Ghislieri was born in 1504 in Bosco, in the Tortona diocese. He
received the Dominican habit at age fourteen, and after his ordination
in Genoa, taught theology and philosophy for some years. He was Prior
and Novice Master of several priories during a time of great moral
In 1556, he was consecrated Bishop of Nepi and Sutri and,
the following year, was made Inquisitor General and raised to the rank
Pope Pius IV transferred him to the bishopric of
Mondovi in Piedmont, a diocese that had suffered much from the ravages
of war. Under the care and guidance of the new bishop, the region was
soon restored to peace and prosperity.
Recalled to Rome at the
death of Pius IV, he was chosen as his successor, due in great part to
the efforts of St. Charles Borromeo who saw in him the reformer the
Taking the name of his predecessor, Pius V
immediately introduced a new austerity and sobriety in the Papal States,
re-directing sums customarily used for celebrations and festivities to
aiding hospitals, poor convents and the truly indigent. He also
initiated the tradition of the pope wearing white, as he continued to
wear his white Dominican habit after being raised to the papal throne.
zeal and apostolic energy, he launched numerous reforms, from ridding
the Papal States of brigands to passing legislation against
prostitution. In countering the widespread practice of granting favors
and nominations to family members, or nepotism, he kept relatives at a
Pope Pius V also had the best edition of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica
published and, in 1567, he declared him Doctor of the Church. He
promulgated the Catechism of the Council of Trent and had it translated
into foreign languages. He also imposed on all parish priests the duty
of using the Catechism to instruct the young in the tenets of the Faith.
materially and prayerfully, he supported Don Juan of Austria and Marc
Antonio Colonna in the war against the Turkish fleet at Lepanto, the
maritime battle that broke the Ottoman power in the Mediterranean. From
the very onset of the conflict, the Pope had prayed almost continuously,
often with arms raised like Moses on the mountain. At the decisive hour
of victory, as a Rosary procession wound its way through Rome, the Pope
interrupted his work, walked over to a window, and with radiant face,
exclaimed, “The Christian fleet is victorious!”
commemorate the great deliverance on October 7, 1571, he instituted the
title of “Our Lady Help of Christians” and the feast of the Holy Rosary.
the following year the pope was struck with a painful disorder from
which he had long suffered, but which his austerities aggravated. He
died on May 1, 1572, at the age of sixty-eight.
And of what should we be afraid? Our captain on this battlefield is Christ Jesus. We have discovered what we have to do. Christ has bound our enemies for us and weakened them that they cannot overcome us unless we so choose to let them. So we must fight courageously and mark ourselves with the sign of the most Holy Cross.
Benincasa was born in Siena, Tuscany, in 1347. The twenty-third child
of Giacomo, a well-to-do dyer, and his wife Lapa, the lively and happy
girl grew up in the Benincasa’s spacious house. Their family home is
preserved to this day.
At six years of age, Catherine saw Our
Lord Jesus dressed as a Pontiff atop the Church of the Dominicans. This
vision left such a deep impression upon her that she pledged herself to
family pressure, when she turned twelve, Catherine consented to pay
more attention to her appearance and had her beautiful hair dressed to
the fashion of the day. Repenting of this “great sin”, she cut it all
off and declared she would never marry – a scandal to her family. She
was set to menial labor, and harried and scolded continuously in an
attempt to break her resolve. One day her father found her praying, a
dove hovering over her. From that moment he ordered that she be left
alone to a life of prayer.
Received into the Dominican Order as a
tertiary in 1366, Catherine had a vision in which Jesus, accompanied by
His Blessed Mother, officially betrothed her and placed a ring on her
After this mystical betrothal, she was told that her
seclusion was over and she must mingle with her fellow human beings
seeking their salvation. Gradually, there gathered around her a group of
followers whom she guided in the spiritual life. As her renown for
holiness grew and the fame of her miracles spread, former suspicion
turned to veneration.
Catherine became the arbiter of a serious
feud between Florence and Perugia and the Holy See then at Avignon,
France. She visited Pope Gregory XI and convinced him to return to Rome.
Finally, through her mediation the cities were reconciled to the Holy
this time she produced the great work – later entitled “Dialogue of
Saint Catherine of Siena” – which she dictated under the inspiration of
God the Father.
With the death of Pope Gregory XI in 1378, and
the election of Urban VI, the cardinals in Avignon disputed the choice
and elected a rival pope giving rise to the great schism. Catherine
spared no effort in establishing recognition of Urban. Far from
resenting her help, he called the holy mystic to Rome to profit from her
But early in 1380, thirty-three year old Catherine
suffered a strange seizure after she offered herself as a victim for the
healing of the Church. On April 29, after much suffering, Catherine
gave up her ardent soul to her Divine Spouse.
She was canonized in 1461 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970.
Grignion de Montfort was born in Brittany, France on January 31, 1673.
From an early age he showed signs of spiritual maturity, and at the age
of twelve entered the college of St. Thomas Becket in Rennes. There, a
fire was lit within him inflaming in him a desire to become a missionary
preacher. He was ordained in Paris in the year 1700.
preached tirelessly in various cities and towns, incurring the
displeasure of many ecclesiastics infected with the heresy of Jansenism.
Traveling to Rome, he put his case before Pope Clement XI who named him
Missionary Apostolic to France.
Louis de Montfort is specially known for his ardent devotion to the Mother of God, and his treatise, True Devotion to Mary,
is one of the Church’s greatest devotional treasures. This true Apostle
of Mary founded two religious orders: The Daughters of Divine Wisdom,
and the Missionaries of the Company of Mary. His fiery zeal produced
special fruits in the region of the Vendée, which three generations
later valiantly rose up against the atheistic French Revolution then
Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort died at age
forty-three in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre in the Vendée on April 28, 1716
worn out by the efforts of his apostolate.
