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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

"Hallowed be Thy name"(Lk 11:2) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

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Saint Rose of Lima


Saint Rose of Lima

Feast Day - August 23

Saint Rose of Lima was a Spanish colonist in Lima, Peru, who became known for both her life of severe asceticism and her care of the needy of the city through her own private efforts. A lay member of the Dominican Order, she was the first person born in the Americas to be canonised by the Catholic Church.

She was born Isabel Flores y de Oliva in the city of Lima, then in the Viceroyalty of Peru, on April 20, 1586. She was one of the many children of Gaspar Flores, a harquebusier in the Imperial Spanish army, born in San Germán on the island of San Juan Bautista (now Puerto Rico), and his wife, María de Oliva, a native of Lima. Her later nickname "Rose" comes from an incident in her babyhood: a servant claimed to have seen her face transform into a rose. In 1597 she was confirmed by the Archbishop of Lima, Turibius de Mongrovejo, who was also to be declared a saint. She formally took the name of Rose at that time.
As a young girl—in emulation of the noted Dominican tertiary, St. Catherine of Siena—she began to fast three times a week and performed severe penances in secret. When she was admired for her beauty, Rose cut off her hair and smeared pepper on her face, upset that suitors were beginning to take notice of her.
She rejected all suitors against the objections of her friends and her family. Despite the censure of her parents, she spent many hours contemplating the Blessed Sacrament, which she received daily, an extremely rare practice in that period. She was determined to take a vow of virginity, which was opposed by her parents, who wished her to marry. Finally, out of frustration, her father gave her a room to herself in the family home.

After daily fasting, she took to permanently abstain from eating meat. She helped the sick and hungry around her community, bringing them to her room and taking care of them. Rose sold her fine needlework, and took flowers that she grew to market, to help her family. She made and sold lace and embroidery to care for the poor, and she prayed and did penance in a little grotto which she had built. Otherwise, she became a recluse, leaving her room only for her visits to church.

She attracted the attention of the friars of the Dominican Order. She wanted to become a nun, but her father forbade it, so she instead entered the Third Order of St. Dominic while living in her parents' home. In her twentieth year she donned the habit of a tertiary and took a vow of perpetual virginity. She donned a heavy crown made of silver, with small spikes on the inside, in emulation of the Crown of Thorns worn by Christ.

For eleven years she lived this way, with intervals of ecstasy, and died on August 24, 1617, at the age of 31. It is said that she prophesied the date of her death. Her funeral was held in the cathedral, attended by all the public authorities of Lima, and with a eulogy by the archbishop.
Rose was beatified by Pope Clement IX on May 10, 1667, and canonised on April 12, 1671, by Pope Clement X, the first Catholic in the Americas to be declared a saint. Her shrine, alongside those of her friends, St. Martin de Porres and Saint John Macías, is located inside the convent of St. Dominic in Lima. The Roman Catholic Church says that many miracles followed her death; there were stories that she had cured a leper. Many places in the New World are named Santa Rosa after her. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is especially devoted to her.

As a saint, Rose of Lima is designated as a co-patroness of the Philippines along with Saint Pudentiana, who were both moved as second-class patronage in September 1942 by Pope Pius XII, but remains the primary patroness of Peru and the indigenous natives of Latin America.


Saint Maria Goretti
Feast Day - July 6

Maria Goretti (October 16, 1890 – July 6, 1902) is an Italian virgin-martyr of the Roman Catholic Church, and she is one of the youngest canonised saints. Maria was born Maria Teresa Goretti on October 16, 1890 in Corinaldo, in the Province of Ancona, then in the Kingdom of Italy, to Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. She was the third of seven children: Antonio (who died in infancy), Angelo, Maria, Mariano (Marino), Alessandro (Sandrino), Ersilia and Teresa.

By the time she was six, her family had become so poor that they were forced to give up their farm, move, and work for other farmers. So in 1896 or 1897, they moved to Colle Gianturco, near Paliano and Frosinone, about fifty miles outside Rome; and then in 1899 to Le Ferriere, near modern Latina and Nettuno in Lazio, where they lived in a building, "La Cascina Antica," they shared with another family which included Giovanni Serenelli and his son, Alessandro. Soon, Maria's father Luigi became very sick with malaria, and died when Maria was just nine. While her brothers, mother, and sister worked in the fields, Maria would cook, sew, watch her infant sister, and keep the house clean. It was a hard life, but the family was very close. They shared a deep love and faith for God.

On July 5, 1902, eleven year-old Maria was sitting on the outside stairs of her home, sewing one of Alessandro's shirts and watching her infant sister Teresa, while Alessandro was threshing beans in the barnyard. Knowing she would be alone, he returned to the house, intending to rape her. She would not submit, however, protesting that what he wanted to do was a mortal sin and warning Alessandro that he would go to hell. Allesandro threatened her with a 10 inch dagger, and when Maria refused, as she had always done, he stabbed her 14 times.She desperately fought to stop Alessandro, a 19-year-old farmhand, from raping her. She kept screaming, "No! It is a sin! God does not want it!" Alessandro first choked Maria, but when she insisted she would rather die than submit to him, he stabbed her eleven times. The injured Maria tried to reach for the door, but Alessandro stopped her by stabbing her three more times before running away.

The wounds penetrated the throat, with lesions of the pericardium, the heart, the lungs and the diaphragm. Surgeons at Orsenigo were surprised that the girl was still alive. In a dying deposition, in the presence of the Chief of Police, Maria told her mother of Serenelli's sexual harassment, and two previous attempts made to rape her. She was afraid to reveal this earlier since she was threatened with death.

