Posted in SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 10 May – Blessed Ivan Merz (1896-1928)

Saint of the Day – 10 May – Blessed Ivan Merz (1896-1928) aged 32 – Layman, Teacher, Professor, Apostle of the Blessed Sacrament and of prayer, Founder of Youth Movements in Croatia – Patronages – Croatian youth, youth as a whole, World Youth Day Ivan

Ivan Merz was born in Banja Luka, Bosnia, on 16 December 1896 and was baptised on 2 February 1897.   He attended elementary and middle school in Banja Luka and, after a brief period of education at the military academy of Wiener Noustadt, he enrolled in 1915 at the University of Vienna, with the dream of teaching young people in Bosnia, thus, he would be following the example of his professor, Ljubomir Marakovic, who helped Ivan to discover the richness of the Catholic faith.ivan-merz-as a boy.jpeg

In March 1916, Ivan was enlisted in the army and shipped to the Italian battle front, where he spent the greater part of two years beginning in 1917.   The war experience and its horrors marked a turning point in Ivan’s young life and contributed greatly to his spiritual growth, prompting him to abandon his future into God’s hands and to strive with all his might towards the goal of Christian perfection.

On 5 February 1918, he wrote in his diary:  “Never forget God!   Always desire to be united with Him.   Begin each day in the first place with meditation and prayer, possibly close to the Blessed Sacrament or during Mass.   During this time, plans for the day are made, one’s defects are put under examination and grace is implored for the strength to overcome all weakness.   It would be something terrible if this war had no meaning for me!…   I must begin a life regenerated in the spirit of this new understanding of Catholicism.   The Lord alone can help me, as man can do nothing on his own”.   At this time, Ivan also made a private vow of perpetual ivan merz 3.jpg

After the war, he continued his studies at Vienna (1919-20) and then in Paris (1920-22).   In 1923 he obtained a degree in philosophy.   His thesis was entitled “The influence of the Liturgy on the French authors”.   He then became a professor of language and French literature and was exemplary in his dedication to the students and to his responsibilities as a teacher.

In his spare time he studied philosophy and theology and deepened his knowledge of the documents of the Magisterium of the Church.

Ivan was especially noted for his interest in young people and concern for their growth in faith and holiness.   He started the “League of Young Croatian Catholics” and the “Croatian League of Eagles” within the Croatian Catholic Action Movement.   Their motto was: “Sacrifice Eucharist Apostolate”.

For Ivan, the purpose of this organisation was to form a group of front-line apostles whose goal was holiness.   The scope of this goal also flowed over into liturgical renewal, of which Ivan was one of the first promoters in Croatia.

As a Catholic intellectual, Ivan was able to guide young people and adults to Christ and His Church, through his writings and organised gatherings.   He also sought to teach them love and obedience to the Vicar of Christ and the Church of ivan 4.jpg

In the face of any misunderstandings and difficulties, Ivan always had an admirable patience and calm, the fruit of his continual union with God in prayer.   Those who knew him well described him as a person who had his “mind and heart immersed in the supernatural”.   Convinced that the most effective way to save souls was through efficacious suffering, he offered to God all his physical and moral sufferings, particularly for the intention of the success of his apostolic endeavours.

Shortly before his death, he offered his life for the youth of Croatia.   In short, the young man believed that his vocation was very simply “the Catholic faith”.Bl_Ivan_Merz_u_Bazilici_Srca_Isusova_13_rujna_2008

Ivan Merz died on 10 May 1928 in Zagreb.   He was 32 years old…

Blessed Ivan left an example of how a man can live, fight and suffer for God’s cause. Merz tried hard to give his life the “full meaning”, heading for sanctity and all his pedagogical task was devoted to the formation of apostles of sanctity.   He died with a reputation of a saint.   His shrine is located in the Basilica of the Heart of Jesus in Zagreb, Croatia.   The canonisation cause started in 1958.

He was Beatified by St Pope John Paul on Sunday, 22 June 2003 in Bosnia Herzegovina.

bl ivan merz 576px-Sacred_Heart_Basilica,_Zagreb_3
Blessed Ivan Merz’s tomb in the Basilica of the Heart of Jesus in Zagreb, Croatia

On 3 March 2018, His Excellency Francisco Mendoza De Leon, DD, bishop of the Diocese of Antipolo and local Ordinary of the Blessed Ivan Merz Centre and Reliquarium, formally opened and blessed the Blessed Ivan Merz Reliquarium.

The Blessed Ivan Merz Reliquarium (Home of the Sacred Relics) was established to house the sacred relics of Blessed Ivan Merz and of other sacred relics belonging to Our Lord, the Blessed Mother and beatified and canonised Servants of God.   It serves as spiritual oasis for pilgrims, devotees and disciples in faith of the Apostle of the Youth.

We pray that those who will visit Blessed Ivan Merz Reliquarium will experience the Lord’s kind assistance.