Habits acquired by our human actions alone do not perish by one single contrary act: for a man is not said to be intemperate for one single act of intemperance, nor is a painter held an unskillful master for having once failed in his art; but, as all such habits are acquired by the influence of a series of acts, so we lose them by a long cessation from their acts or by many contrary acts.
Peter Armengol was born in 1238 in a small village in the archdiocese of Tarragon, Spain to a family of noble lineage.
his parents took great care regarding his education, young Peter
forsook his life of privilege and turned to a life of crime, vice and
caprice. He joined a gang of criminals who lived as bandits in the
mountains to escape the authorities, and he soon became their leader.
later, when Armengol’s band of brigands attempted to ambush the retinue
of a noble Spaniard, Peter was astonished when he discovered that the
man he was fighting, and wanting to run through with his sword, was none
other than his own father. Overcome with remorse, the repentant
prodigal cast himself on his knees before his astonished father,
imploring his forgiveness. Peter resolved to enter a Mercedarian
monastery in Barcelona, an Order devoted to the ransoming of captive
Christians. So fervent was he in his repeated requests for the habit and
consistent in giving conducive proofs of his vocation that he was
For eight years, Armengol was the one directly
responsible for the ransom of the captives, but his greatest yearning
was to actually go himself to Africa and become a captive for the ransom
of Christians, a desire that God saw fit to grant. On a ransom trip to
the African continent, Friar Armengol agreed to become a hostage himself
in exchange for the release of eighteen children. He was to be held
until a sum of money was delivered for his ransom by a certain date. If
it was not paid by the date set, Peter would be executed by his Moorish
his captivity, he converted many Moslems to the true Faith by the
fervor of his preaching. However, when the sum of money intended for his
ransom did not arrive at the appointed time, his captors threw him into
prison, and subjected him to numerous forms of unspeakable and
excruciating tortures, which he survived only by the grace of God.
ransom still not having arrived, the Moors conspired to execute him.
Totally confident, even in that impossible hour, Friar Armengol
entrusted himself to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and
went calmly to his impending death.
Six days later, when the
company of Friars arrived with his ransom money, his body still hung
from the gallows. Torn with grief, they went to the site of the martyr's
death, hoping to at least recover his body, but were stunned when they
found him still alive! Peter explained to them how the Virgin Mary had
held him up and kept him alive until their arrival.
returned to Barcelona and lived a retired life in the Mercedarian
Monastery of Our Lady de los Prados where he passed his days in familiar
conversation with his Queen, whom he loved with such filial devotion.
the quaint medieval town of Genazzano, about 30 miles from Rome, on a
side altar of the Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel, there is a small
image of the Blessed Virgin holding her infant Son. The Child, in His
turn, lovingly encircles Mary's neck with His arm, inclining her head
towards Himself in a gentle and intimate embrace.
This small fresco has a marvelous history.
the fifteenth century there lived in the town an elderly widow, by name
Petruccia, who had invested the entirety of the small fortune left to
her by her husband in a needed side chapel for her church. Her money
running out when the walls were only a few feet high, the townsfolk
openly mocked and ridiculed her for her foolishness. Undaunted,
Petruccia assured them that in spite of the apparent failure of her own
endeavors, the Mother of God and St. Augustine, whose spiritual sons
were caretakers of the church, would finish the work she had begun.
April 25, 1467 as the inhabitants of Genazzano celebrated the feast of
their patron St. Mark, marvelous music was heard approaching, its source
seemingly from above. Looking upwards, the astounded citizens saw a
brilliant cloud descending towards them. The bell of the church, and
then others throughout the town, began to peel of their own accord. The
cloud came to rest on Petruccia’s unfinished chapel wall and gradually
dissipated, revealing the extraordinary image of the Madonna and Child.
The widow's supernatural confidence being so wonderfully rewarded before
the astonished gaze of all, the construction of the chapel was not long
in its completion.
after these remarkable events, two foreigners in strange attire arrived
in Genazzano claiming to be Albanians. Their names were Giorgio and
DeSclavis and on seeing the icon, they cried out with joy and then told a
After the death of Albania's king, George
Castriota, known as Scanderberg, their nation had finally been conquered
by the invading Turks. Early in 1467, while they prayed before the
miraculous fresco, the image suddenly became illuminated, and detaching
itself from the wall, it began to move through the air. Entranced, the
two former soldiers followed the painting, first over land and, then,
across the Adriatic Sea, which solidified under their feet.
the Eternal City they lost sight of it, until hearing reports of a great
miracle in a nearby town, they surmised where their Madonna had come to
rest. Both decided to remain near their treasure, and married and
raised families in Genazzano.
A plaque left at the shrine by visiting Albanians begs their Madonna to return to them, but there she is to this day. It is
a continuous miracle: a fresco painted on eggshell plaster suspended in
the air for five and a half centuries, but how much greater is the
miracle of that tender embrace between Mother and Child, that union of
soul into which each one is invited and warmly received.
All the penalties imposed by divine judgment upon man for the sin of the first transgression – death, toil, hunger, thirst and the like – He took upon Himself, becoming what we are, so that we might become what He is.
learn from the Epistle to the Colossians that Mark was a kinsman of
Barnabas, who was a Levite, which presupposes that Mark was also of a
We read of Mark accompanying Paul and Barnabas
on their apostolic missions, assisting them in Cyprus (Acts 13:5) and
journeying with them to Perga in Pamphylia, from whence he returned on
his own to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). The Apostle to the Gentiles seems to
have construed this last action on Mark's part as displaying a certain
disloyalty. Later, when preparing to visit Cilicia and Asia Minor, a
heated argument ensued with Paul refusing to include Mark, while
Barnabas defended his cousin, "so that they separated from each other;
Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose
Silas and departed" (Acts 15, 37-40).