Halfway through the surgery, Maria woke up. She insisted that it stay that way. The pharmacist of the hospital in which she died said to her, "Maria, think of me in Paradise." She looked at the old man: "Well, who knows, which of us is going to be there first?" "You, Maria," he replied. "Then I will gladly think of you," said Maria. Maria also expressed concern of her mother's welfare. The following day, 24 hours after the attack, having expressed forgiveness for her murderer and stating that she wanted to have him in Heaven with her, Maria died of her injuries, while looking at a picture of the Virgin Mary, and clutching a cross to her chest.

A third account of the assault was presented by Italian historian Giordano Bruno Guerri in 1985. He asserted that, while in prison, Alessandro Serenelli stated that he did not complete the assault and Maria died a physical virgin. Guerri identifies the weapon as an awl rather than a dagger.

Alessandro Serenelli was captured shortly after the attack: the police taking him to prison overtook the ambulance carrying Maria to hospital. Originally, he was going to be sentenced to life, but since he was a minor at that time the sentence was commuted to 30 years in prison; judges even considered he was not as mature as he was expected to be for a 20-years-old young man, and that he grew up in a poor, neglectful family, with several brothers and relatives suffering of madness and an alcoholic father. It has also been suggested that it was due to her mother’s plea for mercy that he was not sentenced to death. Alessandro insisted he had attempted to rape Maria several times and decided to kill her because of her refusal and desperate crying. He remained unrepentant and uncommunicative from the world for three years, until a local bishop, Monsignor Giovanni Blandini, visited him in jail. Serenelli wrote a thank you note to the Bishop asking for his prayers and telling him about a dream, "in which Maria Goretti gave him lilies, which burned immediately in his hands."

After his release, Alessandro Serenelli visited Maria's still-living mother, Assunta, and begged her forgiveness. She forgave him, saying that if Maria had forgiven him on her deathbed then she could not do less, and they attended Mass together the next day, receiving Holy Communion side by side. Alessandro reportedly prayed every day to Maria Goretti and referred to her as "my little saint." He attended her canonisation in 1950.

Serenelli later became a laybrother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, living in a monastery and working as its receptionist and gardener until dying peacefully in 1970, aged 87.

On the evening of the beatification ceremonies in Saint Peter's Basilica, April 27, 1947, Pope Pius XII walked over to Assunta. She almost fainted. "When I saw the Pope coming, I prayed, Madonna, please help me. He put his hand on my head and said, blessed mother, happy mother, mother of a Blessed!" They both had eyes wet with tears.

Three years later, on June 24, 1950, Pius XII canonised Goretti as a saint, the "Saint Agnes of the 20th century." Assunta was again present at the ceremony, along with her four remaining sons and daughters. She was the first mother ever to attend the canonisation ceremony of her child. Alessandro Serenelli was also present at the canonisation.

Owing to the huge crowd present, the ceremonies associated with the canonisation were held outside of Saint Peter's Basilica, in the Piazza San Pietro. Pius XII spoke, not as before in Latin, but in Italian. "We order and declare, that the blessed Maria Goretti can be venerated as a Saint and We introduce her into the Canon of Saints". Some 500,000 people, among them a majority of youth, had come from around the world. Pius asked them: "Young people, pleasure of the eyes of Jesus, are you determined to resist any attack on your chastity with the help of grace of God?" A resounding "yes" was the answer.

Maria is the patron saint of chastity, rape victims, girls, youth, teenage girls, poverty, purity and forgiveness. Let her memory make us want to pray for women who have suffered abuse.


Saint William of York
Feast Day - June 8

William of York (late 11th century – 8 June 1154) was an English priest and Archbishop of York. William has the unusual distinction of having been Archbishop of York twice, both before and after his rival Henry Murdac.

In January 1141,  when the archbishop of York died, he was elected Archbishop of York. He was a relative of King Stephen of England, and the king helped secure William's election to York after a number of candidates had failed to secure papal confirmation. William faced opposition from the Cistercians who, after the election of the Cistercian Pope Eugene III, managed to have the archbishop deposed in favour of the Cistercian Murdac.

In those times, princes used to interfere in the election of the bishops. This is why many priests did not think William had been properly chosen as it was his uncle, the king, who had appointed him. Even the great St. Bernard persuaded the pope to make someone else archbishop of York. William was asked to step aside because they felt his appointment was not valid.

He left his bishop's house feeling hurt and humiliated and went to live with another uncle, a bishop. It seems that William became a much more spiritual person. He would not accept any of the comforts his uncle offered him. He prayed and performed penances. He began to show how much he cared about his faith and about the Church.

As archbishop, William undertook a number of ecclesiastical reforms, and became popular with the people of York. However, he still needed a pallium, the sign of an archbishop's authority from the pope, which he had not yet received. The Cistercians, who were still adamantly opposed his being archbishop, were determined to prevent his receiving it.

The people of York were angry at what had happened to their archbishop. They could not understand how something like this could take place. There were street fights between those who wanted William and those who did not. Six years passed. William lived a quiet life of prayer in the home of his uncle, the bishop. He asked the Lord for peace for his archdiocese. It did not matter any more if he had been treated unjustly. What mattered was that his people be taken care of.From 1147 until 1153, William worked to secure his restoration to York, which he finally achieved after the deaths of both Murdac and Eugene III.

