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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

I have come to set the earth on fire" (Lk 12:49) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

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Saint Mother Teresa


Saint Mother Teresa
Feast Day - September 5


The remarkable woman who would be known as Mother Theresa began life named Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu.

Born on August 26, 1910 in Skopje, she was the youngest child born to Nikola and Drane Bojaxhiu, Receiving her First Communion at the age of five, she was confirmed in November 1916. Her father died while she was only eight years old leaving her family in financial straits. Gonxha's religious formation was assisted by the vibrant Jesuit parish of the Sacred Heart in which she was very involved as a youth.

Subsequently moved to pursue missionary work, Gonxha left her home in September 1928 at the age of 18 to join the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Sisters of Loreto, in Ireland. She received the name Sister Mary Teresa after St. Therese of Lisieux. In December of 1929, she departed for her first trip to India, arriving in Calcutta. After making her First Profession of Vows in May 1931, Sister Teresa was assigned to the Loreto Entally community in Calcutta and taught at St. Mary's School for girls. Sister Teresa made her Final Profession of Vows, On May 24, 1937, becoming, as she said, the "spouse of Jesus" for "all eternity." From that time on she was called Mother Teresa. She continued teaching at St. Mary's and in 1944 became the school's principal.

Mother Teresa's twenty years in Loreto were filled with profound happiness. Noted for her charity, unselfishness and courage, her capacity for hard work and a natural talent for organisation, she lived out her consecration to Jesus, in the midst of her companions, with fidelity and joy. It was on September 10, 1946 during a train ride from Calcutta to Darjeeling for her annual retreat,Mother Teresa received her "inspiration, her call within a call." On that day, in a way she would never explain, Jesus' thirst for love and for souls took hold of her heart and the desire to satiate His thirst became the driving force of her life.

By means of interior locutions and visions, Jesus revealed to her the desire of His heart for "victims of love" who would "radiate His love on souls." "Come be My light,'"He begged her. "I cannot go alone." Jesus revealed His pain at the neglect of the poor, His sorrow at their ignorance of Him and His longing for their love. He asked Mother Teresa to establish a religious community, Missionaries of Charity, dedicated to the service of the poorest of the poor. Nearly two years of testing and discernment passed before Mother Teresa received permission to begin.

On August 17, 1948, she dressed for the first time in a white, blue-bordered sari and passed through the gates of her beloved Loreto convent to enter the world of the poor. After a short course with the Medical Mission Sisters in Patna, Mother Teresa returned to Calcutta and found temporary lodging with the Little Sisters of the Poor. On December 21, she went for the first time to the slums. She visited families, washed the sores of some children, cared for an old man lying sick on the road and nursed a woman dying of hunger and tuberculosis. She started each day with communion then went out, rosary in her hand, to find and serve Him amongst "the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for." After some months, she was joined, one by one, by her former students.

On October 7, 1950 the new congregation of the Missionaries of Charity was officially established in the Archdiocese of Calcutta. By the early 1960s, Mother Teresa began to send her Sisters to other parts of India. The Decree of Praise granted to the Congregation by Pope Paul VI in February 1965 encouraged her to open a house in Venezuela.

It was soon followed by foundations in Rome and Tanzania and, eventually, on every continent. Starting in 1980 and continuing through the 1990s, Mother Teresa opened houses in almost all of the communist countries, including the former Soviet Union, Albania and Cuba. In order to respond better to both the physical and spiritual needs of the poor, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity Brothers in 1963, in 1976 the contemplative branch of the Sisters, in 1979 the Contemplative Brothers, and in 1984 the Missionaries of Charity Fathers.

Mother Theresa's inspiration was not limited to those with religious vocations. She formed the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa and the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers, people of many faiths and nationalities with who she shared her spirit of prayer, simplicity, sacrifice and her apostolate of humble works of love. This spirit later inspired the Lay Missionaries of Charity.

In answer to the requests of many priests, in 1981 Mother Teresa also began the Corpus Christi Movement for Priests as a "little way of holiness" for those who desire to share in her charisma and spirit. During the years of rapid growth the world began to turn its eyes towards Mother Teresa and the work she had started.

Numerous awards, beginning with the Indian Padmashri Award in 1962 and notably the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, honoured her work, while an increasingly interested media began to follow her activities. She received both prizes and attention 'for the glory of God and in the name of the poor." There was a heroic side of this great woman that was revealed only after her death. Hidden from all eyes, even from those closest to her, was her interior life marked by an experience of a deep, painful and abiding feeling of being separated from God, even rejected by Him, along with an ever increasing longing for His love.

She called her inner experience, the darkness. The "painful night" of her soul, which began around the time she started her work for the poor and continued to the end of her life, led Mother Teresato an ever more profound union with God.

Through the darkness she mystically participated in the thirst of Jesus, in His painful and burning longing for love, and she shared in the interior desolation of the poor. In spite of increasingly severe health problems towards the end of her life, Mother Teresa continued to govern her Society and respond to the needs of the poor and the Church. By 1997, Mother Teresa's Sisters numbered nearly 4,000 members and were established in 610 foundations in 123 countries of the world. In March 1997 she blessed her newly-elected successor as Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity and then made one more trip abroad. After meeting Pope John Paul II for the last time, she returned to Calcutta and spent her final weeks receiving visitors and instructing her Sisters.

On September 5, Mother Teresa's earthly life came to an end. She was given the honour of a state funeral by the Government of India and her body was buried in the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity. Her tomb quickly became a place of pilgrimage and prayer for people of all faiths, rich and poor alike. Mother Teresa left a testament of unshakable faith, invincible hope and extraordinary charity. Her response to Jesus' plea, "Come be My light," made her a Missionary of Charity, a "mother to the poor," a symbol of compassion to the world, and a living witness to the thirsting love of God.