May those who venerate the remains of the Saints, especially of Blessed Ivan Merz, with their prayers and merits, obtain pardon for sin and protection from every adversity. blivan reliquariumbl ivan relics

Beautiful images on their website here:

Posted in SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 24 April Saint Benedict Menni OH (1841-1914) “A Heart Without Borders”

Saint of the Day – 24 April Saint Benedict Menni OH (1841-1914) “A Heart Without Borders” Priest, founder of the Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Patronages – Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, People with mental health issues, the sick, Volunteers.

BENEDICT MENNI, who is being raised to the altars today, was a faithful follower of Saint John of God OH (1495 – 1550 – Founder of the Order of Hospitallers) and, through his words and deeds, was a Herald of the Gospel of Mercy and a new Prophet of Hospitality.Header San_Benito_Menni.jpg

His origins and his Hospitaller vocation:
The city of Milan was his cradle – he was born there on 11 March 1841 and baptised the same day.   He was named Angelo Ercole (Eercole means Hercules), almost as a portent of the Herculean spirit and strength that was to characterise his whole personality.

He was the fifth of 15 children born to Luigi Menni and Luisa Figini.   His warm and hospitable home gave him the support and stimulus he needed to develop his intellectual powers and his personality.
God’s call came early on, faithful to his conscience, he gave up a good position in a bank, and with his selfless attitude to suffering, he volunteered to work as a stretcher-bearer to assist the soldiers wounded on the battlefield at Magenta, near Milan.

Attracted by the spirit of dedication and self-denial which he discovered in the Brothers of St John of God, at the age of 19 he applied to enter the Hospitaller Order.

He began his Religious life taking the name Benedict and consecrated himself to God and to the care of the sick.   And today we venerate him with the same name – Saint Benedict Menni.19991121_benedetto_menni.jpg

His Hospitaller formation and mission:
It was during his nursing and priestly studies that his Religious Hospitaller personality was gradually fashioned, which he placed at the disposal of his Superiors, embracing the cause of helping the most needy members of society, so many of whom were sick.

At that time Spain, the cradle of the Hospitaller Order, was embroiled in political strife, with open hostility to all the Religious Orders and the work of St John of God was practically dead.   It needed a new lease of life and Benedict Menni was to be the man of providence to bring it about.

He was sent to Spain in 1867 and it was there that he performed his two great works – he restored the Order of St John of God and founded the Congregation of the Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Thanks to his magnanimous spirit, his great capabilities and state of mind, he overcame many difficulties and did so much good to help the sick, providing them with comprehensive benedict menni oh.jpg

The Restorer of the Hospitaller Order:
Sent to Spain by the Prior General of the Order, Fr Giovanni M Alfieri, who always supported him and with the blessing of the Pope, Visitor and Prior General of the Order Pius IX, even before he left Rome, Benedict Menni demonstrated a will of iron and a determined spirit.   Only a few months after his arrival in Spain he set up his first children’s hospital in Barcelona (1867), marking the beginning of his extraordinary work of restoration, which he was to carry throughout the next 36 years.

From the first moment, thanks to his commitment to his vocation, numerous generous followers rallied around him and it was through them, that he was able to guarantee continuity to his new Hospitaller institutions, that were springing up in Spain, Portugal and Mexico, to spread subsequently throughout the New World.

The Founder of the Hospitaller Sisters:
When he arrived in Granada (1878), Benedict Menni came in contact with two young women, Maria Josefa Recio and Maria Angtistias Gimenez, who set up a new women’s hospital specifically to provide psychiatric care in 1881.

It was at Ciempozuelos, Madrid, that the Mother House of the “Congregation of the Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus” was founded, receiving the approval of the Holy See in 1901.

Six words summarise their identity in the Hospitaller service – “pray, work, endure, suffer, in love for God and in silence”.st benedict with sisters.jpg

The new Institution soon spread its wings of merciful charity by becoming established in several countries in Europe and Latin America and later on in Africa and Asia.   At the present time, as the Congregation celebrates the Canonisation of its founder, Benedict Menni, the Sisters are present in 24 countries, with over 100 Hospitaller benedict menni close up

Benedict Menni, their Founder and spiritual Father, imbued them with his own charismatic spirit of St John of God and for over 30 years continued to provide them with his guidance and formation in Hospitaller ascetics.

Visitor and Prior General of the Order:
The opera magna wrought by Benedict Menni as a Restorer and Founder spread, at the request of the Holy See, to the whole Order when he was appointed Apostolic Visitor (1909-1911) and subsequently Prior General (1911), which he had to resign one year later as a result of misunderstandings and for health reasons.

He spent the last two years of his life in humility and purification and died a holy death at Dinan, France, on 24 April 1914.

His mortal remains were taken by the Spanish Brothers to Ciempozuelos and today are venerated under the high altar in the Founders’ Chapel in the Hospitaller Sisters’ Mother House there.