Within a few years, however, both Murdac and the new Pope had died, so William travelled to Rome to plead with the new pope, Anastasius IV, for restoration to office. The pope concurred, and William's reappointment was confirmed on 20 December 153.

On his return to York, while crossing the Ouse Bridge in York in triumphal procession, the bridge collapsed, yet no one was killed.

He did not retain the see long, as he died shortly after returning to York - after less than a month back in York, William died, on 8 June 1154, allegedly due to poison administered in the chalice at Mass.

One of William's clerks accused Osbert de Bayeux, an archdeacon of York, of the murder, and Osbert was summoned before the king to be tried at the royal court. Before the trial could take place, however, Stephen died, and the trial never took place.

William was buried in York Minster and within a few months of his death, miracles were attributed to his intervention and a sweet-smell came from his tomb when it was damaged during a fire. Nor was the body decayed or burnt in the fire.

Pope Honorius III then ordered an investigation into the miracles. In 1227, he was canonised in Rome by Pope Honorius III.

He is the patron saint of the parish of York.

Saint Florian


Saint Florian

Feast Day - May 4

Saint Florian, commemorated in the Roman Martyrology on May 4th, was an officer of the Roman army, who occupied a high administrative post in Noricum, now part of Austria, and who suffered death for the Faith in the days of Diocletian.

Florian was born about 250 AD in present-day Austria. He joined the Roman army and advanced in the ranks, rising to commander of the imperial army in the Roman province of Noricum. In addition to his military duties, he was also responsible for organising firefighting brigades. Florian organised and trained an elite group of soldiers whose sole duty was to fight fires.

During the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians, reports reached Rome that Florian was not enforcing the proscriptions against Christians in his territory. Aquilinus was sent to investigate these reports. When Aquilinus ordered Florian to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods in accordance with Roman religion, he refused. Florian was sentenced to be burned at the stake. Standing on the funeral pyre, Florian is reputed to have challenged the Roman soldiers to light the fire, saying "If you do, I will climb to heaven on the flames." Apprehensive of his words, instead of burning Florian, he was executed by drowning in the Enns River with a millstone tied around his neck.

Saint Florian was very widely venerated in Central Europe.
His body was later retrieved by Christians and buried at an Augustinian monastery near Lorch. Later a woman named Valeria had a vision in which she saw him; Florian, in this vision, declared his intent to be buried in a more appropriate location.

Saint Florian was adopted as patron saint of Poland in 1184, when Pope Lucius III consented to the request of King Casimir II to send relics of Florian to that country. Kraków thus claims some of his relics.
The Austrian town of Sankt Florian is named after him. According to legend, his body was interred at St. Florian's Priory, around which the town grew up. His body, recovered and was eventually removed to the Augustinian Abbey of St. Florian, near Linz.

A statue of Florian by Josef Josephu was unveiled in Vienna in 1935. It stood at the main firehouse of Vienna, in the city's main square, Am Hof. After the firehouse was bombed in 1945 during World War II the statue was moved to the Fire Brigade Museum.

Seeking the sponsorship of a helpful saint was a part of the name-giving practice in Catholic areas. It was important to select a saint that might protect them against their main fears; for example, animal plague(s) and fire. In the southern, Catholic parts of the German Empire (mainly present Bavaria and Austria), peasants regularly have used the name, Florian, as one of the given names for at least one of their male children: to secure the saints patronage against fire. Hence the given name is still widespread in these areas. In Austria and Germany, fire services use Florian in radio communications as universal call sign for fire stations and fire trucks. The call sign Florentine for firefighting-related, hand held radio equipment is also derived, somewhat inaccurately, from that usage.

The "Florian Principle" (known in German language areas as "Sankt-Florians-Prinzip") is named after a somewhat ironic prayer to Saint Florian: "O heiliger Sankt Florian, verschon' mein Haus, zünd' and're an", translating to "O holy Saint Florian, spare my house, kindle others". This saying is used in German much like the English "not in my back yard", when the speaker wants to point out that some person tries to get out of an unpleasant situation by an action that will put others in that very same situation. The name Florian is considered synonymous with fireman in the German speaking world. In some cases call for a fireman will actually be spoken as calls for Florian.

There has been popular devotion to St. Florian in many parts of central Europe, and the tradition as to his martyrdom, not far from the spot where the Enns flows into the Danube, is ancient and reliable. Many miracles of healing are attributed to his intercession and he is invoked as a powerful protector in danger from fire or water.

St. Florian is the patron saint of Linz, Austria; chimney sweeps; soapmakers, and firefighters. St. Florian is also the patron of Upper Austria, jointly with Saint Leopold.

Saint Catherine of Sienna


Saint Catherine of Sienna

Feast Day - April 29

Saint Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel and The Great Martyr Saint Catherine is a Christian saint and virgin, who was martyred in the early 4th century at the hands of the pagan emperor Maxentius.

According to the traditional narrative, Catherine was the beautiful daughter of the pagan King Costus and Queen Sabinella, who governed Alexandria. St. Catherine lived in the metropolis of Alexandria during the time of the pagan Emperors Maximian, Maxentius and Maximinus.

She was both a princess and a noted scholar, who became a Christian around the age of fourteen, and herself converted hundreds of people to Christianity. Her superior intelligence combined with diligent study left her exceedingly well-versed in all the arts and sciences, and in philosophy. Having decided to remain a virgin all her life, she announced that she would only marry someone who surpassed her in beauty, intelligence, wealth, and dignity. This has been interpreted as an early foreshadowing of her eventual discovery of Christ. "His beauty was more radiant than the shining of the sun, His wisdom governed all creation, His riches were spread throughout all the world."

