come and dwell among us.

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Prado

In Mary, humanity and history are truly opened to God, they welcome His grace and are prepared to do His will.   Mary is a genuine expression of Grace.   She represents the new Israel, which the Scriptures of the Old Testament describe with the symbol of the bride. And St Paul takes up this language in his Letter to the Ephesians where he speaks of marriage and says “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (5:25-27).   The Fathers of the Church developed this image and thus the Doctrine of the Immaculate Virgin first came into being with reference to the Church virgin-mother and, subsequently, to Mary.   Thus Ephraim the Syrian writes poetically:  “Just as [it was] because these bodies themselves have sinned and are themselves dying, that the earth, their mother was also accursed (cf. Gen 3:7-19), because of this body which is the incorruptible Church, her land was blessed from the outset.   This land is the body of Mary, a temple in which a seed was sown” (Diatessaron 4, 15: sc 121, 102).

Francesco de Mura imm conception
Francesco de Mura

The light that shines from the figure of Mary, also helps us to understand the true meaning of original sin.   Indeed that relationship with God which sin truncates is fully alive and active in Mary.   In her there is no opposition between God and her being, there is full communion, full understanding.   There is a reciprocal “yes” – God to her and her to God.   Mary is free from sin because she belongs entirely to God, she empties herself totally for Him.   She is full of His Grace and of His Love.

To conclude, the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary expresses the certainty of faith that God’s promises have been fulfilled and that His Covenant does not fail but has produced a holy root from which came forth the blessed Fruit of the whole universe, Jesus the Saviour.   The Immaculate Virgin shows that Grace can give rise to a response, that God’s fidelity can bring forth a true and good faith.”

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Jusepe de Ribera (1637)

Room of the Immaculate Conception

Following the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pius IX, which took place on 8 December 1854, the pontiff decide to celebrate the event with a cycle of frescoes.
The large room adjacent to the Raphael Rooms was chosen and the task was assigned to Francis Podesti (1800-1895), a painter originally from Ancona but rooted in the Roman artistic and academic panorama.   The artist, along with his team of workers, worked on the commission from 1856 to 1865, planning it and following its execution in all its aspects –  the wooden doors and window frames and the inlaid marble work, as well as the installation of the Roman mosaic from Ostia Antica, purchased specifically for this space.
The pictorial decoration proceeds from the ceiling, with allegorical scenes alluding to the virtues of the Virgin;  it continues along the northern wall with the homage of the continents to the Church enthroned;  it continues on the west wall, devoted to the Discussion of dogma in St Peter’s Basilica and concludes on the east wall, with the Coronation of the Image of Mary, an event following the Proclamation, which took place in St Peter’s.   Podesti, who was present, included a self-portrait here.ROOM OF THE IMM CONCEPTION.png

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Posted in SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 13 November – St Agostina Livia Pietrantoni S.D.C. (1864-1894)

Saint of the Day – 13 November – St Agostina Livia Pietrantoni S.D.C. (1864-1894) – virgin, of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Jeanne Antide Thouret, medical nursing sister – Born Livia Pietrantoni on 27 March 1864 at Pozzaglia Sabina, Rieti, Italy as Livia Petrantoni and died by being stabbed to death on 13 November 1894 in Rome, Italy by Giuseppe Romanelli.   Patronages – abuse victims, against impoverishment and poverty, martyrs, people ridiculed for their piety.st-agostina-pietrantoni-2-638
“Once there was and there still is but with a new face now, a village named Pozzaglia.   In the Sabina hills… and there was a blessed house, a cosy little nest filled with childrens’ voices, amongst which that of Olivia who was later called Livia and was to take the name of Agostina in the religious life.”

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Birthplace of St Agostina

The very short life of Sister Agostina, which inspired St Paul VI, the Pope who beatified her, to relate it in extraordinarily poetical terms, began and unfolded itself:  “simple, transparent, pure, loving…but ended sorrowfully and tragically… or rather symbolically.”ST_agostina_livia_pietrantoni

27th March 1864:   Livia was born and baptised in the little village of Pozzaglia Sabina, at an altitude of 800 meters in the beautiful area which is bordered geographically by Rieti, Orvinio, Tivoli.   She was the second of 11 children!   Her parents, Francesco Pietrantoni and Caterina Costantini, were farmers and worked their small plot of land along with a few added plots which they leased.   Livia’s childhood and youth were imbued with the values of an honest, hard-working and religious family, in the blessed house in which “all were careful to do good and where they often prayed”.    This period was marked especially by the wisdom of Uncle Domenico who was a real patriarch.

At the age of 4 Livia received the Sacrament of Confirmation and around 1876 she received her first Holy Communion, certainly with an extraordinary awareness, judging by the life of prayer, generosity and sacrifice which followed it.   Very early on, in the large family in which everyone seemed to be a beneficiary to her time and help, she learned from her mother Caterina the thoughtfulness and maternal gestures which she showed with such gentleness towards her many younger brothers and sisters.   She worked in the fields and looked after the animals… Therefore, she barely experienced childrens’ games… or school which she attended very irregularly but from which she drew great benefit to the point of earning the title of “teacher” from her classmates.