In the glory of the saints:
The process to acknowledge his holiness opened in the diocese of Madrid where he is buried, in 1945-1947 and his virtues were recognised as heroic, by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints on 11 May 1982, so that he was able to be called ” Venerable”.

After official acceptance of the miraculous healing of Asuncion Cacho thanks to his intercession, he was proclaimed “Blessed” in St Peter’s Basilica by St Pope John Paul II on 23 June 1985.Benedeto-menni

His message of Hospitality:
In addition to his total dedication which bore such fruit, his holy and sanctifying conduct, his life offered entirely to God and to the sick with total generosity, the witness borne by Benedict Menni has regained all its topical relevance today with his Canonisation, which is offering him to the universal Church as a model and an example to be followed, particularly by those working in health care.

Humanisation and evangelisation are challenges to the new millennium.   St Benedict Menni recalls to us and enlightens the words of our Lord, “I was sick and you visited me… Come, O blessed of my Father”.

Health care uses the benefits brought by scientific and technological progress but frequently, it is the “heart” which is missing in patient care.   Health care is often concerned more with the sickness than the sick, who are often viewed as numbers or clinical cases, rather than as brothers and sisters, to be cared for and ministered to, as persons made in the image of a suffering

St Benedict was Canonised on 21 November 1999 by St Pope John Paul benedict menni-varias-unidas

Posted in SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Thought for the Day – 22 March – “The Lion of Munster”

Thought for the Day – 22 March – Friday of the Second week of Lent, Year C and the Memorial of Blessed Clemens August Count von Galen (1878-1946) “The Lion of Munster”



Vatican Basilica
Sunday, 9 October 2005

The tomb of the Supreme Pontiff Hadrian VI, well known for many centuries as the last non-Italian Pope, is located in the Church of Santa Maria dell’Anima, the national church of Germany in Rome. The following epitaph is engraved on his sepulchral monument: “Unfortunately, the conditions of the times strongly dissipate the effectiveness of the virtues of even the best of men”.

This epitaph is a negative reference to the conditions of the times in which Hadrian VI lived, but it also contains a very positive appreciation of the outstanding virtues that he practised precisely in the adverse conditions of his time.

Indeed, a characteristic feature of the famous Cardinal Clemens August von Galen, Bishop of Münster, whose beatification today fills our hearts with joy, is that he eminently and heroically practised the virtues of a Christian and a Pastor in a period so fraught with difficulties for the Church and for the German Nation.

Germany was then dominated by National Socialism.   The Diocese of Münster can boast of having had as Bishop, on the Chair of St Ludger, a Pastor who boldly opposed the ideology that despised humanity and the death mechanism of the National Socialist State.   This earned him the well-deserved nickname, “Lion of Münster”.

Bishop Clemens August Count von Galen, was one of the best known champions of the Church’s resistance to the unjust National Socialist regime.   If we wonder where he found his daring to reprimand the Nazis publicly and with very clear arguments, since they were violating fundamental human rights and how he managed to persevere in this denunciation, we must turn to three important factors that built up his strong personality as a man, a believer, first and subsequently, Bishop.

These were:  Family, Faith, and Politics.   However, we must never lose sight of the fact that the Blessed’s attitude stemmed from his deeply-rooted Christian virtues.

Clemens August came from a family bound by a long tradition both to the Church and to public life.   His father was involved in public affairs and his mother kept the family united – these factors gave Clemens August and his siblings a sense of security and a basis for life that later and rather unexpectedly enabled him to surpass himself and the tradition of the milieu into which he was born.

Traditionally, the life of the von Galen family was strongly oriented to a sense of public responsibility with regard to all the people in the Church and in society.   At the family table in Dinklage Castle, in addition to family conversation and the prayer of the Rosary, the father’s position as a deputy of the Reichstag in Berlin often gave rise to political topics.

Without any doubt he was able to do what he did only thanks to a deep but at the same time very simple spirituality, founded both on the Eucharist and on devotion to the Mother of God.

He countered the deafening martial music and the empty phrases blaring from the amplifiers of the speakers’ platforms with the veneration of the Blessed Eucharist, the silence of contemplative adoration of the Lord who made himself Bread.   Before the Lord present in the Sacrament of the Eucharistic Bread, apparently defenceless and thus not easy to recognise, he found the strength and nourishment that alone could permanently satisfy the human desire for life.

The unifying force of the new Blessed’s spiritual life was his profound and dynamic faith, enlivened by his active charity towards everyone, especially the suffering.   Von Galen’s spirituality, inspired by the Gospel, allowed him to be transparent in his public role.   All his actions and virtues flowed from his lived faith.

At the very outset of his pastoral work in Münster, Bishop von Galen unmasked the ideology of National Socialism and its contempt for human beings.   In the middle of the war in the summer of 1941, he criticised it even more harshly in the three homilies he gave in the months of July and August that year, which have become famous.

In them he targeted the obligatory closure of convents and the arrest of Religious.   He spoke vigorously against the deportation and destruction of those human lives that the regime deemed unworthy to be lived, that is, the mentally disabled.   The Bishop’s fiery words dealt fatal blows to the Nazi’s systematic extermination policy.