When only eighteen years old, Catherine presented herself to the Emperor Maximinus who was violently persecuting the Christians, upbraided him for his cruelty and endeavoured to prove how iniquitous was the worship of false gods. Astounded at the young girl's audacity, the emperor arranged for a plethora of the best pagan philosophers and orators to dispute with her, hoping that they would refute her pro-Christian arguments, but Catherine won the debate. Several of her adversaries, conquered by her eloquence, declared themselves Christians and were at once put to death. Catherine was then scourged and imprisoned, during which time over 200 people came to see her.

Upon the failure of the emperor Maxentius to make Catherine yield by way of torture, he tried to win the beautiful and wise princess over by proposing marriage. The saint refused, declaring that her spouse was Jesus Christ, to whom she had consecrated her virginity.

Meanwhile the empress Faustina, eager to see so extraordinary a young woman, went with Porphyry, the head of the troops, to visit her in her dungeon, when they in turn yielded to Catherine's exhortations, believed, were baptised, and immediately won the martyr's crown.

Soon afterwards the saint, who far from forsaking her faith, effected so many conversions, was condemned to die on the wheel, but, at her touch, this instrument of torture was miraculously destroyed. The emperor, enraged beyond control, then had her beheaded.

Angels carried her body to Mount Sinai where later a church and monastery were built in her honour.

Over 1,100 years following her martyrdom, St. Joan of Arc identified Catherine as one of the Saints who appeared to her and counselled her. In the Catholic Church she is traditionally revered as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

St. Nicholas of Myra, was considered the patron of young bachelors and students, St. Catherine became the patroness of young maidens and female students. Looked upon as the holiest and most illustrious of the virgins of Christ, it was but natural that she, of all others, should be worthy to watch over the virgins of the cloister and the young women of the world.

The spiked wheel having become emblematic of the saint, wheelwrights and mechanics placed themselves under her patronage. Finally, as according to tradition, she not only remained a virgin by governing her passions and conquered her executioners by wearying their patience, but triumphed in science by closing the mouths of sophists, her intercession was implored by theologians, apologists, pulpit orators, and philosophers. Before studying, writing, or preaching, they besought her to illumine their minds, guide their pens, and impart eloquence to their words.

 


Saint Patrick
Feast Day - March 17

Saint Patrick was a 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland.

Known as the "Apostle of Ireland", he is the primary patron saint of the island along with Saints Brigit and Columba. The dates of Patrick's life cannot be fixed with certainty but, on a widespread interpretation, he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the second half of the fifth century. He is generally credited with being the first bishop of Armagh, Primate of Ireland.

St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain. Calpornius, his father, was a deacon, his grandfather Potitus a priest, from Banna Venta Berniae, identified in one tradition as Glannoventa, modern Ravenglass in Cumbria, England.

Patrick, however, was not an active believer. According to the Confession of St. Patrick, at the age of just sixteen Patrick was captured by a group of Irish pirates. The raiders brought Patrick to Ireland where he was enslaved and held captive for six years. Patrick writes in The Confession that the time he spent in captivity was critical to his spiritual development. He explains that the Lord had mercy on his youth and ignorance, and afforded him the opportunity to be forgiven of his sins and converted to Christianity.

While in captivity, Saint Patrick worked as a shepherd and strengthened his relationship with God through prayer eventually leading him to convert to Christianity.

After six years of captivity he heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home, and then that his ship was ready. Fleeing his master, he travelled to a port, two hundred miles away, where he found a ship and with difficulty persuaded the captain to take him. After three days sailing they landed, presumably in Britain, and apparently all left the ship, walking for 28 days in a "wilderness", becoming faint from hunger before encountering a herd of wild boar; since this was shortly after Patrick had urged them to put their faith in God, his prestige in the group was greatly increased. After various adventures, he returned home to his family, now in his early twenties.

After returning home to Britain, Saint Patrick continued to study Christianity, and eventually returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. Patrick says that he was also "many years later" a captive for 60 days, without giving details.

Much of the Declaration concerns charges made against St. Patrick by his fellow Christians at a trial. What these charges were, he does not say explicitly, but he writes that he returned the gifts which wealthy women gave him, did not accept payment for baptisms, nor for ordaining priests, and indeed paid for many gifts to kings and judges, and paid for the sons of chiefs to accompany him. It is concluded, therefore, that he was accused of some sort of financial impropriety, and perhaps of having obtained his bishopric in Ireland with personal gain in mind. From this same evidence, something can be seen of St. Patrick's mission. He writes that he "baptised thousands of people". He ordained priests to lead the new Christian communities. He converted wealthy women, some of whom became nuns in the face of family opposition. He also dealt with the sons of kings, converting them too. St. Patrick's position as a foreigner in Ireland was not an easy one. His refusal to accept gifts from kings placed him outside the normal ties of kinship, fosterage and affinity. Legally he was without protection, and he says that he was on one occasion beaten, robbed of all he had, and put in chains, perhaps awaiting execution.

Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461.
Patrick by now had many disciples, among them Beningnus, Auxilius, Iserninus, and Fiaac, (all later canonised as well).
Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick's message.