At the age of 7, along with other children, she began “to work”, transporting by the thousand, sacks of stones and sand for constructing the road from Orvinio to Poggio Moiano.   At the age of 12 she left with other young “seasonal workers” who were going to Tivoli during the winter months for the olive harvest.   Precociously wise, Livia took on the moral and religious responsibility for her young companions.   She supported them in this tough work far from their families and proudly and courageously stood up to the arrogant and unscrupulous “bosses.”

Through her wisdom, her respect for others, her generosity, her beauty, Livia was a young attractive woman… and several young men in the village had their eyes on her. Their admiring looks did not escape mother Caterina’s notice and she dreamed of marrying her daughter well.   Yet what did Livia think?   What was the secret of her heart?   Why did she not make a choice?   Why did she not make up her mind?   “Make daring by the voice which spoke to her inwardly, the voice of her vocation, she surrendered;  it was Christ who would be her Beloved, Christ, her Spouse.”   To these in her family or in the village who attempted to dissuade her by saying she was running away from hard work, Livia replied:  “I wish to choose a Congregation in which there is work both day and night.”   Everyone was certain that these words were genuine.   A first trip to Rome in the company of her Uncle Fra Matteo ended in bitter disillusionment; they refused to accept her.   However, a few months later, the Mother General of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Jeanne-Antide Thouret, let her know that she was expecting her at the Generalate.   Livia understood that this time she was saying farewell for ever.   With emotion she took leave of the village people, all the loved corners of her land, her favourite prayer places, the parish and the Virgin of Rifolta;  she kissed her parents goodbye, received on her knees the blessing of Uncle Domenico, “kissed the door of her house, traced the sign of the cross on it and left hurriedly…”st-agostina-facebook-846x444

23rd March 1886:   Livia was 22 when she arrived in Rome at Via S. Maria in Cosmedin.   A few months as a postulant and novice were enough to prove that the young girl had the makings of a Sister of Charity, that is of a “servant of the poor”, in the tradition of Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Jeanne-Antide.   Indeed, Livia brought to the Convent a particularly solid human potential inherited from her family which guaranteed its success.   When she received the religious habit and was given the name of Sister Agostina, she had the premonition that it fell to her to become the saint bearing this name.   For Indeed she had not heard of any Saint Agostina!ST AGOSTINA

Sister Agostina was sent to the Hospital of Santo Spirito where 700 years of glorious history had led it to be called “the school of Christian charity.”   In the wake of the saints who had preceded her, amongst whom were Charles Borromeo, Joseph Casalanz, John Bosco, Camillus de Lellis, Sister Agostina made her personal contribution and in this place of suffering gave expression to charity to the point of heroism.ST AGOSTINA SNIP

The atmosphere in the hospital was hostile to religion.   The Roman question poisoned peoples’ minds.   The Capuchin fathers were driven out, the Crucifix and all other religious signs were forbidden.   The hospital even wanted to send the sisters away but was afraid of becoming unpopular.   Instead their lives were made “impossible” and they were forbidden to speak of God.

But Sister Agostina did not need her mouth in order to “cry out for God” and no gag was able to prevent her life from proclaiming the Gospel!   First in the childrens’ ward and later in the tuberculosis ward, a place of despair and death, where she caught the mortal contagion of which she was miraculously healed, she showed a total dedication and an extraordinary concern for each sick person, above all for the most difficult, violent and obscene ones like “Romanelli.”

In secret, in a small hidden corner she had found for herself to reside, in the hospital, Sister Agostina commended them all to the Virgin and promised her many more vigils and greater sacrifices in order to obtain the grace of the conversion of the most stubborn ones.   How many times she offered Giuseppe Romanelli to Our Lady!   He was the worst of them all, the most vulgar and insolent, especially towards Sister Agostina, who was more and more attentive towards him and welcomed his blind mother with great kindness when she came to visit him.   He was capable of anything and everyone had had enough of him.   When, after the umpteenth provocation at the expense of the women working in the laundry, the Director expelled him, from the hospital, he sought a target for his fury and poor Agostina was the victim he picked.   ‘I will kill you with my own hands.” “Sister Agostina, you only have a month to live!,” were the threats which he had sent to her several times in little notes.  The male patient Giuseppe Romanelli began to harass her at this point – he even sent her death threats and on the evening of 12 November 1894 her religious asked her to take time off since the sisters worried for her; she refused.   Romanelli attacked and stabbed her to death in the morning on 13 November 1894.   Pietrantoni forgave her killer moments before she died;  Romanelli stabbed her in a dark corridor with three stabs at the shoulder and left arm and the jugular before a final stab in the chest.   Her final words were, “Mother of mine, help me“.   Professor Achille Ballori (d. 1914) – who had once warned her about Romanelli – inspected her remains and observed that “Sister Agostina has allowed herself to be slaughtered like a lamb” and noted there were no contractions of either her nerves or heart.

When Romanelli caught her unawares and struck her before she could escape, that 13th November 1894, her lips uttered nothing but invocations to the Virgin Mary and words of forgiveness.ST AGOSTINA SNIP 2

The late nun’s funeral blocked the streets of Rome (thousands lined the streets and knelt before the casket as it passed them) and a “Messaggero” report on 16 November stated that “never a more impressive spectacle was seen in Rome”.   Her remains were moved to the generalate on 3 February 1941 and then to her hometown on 14 November 2004.