As a testament to her most remarkable life, Pope John Paul II permitted the opening of her Cause of Canonisation. On December 20, 2002 he approved the decrees of her heroic virtues and miracles. Mother Teresa was beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 19, 2003.

On the occasion of her beatification, the Missionaries of Charity issued the following statement:

"We, the Missionaries of Charity, give thanks and praise to God that our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has officially recognised the holiness of our mother, Mother Teresa, and approved the miracle obtained through her intercession. We are filled with joy in anticipation of the Beatification that will take place in Rome on Mission Sunday, 19 October 2003, the closest Sunday to the 25th anniversary of the Holy Father's Pontificate and the end of the Year of the Rosary.  Today, after three and a half years of investigation and study, the Church confirms that Mother heroically lived the Christian life and that God has lifted her up as both a model of holiness and an intercessor for all. Mother is a symbol of love and compassion. When Mother was with us, we were witnesses to her shining example of all the Christian virtues. Her life of loving service to the poor has inspired many to follow the same path. Her witness and message are cherished by those of every religion as a sign that "God still loves the world today. For the past five years since Mother's death, people have sought her help and have experienced God's love for them through her prayers. Every day, pilgrims from India and around the world come to pray at her tomb and many more follow her example of humble service of love to the most needy, beginning in their own families. Mother often said, 'Holiness is not the luxury of the few, it is a simple duty for each one of us. May her example help us to strive for holiness: to love God, to respect and love every human person created by God in His own image and in whom He dwells, and to care for our poor and suffering brethren. May all the sick, the suffering, and those who seek God's help find a friend and intercessor in Mother."

Following her beatification, a long wait for a second miracle then followed.

On December 17, 2015 Pope Francis announced a second miracle had been attributed to the intercession of Mother Teresa. The miracle involved a Brazilian man who was afflicted with tumours who was miraculously cured. This cleared the way for Mother Teresa's canonisation.

Mother Teresa will be canonised on September 4, 2016 by Pope Francis.


 

Saint John Berchmans
Feast Day - August 13


John Berchmans was born on 13 March 1599, in the city of Diest situated in what is now the Belgian province of Flemish Brabant. The son of a shoemaker, his parents were John Charles and Elizabeth Berchmans. He was the oldest of five children and at baptism, was named John in honour of St. John the Baptist. He grew up in an atmosphere of political turmoil caused by a religious war between the Catholic and Protestant sections of the Netherlands.

When he was age nine, his mother was stricken with a long and serious illness. John would pass several hours each day by her bedside. He studied at the Gymnasium at Diest and worked as a servant in the household of Canon John Froymont at Malines in order to continue his studies. John also made pilgrimages to the sanctuary of Scherpenheuvel, a few miles from Diest.

In 1615, the Jesuits opened a college at Malines (Mechelen) and John Berchmans was one of the first to enrol. Immediately, when he entered, he enrolled in the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin. When John wrote his parents that he wished to join the Society of Jesus, his father hurried to Mechelen to dissuade him and sent him to the Franciscan convent in Mechelen. At the convent, a friar who was related to John, also attempted to change his mind. Finally as a last resort, John's father told him that he would cease all financial support if he continued with his plan.

Nevertheless, on 24 September 1616, John Berchmans entered the Jesuit novitiate. He was affable, kind, and endowed with an outgoing personality that endeared him to everyone. He requested after ordination to become a chaplain in the army, hoping to be martyred on the battlefield.

On 25 September 1618, he made his first vows and went to Antwerp to begin the study of philosophy. After a few weeks, he set out for Rome, where he was to continue the same study. After journeying three hundred leagues by foot, with his belongings on his back, he arrived at the Roman College to begin two-years of study. He entered his third year class in philosophy in the year 1621.

Later, in August 1621, the prefect of studies selected John Berchmans to participate in a discussion of philosophy at the Greek College, which at the time was administered by the Dominicans. John opened the discussion with great clarity and profoundness, but after returning to his own quarters, was seized with the Roman fever.

His lungs became inflamed and his strength diminished rapidly. He succumbed to dysentery and fever on 13 August 1621, at age twenty-two years and five months. When he died, a large crowd gathered for several days to view his remains before burial in Sant'Ignazio Church, and to invoke his intercession.

That same year, Phillip-Charles, Duke of Aarschot, sent a petition to Pope Gregory XV to gather information with the intent of beatification of John Berchmans. St. Aloysius of Gonzaga was his spiritual model and he was influenced as well by the example of the Jesuit English martyrs.

It was his realistic appreciation for the value of ordinary things, a characteristic of the Flemish mystical tradition, that constituted his holiness. He had a special devotion to the Mother of God; and to him is owed the Little Rosary of the Immaculate Conception.

He is the patron saint of altar servers, Jesuit scholastics and students.


Saint Alphonsa
Feast Day - July 28

Saint Alphonsa (19 August 1910 – 28 July 1946) was a Syro-Malabar Catholic Franciscan nun who became the first native Indian saint to be canonised in 2008. She is the first woman of Indian origin to be canonised as a saint by the Catholic Church.

St Alphonsa was born as Anna Muttathupadathu in a Syro-Malabar Nasrani family to Cherian Ousep and Mary Muttathupadathu in Kudamalloor, near Kottayam, on 19 August 1910. She was baptised on 26 August. Alphonsamma, as she was locally known, was born in Arpookara, a village in the Archdiocese of Changanacherry.
Her parents nicknamed her Annakkutty (little Anna). She had a difficult childhood and experienced loss and suffering early on in life. Anna's mother died when she was young, so her maternal aunt raised her. Hagiographies describe her early life as one of suffering at the hands of her stern foster mother and the teasing of schoolchildren. Anna was educated by her great-uncle, Father Joseph Muttathupadathu. When Anna was three-years-old, she contracted eczema and suffered for over a year.