His clear arguments infuriated the Nazi leaders who were at a loss as to what to do next, because they did not have the nerve to arrest or kill him due to Bishop von Galen’s extraordinary authority.

It was neither innate courage nor excessive temerity.   Only a deep sense of responsibility and a clear vision of what was right and what was wrong could have induced Bishop Clemens August to speak these words.   They invite us to reflect on the brilliance of his witness to faith, in times that may seem less threatening but are just as problematic with regard to human life, they invite us to imitate his example.

Thus, in March 1946, reflecting on what happened at that time, Cardinal von Galen summarised all this.   He said:  “The good Lord gave me a position that obliged me to call what was black, black, and what was white, white, as outlined in episcopal ordination.   I knew that I could speak on behalf of thousands of people who, like me, were convinced, that only on the basis of Christianity, could our German People truly be united and attain a blessed future”.

Dear German pilgrims, we can look full of gratitude at this great personality from your Homeland.   Bl. Bishop Clemens August realised who our God is and placed all his hope in Him (cf. Is 25: 9).   When he was first a parish priest and later a Bishop, he spared no efforts in his pastoral ministry, he had learned how to do without (cf. Phil 4: 12) and was prepared to give his life in the service of human beings.   Indeed, he was fully aware of his responsibility to God.

Therefore, the Lord has made him worthy of his magnificent riches (cf. Phil 4: 19), of which St Paul spoke in his Letter to the Philippians that we have just heard.   In faith, we are convinced that he was called, that he was chosen to take part in the wedding banquet in the perfection of divine glory – the wonderful parable of Jesus, presented to us by the Gospel of today’s liturgy, prompts us to meditate on this wedding banquet (cf. Mt 22: 1-14).

I would like to congratulate the Diocese of Münster on the fact that precisely in the year in which its establishment, at least 12 centuries ago, is being commemorated, it can celebrate with joy and pride this Beatification here at the Tomb of the Apostle Peter, as if to strengthen its own apostolic roots, anchoring them even more firmly to the Magisterium of the Vicar of Christ who today, through God’s grace, is Benedict XVI.   May the new Blessed be an encouragement to the Diocese of Münster to keep its rich and ever-timely heritage constantly alive, making it fruitful for the people of our times.

May the Lord, through the intercession of the new Blessed, bless the beloved and venerable Diocese of Münster and the entire Church in Germany…Vatican.vabl clemens von galen the lion of munster pray for us 22 march 2019.jpg

Posted in SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 20 March – St Jósef Bilczewski (1860-1923)

Saint of the Day – 20 March – St Jósef Bilczewski (1860-1923) Aged 62 – Archbishop of Lviv, Professor of Dogmatic Theology, Apostle of the Holy Eucharist, Marian devotion, the poor, the homeless, the needy, refugees, Social Reformer and Evangelist, Apostle of Catechesis both of the laity and of priests, Peace-maker. Patronages – Archdiocese of Lviv, Teachers, Wilamowice, Beggars, Homeless people.jozef archbishop bilczewski.jpg

Archbishop JOSEPH BILCZEWSKI was born on 26 April 1860 in Wilamowice near Kęty, in the present day Diocese of Bielsko Żywiec, then part of the Diocese of Krakow.   Having finished elementary school at Wilamowic and Kęty, he attended high school at Wadowice receiving his diploma in 1880.

On 6 July 1884 he was ordained a priest in Krakow by Cardinal Albino Dunajewski.   In 1886 he received a Doctorate in Theology from the University of Vienna.   Following advanced studies in Rome and Paris he passed the qualifying exam at the Jaghellonic University of Krakow.   The following year he became professor of Dogmatic Theology at the John Casimir University of Leopoli.   He also served as Dean of Theology for a period of time prior to becoming Rector of the University.   During his tenure at the University, he was appreciated as a professor by his students and also enjoyed the friendship and respect of his colleagues.   He arduously dedicated himself to scientific work and, despite his young age, acquired a reputation as a learned man.

His extraordinary intellectual and relational abilities were recognised by Francis Joseph, the Emperor of Austria, who presented Monsignor Joseph to the Holy Father as a candidate for the vacant Metropolitan See of Leopoli.   The Holy Father, Leo XIII responded positively to the Emperor’s proposal and on 17 December 1900 he named the forty year old Monsignor Joseph Bilczewski, Archbishop of Leopoli of the Latin Rite.

Given the complex social, economic, ethnic and religious situation, care for the large diocese required of the Bishop a deep commitment and called for great moral commitment, strong confidence in God and a faith enlivened by a continual contact in prayer with God.

Archbishop Joseph Bilczewski became known for his abundant goodness of heart, understanding, humility, piety, commitment to hard work and pastoral zeal which sprung from his immense love for God and neighbour.Józef_Bilczewski

Upon taking possession of the Archdiocese of Leopoli he spelled out very clearly his pastoral plan which can be summed up in his motto “totally sacrifice oneself for the Holy Church”.   Among other things he pointed out the need for the development of devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament and frequent reception of Holy Communion.