The beatification process opened under Pope Pius XII on 14 December 1945 and Pietrantoni was titled as a Servant of God.   The confirmation of her life of heroic virtue on 19 September 1968 allowed for St Pope Paul VI to title her as Venerable that same pope presided over her Beatification on 12 November 1972 in Saint Peter’s Square upon the confirmation of two miracles attributed to her intercession.

The final miracle required for sainthood was investigated and then received validation from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 19 March 1996.   St Pope John Paul II approved this miracle on 6 April 1998 and later Canonised Pietrantoni as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church on 18 April 1999.

Pietrantoni was named as the patron saint for nurses on 20 May 2003 after the Italian Episcopal Conference named her as such.

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St Agostina’s Shrine and Tomb

ST AGOSTINA CARD

Posted in SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 29 October – St Gaetano Errico (1791-1860)

Saint of the Day – 29 October – St Gaetano Errico (1791-1860) – Priest, Founder of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in 1836, Teacher, Confessor, Apostle of Charity, Eucharistic Adorer  – born on 19 October 1791 in Secondigliano, Naples, Italy and died at 10am on 29 October 1860 in Secondigliano, Naples, Italy of natural causes.
The Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, are a religious congregation of priests and brothers, dedicated to serving the needs of God’s family, while witnessing the great love present in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary – St Gaetano is their Patron.gaetano-errico-cfbe2689-28ce-4f94-a597-12b6f7ace0a-resize-750

Gaetano Errico was born on 19 October 1791 in Secondigliano, a small village on the northern boundary of the City of Naples, Italy.   He was the second of nine children born to Pasquale and Marie (Marseglia) Errico.   His father managed a small pasta factory and his mother worked at the loom weaving plush.

As a child he was known in the small village as a good and obedient child, who helped his father in the pasta factory and eagerly shared his parent’s deep faith.   By age 14 Gaetano felt called to the priesthood and religious life.   Many congregations during this time did accept young men at an earlier age than is prevalent today.   However, Gaetano’s first choices, the Capuchins and the Redemptorists rejected his application because of his age.   At the age of 16 he proceeded to apply for the Archdiocesan Seminary of Naples and was accepted.   In January 1808, having received the habit of the Diocese, he began his studies.   His family’s meagre income did not allow him to reside at the seminary.   He therefore registered as a day student which required him to walk the eight kilometers to the seminary and back each day.

During his years of formation in the seminary, he did very well in his studies.   He was deeply faithful to his spiritual life never missing daily Mass and reception of the Eucharist.   While still living at home with his parents, he managed to help them as well. The villagers noted his diligence in filling his days with the studies for the priesthood, visiting the sick on Thursday and even on Sunday he walked through the town encouraging the children to attend their catechism classes.

On 23 September 1815, in the Chapel of St Restituta within the confines of the Cathedral of Naples, Gaetano was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Ruffo Scilla.   Soon after ordination he was appointed to a position as a teacher.   For the next twenty years, he taught his students with exemplary dedication.   Entrusted to his care, his students received both the elements of a good education and spiritual formation.   With great care and ambitious zeal, he imparted the tenets of Christian doctrine and moral values.

He also served with loving commitment in pastoral service at the Parish Church of Saint Cosmas and Damian.   His ministry was characterised by four principle concerns – Proclamation of the Word;  Ministry of Reconciliation;  material and spiritual assistance to the sick and selfless charity.   Each principle held for Gaetano the way to proclaim and make known to all men and women, that in God they have a Father, who loves them.

Every year, he travelled to Pagani (in Salerno), a Redemptorist house, for his annual retreat.   In the year 1818 while praying, an extraordinary event occurred – an event that would change his life forever.   St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) appeared to him in a vision and told him that God wanted him to found a new religious congregation.   Further, as a sign of this desire, he was to build a church in Secondigliano in honour of Our Lady of Sorrows.   With this vision of Our Lady in his mind, Gaetano was assured that he would succeed.   At first, the people of Secondigliano welcomed with joy the news that God wanted a church in honour of the Sorrowful Mother of Jesus in their little village.   However, human weakness being ever apparent, some were opposed.   Although their numbers were few, their jealousy and distrust made the task more difficult for Gaetano.   He never lost sight of the goal, however and against all odds, the Church was built as God wanted.   The Church of Our Lady of Sorrows was blessed on 9 December 1830.

When the Church was nearly completed, Fr Gaetano began the construction of a house to serve as the first home of the future congregation.   A small house was built and Fr Errico resided there with a lay brother who maintained the Church.   From such humble beginnings, he proceeded to reach out, welcoming priests to come for retreat, hoping to inspire within their hearts a desire to commit themselves to the missions and religious life.st gaetano errico snip

Upon completion of the Church and house, Fr Gaetano commissioned Francesco Verzella, a famous Neapolitan sculptor, to create an image of Our Lady of Sorrows.   It has been said that the sculptor had to redo the statue several times.   The vision of her face of sorrow was clear in Fr Errico’s mind.   Finally, the sculptor got it right and Fr Errico exclaimed, “It is so!”   The statue arrived in Secondigliano in May of 1835 and from then on drew an unending number of pilgrims.