Legend (dating to 1726, according to the OED) credits St. Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of three persons in one God. For this reason, shamrocks are a central symbol for St Patrick's Day. The shamrock had been seen as sacred in the pre-Christian days in Ireland. Due to its green color and overall shape, many viewed it as representing rebirth and eternal life. Three was a sacred number in the pagan religion and there were a number of "Triple Goddesses" in ancient Ireland, including Brigid, Ériu, and the Morrigan.

Another popular legend is that St. Patrick banished all snakes from Ireland. The absence of snakes in Ireland gave rise to the legend that they had all been banished by St. Patrick[66] chasing them into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on top of a hill. This hagiographic theme draws on the mythography of the staff of the prophet Moses. In Exodus 7:8–7:13, Moses and Aaron use their staffs in their struggle with Pharaoh's sorcerers, the staffs of each side morphing into snakes.

It was formerly a common custom to wear a cross made of paper or ribbon on St Patrick's Day. Surviving examples of such badges come in many colours and they were worn upright rather than as saltires. What distinguishes Patrick is the durability of his efforts. When one considers the state of Ireland when he began his mission work, the vast extent of his labors (all of Ireland) and how the seeds he planted continued to grow and flourish, one can only admire the kind of man Patrick must have been. The holiness of a person is known only by the fruits of his or her work.

Quote: “Christ shield me this day: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me” (from “The Breastplate of St. Patrick”).

St. Patrick if the patron saint of engineers, Ireland and Nigeria. He is also naturally the patron saint against snakes, snake bites, and fear of snakes.

Saint Agatha

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Saint Nicholas
Feast Day - December 6

Saint Nicholas, also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic 4th-century saint and Greek Bishop of Myra (Demre, part of modern-day Turkey) in Lycia. Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker.

He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself from a series of elisions and corruptions of the transliteration of "Saint Nikolaos".

His wealthy parents died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young and he was raised by his uncle—also named Nicholas—who was the bishop of Patara. He tonsured the young Nicholas as a reader and later ordained him a presbyter.

From his earliest days Nicholas would take nourishment only once on Wednesdays and Fridays, and that in the evening according to the canons.

As his parents died leaving him well off, he determined to devote his inheritance to works of charity. An opportunity soon arose. A citizen of Patara had lost all his money, and had moreover to support three daughters who could not find husbands because of their poverty; so the wretched man was going to give them over to prostitution. This came to the ears of Nicholas, who thereupon took a bag of gold and, under cover of darkness threw it in at the open window of the man's house. Here was a dowry for the eldest girl and she was soon duly married. At intervals Nicholas did the same for the second and third; at the last time the father was on the watch, recognised his benefactor and overwhelmed him with his gratitude.

Coming to the city of Myra when the clergy and people of the province were in session to elect a new bishop, St. Nicholas was indicated by God as the man they should choose. This was at the time of the persecutions at the beginning of the fourth century and "As he was the chief priest of the Christians of this town and preached the truths of faith with a holy liberty, the divine Nicholas was seized by the magistrates, tortured, then chained and thrown into prison with many other Christians. But when the great and religious Constantine, chosen by God assumed the imperial diadem of the Romans, the prisoners were released from their bonds and with them the illustrious Nicholas, who when he was set at liberty returned to Myra." St. Methodius asserts that "thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas the metropolis of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy, which it firmly rejected as death-dealing poison".

According to other traditions he was not only there but so far forgot himself as to give the heresiarch Arius a slap in the face. Whereupon the conciliar fathers deprived him of his episcopal insignia and committed him to prison; but our Lord and His Mother appeared there and restored to him both his liberty and his office.

As against Arianism so against paganism, St. Nicholas was tireless and took strong measures. In 325, he was one of many bishops to answer the request of Constantine and appear at the First Council of Nicaea. There, Nicolas was a staunch anti-Arian and defender of the Orthodox Christian position, and one of the bishops who signed the Nicene Creed.

The accounts are unanimous that St. Nicholas died and was buried in his episcopal city of Myra, and by the time of Justinian there was a basilica built in his honor at Constantinople.

It is said that in Myra the relics of Saint Nicholas each year exuded a clear watery liquid which smells like rose water, called manna (or myrrh), which is believed by the faithful to possess miraculous powers. After the relics were brought to Bari, they continued to do so, much to the joy of the new owners. Vials of myrrh from his relics have been taken all over the world for centuries, and can still be obtained from his church in Bari. Even up to the present day, a flask of manna is extracted from the tomb of Saint Nicholas every year on 6 December (the Saint's feast day) by the clergy of the basilica. The myrrh is collected from a sarcophagus which is located in the basilica vault.

Saint Nicholas is commemorated and revered among Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, and Orthodox Christians. In addition, some Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Reformed churches have been named in honor of Saint Nicholas.

Because of his patronage of mariners, occasionally Saint Nicholas will be shown standing in a boat or rescuing a drowning sailor.

In Roman Catholic iconography, Saint Nicholas is depicted as a bishop, wearing the insignia of this dignity: a red bishop's cloak, a red miter and a bishop's crozier. The episode with the three dowries is commemorated by showing him holding in his hand either three purses, three coins or three balls of gold. Depending on whether he is depicted as patron saint of children or sailors, his images will be completed by a background showing ships, children or three figures climbing out of a wooden barrel (three slaughtered children he resurrected).

In a strange twist, the three gold balls referring to the dowry affair are sometimes metaphorically interpreted as being oranges or other fruits. As in the Low Countries in medieval times oranges most frequently came from Spain, this led to the belief that the Saint lives in Spain and comes to visit every winter bringing them oranges, other 'wintry' fruits and tales of magical creatures.

Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, pawnbrokers and students in various cities and countries around Europe. He was also a patron of the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperors, who protected his relics in Bari.

Agnes is depicted in art with a lamb, as her name resembles the Latin word for "lamb", agnus. The name "Agnes" is actually derived from the feminine Greek adjective "hagnē", meaning "chaste, pure, sacred".

According to tradition, Saint Agnes was a member of the Roman nobility born c. 291 and raised in a Christian family. She suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve or thirteen during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, on 21 January 304. Agnes was a beautiful young girl of wealthy family and therefore had many suitors of high rank. Legend holds that young men, scorned by her rejection and slighted by Agnes' resolute devotion to religious purity, submitted her name to the authorities as a follower of Christianity.

The Prefect Sempronius condemned her to be dragged naked through the streets to a brothel.

Various versions of the legend give different methods of escape from this predicament. In one, as she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body. It was also said that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind. In another, the son of the prefect is struck dead, but revived after Agnes prayed for him, causing her release. There is then a trial from which Sempronius excuses himself, and another figure presides, sentencing her to death. When led out to die she was tied to a stake, but the bundle of wood would not burn, or the flames parted away from her, whereupon the officer in charge of the troops drew his sword and beheaded her, or, in some other texts, stabbed her in the throat. It is also said that the blood of Agnes poured to the stadium floor where other Christians soaked up the blood with cloths. Agnes was buried beside the Via Nomentana in Rome.

A few days after Agnes' death, her foster-sister, Saint Emerentiana, was found praying by her tomb; she claimed to be the daughter of Agnes' wet nurse, and was stoned to death after refusing to leave the place and reprimanding the pagans for killing her foster sister. Emerentiana was also later canonised. The daughter of Constantine I, Saint Constance, was also said to have been cured of leprosy after praying at Agnes' tomb. Emerentiana and Constance appear in the scenes from the life of Agnes on the 14th-century Royal Gold Cup in the British Museum.

An early account of Agnes' death, stressing her steadfastness and virginity, but not the legendary features of the tradition, is given by Saint Ambrose. Agnes' bones are conserved beneath the high altar in the church of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura in Rome, built over the catacomb that housed Agnes' tomb. Her skull is preserved in a separate chapel in the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone in Rome's Piazza Navona.

She is the patron saint of chastity, gardeners, engaged couples, rape victims, and virgins. Saint Agnes is also the patron saint of young girls. Folk custom called for them to practise rituals on Saint Agnes' Eve (20–21 January) with a view to discovering their future husbands. This superstition has been immortalised in John Keats's poem, "The Eve of Saint Agnes".

Saint Agnes
Feast Day - January 21

Saint Nicholas, Agnes of Rome, also known as Saint Agnes and Saint Ines, is a virgin–martyr, venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican Communion, and Lutheranism. She is one of the seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.

Agnes is depicted in art with a lamb, as her name resembles the Latin word for "lamb", agnus. The name "Agnes" is actually derived from the feminine Greek adjective "hagnē", meaning "chaste, pure, sacred".

According to tradition, Saint Agnes was a member of the Roman nobility born c. 291 and raised in a Christian family. She suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve or thirteen during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, on 21 January 304. Agnes was a beautiful young girl of wealthy family and therefore had many suitors of high rank. Legend holds that young men, scorned by her rejection and slighted by Agnes' resolute devotion to religious purity, submitted her name to the authorities as a follower of Christianity.

The Prefect Sempronius condemned her to be dragged naked through the streets to a brothel.

Various versions of the legend give different methods of escape from this predicament. In one, as she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body. It was also said that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind. In another, the son of the prefect is struck dead, but revived after Agnes prayed for him, causing her release. There is then a trial from which Sempronius excuses himself, and another figure presides, sentencing her to death. When led out to die she was tied to a stake, but the bundle of wood would not burn, or the flames parted away from her, whereupon the officer in charge of the troops drew his sword and beheaded her, or, in some other texts, stabbed her in the throat. It is also said that the blood of Agnes poured to the stadium floor where other Christians soaked up the blood with cloths. Agnes was buried beside the Via Nomentana in Rome.

A few days after Agnes' death, her foster-sister, Saint Emerentiana, was found praying by her tomb; she claimed to be the daughter of Agnes' wet nurse, and was stoned to death after refusing to leave the place and reprimanding the pagans for killing her foster sister. Emerentiana was also later canonised. The daughter of Constantine I, Saint Constance, was also said to have been cured of leprosy after praying at Agnes' tomb. Emerentiana and Constance appear in the scenes from the life of Agnes on the 14th-century Royal Gold Cup in the British Museum.

An early account of Agnes' death, stressing her steadfastness and virginity, but not the legendary features of the tradition, is given by Saint Ambrose. Agnes' bones are conserved beneath the high altar in the church of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura in Rome, built over the catacomb that housed Agnes' tomb. Her skull is preserved in a separate chapel in the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone in Rome's Piazza Navona.

She is the patron saint of chastity, gardeners, engaged couples, rape victims, and virgins. Saint Agnes is also the patron saint of young girls. Folk custom called for them to practise rituals on Saint Agnes' Eve (20–21 January) with a view to discovering their future husbands. This superstition has been immortalised in John Keats's poem, "The Eve of Saint Agnes".