It is this same Mark who is
later imprisoned with Paul in Rome. As proof of how much his personal
opinion concerning Mark had changed during their joint captivity, the
Apostle to the Gentiles afterwards writes to Timothy in Ephesus, “…take
Mark and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me in the
strongly affirms that Mark, the author of the second gospel, was more
closely associated with St. Peter. Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus and
Papias speak of Mark as being Peter's interpreter. Writing from Rome,
Peter refers to “my son, Mark” (1 Peter 5, 13) who apparently was there
with him. This is undoubtedly Mark the Evangelist.
Ancient tradition relates that Mark lived for some years in Alexandria as bishop of that city, and there suffered martyrdom.
city of Venice claims to possess the remains of St. Mark the
Evangelist, brought there from Alexandria in the ninth century.
Preserved by the Venetians for centuries, their authenticity has not
gone unchallenged. From time immemorial, however, St. Mark – Apostle and
Evangelist – symbolized by the lion, has always been honored as patron
of this "Queen of the Adriatic." Photo by: Bolo77/Stefano Bolognini
In the spiritual life, one does not sustain honorable losses. War honors come only with victory. And winning consists in not abandoning the cross even when one falls beneath it. It consists in persevering amidst the apparent failures of external works, amidst adversity, in the exhaustion of all of one’s strength. It consists in carrying the cross to the height of Calvary, and, there, letting oneself be crucified.
was born Mark Rey in Sigmaringen in Prussia, and was the son of the
town's burgomaster. Pursuing studies at the University of Freiburg in
Bresigau, he eventually taught philosophy, while working towards a
degree in law.
In 1604, he was appointed tutor to a small group
of noble youths and with them made a six-year tour of Europe. His
pupils, who grew to respect and love him, attested to the austerity and
holiness of his life.
On his return to Germany, he took a
doctorate in law and was soon known for his integrity and for his
espousal of the cause of the oppressed. Still, the corruption within the
legal profession disgusted him and he decided to enter the Capuchin
branch of the Franciscan Order.
He was a preacher and confessor
of great repute and from the beginning of his apostolic life fought
heresy, especially in the form of Calvinism and Zwinglianism, not only
through preaching but also with his pen.
Appointed, with eight
others, apostle of the region of Grison with the mission of bringing its
people back to the faith, he undertook the project with courage and
dedication. From the start the wonderful effect of his zeal infuriated
his adversaries. They roused the peasants against him by spreading the
rumor that he was an enemy of their national aspirations and the agent
of the Austrian Emperor.
Fidelis was warned, but chose to spend
several nights in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament at the feet of a
crucifix. On April 24 he was back at his pulpit. A gunshot fired from
the crowd missed him, but once back on the road, he was attacked by a
group of armed men demanding that he renounce his Faith. He refused and
was struck down while calling on God to forgive his assailants, as they
mangled his body with their weapons.
The conversion of a
Zwinglian minister who witnessed the scene was one of the first fruits
of his martyrdom. Fidelis was canonized by Pope Benedict XIV.
the story of St. George is intertwined with legend, especially the
account of him slaying a dragon, the historicity of his life is certain. He
was of Greek origin, seemingly of a noble, Christian family. His father
was Gerondios, from Capaddocia, a prominent officer in the Imperial
army. His mother was Polychronia, from the city of Lyda, now in Israel.
a youth, he lost first his father and then his mother, after which he
enlisted in the Roman army under Emperor Diocletian. The latter favored
him in honor of his father’s service, and George was made an Imperial
By imperial edict, Roman soldiers were forbidden to
practice Christianity. Notwithstanding this prohibition, George loudly
proclaimed himself a follower of Christ before the Emperor Diocletian
and his fellow soldiers. Upset at the news, the Emperor offered George
an abundance of earthly goods in exchange for his Christian Faith, but
George was unmoved. He endured various tortures and was finally
beheaded. The Empress Alexandra was converted by his courageous example,
and some interpret that while the dragon often depicted being slain by
St. George is the pagan Roman might, the lady in the background is the
Devotion to St. George spread throughout Asia Minor, and
already early in the fourth century churches were being dedicated to
Throughout the history of Christian battles there have
been reports of St. George’s heavenly assistance, Richard I of England
and other Crusaders also confirming such intercession. It is not known
how St. George was chosen as patron of England, though it is certain
that his fame had reached the isle long before the Norman Conquest.
in the Roman Galatian town of Sykeon in Asia Minor, Theodore was the
son of a woman of ill repute, who kept an inn along the imperial
As a child, he was so given to prayer that he would
often give up a meal to spend time in church. From an early age he shut
himself up first in the cellar of his mother’s house and then in a cave
beneath a disused chapel. Later, for a time, seeking to further escape
the world, he sought solitude on a mountain.
On a pilgrimage to
Jerusalem Theodore assumed a monk’s habit, and though only eighteen
years of age, was ordained a priest by his own bishop. His life was most
austere, wearing an iron girdle about his body and only sparingly
partaking of vegetables.
Endowed with the gift of prophecy and
miracles, on a second pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he obtained abundant
rain after a severe drought.
Theodore founded several
monasteries, and ruled as abbot in Sykeon. He was consecrated Bishop of
Anastasiopolis, though he deemed himself totally unfitted. After ten
years he succeeded in relinquishing his post and retired to Sykeon.
Sykeon he was recalled to Constantinople to bless the emperor and the
senate and there healed one of the Emperor’s sons of a skin disease,
Theodore had a great devotion to St. George and did much to propagate devotion to him.