The following year, again while Fr Errico was on retreat in Pagani, God revealed to him that the new congregation to be founded must be in honour of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.   Fr Errico already possessed within himself a most abiding devotion to the Sacred Hearts.   Now he became even more ardent in sharing this love through all his apostolic and missionary activity.   The love of the Sacred Hearts urged him to seek sinners and bring them back to God, to give of himself tirelessly.   With a burning drive within his heart, he especially searched out the most vulnerable, those in danger, the sick, the abandoned and shunned and the spiritually bereft.   He wanted everyone to feel the touch of a loving father who was ever ready to forgive and slow to anger.

He gained approval for the new congregation and its statutes on 14 March 1836 and in October of that year opened a novitiate with eight novices.   He sought papal approval in May 1838.   On 30 June the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars issued the decree.   In order to strengthen his Congregation, he sought royal approval which was granted on 13 May 1840.   In April 1846, he once again went to Rome to ask for final approval.   The Congregation by now had grown, the number of its members had increased and new houses had been opened in southern Italy.   On 7 August1846, Blessed Pius IX issued the Apostolic Brief of Approbation. Gaetano was unanimously elected Superior General.gaetano-errico-6bc4a81b-e80f-4a2e-83a9-8d05ea30c70-resize-750

Fr Gaetano was truly a man of God, a man with a mission, a man on fire with an unquenchable love of Jesus and Mary.   The first secret of his holiness was prayer.   Ever on his knees, his small room in the house in Secondigliano bears the indentations on the floor where, kneeling, he found refuge and strength.   Penance further sustained his holiness.   He fasted continuously, often only taking bread and water in order to give his share of food to the poor.   Self-flagellation was part of his penance, offered humbly for the many sins that wounded the Heart of Jesus.   He was never too tired to travel on, preaching, hearing confessions, encouraging the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ.   His comfort and caring presence reminded all of the love of God the Father… leading many in the small towns and villages to call him a saint.

Fr Errico died on 29 October 1860 at 10:00 AM at the age of 69.   His last testament to his missionaries was… “Love one another and be very observant of our Rules.”santino-RELIQUIA-RELIC-SGAETANO-ERRICO

“A saint is dead.,” the townspeople of Secondigliano affirmed upon hearing the news of his death.   It still echoes today. Gaetano Errico, affectionately known by all who knew him as “O Superiore” (The Superior), continues to be an example, a reference point, an intercessor, showing the way to God as lived out in the example of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

In December 1876, Pope Leo XIII declared him Venerable and Pope Paul VI declared the heroism of his virtues with an apostolic decree on 4 October 1974.   St Pope John Paul II on 24 April  2001, signed the Decree of Beatification after approving a miracle attributed to the sole intercession of Ven Gaetano Errico.   The process for the investigation of the miracle required for canonisation opened in Naples on 10 November 2004 and concluded its business on 10 October 2005 prior to it being validated in 2006.   It received the papal approval of Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 in which he acknowledged the 2003 healing of Anna Russo.   On 12 October 2008 he was proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XVI.canonisation

Posted in MARIAN DEVOTIONS, MARIAN PRAYERS, MARIAN QUOTES, MARIAN TITLES, MORNING Prayers, Pope BENEDICT XVI, PRACTISING CATHOLIC, SACRED and IMMACULATE HEARTS, SAINT of the DAY, St Pope JOHN PAUL, The BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, VATICAN Documents, VATICAN Resources

Thought for the Day – 13 October – The Memorial of the Sixth and Final Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima 1917

Thought for the Day – 13 October – The Memorial of the Sixth and Final Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima 1917

Excerpt from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith – 26 June 2000
The Message of Fatima (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger)

“As the second millennium gives way to the third, Pope John Paul II has decided to publish the text of the third part of the “secret of Fatima”.

“Behold, as we stand before you, Mother of Christ, before your Immaculate Heart, we desire, together with the whole Church, to unite ourselves with the consecration which, for love of us, your Son made of Himself to the Father:   ‘For their sake’, He said, ‘I consecrate myself that they also may be consecrated in the truth’ (Jn 17:19).  We wish to unite ourselves with our Redeemer in this His consecration for the world and for the human race, which, in his divine Heart, has the power to obtain pardon and to secure reparation.

The power of this consecration lasts for all time and embraces all individuals, peoples and nations.   It overcomes every evil that the spirit of darkness is able to awaken and has in fact awakened in our times, in the heart of man and in his history.

How deeply we feel the need for the consecration of humanity and the world—our modern world—in union with Christ Himself!   For the redeeming work of Christ must be shared in by the world through the Church.

The present Year of the Redemption shows this – the special Jubilee of the whole Church.

Above all creatures, may you be blessed, you, the Handmaid of the Lord, who in the fullest way obeyed the divine call!

Hail to you, who are wholly united to the redeeming consecration of your Son!

Mother of the Church!   Enlighten the People of God along the paths of faith, hope and love!   Enlighten especially the peoples whose consecration and entrustment by us you are awaiting.   Help us to live in the truth of the consecration of Christ for the entire human family of the modern world.