A particular form of pastoral action of Archbishop Bilczewski were the pastoral letters and appeals addressed to the priests and the faithful of the Archdiocese.   In them he spoke of the problems of faith and morals of the time as well as of the most pressing issues of the social sphere.   He also explained devotion to the Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart in them and the importance of religious and moral formation of children and youth in the family and in school.   Above all, he took great care to cultivate many holy priestly vocations.   He saw the priest as first and foremost a teacher of faith and an instrument of Christ, a father for the rich as well as for the poor.   Taking the place of Christ on Earth, the priest was to be the minister of the Sacraments and for this reason his whole heart had to be dedicated to the celebration of the Eucharist, in order to be able to nourish the people of God with the body of Christ.

He often exhorted the priests to adoration of the most Blessed Sacrament.   In his pastoral letter devoted to the Eucharist he invited the priests to participate in the priestly associations – The Association for Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament and the Association of Aid to Poor Catholic Churches, whose goal was to rejuvenate the zeal of the priests themselves.   He also dedicated a great deal of care to the preparation of children and to full participation in the Mass, desiring that every Catechesis would lead children and youth to the Eucharist.jozef with the holy eucharist

Archbishop Joseph Bilczewski promoted the construction of churches and chapels, schools and day-care centres.  He developed teaching to help enable the growth in the instruction of the faithful.   He materially and spiritually helped the more important works which were springing up in his Archdiocese.   His holy life, filled with prayer, work and works of mercy, led to his meriting great appreciation and respect on the part of those of various faiths, rites and nationalities present in the Archdiocese.   No religious or nationalistic conflicts arose during the tenure of his pastoral work.   He was a proponent of unity, harmony and peace.   On social issues he always stood on the side of the people and of the poor.   He taught that the base of social life had to be justice made perfect by Christian love.

During the First World War, when souls were overtaken with hate and a lack of appreciation of the other, he pointed out to the people the infinite love of God, capable of forgiving every type of sin and offence.   He reminded them of the need to observe the commandments of God and particularly that of brotherly love.   Sensitive to the social questions regarding the family and youth, he courageously proposed solutions to problems based on the love of God and of neighbour.  During his 23 years of pastoral service he changed the face of the Archdiocese of Leopoli   Only his death, on 20 March 1923 could end his vast and far-sighted pastoral action.jozef older.jpg

He was prepared for death and accepted it with peace and submission as a sign of God’s will, which he always considered sacred.

He left this world having enjoyed a universal recognition of holiness.   Wanting to rest among those for whom he was always father and protector, in accord with his desires, he was buried in Leopoli in the cemetery of Janów, known as the cemetery of the poor.  buriel place 1024px-Lwów-cmJanowski-GrobJozefaBilczewskiego.jpgThanks to the efforts of the Archdiocese of Leopoli the process for his beatification and canonisation was initiated.   The first step was concluded on 17 December 1997 with the declaration of the life of heroic virtue of Archbishop Joseph Bilczewski by The Holy Father, St Pope John Paul II.   In June 2001, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints recognised as miraculous the fact of the rapid lasting and unexplainable “quo ad modum” healing through the intercession of Archbishop Bilczewski of the third degree burns of Marcin Gawlik, a nine year old boy, thus opening the way for his beatification. The Beatification took place in the Diocese of Leopoli on 26 June 2001 during St Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Visit to the Ukraine…

One final miracle was required for sainthood.   St John Paul II approved a second healing on 20 December 2004.   Cardinal Angelo Sodano formalised the date on 24 February 2005 at a consistory, representing the then very ill St John Paul II who died a month later.   The new Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the Canonisation in Saint Peter’s Square on 23 October 2005.

jozef - statue - Bilczewski-KatedraLacinska-Lwow
Statue in Lviv Cathedral


Posted in SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 17 March – Blessed Juan Nepomuceno Zegri y Moreno (1831-1905)

Saint of the Day – 17 March – Blessed Juan Nepomuceno Zegri y Moreno (1831-1905) – Priest, Founder of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.

Juan Nepomuceno Zegrí y Moreno was born on 11 October 1831 in Granada, Spain.  His father, Antonio Zegrí Martín and his mother, Josefa Moreno Escudero, were most vigilant in educating their son and in helping to form his personality according to evangelical values.   The young boy had a great love for Jesus and Mary and was particularly sensitive to the needs of the poor.img-Blessed-Juan-Nepomuceno-Zegrí-y-Moreno.jpg

Binding wounds, healing hearts:
As a youth, Juan felt called to serve the Lord in society’s poor and wanted to become a priest.   He entered St Dionysius Seminary of Granada and on 2 June 1855 was ordained in the Cathedral of Granada.   He served in the parishes of Huétor Santillán and of San Gabriel de Loja in Granada.
His vocation, as he once proclaimed in a homily, was to be “like a good shepherd, going after the lost sheep;   like a doctor, healing sick hearts wounded by faults and binding them with hope;   like a father, who visibly provides for all of those who, suffering from abandonment, must drink from the bitter chalice and receive nourishment from the bread of tears”.