Love TRUTH. Show yourself as you are, without pretense, without fears and cares. And if the truth means your persecution, accept it; if it means your torment, bear it. And if for the truth's sake, you should sacrifice yourself and your life, be strong in your sacrifice.
was born in Aosta in Italy about the year 1033. There was little
sympathy between the lad and his father, a harsh man who practically
drove him from home after his mother’s death to pursue his studies in
In the Benedictine monastery of Bec in
Normandy, Anselm met and became the disciple and friend of its great
abbot, Lanfranc. When Anselm was twenty-seven, Lanfranc was elected to
higher office, and he himself appointed Prior of Bec. Fifteen years
later, Anselm was chosen abbot, a position that entailed visits to
England where the abbey had property, and where Lanfranc was now
Archbishop of Canterbury.
original thinker and great scholar, Anselm had a burning passion to
learn about natural and supernatural truth. He developed a method of
study for which he came to be known as the "Father of Scholasticism."
Under his governance, first as prior and then as abbot, the Abbey of Bec
became a center of true reformation in Normandy and England.
all, Anselm's great merit lay in his earnest and conscious effort of
living according to what he learned from the study of divine truths. His
life truly was a combination of contemplation, study, prayer, writing,
As the seat of Canterbury became vacant, the
pastoral staff was forced into the monk’s reluctant hand. Now, as
archbishop, he set about defending the liberties and rights of the
Church against encroaching English monarchs for which he was sorely
persecuted and exiled, but ultimately upheld, by Pope Urban II.
in Rome in 1098, Anselm attended the Council of Bari and assisted in
the definition of the doctrines challenged by the Greeks.
was a character of singular charm. He was known for his sympathy and
sincerity which won him the affection of men of all classes and
nationalities. A friend of the poorest of the poor, his care also
extended to slaves, being one of the first to stand against slavery. In
1102, at the Council of Westminster, he obtained the passing of a
resolution prohibiting the practice of selling men like cattle.
Anselm of Canterbury died in 1109 and was declared Doctor of the Church in 1720.
the year 1268 in the Tuscan village of Gracchiano-Vecchio, a child was
born to a well-to-do couple, a little girl who was to become one of the
great women saints of the Dominican Order.
Attracted to prayer
from an early age, even as a child Agnes would spend hours on her knees
praying the Our Father and Hail Mary. At nine years of age, she
convinced her parents to place her in the nearby Franciscan monastery at
Montelpuciano. In the austerity of monastic life, she advanced in
virtue by leaps and bounds.
Five years later, Agnes was called
upon to leave Montepulciano to assist in the foundation of a new convent
in Proceno. As soon as it was known that Agnes was at Proceno, several
girls offered themselves as postulants. With special papal dispensation,
the fifteen-year-old Agnes was elected abbess.
From that day
onwards, she redoubled her austerities, living for fifteen years on
bread and water, and sleeping on the ground with a stone pillow.
the inhabitants of Montelpuciano pined for their now famous saint, and
on the plans to build a new convent for her, she returned. The
establishment flourished under her rule and guidance, and she remained
prioress of this convent until her death.
In her later years, she
suffered from a painful illness but did not allow this condition to
interfere with her duties. She died at the age of forty-nine.
a youth, Alphege became a monk in the monastery of Deerhurst in
Gloucestershire, England, afterwards an anchorite and later an abbot in a
monastery in Bath. At thirty, at the insistence of St. Dunstan and to
his great consternation, he was elected Bishop of Winchester. As bishop,
he maintained the same austerity of life as when a monk. During his
episcopate he was so generous toward the poor that there were no beggars
left in the diocese of Winchester.
Alphege served twenty-two
years as bishop of this see and was then translated to the see of
Canterbury at the death of Archbishop Aelfric.
period, England suffered from the ravages of the Danes who joined forces
with the rebel Earl Edric, marched on Kent and laid siege to
Canterbury. When the city was betrayed, there was a terrible massacre,
men and women, old and young, dying by the sword.
hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing through the crowd
begged the Danes to cease the carnage. He was immediately seized,
roughly handled, and imprisoned.
A mysterious and deadly plague
broke out among the Danes, and, despite the fact that the holy prelate
had healed many of their own with his prayers and by giving them blessed
bread, the Danes demanded an exorbitant ransom for his release. As the
Archbishop protested that the country was too poor to pay such a price,
he was brutally assassinated.
St. Alphege was the first
Archbishop of Canterbury to die a violent death. In 1023, the martyr's
body was translated with great ceremony to Canterbury accompanied by the
Danish King Canute. Although he did not die directly in defense of the
Faith, St. Alphege is considered a martyr of justice.
Galdinus was born about the year 1096 into the Della Salla family, of minor Milanese nobility.
lived in a tumultuous time for the Church in Italy with the Emperor
Frederick Barbarossa causing trouble. Opposed to the election of Pope
Alexander III in 1159, Barbarossa proceeded to rally a few dissident
cardinals that elected another Pope. When the people of Milan sided with
the legitimate Pope, the Emperor invaded.
Galdinus, who occupied
the post of chancellor and archdeacon under Hubert, the Archbishop of
Milan, was obliged to follow the prelate into exile.
Galdinus was created Cardinal, and upon the death of Archbishop Hubert,
was consecrated his successor by Pope Alexander III himself. The new
prelate went about comforting his war-weary people and gathering his
dispersed flock. He also re-enforced discipline among his clergy who
had, during the troubled times, become lax.
heart and soul into the new undertaking, Galdinus preached constantly,
not only healing the spiritual wounds caused by the schism but
clarifying the faith to those confused by the heretical doctrine of the
Cathars, then widely prevalent in the north of Italy. The Cathari, or
Albigensians, rejected the seven sacraments, had special hatred for the
Holy Eucharist and Matrimony, and believed that the physical world was
all evil. Among their bizarre beliefs was that women must be reborn as
men in order to achieve salvation.