In entrusting to you, O Mother, the world, all individuals and peoples, we also entrust to you this very consecration of the world, placing it in your motherly Heart.

Immaculate Heart!   Help us to conquer the menace of evil, which so easily takes root in the hearts of the people of today, and whose immeasurable effects already weigh down upon our modern world and seem to block the paths towards the future!

From famine and war, deliver us.

From nuclear war, from incalculable self-destruction, from every kind of war, deliver us.

From sins against the life of man from its very beginning, deliver us.

From hatred and from the demeaning of the dignity of the children of God, deliver us.

From every kind of injustice in the life of society, both national and international, deliver us.

From readiness to trample on the commandments of God, deliver us.

From attempts to stifle in human hearts the very truth of God, deliver us.

From the loss of awareness of good and evil, deliver us.

From sins against the Holy Spirit, deliver us, deliver us.

Accept, O Mother of Christ, this cry laden with the sufferings of all individual human beings, laden with the sufferings of whole societies.

Help us with the power of the Holy Spirit to conquer all sin – individual sin and the ‘sin of the world’, sin in all its manifestations.

Let there be revealed, once more, in the history of the world the infinite saving power of the Redemption – the power of merciful Love!   May it put a stop to evil   May it transform consciences!   May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light of Hope!”.

Sister Lucia personally confirmed that this solemn and universal act of consecration corresponded to what Our Lady wished (“Sim, està feita, tal como Nossa Senhora a pediu, desde o dia 25 de Março de 1984”:  “Yes it has been done just as Our Lady asked, on 25 March 1984”:   Letter of 8 November 1989).    Hence any further discussion or request is without basis…vatican.va 

read the entire Message here:  http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000626_message-fatima_en.html

Immaculate Mary, Our Lady of Fatima, Pray for us!our lady of fatima pray for us no 2 - 13 oct 2018

Posted in SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 5 October – Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos C.Ss.R. (1819-1867)

Saint of the Day – 5 October – Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos C.Ss.R. (1819-1867) Priest, Religious, Missionary, Preacher, Catechist, Spiritual Director, Apostle of Charity – known as the “The Cheerful Ascetic” – born on Francesco Saverio Seelos on 11 January 1819 at Füssen, Bavaria, Germany and died on 4 October 1867 in New Orleans, Louisiana of yellow fever.   Patronage – against Cancer.header - POS-F490_Blessed-Francis-Xavier-Seelos___84782.1491928544

Francis Xavier Seelos, one of 12 children born to Mang and Frances Schwarzenbach Seelos, entered the world on 11 January 1819, in Füssen (Bavaria, Germany).   He was baptised on the same day in the parish church of Saint Mang where his father, after having been a textile merchant, would, in 1830, become the sacristan.

Having completed his primary education in 1831, he expressed a desire to become a priest and, with the encouragement of his Pastor, he attended middle school at the Institute of Saint Stephen in Augsburg.   Receiving his diploma in 1839, he went on to the University in Munich, Bavaria, where he completed his studies in Philosophy.
He then began to study theology in preparation to enter the seminary where he was admitted on 19 September 1842.bl francis xavier glass

It was during this time that through his acquaintance with the missionaries of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, he came to know both the charism of the Institute, founded to evangelise the most abandoned and its apostolic works, especially those among the immigrants in the United States of America.   Moved by a profound apostolic zeal and deeply touched by the letters published in the Catholic newspaper Sion, from the Redemptorist missionaries describing the lack of spiritual care for the thousands of German speaking immigrants, Seelos decided to enter the Congregation, asking to be allowed to work as a missionary in the United States.

Receiving the necessary approval on 22 November 1842, he sailed the following March  from the port of Le Havre, France, arriving in New York on 20 April 1843.
On 22 December 1844, after having completed his theological studies and novitiate, Seelos was ordained a Priest in the Redemptorist Church of St James in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.bl francis xavier snip

A few months after his ordination, he was transferred to St Philomena’s Parish in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he remained nine years.   His first six years there were spent as assistant pastor with St John Neumann (1811-1860), who was also the superior of the Redemptorist comm  unity. The remaining three years, Francis Seelos served as superior of that same community.   It was during these years that he was appointed Master of Novices for the Redemptorists.

In addition to his work as assistant pastor, Seelos, together with Neumann, dedicated himself to preaching missions.   Regarding his relationship with St John Neumann, Seelos said:  “He has introduced me to the active life” and, “he has guided me as spiritual director and confessor”.st john neumann and bl francis xavier seelos - 5 october 2018

His availability and innate kindness in understanding and responding to the needs of the faithful, quickly made him well known as an expert confessor and spiritual director so much so that people came to him even from neighbouring towns.   In both Baltimore and Pittsburgh, Seelos made Confession become, rather than a torment, the locus of a life-giving experience of an encounter with Christ Patient and Merciful.   His confessional was open to all:  “I hear confessions in German, English, French, of Whites and of Blacks”.
The faithful described him as the missionary with the constant smile on his lips and a generous heart, especially towards the needy and the marginalised.
It is no coincidence that in Pittsburgh, after his death, the people began to attribute to his intercession many favours received.