Fr Zegrí’s priestly life was characterised by a profound experience of God and a deep love for Jesus the Redeemer and Mary, Mother and Protectress.   His sermons encouraged listeners to live the Christian life radically and responsibly.

He always served with great humility in the positions he was asked to assume as a priest – synodal judge, canon of the cathedral of Malaga, visitor of the religious orders, formator of the seminarians and preacher of and royal chaplain to Her Majesty Queen Isabel II.

Founder inspired by Mary:
It was with a profound interest in resolving social problems and in meeting the needs of the poor and neglected that Fr Zegrí felt called to found a religious congregation that would serve the most needy.   On 16 March 1878 in Malaga, under the protection and inspiration of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, he began the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.

The Congregation’s main charism was to practice all of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy for the benefit of the poor.   He asked the Religious to do all “for the good of humanity, in God, for God, towards God”.   In only a few years, the Congregation was established in many Dioceses throughout Spain, all due to the dynamism of Fr Zegrí’s charismatic inspiration – heal wounds, repair evils, comfort sorrows, dry tears, do not, if possible, leave even one person in the world abandoned, afflicted, unprotected, without religious education and assistance.

He firmly believed that “charity is the only answer to all social problems”.   In this light the key points of the spirituality of the Founder were: redemptive charity, love and configuration with Jesus the Redeemer, love for Mary, Our Lady of Mercy.

Testing and vindication:
God permitted Fr Zegrí to be severely tested and misunderstood after he founded the Congregation and his own Religious “daughters” falsely accused him.   With a Pontifical Decree dated 7 July 1888 he was sent away from the Order that he himself had founded.

After years of silent suffering, his innocence was recognised with another Decree dated 15 July 1894.   Although he was permitted to re-enter the Congregation, he was not accepted.   He voluntarily kept himself at a distance in order to preserve communion with the Church and his “daughters”, so that they would not openly disobey Church authority.

On 17 March 1905 in Malaga, Fr Zegrí died just as he had desired: like Jesus, alone and abandoned.   He offered himself for the good of humanity and forgave “his own” who had accused him.

After many years, the Congregation once again recognised him as Founder, all due to the fact that there were Sisters who had kept alive his memory and witness of holiness.  In 1925 Fr Zegrí was officially declared as Founder of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy…

He was Beatified on 9 November 2003 by St Pope John Paul II.BEATIFICATION - BL JUAN.JPG

Posted in SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 10 March – St Marie Eugénie de Jésus (1817-1898)

Saint of the Day – 10 March – St Marie Eugénie de Jésus (1817-1898) aged 80 – Foundress of the Religious of the Assumption – Religious, – born 26 August 1817 at Metz, Moselle, France as Eugenie Milleret de Brou (de Bron) and died on 10 March 1898 at Auteuil, Hauts-de-Seine, France of natural causes.   Patronages – the Religious of the Assumption and Students.   St Marie Eugénie is also known as Anne-Eugénie Milleret de Brou, Eugénie Milleret de Brou, Eugénie Milleret de Bron, Marie Eugénie Milleret de Brou, Mere Marie Eugénie.   She was Beatified on 9 February 1975 by St Pope Paul VI and Canonised by Pope Benedict XVI on 3 June 2007.marie-de-jesus-milleret-oung.1.2.jpg

Anne Marie Eugenie was born in 1817 in Metz after Napoleon’s complete defeat and the restoration of the Monarchy.   She belonged to a non-believing and financially comfortable family and it seemed unlikely that she would trace a new spiritual path across the Church of France.

Her father, follower of Voltaire and a liberal, was making his fortune in the banking world and in politics.   Eugenie’s mother provided the sensitive Eugenie with an education, which strengthened her character and gave her a strong sense of duty.   Family life developed her intellectual curiosity and a romantic spirit, an interest in social questions and a broad world view.

Like her contemporary, George Sand, Anne Eugenie went to Mass on feast days and received the Sacraments of initiation, as was the custom but without any real commitment.   However, her First Communion was a great mystical experience that foretold the secret of her future.   She did not grasp its prophetic meaning until much later when she recognised it as her path towards total belonging to Jesus Christ and the Church.

Her youth was happy but not without suffering.   She was affected when still a child by the death of an elder brother and a baby sister.   Her health was delicate and a fall from a horse left serious consequences.   Eugenie was mature for her age and learnt how to hide her feelings and to face up to events.   Later, after a prosperous period for her father, she experienced the failure of his banks, the misunderstanding and eventual separation of her parents and the loss of all security.   She had to leave her family home and go to Paris while Louis, closest to her in age and faithful companion went to live with their father.   Eugenie went to Paris with the mother she adored, only to see her die from cholera after a few hours of illness, leaving her alone at the age of fifteen in a society that was worldly and superficial.   Searching in anguish and almost desperate for the truth, she arrived at her conversion thirsty for the Absolute and open to the Transcendent.