Saint Catherine of Alexandria


Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Feast Day - November 25

Saint Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel and The Great Martyr Saint Catherine is a Christian saint and virgin, who was martyred in the early 4th century at the hands of the pagan emperor Maxentius.

According to the traditional narrative, Catherine was the beautiful daughter of the pagan King Costus and Queen Sabinella, who governed Alexandria. St. Catherine lived in the metropolis of Alexandria during the time of the pagan Emperors Maximian, Maxentius and Maximinus.

She was both a princess and a noted scholar, who became a Christian around the age of fourteen, and herself converted hundreds of people to Christianity. Her superior intelligence combined with diligent study left her exceedingly well-versed in all the arts and sciences, and in philosophy. Having decided to remain a virgin all her life, she announced that she would only marry someone who surpassed her in beauty, intelligence, wealth, and dignity. This has been interpreted as an early foreshadowing of her eventual discovery of Christ. "His beauty was more radiant than the shining of the sun, His wisdom governed all creation, His riches were spread throughout all the world."

When only eighteen years old, Catherine presented herself to the Emperor Maximinus who was violently persecuting the Christians, upbraided him for his cruelty and endeavoured to prove how iniquitous was the worship of false gods. Astounded at the young girl's audacity, the emperor arranged for a plethora of the best pagan philosophers and orators to dispute with her, hoping that they would refute her pro-Christian arguments, but Catherine won the debate. Several of her adversaries, conquered by her eloquence, declared themselves Christians and were at once put to death. Catherine was then scourged and imprisoned, during which time over 200 people came to see her.

Upon the failure of the emperor Maxentius to make Catherine yield by way of torture, he tried to win the beautiful and wise princess over by proposing marriage. The saint refused, declaring that her spouse was Jesus Christ, to whom she had consecrated her virginity.

Meanwhile the empress Faustina, eager to see so extraordinary a young woman, went with Porphyry, the head of the troops, to visit her in her dungeon, when they in turn yielded to Catherine's exhortations, believed, were baptised, and immediately won the martyr's crown.

Soon afterwards the saint, who far from forsaking her faith, effected so many conversions, was condemned to die on the wheel, but, at her touch, this instrument of torture was miraculously destroyed. The emperor, enraged beyond control, then had her beheaded.

Angels carried her body to Mount Sinai where later a church and monastery were built in her honour.

Over 1,100 years following her martyrdom, St. Joan of Arc identified Catherine as one of the Saints who appeared to her and counselled her. In the Catholic Church she is traditionally revered as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

St. Nicholas of Myra, was considered the patron of young bachelors and students, St. Catherine became the patroness of young maidens and female students. Looked upon as the holiest and most illustrious of the virgins of Christ, it was but natural that she, of all others, should be worthy to watch over the virgins of the cloister and the young women of the world.

The spiked wheel having become emblematic of the saint, wheelwrights and mechanics placed themselves under her patronage. Finally, as according to tradition, she not only remained a virgin by governing her passions and conquered her executioners by wearying their patience, but triumphed in science by closing the mouths of sophists, her intercession was implored by theologians, apologists, pulpit orators, and philosophers. Before studying, writing, or preaching, they besought her to illumine their minds, guide their pens, and impart eloquence to their words.


Saint Kenneth
Feast Day - October 11

St. Kenneth, also called Canice, or Kenny, was an Irish abbot, monastic founder, and missionary who contributed to the conversion of the Picts. He is one of the most popular Celtic saints of Scotland (where he is called Kenneth) and Ireland (where he is called Canice)

Much of what has been written about St. Kenneth's life is based on tradition. His father Lugayd was a bard - a professional singer of ballads and stories in song. Kenneth's mother was called Maul or Mella, a woman with an eminent degree of sanctity. The church of Thompleamoul or Capella Sanctae Maulae seu Mellae, beside Kilkenny city, was dedicated to God under her invocation. He tended his father's flocks as a young boy. He is said to have studied under abbots and at the important Welsh monastery at Llancarfan, Glamorganshire, where he was ordained priest in 545. He is thought to have visited Rome.

St. Kenneth was a close friend and associate of the celebrated St. Columba of Iona, whom he accompanied to the Scottish mainland to help Christianise the Picts. After preaching throughout Ireland, St. Kenneth went with St. Columba to Scotland on a mission to the pagan King Brude. When this king angrily seized his sword to strike the two missionaries, it is said that St. Kenneth made the sign of the cross, and a miracle took place. The king's hand was suddenly paralysed, and the saints were saved. Brude and his kingdom subsequently were converted.

St. Kenneth and St. Columba were always close friends. Once St. Columba was sailing with some companions. Kenneth was far away in his monastery in Ireland. Suddenly he became aware that St. Columba was in great danger at sea. He jumped up from the dinner table and ran to church to pray for his beloved friend. Out at sea, Columba cried to his frightened companions: "Don't be afraid! God will listen to Kenneth. Right now he is running to church with only one shoe on to pray for us!" And as he said, they were saved.

Kenneth is also known to have ministered extensively in the offshore Scottish Hebrides islands. Testimony to his influence and travels is found in monastic and church ruins (e.g., Kil-Chainnech on Tyree Island) and places dedicated to his name, particularly the islet Inchkenneth.

St. Kenneth started several monasteries and converted many nonbelievers. He became famous for his zealous preaching of the Gospel. Even more, he became well-known for the perfect way in which he himself practiced the teachings of Jesus.