Faithful to the Redemptorist charism, he practised a simple life style and a simple manner of expressing himself.   The themes of his preaching, rich in biblical content, were always heard and understood even by the simplest people.   A constant endeavour in his pastoral activity was instructing the little children in the faith.   He not only favoured this ministry, he held it as fundamental for the growth of the Christian community in the Parish.Beato_Francesco_Saverio_Seelos

In 1854, he was transferred from Pittsburgh, to a number of cities in the state of Maryland:  Baltimore, then Cumberland in 1857, and to Annapolis (1862), all the while engaged in Parish ministry.   In Cumberland and Annapolis, he also served in the formation of future Redemptorists as Prefect of Students.   Even in this post, he was true to his character remaining always the kind and happy pastor, always prudently attentive to the needs of his students and conscientious of their doctrinal formation.   Above all, he strove to instil in these future Redemptorist missionaries the enthusiasm, the spirit of sacrifice and apostolic zeal for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the people.
In 1860, His Excellency Michael O’Connor, Bishop of Pittsburgh, upon leaving his diocese, recommended Father Seelos as the Priest most qualified to succeed him.   Francis Seelos wrote Pope Paul IX explaining his inadequacy to accept such a responsibility and asking “to be liberated from this calamity”.   He was overjoyed when another Priest was named Bishop of Pittsburgh.bl francis xavier seelos lg

Following the outbreak of the Civil War in the United States, new laws were enacted in 1863 which required every able bodied male to make himself available for military duty. Seelos, as Superior of the Redemptorist seminary, travelled to Washington to meet with President Abraham Lincoln and ask him to exempt the Redemptorist seminarians from military service.   Lincoln, according to Seelos himself, was not only extremely receptive of the petition but promised to do everything in his power to bring it about. In fact, the students were exempted from going off to war.

Relieved from his office as Prefect of Students because, according to a zealous confrere, he was too obliging and not severe enough with the seminarians, from 1863 to 1866 he dedicated himself to the life of an itinerant missionary preaching in English and German in the states of Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

After a brief period of parish ministry in Detroit, Michigan, he was assigned in 1866 to the Redemptorist community in New Orleans, Louisiana.   Here also, as pastor of the of the Assumption, he was known as a pastor who was joyously available to his faithful and singularly concerned for the poorest and the most abandoned.   As in other cities, his prayers were considered very powerful in obtaining favours from God.bl francis xavier_sample

In God’s plan, however, his ministry in New Orleans was destined to be brief.   In the month of September, exhausted from visiting and caring for the victims of Yellow Fever, he contracted the dreaded disease.   After several weeks of patiently enduring his illness, he passed on to eternal life on 4 October 1867, at the age of 48 years and 9 months…. vatican.va

The National Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos is located in St Mary’s Assumption Church, the first German Catholic Church in New Orleans and in the state of Louisiana. The Shrine contains the official portrait of Father Seelos, which was used in Rome for his beatification, as well as photographs that depict Father Seelos and his life as a missionary.

St Pope John Paul II beatified Blessed Francis in St Peter’s Square on 9 April 2000.   In the beatification homily, the pope stated:  “Today, Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos invites the members of the Church to deepen their union with Christ in the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.   Through his intercession, may all who work in the vineyard for the salvation of God’s people be encouraged and strengthened in their task.”blessed francis xavier

Posted in DOCTORS of the Church, MORNING Prayers, MYSTICS, SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – St Thérèse of Lisieux O.C.D. (1873 – 1897) Doctor of the Church

Saint of the Day – St Thérèse of Lisieux O.C.D. (1873 – 1897)  – also known as St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face/The Little Flower/Sacred Keeper of the Gardens – Virgin, Religious Nun, Mystic, Writer – born Marie Françoise-Thérèse Martin on 2 January 1873 at Alcon, Normandy, France – died on 30 September 1897 at Lisieux, France of tuberculosis.   Patronages – Universal Patron of the Missions, African missions, sick people; against bodily ills, illness or sickness, AIDS patients, air crews or pilots; aviators, Australia, black missions, florists and flower growers, foreign missions (proclaimed on 14 December 1927 by Pope Pius XI), loss of parents, missionaries, parish missions, restoration of religious freedom in Russia, tuberculosis, World Youth Day 2013, France (1944 by Pope Pius XII), Russia, Anchorage, Alaska, archdiocese of, Cheyenne, Wyoming, diocese of, Churchill – Baie d’Hudson, Manitoba, diocese of, Fairbanks, Alaska, diocese of, Fresno, California, diocese of, Hamilton, Bermuda, diocese of, Juneau, Alaska, diocese of, Kisumu, Kenya, diocese of, Corner Brook and Labrador, Newfoundland, diocese of, Pueblo, Colorado, diocese of, Witbank, South Africa, diocese of, Apostleship of Prayer.st therese info

THÉRÈSE MARTIN was born at Alençon, France on 2 January 1873.   Two days later, she was baptised Marie Françoise Thérèse at Notre Dame Church.   Her parents were Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin (now Saints, Canonised on 18 October 2015, Memorial 12 July).  After the death of her mother on 28 August 1877, Thérèse and her family moved to Lisieux.Thérèse_Martin-Histoire_d'une_âme-A02

Towards the end of 1879, she went to confession for the first time.   On the Feast of Pentecost 1883, she received the singular grace of being healed from a serious illness through the intercession of Our Lady of Victories.   Taught by the Benedictine Nuns of Lisieux and after an intense immediate preparation culminating in a vivid experience of intimate union with Christ, she received First Holy Communion on 8 May 1884.   Some weeks later, on 14 June of the same year, she received the Sacrament of Confirmation, fully aware of accepting the gift of the Holy Spirit as a personal participation in the grace of Pentecost.