On the last day of his life,
too weak to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the ardent
shepherd could not be kept from his pulpit. When the zealous preacher
came to the end of his discourse, he simply died at his post.
Virgin, moved by the painful uncertainty we experience in seeking and
acquiring the true and the good, we cast ourselves at thy feet and
invoke thee under the sweet title of Mother of Good Counsel. We
beseech thee: come to our aid at this moment in our worldly sojourn when
the double darkness of error and of evil plot our ruin by leading minds
and hearts astray.
Seat of Wisdom and Star of the Sea, enlighten the victims of doubt
and of error so that they may not be seduced by evil masquerading as
good; strengthen them against the hostile and corrupting forces of
passion and of sin.
Mother of Good Counsel, obtain for us our most urgent need..... (here mention your request)
and secure for us from thy Divine Son the love of virtue and the
strength to choose, in doubtful and difficult situations, the course
agreeable to our salvation.
Supported by thy hand we shall thus journey without harm along the
paths taught us by the word and example of Jesus our Savior, following
the Sun of Truth and Justice in freedom and safety across the
battlefield of life under the guidance of thy maternal Star, until we
come at length to the harbor of salvation to enjoy with thee unalloyed
and everlasting peace. Amen
Say the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, three times each.
Harding was an Englishman of an honorable family, and heir to a large
estate. Born in Dorset, he was educated at the monastery of
Sherborne and spoke English, Norman, French and Latin.
of seeking a more perfect way of Christian perfection, he, with a devout
companion, traveled into Scotland and afterwards to Paris and to Rome.
On their return journey, the two travelers chanced upon a collection of
huts in the forest of Molesme in Burgundy, where monks lived in great
austerity. Struck by their way of life and finding kindred spirits in
Robert the Abbot, and Alberic the Prior, he bid his friend goodbye and
threw in his lot with the monks.
After some years, finding that
religious fervor had waned considerably, Stephen, Robert, Alberic and
others went to Lyons and with the support of Bishop Hugh struck a new
foundation in the forest of Citeaux sponsored by Rainald, Lord of
Beaune, and Odo, Duke of Burgundy.
Later Robert returned to his
monks of Molesme who reclaimed him as their abbot, and upon the death of
Alberic, in 1109, Stephen succeeded him as Abbot of Citeaux.
immediately instituted such austere measures to keep the spirit of the
world out that he alienated the support of many who had helped to
establish the abbey. Novices ceased applying, and to make matters worse,
a mysterious disease decimated his monks to the point that even
Stephen’s stout heart began to quiver wondering if he were really doing
God answered him dramatically when thirty noblemen
knocked at the abbey’s door seeking admittance. They were headed by
young St. Bernard who in his zeal had convinced his brothers, uncles and
a number of his acquaintances to give up the world with him.
numbers called for additional foundations and the first two were made
at Morimond and Clairvaux. To the general surprise, Stephen appointed
twenty-four-year-old Bernard as Abbot of Clairvaux. When nine abbeys had
sprung from Citeaux, Stephen drew up the statutes of his Charter of Charity which officially organized the Cistercians into an order.
Stephen Harding died in 1134, advanced in age and nearly blind, and having served as Abbot of Cîteaux for twenty-five years.
Do we lie to our children when we tell them fairytales, parents may ask?
No fairytale matches what in reality God can do and will do for those
who trust His omnipotence. Thus, fairytales are a way of “wetting the
appetite” of children for the marvelous, wonder-filled world of God’s
miracles, and, finally Heaven.
In my Catholic home, as I graduated from fairytales to the lives of
the saints, I was pleasantly surprised to find amazing parallels between
their stories with the marvelous tales of my childhood.
Actually, my fairytales paled compared to the riveting miracles, God
Our Lord, and Mother Mary, true “Fairy God’s Mother”, had worked in
these saints’ lives. And then, one day, I was awe-struck on being shown a
photo of the incorrupt body of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, who saw the
Blessed Mother eighteen times in Lourdes, France in 1858.
Here was the real “Sleeping Beauty”!
incorruption of the bodies of some saints is a phenomenon, which
science cannot explain. Far from “mummified”, these bodies are preserved
without exterior aid, some having escaped not only the ravages of
natural decomposition, but also the added putrefying effect of humidity,
and even the corrosiveness of lime.
The first saint in Catholic history to have escaped normal decay is
the Roman virgin Saint Cecilia, martyred in 177 A.D, her integral body
discovered in 1599. Throughout history, about 250 such bodies were
exhumed and found to be in different stages of preservation.
Bernadette of Lourdes, who died at age 36, was first exhumed thirty
years after her death. Before the local bishop and other authorities,
the body was recognized to be amazingly intact with even internal organs
preserved. Because of some discoloration of the skin, a light wax cover
was placed over her face and hands for eventual public veneration.
Indeed, in life young Bernadette had been incorruptible.
Perhaps, the young visionary’s outstanding qualities were utter
simplicity, and piercing honesty. After seeing the Blessed Virgin, and
initiating the miraculous fountain of Lourdes, she remained true to
herself, despite the center of feverish attention.
Unmoved by the acclaiming public that promptly conferred saintly
stardom on her, young Bernadette answered the grueling clerical
investigators with utter transparency, disconcerting directness and
uncanny wisdom for one so young and only recently lettered.
When entering the the convent of the Sisters of Nevers, she thought it only logical that she be assigned to menial tasks.
lived in fidelity to her vows, pure, simple, true, and a lover of her
daily cross, her one desire to be with her “lady” who had appeared to
her and sealed her heart for heaven.
She now reposes, enshrined in a crystal urn in the chapel of St.