In 1916 Anna started school in Arpookara. She received her First Communion on 27 November 1917. In 1918, she was transferred to a school in Muttuchira. Anna was from a rich family and because of that she got a lot of marriage proposals from reputed families. Annakutty had a vision of St. Little Therese of Lisieux who inspired her to become a religious. But contrary to her desire to become a religious, she was brought up by her aunt with a view to give her in marriage into a respectable family, as was the custom of the day. But Annakutty aspired to become a nun. Her aunt and other relatives strongly opposed her plan. Her aunt tried to fix up a respectable alliance for her. She implored her uncle not to force her into marriage and fainted while pleading with him, but nothing would induce her aunt to surrender her beautiful niece to a convent. The proposal for marriage disturbed Annakutty deeply.

Annakutty had chosen the Crucified Jesus Christ as her beloved Spouse. She refused point blank the marriage proposals her aunt wanted to impose upon her. She hatched a plan to burn her feet in the pit used for burning the chaff and the husk of grain after the rice harvest. In her attempt to burn her foot a little, she slipped and fell into the fire which resulted in very severe burns on both legs. The toes of her feet were so badly burned that they became one whole single mass. The doctor had to separate her toes to bandage each of them. It took almost one year to get healed. God Almighty bestowed abundance of grace and blessings on His chosen beloved who offered herself for Him. The burning of her feet and the subsequent suffering had the desired effect when Annakutty's aunt dropped all her ideas about marriage and permitted her to join a convent.

Annakutty preferred the poor Clarist convent to the prosperous ones. When Annakutty persisted in her absolute refusal to tie the knot, her aunt had to give in to the steely resolve of her niece to join a convent. This accident left her permanently disabled.

When it became possible, Anna joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, a religious congregation of the Third Order of St. Francis, and through them, completed her schooling. Anna arrived at the Clarist convent at Bharananganam, Kottayam district, on Pentecost Sunday 1927. She received the postulant's veil on 2 August 1928 and took the name Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception in honour of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, whose feast day it was. In May 1929 Sister Alphonsa was assigned to teach at Malayalam High School at Vazhappally. Her foster mother died in 1930. Three days later she resumed her studies at Changanacherry, while working as a temporary teacher at a school at Vakakkad. On 19 May 1930 Alphonsa entered the novitiate of the congregation at Bharananganam. On 11 August 1931, she completed the novitiate and took her first vows.

The period 1930–1935 was characterised by grave illness. Sister Alphonsa took her permanent vows on 12 August 1936. Two days later she returned to Bharananganam from Changanacherry. Sister Alphonsa then taught high school at St. Alphonsa Girl's High School, but was often sick and unable to teach. For most of her years as a Clarist Sister she endured serious illness.

In December 1936, it is claimed that she was cured from her ailments through the intervention of the Kuriakose Elias Chavara (who was beatified at the same ceremony as she), but on 14 June 1939 she was struck by a severe attack of pneumonia, which left her weakened. On 18 October 1940, a thief entered her room in the middle of the night. This traumatic event caused her to suffer amnesia and weakened her again.

Her health continued to deteriorate over a period of months. She received extreme unction on 29 September 1941. The next day it is believed that she regained her memory, though not complete health. Her health improved over the next few years, until in July 1945 she developed gastroenteritis and liver problems caused violent convulsions and vomiting. During the last year of her life she came to know Father Sebastian Valopilly, (later Bishop of Kerala), who frequently brought her communion. This bishop became famous in Kerala for championing the cause of poor people from all religious backgrounds who had come to live Thalassery as a result of shortages elsewhere.

She died on 28 July 1946. She is buried at St. Mary's Catholic Church, Bharananganam, Travancore (present day Kottayam) in the Diocese of Palai.

Claims of her miraculous intervention began almost immediately upon her death and often involved the children of the convent school where she used to teach. On 2 December 1953, Cardinal Tisserant inaugurated the diocesan process for her beatification and Alphonsa was declared a Servant of God.

In 1985, Pope John Paul II formally approved a miracle attributed to her intercession and on 9 July she became "Venerable Sr. Alphonsa".

Venerable Sister Alphonsa was beatified along with Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara, T.O.C.D., at Kottayam, on 8 February 1986 by Pope John Paul II during his Apostolic Pilgrimage to India.Hundreds of miraculous cures are claimed for her intervention, many of them involving straightening of clubbed feet, possibly because of her having lived with deformed feet herself. Two of these cases were submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints as proof of her miraculous intervention.

On Sunday, 12 October 2008, Pope Benedict XVI announced her canonisation at a ceremony at Saint Peter's Square. Indians from across the world, especially people from Kerala, gathered at the ceremony in Rome.
Among them was a 10-year-old Kerala boy Jinil Joseph whose clubfoot – a birth defect – was, in the judgment of Vatican officials, miraculously healed after prayers to Alphonsa in 1999

Her tomb at St. Mary's Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Bharananganam has become a pilgrimage site as miracles have been reported by some of the faithful.


 

Saint Barnabas
Feast Day - June 11


All we know of Saint Barnabas is to be found in the New Testament.

A Jew, born in Cyprus and named Joseph, he sold his property, gave the proceeds to the Apostles, who gave him the name Barnabas, and lived in common with the earliest converts to Christianity in Jerusalem. He persuaded the community there to accept Paul as a disciple, was sent to Antioch, Syria, to look into the community there, and brought Paul there from Tarsus. With Paul he brought Antioch's donation to the Jerusalem community during a famine, and returned to Antioch with John Mark, his cousin.
The three went on a missionary journey to Cyprus, Perga (when John Mark went to Jerusalem), and Antioch in Pisidia, where they were so violently opposed by the Jews that they decided to preach to the pagans. Then they went on to Iconium and Lystra in Lycaonia, where they were first acclaimed gods and then stoned out of the city, and then returned to Antioch in Syria. When a dispute arose regarding the observance of the Jewish rites, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem, where, at a council, it was decided that pagans did not have to be circumcised to be baptised.