She wished to embrace the contemplative life, as her sisters Pauline and Marie had done in the Carmel of Lisieux but was prevented from doing so by her young age.   On a visit to Italy, after having visited the House of Loreto and the holy places of the Eternal City, during an audience granted by Pope Leo XIII to the pilgrims from Lisieux on 20 November 1887, she asked the Holy Father with childlike audacity to be able to enter the Carmel at the age of fifteen.   On 9 April 1888 she entered the Carmel of Lisieux.   She received the habit on 10 January of the following year and made her religious profession on 8 September 1890 on the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.popeleo and st therese

In Carmel. she embraced the way of perfection outlined by the Foundress, Saint Teresa of Jesus, fulfilling with genuine fervour and fidelity the various community responsibilities entrusted to her.   Her faith was tested by the sickness of her beloved father, Louis Martin, who died on 29 July 1894.   Thérèse nevertheless grew in sanctity, enlightened by the Word of God and inspired by the Gospel to place love at the centre of everything.   In her autobiographical manuscripts she left us, not only her recollections of childhood and adolescence but also a portrait of her soul, the description of her most intimate experiences.  She discovered the little way of spiritual childhood and taught it to the novices entrusted to her care.   She considered it a special gift to receive the charge of accompanying two “missionary brothers” with prayer and sacrifice.   Seized by the love of Christ, her only Spouse, she penetrated ever more deeply into the mystery of the Church and became increasingly aware of her apostolic and missionary vocation to draw everyone in her path.SaintTherese3

On 9 June 1895, on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, she offered herself as a sacrificial victim to the merciful Love of God.   At this time, she wrote her first autobiographical manuscript, which she presented to Mother Agnes for her birthday on 21 January 1896.

Several months later, on 3 April, in the night between Holy Thursday and Good Friday, she suffered a haemoptysis, the first sign of the illness which would lead to her death – she welcomed this event as a mysterious visitation of the Divine Spouse.   From this point forward, she entered a trial of faith which would last until her death; she gives overwhelming testimony to this in her writings.   In September, she completed Manuscript B;  this text gives striking evidence of the spiritual maturity which she had attained, particularly the discovery of her vocation in the heart of the Church.saint-therese-of-the-child-jesus-belita-william

While her health declined and the time of trial continued, she began work in the month of June on Manuscript C, dedicated to Mother Marie de Gonzague.   New graces led her to higher perfection and she discovered fresh insights for the diffusion of her message in the Church, for the benefit of souls who would follow her way.   She was transferred to the infirmary on 8 July.   Her sisters and other religious women collected her sayings. Meanwhile her sufferings and trials intensified.   She accepted them with patience up to the moment of her death in the afternoon of 30 September 1897.   “I am not dying, I am entering life”, she wrote to her missionary spiritual brother, Father M Bellier.   Her final words, “My God…, I love you!”, seal a life which was extinguished on earth at the age of twenty-four;  thus began, as was her desire, a new phase of apostolic presence on behalf of souls in the Communion of Saints, in order to shower a rain of roses upon the world.

She was Canonised by Pope Pius XI on 17 May 1925.   The same Pope proclaimed her Universal Patron of the Missions, alongside Saint Francis Xavier, on 14 December 1927.

Her teaching and example of holiness has been received with great enthusiasm by all sectors of the faithful during this century, as well as by people outside the Catholic Church and outside Christianity.therese-painting

On the occasion of the centenary of her death, many Episcopal Conferences have asked the Pope to declare her a Doctor of the Church, in view of the soundness of her spiritual wisdom inspired by the Gospel, the originality of her theological intuitions filled with sublime teaching and the universal acceptance of her spiritual message, which has been welcomed throughout the world and spread by the translation of her works into over fifty languages.

Mindful of these requests, His Holiness St Pope John Paul II asked the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which has competence in this area, in consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with regard to her exalted teaching, to study the suitability of proclaiming her a Doctor of the Church.