When she was nineteen, Anne Eugenie attended the Lenten Conferences at Notre Dame in Paris, preached by the young Abbe Lacordaire (1802–1861), already well-known for his talent as orator.   Lacordaire was a former disciple of Lamennais ­– haunted by the vision of a renewed Church with a special place in the world.   He understood his time and wanted to change it.   He understood young people, their questions and their desires, their idealism and their ignorance of both Christ and the Church.   His words touched Eugenie’s heart, answered her many questions and aroused her generosity.

Fr Lacordaire preaching his Lenten Conferences from the elevated pulpit at Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris, 1845.
Fr Henri-Dominique Lacordaire OP, at the convent of Sainte-Sabine in Rome, by Théodore Chassériau (1840)

Eugenie envisaged Christ as the universal liberator and His kingdom on earth established as a peaceful and just society.   “I was truly converted, she wrote, and I was seized by a longing to devote all my strength or rather all my weakness to the Church which, from that moment, I saw as alone holding the key to the knowledge and achievement of all that is good.”

Just at this time, another preacher, also a former disciple of Lamennais, appeared on the scene.   In the confessional, Father Combalot recognised that he had encountered a chosen soul who was designated to be the foundress of the Congregation he had dreamt of for a long time.   He persuaded Eugenie to undertake his work by insisting that this Congregation was willed by God who had chosen her to establish it.   He convinced her that only by education could she evangelise minds, make families truly Christian and thus transform the society of her time.   Anne Eugenie accepted the project as God’s will for her and allowed herself to be guided by the Abbe Combalot.

At twenty-two, Marie Eugenie became foundress of the Religious of the Assumption, dedicated to consecrate their whole life and strength to extending the Kingdom of Christ in themselves and in the world.   In 1839, Mademoiselle Eugenie Milleret, with two other young women, began a life of prayer and study in a flat at rue Ferou near the church of St Sulpice in Paris.   In 1841, under the patronage of Madame de Chateaubriand, Lacordaire, Montalembert and their friends, the sisters opened their first school.   In a relatively short time there were sixteen sisters of four nationalities in the community.MME_middle age.jpg

Marie Eugenie and the first sisters wanted to link the ancient and the new – to unite the past treasures of the Church’s spirituality and wisdom with a type of religious life and education able to satisfy the demands of modern minds.   It was a matter of respecting the values of the period and at the same time, making the Gospel values penetrate the rising culture of a new industrial and scientific era.   The spirituality of the Congregation, centred on Christ and the Incarnation, was both deeply contemplative and dedicated to apostolic action.   It was a life given to the search for God and the love and service of others.

Marie Eugenie’s long life covered almost the whole of the 19th century.   She loved her times passionately and took an active part in their history.   Progressively, she channelled all her energy and gifts in tending and extending the Congregation, which became her life work.   God gave her sisters and many friends.   One of the first sisters was Irish, a mystic and her intimate friend whom she called at the end of her life, “half of myself.” Kate O’Neill, called Mother Therese Emmanuel in religion, is considered as a co-foundress.   Father Emmanuel d’Alzon, became Marie Eugenie’s spiritual director soon after the foundation, was a father, brother or friend according to the seasons.   In 1845, he founded the Augustinians of the Assumption and the two founders helped each other in a multitude of ways over a period of forty years.   Both had a gift for friendship and they inspired many lay people to work with them and the Church.   Together, as they followed Christ and laboured with Him, the religious and laity traced the path of the Assumption and took their place in the great cloud of witnesses.Marie-Eugénie âgée noir et blanc-old.JPG

In the last years of her life, Mother Marie Eugenie experienced a progressive physical weakening, which she lived in silence and humility – a life totally centred on Christ.   She received the Eucharist for the last time on 9 March 1898 and on the 10th, she gently passed to the Lord.   She was beatified by Pope Paul VI on 9 February 1975 in Rome.

Today, the Religious of the Assumption are present in 34 countries – 8 in Europe, 5 in Asia, 10 in America and 11 in Africa. Almost 1,200 sisters form 170 communities throughout the world.