On their return to Antioch, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark on another visitation to the cities where they had preached, but Paul objected because of John Mark's desertion of them in Perga. Paul and Barnabas parted, and Barnabas returned to Cyprus with Mark; nothing further is heard of him, though it is believed his rift with Paul was ultimately healed. Tradition has Barnabas preaching in Alexandria and Rome, the founder of the Cypriote Church, the Bishop of Milan (which he was not), and has him stoned to death at Salamis about the year 61.
The apochryphal Epistle of Barnabas was long attributed to him, but modern scholarship now attributes it to a Christian in Alexandria between the years 70 and 100; the Gospel of Barnabas is probably by an Italian Christian who became a Mohammedan; and the Acts of Barnabas once attributed to John Mark are now known to have been written in the fifth century. His feast day is June 11.

He is the patron saint of Cyprus, Antioch, against hailstorms, invoked as peacemaker.

Saint Rose Venerini


Saint Rose Venerini
Feast Day - May 7

Saint Rose Venerini was a pioneer in the education of women and girls in 17th-century Italy and the foundress of the Religious Teachers Venerini (Italian: Maestre Pie Venerini), a Roman Catholic religious institute of women, often simply called the Venerini Sisters.

Rose was born at Viterbo in 1656, the daughter of Godfrey Venerini, a physician.

According to her first biographer, Father Girolamo Andreucci, S.J., Venerini made a vow to consecrate her life to God at the age of seven. At age twenty, though, Rosa had questions about her own future and chose to accept an offer of marriage; her fiancé, however, died shortly after this.

Upon the death of a young man who had been paying court to her, she entered a convent, but after a few months had to return home to look after her widowed mother. Rose use to gather the women and girls of the neighbourhood to say the rosary together in the evenings, and when she found how ignorant many of them were of their religion, she began to instruct them.

The initial stages were not easy. The three teachers had to face the resistance of clergy who considered the teaching of the catechism as their private office. But the harshest suspicion came from conformists who were scandalised by the boldness of this woman of the upper middle class of Viterbo, who had taken to heart the education of ignorant girls.

Rose faced everything for the love of God and with her characteristic strength, continuing on the path that she had undertaken, by now sure that she was truly following the plan of God. The fruits proved her to be right. The same pastors recognised the moral improvement that the work of education generated among the girls and their mothers.

She was directed by Father Ignatius Martinelli, a Jesuit, who convinced her that her vocation was as a teacher "in the world" rather than as a contemplative in a convent; whereupon in 1685, with two helpers, Rose opened a preschool for girls in Viterbo: it soon became a success. Blessed Rose had the gift of ready and persuasive speech, and a real ability to teach and to teach others to teach, and was not daunted by any difficulty when the service of God was in question.

Her reputation spread, and in 1692, she was invited by Cardinal Barbarigo to advise and help in the training of teachers and organising of schools in his diocese of Montefiascone.

Here she was the mentor and friend of Lucy Filippini, who became foundress of an institute of maestre pie and was canonised in 1930. Rose organised a number of schools in various places, sometimes in the face of opposition that resorted to force in unbelievable fashion - the teachers were shot at with bows and their house fired. Her patience and trust overcame all obstacles, and in 1713 she made a foundation in Rome that received the praise of Pope Clement XI himself.

It was in Rome that she died, on May 7, 1728. By then, she had opened more than 40 schools. Her remains were entombed in the nearby Jesuit Church of the Gesù, so loved by her.

Her reputation of holiness was confirmed by miracles and in 1952, she was beatified. It was not until sometime after her death that Blessed Rose's lay school teachers were organised as a religious congregation: they are found in America as well as in Italy, for the Venerini Sisters have worked among Italian immigrants since early in the twentieth century.

Saints Agape, Chionia, and Irene


Saints Agape, Chionia, and Irene

Feast Day - April 3

Saint Joan of Arc, Agape, Chionia and Irene were three sisters who came from a wealthy and influential family in Thessalonica. When the edict of Diocletian was proclaimed (c. 304), which prohibited people from keeping copies of the Holy Scriptures in their homes, they fled from the city to protect their faith and settled at the top of a high mountain, near a lake, where they led a life of prayer with a holy ascetic named Zoilus. They remained in the body at the top of the mountain, but their spirits were already established in heaven.

When Saint Chrysogonus, the spiritual father of Saint Anastasia Pharmocolytria (22 Dec.), perished by the persecutors’ swords, God revealed to Zoilus the place where the martyr’s body was to be found, so that he could give it worthy burial. Some days later, Chrysogonus appeared to him in a dream and told him that, nine days later, the three sisters would be arrested and would gloriously offer their lives for Christ, together with Saint Anastasia.

Saint Anastasia arrived at their hiding-place without delay. She embraced them warmly and encouraged them to persevere until the end of their battle for the Faith, and promised them her support, at the peril of her life.
On the appointed day, the Emperor’s soldiers discovered where the saints were, and they were brutally taken before Dulcetius, the governor of Macedonia, in the company of three other young Christian women: Cassia, Philippa and Eutychia, and a young man called Agathon.

Agape, Chione and Irene were brought before Dulcitius, governor of Macedonia, on the charge of refusing to eat food which had been earlier offered in sacrifice to the gods. He asked Agape and Chionia where they had developed this objection to such food, and Chionia responded that she had learned it from her Lord Jesus Christ. She and Agape again refused to eat the sacrificed food, and were burned alive.