On 24 August, at the close of the Eucharistic Celebration at the Twelfth World Youth Day in Paris, in the presence of hundreds of bishops and before an immense crowd of young people from the whole world, St Pope John Paul II announced his intention to proclaim Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face a Doctor of the Universal Church on World Mission Sunday, 19 October 1997…Vatican.vast-therese-of-lisieux-iii-sheila-diemert

Posted in MARIAN DEVOTIONS, MARIAN TITLES, SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 28 September – St Simón de Rojas O.SS. (1552-1624)   “Father Ave Maria”/”Apostle of the Ave Maria”

Saint of the Day – 28 September – St Simón de Rojas O.SS. (1552-1624)   “Father Ave Maria”/ “Apostle of the Ave Maria”, Religious Priest of the Trinitarian Order, Founder of the Lay Apostolate of the Congregation of the Slaves of the Sweet Name of Mary, Marian Devotee, Theologian, Philosopher, Spiritual Writer, Apostle of Charity, Apostolic Visitor – born on 28 October 1552 in Valladolid, Spain and died on 28 September 1624 in Madrid, Spain of natural causes.   He was Beatified on 19 March 1766 by Pope Clement XIII and Canonised on 3 July 1988 by St Pope John Paul II.st simon de rojas full

ave maria - for the memorial of st simon de rojas - 28 sept 2018

Father SIMON DE ROJAS of the Trinitarian Order was born at Valladolid, Castilla, Spain, 28 October, 1552.   At twelve years of age, he entered the Trinitarian monastery of the city where he was born and there made his religious profession on 28 October 1572.   He studied at the University of Salamanca from 1573 to 1579 and was ordained a priest in 1577.   Thereafter, he taught philosophy and theology at Toledo from 1581 to 1587 and from 1588 until his death he fulfilled with much prudence the office of superior in various monasteries of his province and was sent as apostolic visitor twice to his own province of Castilla and once to that of Andalusia.

On 14 April 1612 he founded the Congregation of the Slaves of the Sweet Name of Mary and in  1619 he was named tutor to the royal princes of Spain and in 1621 he was elected Provincial of Castilla and the following year he was chosen confessor of Queen Isabel of Borbon.01-st-simon-de-rojas.2

His Canonisation during this Marian year (1988), worthily rewards him for his tender devotion to Mary.    He has been a compared to St Bernard of Clairvaux and to St Ildefonso of Toledo, for this immense understanding and devotion of the role of the Blessed Virgin Mother.

It was his mother, the virtuous Constanza, who instilled and helped grow in the soul of Simon the love of Mary.   The veneration that she and her husband Gregorio constantly gave to Mary, makes it easily understandable why the first words that Simon, who had been a slow learner and stuttered, said at the age of fourteen months, were “Ave, Maria”. He was only repeating the prayer so frequently recited by his parents.

His greatest joy was to visit Marian shrines, to pray to Mary and with Mary, to imitate her virtues, to sing her praises, to acknowledge her importance in the mystery of God and of the Church.   Through profound theological studies, he came to understand even better the mission of Mary in cooperation with the Trinity for the salvation of the human race and the sanctification of the Church.   He lived his religious vows in the imitation of Mary. He held that, for everyone to be completely of God, as Mary had been, it was necessary to become her slaves, or better, slaves of God in Mary;  for this reason he established the Congregation of the Slaves of Mary for the greater glory of the Trinity, in praise of the Virgin, in the service of the poor.   For him, to be a slave of Mary meant belonging totally to her:  “Totus tuus” in order to unite oneself more intimately to Christ and in Him through the Spirit, to the Father.

The Congregation founded by him was intended for the laity, persons of every social class could join.   The members, who included the King and his children, dedicated themselves to honour Mary by giving maternal help to her favourite children – the poor. This work still continues in Spain.   Fr Simon, who is held to be one of the greatest contemplatives of his time and who in his work, “The Greatness of Prayer” is clearly a great instructor of prayerful souls, wanted the contemplative dimension joined to the active through works of mercy.

Faithful to the Trinitarian charism, he promoted the ransom of captives, he helped relieve the many needs of the poor, he consoled the sick, the destitute and the left-out of every kind.   He accepted duties at the Court, only on the condition that he be able to continue his work with the poor, whom he helped in a thousand ways, always with a smile on his face and at any hour of the day or night.San_Simon_de_Rojas

The expressions of his love of Mary are manifold.   The painters who depicted him, put the greeting “Ave Maria” on his lips, words he uttered so frequently that he was familiarly called:  “Father Ave Maria”.

He had thousands of images of the Most Holy Virgin printed with the inscription:  “Ave Maria”, which he also sent abroad.   He had rosaries made with seventy-two blue beads on a white cord, symbols of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception and also a reminder that Mary, according to the belief of the time, lived to the age of 72 years.   He sent these rosaries everywhere, even to England.   Using his influence at Court, he had the angelic greeting so dear to him, “Ave Maria”, engraved in letters of gold on the facade of the royal palace in Madrid.   On June 5th, 1622, he petitioned the Holy See for the approval of his liturgical text composed in honour of the Sweet Name of Mary, which later, Pope Innocent XI extended to the universal Church.PWOL0815_ave_maria_gratia_mexico_front_l

After his death on 29 September 1624, the honours bestowed on him at his funeral, took on the aspect of an anticipated canonisation.   For twelve days, the most re-known preachers of Madrid exalted his virtues and his holiness.   Impressed with this unanimous veneration, on 8 October shortly after Fr Simon’s death, the Papal Nuncio ordered the beginning of the process leading to his glorification by the Church.   His heroic virtues were recognised by PopeClement XII on 25 March 1735 and he was beatified on 19 March 1766.   And today, 3 July, 1988, just before the close of the Marian Year, Pope John Paul II, enters the name of this great servant of Mary and Father of the poor on the list of the Saints.”…Vatican.vadeath of st simon de rojas