The Lay Assumption – Assumption Together – made up of Friends of the Assumption and Communities or Fraternities of the Assumption, are numerous – thousands of Friends and hundreds of Lay Assumption committed to live according to the Way of Life…

Posted in DIVINE MERCY, SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 15 February – Blessed Father Michał Sopoćko (1888-1975) Priest, Apostle of Divine Mercy

Saint of the Day – 15 February – Blessed Father Michał Sopoćko (1888-1975) Priest, Apostle of Divine Mercy, Professor of Pastoral Theology at Vilnius University, Founder of Congregation of Sisters of Merciful Jesus, Chaplain during WWII.   He is best known as the Spiritual Director of Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905–1938).   Patronage – Białystok.sopocko.jpg

Michał Sopoćko was born on 1 November 1888 in Nowosady (Juszewszczyzna), then under Imperial Russia.   The Czarist authority persecuted the Catholic Church as well as both the Polish and Lithuanian people within in its territories.   In the Sopoćko family, of noble lineage, the Polish and Catholic traditions were conserved and developed.   The young Michal matured in this religious and patriotic atmosphere.   Motivated by a desire for unconditional service to God, the Church and humanity, he entered the Major Seminary in Vilnius.   On 15 June 1914, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Franciszek Karewicz.Sopoćko.jpg

For four years (1914-1918) he worked as a parochial vicar in Taboryszki, where he opened two mission churches at Miedniki and at Onżadòw, as well as various schools.

As informed by someone that the German authorities may arrest him, he left the parish and went to Warsaw.   There he became a military chaplain for the Polish army.   While dedicated to his ministry as chaplain, he enrolled as a student in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Warsaw and from which he obtained a doctoral degree.   At the same time, he graduated from the National Pedagogical Institute.   In 1924, he became a co-ordinator of the regional military chaplaincies, based in Vilnius.

In 1927, Archbishop Romuald Jalbrzykowski entrusted to him the responsibility of being Spiritual Director for the Major Seminary.   During this same period he taught for the faculty of Theology at Stefan Batory University, also in Vilnius.   He eventually requested the Archbishop to release him from both the military pastoral care and from the seminary duties.   His desire was to dedicate himself entirely to theological pursuits.   In 1934, he received the title of ‘docent’ in pastoral theology.   While teaching, he never forgot the importance of pastoral service.   He was rector of St Michael Church and also served as confessor for Religious Sisters.

One of the most significant events of Fr Sopoćko’s life occurred in 1933, when he became the Spiritual Director of Sr (now Saint) Faustina Kowalska of the Congregation of Sisters of Mary Mother of Mercy.  He continued to assist the Saint after his transfer to Łagiewniki and where she died on 5 October 1938.   As her confessor, he undertook a thorough evaluation of Sr Faustina’s mystical experiences concerning devotion to the Divine Mercy.   Following his advice, she wrote of these in her “Diary.”   To this day this remains a spiritual classic.BlSopockoStFaustina

The Divine Mercy devotion became a life-giving inspiration for Fr Sopoćko.   Due to his assistance and under the direction of Sister Faustina, the artist Eugeniusz Kazimirowski painted the first portrait of Jesus as the Divine Mercy. PRC-116-Blessed-Sopocko1-fr

Fr Sopoćko wrote extensively on the subject of the Divine Mercy and, in 1938, he established a committee charged with building the Divine Mercy Church in Vilnius. However, this attempt had to be halted due to the onset of World War II.   But despite the war and German occupation, Fr Sopoćko persisted in his efforts to promote the devotion to the Divine Mercy. sopockodivinemercy1

Filled with zeal, he constantly helped those who were oppressed and threatened with extermination, for example, numerous Jewish people.  Fortunately, he managed to avoid arrest and imprisonment.   In 1942, along with his fellow seminary professors and students, he was forced to go into hiding near Vilnius.   He remained concealed for two years.   Yet it was during that very time when Fr Sopoćko played a major role in establishing a new Religious Congregation.   According to the revelations of Sr Faustina, this Congregation was to promote love for the Divine Mercy.   After the War, he wrote the Congregation’s constitution.  And he became actively engaged in the growth and development of what we know as the Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine michal sopocko art.jpg

In 1947, Archbishop Jałbrzykowski, for two years at Białystok with his diocesan Curia, sought that Fr Sopoćko come to the same city.   He accepted a position as professor in the Archdiocesan Major Seminary.   There he taught pedagogy, catechetics, homiletics, pastoral theology and spirituality.   Additionally, he continued to further the apostolate of the Divine Mercy.   He also made serious efforts to obtain official approval for the Divine Mercy devotion from the Church authorities.   Fr Sopoćko worked tirelessly on the biblical, theological and pastoral bases by which to explain the doctrinal truth concerning the Divine Mercy devotion.   His publications were translated into numerous languages including: Latin, English, French, Italian and michal

Fr Michal Sopoćko died on 15 February 1975, in his apartment on Poleska Street.   He was popularly acclaimed for his sanctity.   He was buried in the parish cemetery in Białystok. Following the inauguration of the process for his Beatification, his body was moved to the Church of the Divine Mercy (30 November 1988)…

Fr Michal’s cause for beatification was started at the Vatican in 1987.   In 2004, St Pope John Paul II issued a decree on the virtues of Father Sopoćko.   In December 2007, Pope Benedict XVI approved of a miracle through his intercession.   His solemn beatification took place on Sunday 28 September 2008, at the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Białystok.ksiadz-Sopocko.jpg