Meanwhile Dulcitius found that Irene had been continuing to keep Christian books, in violation of existing law. He examined her again, and she declared that when the decrees against Christians had been published, she and several others fled to the mountains. She would not name the others who had fled with her, and stated that only they knew where the books were being kept. Upon returning home from the mountains, they hid the books they had kept. Dulcitius then ordered Irene to be stripped and exposed in a brothel. This was done, and no one mistreated Irene at the brothel. The governor then gave Irene a second chance to abide by the laws, which she refused. Dulcitius then sentenced her to death. The books that had been found with her were burned as well.

Three other individuals were tried with the sisters. Of these, one woman was remanded as she was pregnant. The fates of the other two are unknown.


 

Saint Turibius of Mogrovejo
Feast Day - March 23

Turibius of Mogrovejo (or Toribio Alfonso de Mogrovejo or Toribio von Lima) (16 November 1538 – 23 March 1606) was a Spanish missionary Archbishop of Lima.

Born in Mayorga de Campos, Valladolid, Spain, of noble family and highly educated, Turibius was named after another Spanish saint, Turibius of Astorga. He became a university professor and then a famous judge. He was a fine Christian with a reputation for being honest and wise. An unusual thing happened to him that changed his whole life. He was asked to become the archbishop of Lima, Peru. First of all, he was not a priest. Second, Peru was in far away South America.

His learning and virtuous reputation led to his appointment as Grand Inquisitor of Spain by King Philip II on the Court of the Inquisition at Granada. During this time, he was ordained priest in 1578 and sent to Peru. On May 16, 1579, he was named Archbishop of Lima by Pope Gregory XIII and consecrated bishop in August 1580 by Cristóbal Rojas Sandoval, Archbishop of Seville.

He arrived at Paita, Peru, 600 miles (970 km) from Lima, on 24 May 1581. He began his mission work by travelling to Lima on foot, baptising and teaching the natives. His favourite topic was: "Time is not our own, and we must give a strict account of it." Three times he traversed the 450,000 square kilometres (170,000 sq mi) of his diocese, generally on foot, frequently defenceless and often alone; exposed to tempests, torrents, deserts, wild beasts, tropical heat, fevers and sometimes threats from hostile tribes; baptising and confirming nearly one half million souls, among them St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres.
He built roads, schoolhouses and chapels, many hospitals and convents, and at Lima, in 1591, founded the first seminary in the western hemisphere. He inaugurated the first part of the third Lima Cathedral on 2 February 1604.

Turibius assembled thirteen diocesan synods and three provincial councils. He was seen as a champion of the rights of the natives against the Spanish masters. "There was great opposition to Turibius from the governors of Peru whose authority he challenged," Elizabeth Hallam has written. "He learned local dialects so that he could communicate with–-and convert–-the native peoples, and he was a strong and effective champion of their rights."
Years before he died, he predicted the day and hour of his death. At Pacasmayo he contracted fever, but continued labouring to the last, arriving at Sana (or Saña) in a dying condition. Dragging himself to the sanctuary he received the Viaticum, expiring shortly after on 23 March 1606.

Turibius de Mogrovejo was beatified by Pope Innocent XI in the year 1679 and was later canonised by Pope Benedict XIII in the year 1726.
He is the patron saint of Peru, Latin American bishops and native rights.

 

Saint Scholastica
Feast Day - February 10

Scholastica (c. 480 – 10 February 542) was the twin sister of Benedict of Nursia.

Scholastica was born in 480 in Nursia, Umbria, of wealthy parents and according to Gregory the Great's Dialogues, was dedicated to God from a young age. She and her brother Benedict were brought up together until the time he left to pursue studies in Rome.

A young Roman woman of Scholastica's class and time would likely have remained in her father's house until marriage (likely arranged) or entry into religious life. But wealthy women could inherit property, divorce, and were generally literate. On occasion several young women would live together in a household and form a religious community.

It is likely that she lived in a hermitage with one or two other religious women in a cluster of houses at the base of Mount Cassino where there is an ancient church named after her. Since Scholastica was dedicated to God at an early age, perhaps she lived in her father's house with other religious women until his death and then moved nearer to Benedict.

Benedict was very devoted to his twin sister.

The most commonly told story about her is that she would go and visit her brother at a place near his abbey, and they would spend the day worshiping together and discussing sacred texts and issues.

One day they had supper and continued their conversation. When Benedict indicated it was time for him to leave, perhaps sensing the time of her death was drawing near, she asked him to stay with her for the evening so they could continue their discussions.

Not wishing to break his own Rule, Benedict insisted that he needed to return to his cell. At that point, Scholastica closed her hands in prayer, and after a moment, a wild storm started outside of the guest house in which they were housed.

Benedict asked, "What have you done?", to which she replied, "I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery."

Benedict was unable to return to his monastery, and the twins spent the night in discussion.

The next morning they parted to meet no more on earth. Three days later St. Scholastica died.

According to Gregory's Dialogues, from his cell, Benedict saw his twin's soul leaving the earth and ascending to heaven in the form of a shining white dove.

Benedict had her body brought to his monastery, where he caused it to be laid in the tomb which he had prepared for himself. She died about the year 543, and St. Benedict followed her soon after.

Scholastica is the foundress of the women's branch of Benedictine Monasticism. She was selected as the main motif for a high value commemorative coin: the Austria €50 'The Christian Religious Orders', issued 13 March 2002. On the obverse (heads) side of the coin Scholastica is depicted alongside her twin, Benedict.

She sacrificed many opportunities for her and her twin brother, just so that the twins could get closer to God.

The attributes of Scholastica and her brother spiritually complement and balance each other. Benedict's name, from the Latin benedictus, "the blessed one," connotes great spiritual affinity with God, compassion, or "heart." Scholastica's name, on the other hand, from the word scholasticus or "student or teacher of rhetoric," connotes exactness of scholarly pursuit, discipline and "mind." Another interpretation of the two names suggests the "active" versus the "contemplative" life and that Benedict loved contemplation like a sister.