Gildard, Nevers, France, a true Sleeping Beauty, stung by the curse of
death, but peacefully awaiting the return of her divine Bridegroom.
So, no – fairy-tales don’t lie!
By Andrea F. Phillips References: https://www.catholicpilgrims.com/lourdes/bb_bernadette_body.htm https://www.visionsofjesuschrist.com/weeping216.htm Catholic Online
Soubirous, baptized Marie Bernarde, was the oldest of a family of six,
the daughter of a miller, François Soubirous and his wife, Louise
Casteròt. They lived in Lourdes, a small town in the French Pyrenees.
by hard times, her father had to give up the mill and move the family
into the only lodging available, a former prison. "Le cachot" or "the
dungeon," was damp and cold. Always sickly, Bernadette had contracted
cholera as a child and suffered from severe asthma attacks. Considered a
slow learner, she had the simplicity of a dove, was good, patient, and
nothing but honest.
On February 11, 1858 while out with her
sister and two friends, her companions skipped over stones to cross the
River Gave to gather sticks for fuel near the grotto of Massabielle.
about wading into the frigid water, the asthmatic Bernadette was seated
on a rock when a sudden gust of wind made her look up. In the grotto
she beheld a luminous lady, dressed in white with a blue sash around her
waist, golden roses on her feet and a rosary over her arm.
of the vision caused a commotion, and people began to accompany
Bernadette to the grotto where, altogether, there were eighteen
apparitions in a period of two months. On March 25 the lady revealed
herself as “The Immaculate Conception”, four years after the definition
of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The Virgin’s message was one
of prayer and personal conversion and she also asked for a church to be
built and that people come on pilgrimage.
During one of the
apparitions, Bernadette suddenly began to dig inside the grotto, from
whence emerged a fountain that flows abundantly today. Its water has
worked countless cures, though only 67 are officially recognized by the
Church and medicine.
After the apparitions, though her father’s
life improved with offers of work, Bernadette’s was continuously
harassed by visitors and ecclesiastical inquiries.
1866 she entered the convent of Notre Dame de Nevers where, despite her
delicate health, she served as infirmarian and sacristan. Developing
painful, fatal tuberculosis of the bone, Bernadette suffered patiently
until her death at age thirty-five on April 16, 1879. She died
reaffirming the veracity of the apparitions.
Today, Lourdes is
one of the most visited and beloved Catholic shrines in the world.
Bernadette’s body lies in the convent chapel in Nevers, miraculously
After reading the life of any saint, we close the book exclaiming, “What a great saint! I did not think something like this could exist.” Indeed, as long as it is well written, the life of any saint is a unique marvel full of surprises. The
life of Saint Bernadette Soubirous is no exception. She was a French
peasant girl from an area of the Pyrenees mountains which, from a
certain standpoint, blends together aspects of Spain and France. She
looks very French although she has Spanish features. Looking at her
authentic pictures (not usually found in churches), we see a person with
a slightly squarish face with regular and well-defined features. She
has large black eyes with a certain fixed Spanish gaze unlike the
quicker and darting French gaze. Her Spanish gaze is penetrating almost
to the point of an x-ray. Together with her Spanish nose, her face
presents a coherence that really stands out and marks her from top to
mindset is direct and straightforward. She does not mince words. She
was a person with very high horizons but had a very simple upbringing,
meaning that she was never taught to be reserved or discreet. What she
thought, she would come right out and say. Her
whole expression is one of complete detachment. She was completely
humble and did not want to be anyone special. Her goal was to go about
the service of Our Lady without caring about what others think. Consider
the fact that Saint Bernadette could have become vain when seeing huge
crowds gathered to see her speak with Our Lady at the Grotto during the
fact is aggravated by the fact that Saint Bernadette was from the
countryside where such attention causes a much greater impression. The
smaller the town, the more importance one attaches to it. It is easier
for a New Yorker (to use an American example) to criticize New York than
for villagers to criticize their own little town. When the mayor of the
small village dies, the whole town shows up for the funeral. The
entire village represents the whole world. It is considered
might add that this atmosphere of the small countryside village has
much more life and is more accommodating than the huge modern-day Babels
in which the individual is like a loose grain of sand. In the village,
each inhabitant is like the living cell of an organism. In New York or
Sao Paulo, each is like a grain of sand in a huge pile in which each
grain weighs on top of the others, and from which every windstorm takes
grains far away. Thus,
we can understand what it meant for Saint Bernadette to have the whole
town of Lourdes come see her. It was something extraordinary. However,
her reaction was not to become vain. Rather she remained indifferent to
the attention. During the whole time, she was completely and naturally
herself before everyone. When called by the police to speak about the
revelations, she behaved with extraordinary fearlessness and ease.
Toward her parents, the parish priest and other upright people with whom
she dealt, and later with her religious superiors, she was a model of
respect and obedience. Thus,
we can see in her the spirit of a true ultramontane and Catholic woman.
She is a true saint totally indifferent to the pomp and esteem of this
world. By disregarding everything, she was not disregarded. For if she
would have sought the applause of the world, she would not be free to
do anything except those actions which would gain her this applause.