Twelve students who studied under St. Finian became known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland, St. Kenneth was one of these. Kenneth returned to his home for a time before crossing to Scotland. In 565 he joined Columba in Scotland in 565, where he is known as St. Kenneth. Adamnan tells of the arrival of St. Kenneth, on Iona. St. Columba had a prophecy of a "certain holy and excellent man, who will arrive here among us before evening." According to Adamnan, God provided St. Kenneth with a safe and calm crossing, even though the sea was perilous and stormy that day. St. Columba received him that evening with all honour and hospitality.

A man of great eloquence and learning, he wrote a commentary on the Gospels, known for centuries as Glas-Chainnigh.

St. Kenneth is the patron saint of the shipwrecked and the diocese of Ossory in Ireland.

Reflection: Although Kenneth and Columba often worked in different places, they knew that prayer is a powerful expression of friendship. What would happen if I prayed more often for my friends and those who are close to me?


Saint Peter Claver
Feast Day - September 9

The Holy Spirit's might and power are manifested in the striking decisions and bold actions of St. Peter Claver.

He was a Spanish Jesuit priest, who for 33 years ministered to African slaves in the New World, and tried to stop the slave trade. A decision to leave one's homeland never to return reveals a gigantic act of will difficult for us to imagine. Peter's determination to serve forever the most abused, rejected and lowly of all people is stunningly heroic.

Peter Claver understood that concrete service like the distributing of medicine, food or brandy to his black brothers and sisters could be as effective a communication of the word of God as mere verbal preaching. As Peter Claver often said, "We must speak to them with our hands before we try to speak to them with our lips."

Claver was born in 1581 into a prosperous farming family in the Catalan village of Verdu, Urgell, located in the Province of Lleida, about 54 miles (87 km) from Barcelona. He was born 70 years after King Ferdinand of Spain set colonial slavery culture into motion by authorizing the purchase of 250 African slaves in Lisbon for his territories in New Spain, an event which was to shape Claver's life. His parents were devout Catholics.

Claver was noted for his intelligence and piety. After he had completed his studies, Claver volunteered for the Spanish colonies and was sent to the New Kingdom of Granada. Required to wait six years to be ordained as a priest while he did his theological studies, he was deeply disturbed by the harsh treatment and living conditions of the black slaves who were brought from Africa. Cartagena was a slave-trading hub. Claver's predecessor in his eventual lifelong mission, Father Alonso de Sandoval, S.J., was his mentor and inspiration. Sandoval devoted himself to serving the slaves for 40 years before Claver arrived to continue his work. Sandoval found Claver an apt pupil. When he was solemnly professed in 1622, Claver signed his final profession document in Latin as: Petrus Claver, aethiopum semper servus (Peter Claver, servant of the Ethiopians [i.e. Africans] forever).

Whereas Sandoval had visited the slaves where they worked, Claver preferred to head for the wharf as soon as a slave ship entered the port. Boarding the ship, he entered the filthy and diseased holds to treat and minister to their badly treated, terrified human cargo, who had survived a voyage of several months under horrible conditions. It was difficult to move around on the ships, because the slave traffickers filled them to capacity. The slaves were often told they were being taken to a land where they would be eaten.

Claver wore a cloak, which he would lend to anyone in need. A legend arose that whoever wore the cloak received lifetime health and was cured of all disease. After the slaves were herded from the ship and penned in nearby yards to be scrutinised by crowds of buyers, Claver joined them with medicine, food, bread, brandy, lemons and tobacco. With the help of interpreters and pictures which he carried with him, he gave basic instructions.

Claver had conflicts with some of his Jesuit brothers, who accepted slavery. Claver saw the slaves as fellow Christians, encouraging others to do so as well. During his 40 years of ministry he personally catechised and baptised an estimated 300,000 slaves. He would then follow up on them to ensure that as Christians they received their Christian and civil rights. His mission extended beyond caring for slaves, however. He preached in the city square, to sailors and traders and conducted country missions, returning every spring to visit those he had baptised, ensuring that they were treated humanely.

During these missions, whenever possible he avoided the hospitality of planters and overseers; instead, he would lodge in the slave quarters. Claver's work on behalf of slaves did not prevent him from ministering to the souls of well-to-do members of society, traders and visitors to Cartagena (including Muslims and English Protestants) and condemned criminals, many of whom he prepared for death; he was also a frequent visitor at the city's hospitals. Through years of unremitting toil and the force of his own unique personality, the slaves' situation slowly improved. In time he became a moral force, the Apostle of Cartagena.

In the last years of his life Peter was too ill to leave his room. He lingered for four years, largely forgotten and neglected, physically abused and starved by an ex-slave who had been hired by the Superior of the house to care for him. He never complained about his treatment, accepting it as a just punishment for his sins.

He died on 8 September 1654. When the people of the city heard of his death, they forced their way into his room, to see and pay their last respects. Such was the reputation of his holiness among the populace that they stripped away everything there to serve as a relic of a saint. The city magistrates, who had previously considered him a nuisance for his persistent advocacy on behalf of the slaves, ordered a public funeral and he was buried with pomp and ceremony. The vast scope of Claver's ministry, which was prodigious even before considering the astronomical number of people he baptised, came to be realised only after his death.

He was canonised in 1888 by Pope Leo XIII, along with the holy Jesuit porter, Alphonsus Rodriguez. In 1896 Pope Leo also declared Claver the patron of missionary work among all African peoples. His body is preserved and venerated in the church of the former Jesuit residence, now renamed in his honour.

He is the patron of missionary work among black slaves, Africans.
 
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