Although the two names were in use during the early Middle Ages for both pagans and Christians, it is interesting to note that these two names together form wholeness or completeness. Their attributes become the balance of yang and yin found in Eastern philosophy.
When Dialogues reports that the siblings are buried in the same tomb, heart and mind, male and female, and the active and contemplative life are brought together in balance and wholeness. This balance found in "prayer and work," of course, is a cardinal principle of Benedictine spirituality.

Scholastica is the patron saint of nuns, and convulsive children, and is invoked against storms and rain.

Saint Francis de Sales

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Saint John of the Cross
Feast Day - December 14


It may be no accident that St. John of the Cross’ feast day is celebrated during the Advent season (December 14). For it is he who is best known for his moving account of the “dark night of the soul” that all Christians must experience on their way to God. This darkness may be terrifying, but it is no cause for despair.

Saint John of the Cross, O.C.D. (Spanish: San Juan de la Cruz; 1542 – 14 December 1591), was a major figure of the Counter-Reformation, a Spanish mystic, a Roman Catholic saint, a Carmelite friar and a priest who was born at Fontiveros, Old Castile.
He was born Juan de Yepes y Álvarez into a converso family (descendents of Jewish converts to Christianity) in Fontiveros, near Ávila, a town of around 2,000 people. His father, Gonzalo, was an accountant to richer relatives who were silk merchants. However, when in 1529 he married John's mother, Catalina, who was an orphan of a lower class, Gonzalo was rejected by his family and forced to work with his wife as a weaver.
Thus, John learned the importance of self-sacrificing love from his parents. His father gave up wealth, status, and comfort when he married a weaver's daughter and was disowned by his noble family.

John's father died in 1545, while John was still only around seven years old. Two years later, John's older brother Luis died, probably as a result of insufficient nourishment caused by the penury to which John's family had been reduced. After this, John's mother Catalina took John and his surviving brother Francisco, and moved first in 1548 to Arévalo, and then in 1551 to Medina del Campo, where she was able to find work weaving. In Medina, John entered a school for around 160 poor children, usually orphans, receiving a basic education, mainly in Christian doctrine, as well as some food, clothing and lodging. While studying there, he was chosen to serve as acolyte at a nearby monastery of Augustinian nuns. Growing up, John worked at a hospital and studied the humanities at a Jesuit school from 1559 to 1563; the Society of Jesus was a new organisation at the time, having been founded only a few years earlier by the Spaniard St. Ignatius of Loyola. In 1563 he entered the Carmelite Order, adopting the name John of St. Matthias.
The following year (1564) he professed his religious vows as a Carmelite and travelled to Salamanca, where he studied theology and philosophy at the prestigious University there (at the time one of the four biggest in Europe, alongside Paris, Oxford and Bologna) and at the Colegio de San Andrés. Some modern writers[citation needed] claim that this stay would influence all his later writings, as Fray Luis de León taught biblical studies (Exegesis, Hebrew and Aramaic) at the University: León was one of the foremost experts in Biblical Studies then and had written an important and controversial translation of the Song of Songs into Spanish. (Translation of the Bible into the vernacular was not allowed then in Spain.)

John was ordained a priest in 1567, and then indicated his intent to join the strict Carthusian Order, which appealed to him because of its encouragement of solitary and silent contemplation. A journey from Salamanca to Medina del Campo, probably in September 1567, changed this.
In Medina he met the charismatic Carmelite nun Teresa of Jesus. She was in Medina to found the second of her convents for women. She immediately talked to him about her reformation projects for the Order: she was seeking to restore the purity of the Carmelite Order by restarting observance of its "Primitive Rule" of 1209, observance of which had been relaxed by Pope Eugene IV in 1432.
Under this Rule, much of the day and night was to be spent in the recitation of the choir offices, study and devotional reading, the celebration of Mass and times of solitude. For the friars, time was to be spent evangelising the population around the monastery.Total abstinence from meat and lengthy fasting was to be observed from the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14) until Easter. There were to be long periods of silence, especially between Compline and Prime. Coarser, shorter habits, more simple than those worn since 1432, were to be worn.[16] They were to follow the injunction against the wearing of shoes (also mitigated in 1432). It was from this last observance that the followers of Teresa among the Carmelites were becoming known as "discalced", i.e., barefoot, differentiating themselves from the non-reformed friars and nuns.
Teresa asked John to delay his entry into the Carthusians and to follow her. Having spent a final year studying in Salamanca, in August 1568 John traveled with Teresa from Medina to Valladolid, where Teresa intended to found another monastery of nuns. Having spent some time with Teresa in Valladolid, learning more about this new form of Carmelite life, in October 1568, accompanied by Friar Antonio de Jesús de Heredia, John left Valladolid to found a new monastery for friars, the first for men following Teresa's principles. They were given the use of a derelict house at Duruelo (midway between Ávila and Salamanca), which had been donated to Teresa. On 28 November 1568, the monastery was established, and on that same day John changed his name to John of the Cross.

Soon after, in June 1570, the friars found the house at Duruelo too small, and so moved to the nearby town of Mancera de Abajo. After moving on from this community, John set up a new community at Pastrana (October 1570), and a community at Alcalá de Henares, which was to be a house of studies for the academic training of the friars. In 1572 he arrived in Ávila, at the invitation of Teresa, who had been appointed prioress of the Monastery of the Visitation there in 1571. John became the spiritual director and confessor for Teresa and the other 130 nuns there, as well for as a wide range of laypeople in the city. In 1574, John accompanied Teresa in the foundation of a new monastery in Segovia, returning to Avila after staying there a week. Beyond this, though, John seems to have remained in Ávila between 1572 and 1577.
One day at some point between 1574 and 1577, while praying in the Monastery of the Incarnation in Ávila, in a loft overlooking the sanctuary, John had a vision of the crucified Christ, which led him to create his famous drawing of Christ "from above". In 1641, this drawing was placed in a small monstrance and kept in Ávila. This drawing inspired the artist Salvador Dalí's 1951 work Christ of Saint John of the Cross.
The years 1575–77, saw a great increase in the tensions among the Spanish Carmelite friars over the reforms of Teresa and John.