She would be forced to play to their tune. Saint Bernadette Soubirous’
attitude was to be herself. If the world did not like it, she did not
care. All she cared about was being faithful to the Holy Catholic
it came to legitimate authorities, her attitude was different. She
took great care to show extreme obedience and respect. This is because
there was a supernatural principle that was involved and not merely the
human factor of herself. She did not care about the ways of the world,
but she showed all due care and respect to things with a religious root,
which came from God. Saint
Bernadette Soubirous impressed many by her conduct during the
apparitions. She converted countless people simply by the way she made
the sign of the cross. She learned this from Our Lady – the supreme
model of friends and worshippers of Jesus Christ – and thus she acquired
a love of suffering and of the Cross of Christ. Hence something of Our
Lady’s unction would show in her when she made the sign of the cross. Even
after the apparitions, she edified people as they watched her make the
sign of the cross, something we often do haphazardly without attaching
due importance to what we are doing. However,
what most deeply impressed people was her whole demeanor during the
apparitions. They perceived she was in contact with something they
could not see but came from outside her. They
noted an extraordinary transformation in her. From a simple peasant
girl, she would take on a majesty that impressed everybody. One lady
from high society who saw her during an apparition said she had never
seen a girl from the aristocracy with the bearing and stature of Saint
Bernadette while speaking to Our Lady. In other words, because she was
dealing with the Queen of Heaven and Earth, this Queen communicated to
her something regal, and something of this virtue remained in her soul. Many
people realized that Our Lady was speaking to her, not because they saw
Our Lady but because they saw Bernadette as a mirror of Our Lady.
Indeed, during the apparitions, the seer was a kind of Speculum Mariae,
or better, Speculum Justitiae. It is truly admirable to see how Our
Lady communicates her virtues to her devotees, who, so to speak, imbibe
them from her. When
a sister at her convent insisted with Sister Bernadette to tell them
about the dress Our Lady was wearing when she appeared. She answered
that if they wanted to know the details let them ask Our Lady to come
back so they can see for themselves. This
was characteristic of Saint Bernadette’s many picturesque comments.
Her superior often tried to make them less biting and more polite but
finally allowed them to go through. Bernadette’s sayings had a note
that was both comic and fiery with a sharp edge that showed her bubbly
temperament. When asked if she was proud of being chosen by Our Lady, she replied: “Who
do you think I am? The Blessed Mother picked me because I was the most
ignorant one. Had she found someone more ignorant than me she would
certainly have chosen her.” Such
a comment was not only humble but also quite true. Humility is truth.
Our Lady chose her because she was the most ignorant girl in Lourdes.
Before the revelations, she was a good girl but not a saint. Our Lady
chose her because her ignorance was one of the extraordinary arguments
to confirm the apparitions. She
was such an ignorant peasant girl that she simply had no means to know
about the spiritual things she told the authorities. She did not have
the spiritual background to maintain the attitude she maintained. Her ignorance was one of the apologetic aspects of Lourdes. While
very lively, Saint Bernadette could easily go unnoticed. In time, her
illness gradually wore her down. Actually her situation is similar to
that of Saint Therese, the Little Flower. She offered her life as an
expiatory victim for sinners, but above all for a mysterious sinner who
she did not name and for whom she suffered horribly so he would make
amends and be sanctified. Was it a man of her time or a man to come in
the future, whose existence Providence revealed to her? No one knows. One
biography of Saint Bernadette mentions the fact that Our Lady revealed a
secret to her, which she never said anything about. It seems that it
was something related to the identity of that mysterious sinner. Thus
the three great apparitions of Our Lady of our times all had secrets:
Our Lady of La Salette, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Our Lady of Fatima. Let
us ask Saint Bernadette to obtain for us a great devotion to Our Lady
and that she may increasingly communicate Our Lady’s virtues to us.
preceding text is taken from an informal lecture Professor Plinio
Corrêa de Oliveira gave on April 15, 1966. It has been translated and
adapted for publication without his revision.
is known about St. Hunna other than that she was an aristocratic lady
from the royal family of Alsace and married to a nobleman, Huno of
Hunnaweyer, a small village in the diocese of Strasbourg. She was known
to be so caring of the poor around her that she even lent a hand in
doing the washing for her neighbors in need. Because of this she was
known as “the holy washerwoman”.
She also donated properties to monasteries and financed the construction of churches.
had a son who was baptized by the holy bishop of Nevers, St. Deodatus,
and was given his name in Baptism. This son later entered a monastery
founded by the same St. Deodatus at Ebersheim.
Hunna was canonized in 1520 by Pope Leo X at the instance of Duke Ulric of Wurtemberg.
the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious
robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. His
occupation being what it was, he would only increase his property by
decreasing that of his victims.
One day, he was admonished by a local religious to change his course
of life and thereby insure his eternal salvation. The only answer the
robber gave was that for him there was no remedy.
"Do not say so," said the religious, "do what I tell you. Fast on
each Saturday in honor of the Virgin Mary, and on that day of the week
do no harm to anyone. She will obtain for you the grace of not dying in
robber thought to himself, “This is a small price to pay to insure my
salvation; I will do as this holy man has prescribed.” He then
obediently followed the religious’ advice, and made a vow to continue to
do so. That he might not break it, from that time on he traveled
unarmed on Saturdays.
Many years later, our robber was apprehended on a given Saturday by
the officers of justice, and that he might not break his oath, he
allowed himself to be taken without resistance. The judge, seeing that
he was now a gray-haired old man, wished to pardon him.
Then the truly miraculous occurred. Rather than jump for joy thanking
the judge for his leniency, the old robber, said that he wished to die
in punishment of his sins. He then made a public confession of all the
sins of his life in that same judgment hall, weeping so bitterly that
all present wept with him.
He was beheaded, a death reserved for the nobility, rather than
hanged. Then his body was buried with little ceremony, in a grave dug
nearby. Very soon afterwards, the mother of God came down from
Heaven with four holy virgins by her side. They took the robber’s dead
body from that place, wrapped it in a rich cloth embroidered with gold,
and bore it themselves to the gate of the city.
There the Blessed Virgin said to the guards: "Tell the bishop from
me, to give an honorable burial, in such a church to this dead person,
for he was my faithful servant." And thus it was done.