The nuncio's protection helped John himself avoid problems for a time. In January 1576, John was arrested in Medina del Campo by some Carmelite friars. However, through the nuncio's intervention, John was soon released. When Ormaneto died on 18 June 1577, however, John was left without protection, and the friars opposing his reforms gained the upper hand.

On the night of 2 December 1577, a group of Carmelites opposed to reform broke into John's dwelling in Ávila and took him prisoner.
In June 1588, he was elected third Councillor to the Vicar General for the Discalced Carmelites, Father Nicolas Doria. To fulfill this role, he had to return to Segovia in Castile, where in this capacity he was also prior of the monastery.

The morning after John’s death, huge numbers of the townspeople of Úbeda entered the monastery to view John’s body; in the crush, many were able to take home parts of his habit.
Proceedings to beatify John began with the gathering of information on his life between 1614 and 1616, although he was only beatified in 1675 by Pope Clement X, and was canonised by Benedict XIII in 1726.The Church of England commemorates him as a "Teacher of the Faith" on the same date (December 14).

As partner with Teresa and in his own right, John engaged in the work of reform, and came to experience the price of reform: increasing opposition, misunderstanding, persecution, imprisonment. He came to know the cross acutely—to experience the dying of Jesus—as he sat month after month in his dark, damp, narrow cell with only his God!
He is the patron saint of contemplative life; contemplatives; mystical theology; mystics and Spanish poets.


Saint Nerses
Feast Day - November 19

Nerses I the Great was an Armenian Catholicos (or Patriarch) who lived in the fourth century. He was the son of At'anagenes and his mother was the Arsacid Princess Bambish, a sister of King Tigranes VII (Tiran) and a daughter of King Khosrov III. His paternal grandfather was St. Husik I whose paternal grandfather was Saint Gregory the Illuminator.

He spent his youth in Caesarea in Cappadocia, there marrying Sandukht, a member of the prominent Mamikonian family. (Together the Saint and Sandukht had a son, St. Sahag.) After the death of his wife he became a courtier of King Arshak of Armenia, a few years after this being elected Catholicos of Echmiadzin and All the Armenians (in 353). Both his father and his uncle, Bab, were passed over by the hierarchy because of their worldliness and weak faith. St. Nerses rejected his election as catholicos, but at Arshak's insistence he was nonetheless ordained a deacon and priest and then consecrated to the episcopate by Archbishop Eusebius of Caesarea in Cappadocia.

During St. Nerses' catholicate the Orthodox Faith went from being primarily that of the royal family and the aristocracy to being the faith of the entire Armenian nation, thanks in large part to the efforts of missionary monks he sent out to more thoroughly evangelise the countryside.

He also enacted important ecclesiastical reforms, at the Council of Ashtishat promulgating canons regulating marriage, fasting, and the divine services. St. Nerses was responsible for the opening of a number of schools, hospitals, and orphanages in Armenia.

His patriarchate marks a new era in Armenian history. Till then the Church had been more or less identified with the royal family and the nobles; Nerses brought it into closer connection with the people. At the Council of Ashtishat he promulgated numerous laws on marriage, fast days, and divine worship. He built schools and hospitals, and sent monks throughout the land to preach the Gospel.

Nerses held a synod at Ashtishat that, among other things, forbade people to marry their first cousin and forbade mutilation and other extreme actions in mourning.

Some of these reforms drew upon him the king's displeasure, and he was exiled, supposedly to Edessa. It was probably at some point during the latter part of Arshak's reign that Nerses went to Constantinople to ensure the emperor's support of Armenia against the Persians.

When St. Nerses refused to embrace the Arianism of Arshak he was exiled from his cathedra. Nine years later (in 369) he was invited to return by the new king, Arshak's son Bab. Bab proved to be a poor ruler and morally depraved, however, and the Saint excommunicated him.

On the pretext of being reconciled to the Church, King Bab invited St. Nerses to dine with him and had him poisoned during the dinner.

The saint thus fell asleep in the Lord in 373 and was buried in Til. A cathedral was eventually built on the site of his grave, but it was destroyed in the 7th century.


 

Saint John Paul II
Feast Day - October 22


Karol Józef Wojtyła was born in the Polish town of Wadowice as the youngest of three children to Karol Wojtyła and Emilia Kaczorowska. Emilia, who was a schoolteacher, died in childbirth in 1929 when Wojtyła was eight years old. His elder sister Olga had died before his birth, but he was close to his brother Edmund, nicknamed Mundek, who was 13 years his senior. Edmund's work as a physician eventually led to his death from scarlet fever, a loss that affected Wojtyła deeply.

As a boy, Wojtyła was athletic, often playing football as goalkeeper. During his childhood, Wojtyła had contact with Wadowice's large Jewish community. School football games were often organised between teams of Jews and Catholics, and Wojtyła often played on the Jewish side. Wojtyła's first, and possibly only, love affair was with a Jewish girl, Ginka Beer, who was described as "slender", "a superb actress" and "having stupendous dark eyes and jet black hair".
In mid-1938, Wojtyła and his father left Wadowice and moved to Kraków, where he enrolled at the Jagiellonian University. He was required to participate in compulsory military training but he refused to fire a weapon. He performed with various theatrical groups and worked as a playwright. His talent for language blossomed, and he learned as many as 12 foreign languages, nine of which he used extensively as pope. In 1939, Nazi German occupation forces closed the university after invading Poland.
His father died of a heart attack in 1941, leaving Wojtyła as the immediate family's only surviving member. "I was not at my mother's death, I was not at my brother's death, I was not at my father's death," he said, reflecting on these times of his life, nearly forty years later, "At twenty, I had already lost all the people I loved”. After his father's death, he started thinking seriously about the priesthood. In October 1942, while the war continued, he knocked on the door of the Bishop's Palace in Kraków and asked to study for the priesthood. Soon after, he began courses in the clandestine underground seminary run by the Archbishop of Kraków, Adam Stefan Cardinal Sapieha.
After finishing his studies at the seminary in Kraków, Wojtyła was ordained as a priest on All Saints' Day, 1 November 1946. In 1947 Wojytla visited Padre Pio, who heard his confession and told him that one day he would ascend to "the highest post in the Church".
While a priest in Kraków, groups of students regularly joined Wojtyła for hiking, skiing, bicycling, camping and kayaking, accompanied by prayer, outdoor Masses and theological discussions. In Stalinist-era Poland, it was not permitted for priests to travel with groups of students. Father Wojtyła asked his younger companions to call him "Wujek" (Polish for "Uncle") to prevent outsiders from deducing he was a priest. The nickname gained popularity among his followers. In 1958, when Wojtyła was named auxiliary bishop of Kraków, his acquaintances expressed concern that this would cause him to change. Wojtyła responded to his friends, "Wujek will remain Wujek," and he continued to live a simple life, shunning the trappings that came with his position as Bishop. This beloved nickname stayed with Wojtyła for his entire life and continues to be affectionately used, particularly by the Polish people.
On 4 July 1958 while Wojtyła was on a kayaking holiday in the lakes region of northern Poland, Pope Pius XII appointed him as the Auxiliary Bishop of Kraków. On 26 June 1967, Paul VI announced Archbishop Karol Wojtyła's promotion to the Sacred College of Cardinals. In August 1978, following the death of Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Wojtyła voted in the Papal conclave, which elected Pope John Paul I. John Paul I died after only 33 days as pope, triggering another conclave. The second conclave of 1978 started on 14 October, ten days after the funeral. It was split between two strong candidates for the papacy: Giuseppe Cardinal Siri, the conservative Archbishop of Genoa, and the liberalArchbishop of Florence, Giovanni Cardinal Benelli, a close friend of John Paul I. Franz Cardinal König,Archbishop of Vienna, suggested to his fellow electors another compromise candidate: Wojtyła. Wojtyła won on the eighth ballot on the third day (16 October) with, according to the Italian press, 99 votes from the 111 participating electors. He accepted his election with these words: 'With obedience in faith to Christ, my Lord, and with trust in the Mother of Christ and the Church, in spite of great difficulties, I accept.' When the new pontiff appeared on the balcony, he broke tradition by addressing the gathered crowd.
Wojtyła became the 264th pope according to the chronological list of popes, the first non-Italian in 455 years. At only 58 years of age, he was the youngest pope since Pope Pius IX in 1846, who was 54. Like his predecessor, John Paul II dispensed with the traditional Papal coronation and instead received ecclesiastical investiture with a simplified Papal inauguration on 22 October 1978. During his inauguration, when the cardinals were to kneel before him to take their vows and kiss his ring, he stood up as the Polish prelate Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński knelt down, stopped him from kissing the ring, and simply hugged him.
During his pontificate, Pope John Paul II made trips to 129 countries, travelling more than 1,100,000 kilometres (680,000 mi) while doing so. He consistently attracted large crowds, some among the largest ever assembled in human history, such as theManila World Youth Day, which gathered up to four million people, the largest Papal gathering ever, according to the Vatican.
John Paul II travelled extensively and met with believers from many divergent faiths. At the World Day of Prayer for Peace, held in Assisi on 27 October 1986, more than 120 representatives of different religions and denominations spent a day of fasting and prayer. As he entered St. Peter's Square to address an audience on 13 May 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot and critically wounded by Mehmet Ali Ağca, an expert Turkish gunman The pope stated that Our Lady of Fátima helped keep him alive throughout his ordeal. Two days after Christmas in 1983, John Paul II visited Ağca in prison. John Paul II and Ağca spoke privately for about twenty minutes. John Paul II said, "What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.″
John Paul II apologised to many groups that had suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church through the years. As pope, he officially made public apologies for over 100 wrongdoings.
On Saturday, 2 April 2005, Pope John Paul II spoke his final words “Allow me to depart to the house of the Father and fell into a coma four hours later. On 2 April 2005, he died in his private apartment at of heart failure, 46 days before his 85th birthday.
John Paul II's cause for canonisation commenced in 2005 one month after his death with the traditional five-year waiting period waived. On 19 December 2009, John Paul II was proclaimed Venerable by his successor Pope Benedict XVI and was beatified on 1 May 2011 (Divine Mercy Sunday) after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints attributed one miracle to his intercession, the healing of a French nun from Parkinson's disease. A second miracle attributed to John Paul II's intercession was approved on 2 July 2013, and confirmed by Pope Francis two days later. John Paul II was canonised on 27 April 2014 (again Divine Mercy Sunday), together with Pope John XXIII.
On 11 September 2014, Pope Francis added John Paul II's optional memorial feast day to the worldwide General Roman Calendar of saints, in response to worldwide requests. It is traditional to celebrate saints' feast days on the anniversary of their deaths, but that of John Paul II (22 October) is celebrated on the anniversary of his papal inauguration.
He is the Co-Patron of World Youth Day and the patron of young Catholics and families.
 
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