All the people in the village thronged to the spot where they found
the corpse with the rich pall, and the bier on which it was placed. And
from that moment on, says Caesarius of Heisterbach, all persons in that
region began to fast on Saturdays in honor of she who was so kind to
even a notorious robber. From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.
Some seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: that is curiosity. Others seek knowledge that they may themselves be known: that is vanity. But there are still others who seek knowledge in order to serve and edify others, and that is charity.
or “Little Benedict” was a French lad, pious and thoughtful beyond his
years who minded his mother’s sheep. He was deeply concerned about how
dangerous it was for poor people to cross the unpredictable Rhône River.
is said that during an eclipse, in the year 1177, he heard a voice that
said to him: "Bénézet, take your rod and go down to Avignon, the
capital's waterfront: talk to people and tell them that we must build a
In the Middle Ages the construction and repair of
bridges was considered a work of mercy. Though Bénézet knew nothing of
building bridges, he took his staff and obeyed the call.
the bishop of Avignon dismissed him as being daft, but after witnessing
several miracles performed by the holy shepherd lad, he supported the
enterprise, and the Brotherhood of Bridge Builders was formed with
wealthy sponsors. For seven years Bénézet conducted the operations.
Provençal shepherd-turned-bridge-builder died in 1184 when most of the
difficulties with the construction had been overcome. The mighty bridge,
completed four years later, measured 900 meters long and spanned the
river with 22 arches, connecting one of the main pilgrimage routes from
Italy to Covadonga on the Atlantic coast of Spain.
was interred in a small chapel on the bridge itself. This chapel,
standing on one of the bridge's piers, was dedicated to St. Nicholas,
the patron saint of the Rhône boatmen. In 1669, when part of the bridge
collapsed from the force of the current, his coffin was taken up and in
1670 opened before the Grand Vicar. The body was found to be intact,
even the bowels were sound and the color of his eyes fresh. The body was
first translated to the Cathedral of Avignon and finally interred in
the Church of St. Didier in the city.
The fame of Bénézet's bridge in Avignon was spread far beyond the borders of France by the children’s song, Sur le Pont d’Avignon, which is sung all over the world, even in China. Photo on Left by: Elliott BrownPhoto on Right by: Charles Greenhough
Martin I is historically acclaimed as a heroic defender of the Faith, a
man of exalted virtue and untiring courage. Born in Umbria, his
biographer Theodore describes him as “of noble birth, a great student,
of commanding intelligence, of profound learning, and of great charity
to the poor.”
Elected as the successor of the Fisherman in 649,
Martin governed the Church during a time when the Emperor of
Constantinople, Constans II, supported Paul, the Patriarch of
Constantinople and others in the Monothelite heresy, which proposed that
Christ had a reduced human nature and human will.
patriarch's adamant refusal to recant his heretical doctrine, the Pope
refused to remain silent, issued an excommunication against the
Patriarch Paul and summoned a Lateran Council which formally condemned
the heresy. Infuriated at this “slap in the face” Constans II sent a man
to Rome to assassinate the Pope, but Martin was protected by God and
the attempt failed. After this, many calamities befell the Emperor, but
obstinate, he ordered his governor and soldiers in Italy to arrest the
Pope and bring him to Constantinople, which, after some difficulties,
was finally carried out.
In Constantinople the Pope was subject
to public ridicule, extreme ill treatment and then a cruel imprisonment.
Lastly, Constans II exiled him to the Crimea where he suffered from the
famine of the land, from total friendlessness and abandonment of his
own. He died two years later in 656 a martyr to the right of the Church
to define and uphold doctrine even in the face of Imperial power. Photo by: Wolfgang Sauber
and his brother Reccared were the sons of Leovigild, a Visigothic King
of Spain and his first wife, Theodosia. Leovigild shared his kingdom
with his two sons, placing Hermenegild upon the throne of Seville. Both
had been raised as Arians, a heretical sect that denied the divinity of
Hermenegild, the elder, was married to Inguthis, a
daughter of the Frankish King Sigibert I. Whereas he was Arian, she was a
zealous Catholic, and her patient fortitude in the persecutions and
torments inflicted on her by Leovigild’s second wife, Gosvint, as well
as the instructions and exhortations of the Bishop of Seville, St.
Leander, eventually lead to Hermenegild’s conversion.
father’s rage at his decision and the pressure from his family,
Hermenegild held firm in his newfound Catholic faith. As the sovereign
King of Seville, Hermenegild defended himself and his subjects against
Leovigild’s attacks. However, being much too weak to withstand the
sieges of such a strong power, and having been unable to secure any
assistance from Constantinople and, subsequently, suffering a bitter
betrayal at the hand of the Roman generals, Hermenegild fled, seeking
refuge in a much venerated church in Osseto. King Leovigild refused to
violate this sanctuary and, instead, sent Hermenegild’s brother Reccared
in to promise him pardon should he submit and come out. Hermenegild
complied and came out to the convincing pretense of sincerity and joy
from his father. However, once back in Leovigild’s camp, the king
ordered him stripped of his royal robes, bound, and imprisoned in the
tower of Seville, where the young prince had reigned for two short
His father's cruelty failed to move the young king from
his resolve. Hermenegild was unwavering in his faith and even imposed
additional austerities and penances upon himself during his imprisonment
in spite of his already intense suffering. The last straw came
for Leovigild when his son refused Communion from the hand of an Arian
bishop who came to visit him during the solemnity of Easter. He was
subsequently beheaded on this day in the year 586.
As a child, I was fascinated by the foil wrapped, chocolate eggs
hidden in the bush. The intense search was rewarded by a glimmer of
light and color in the greenery that never failed to make my heart skip.
in our Catholic household, we actively celebrated the Resurrection of
Our Lord; and it was explained to us children that the Easter egg was a
symbol of Jesus’ resurrection because the egg is symbolic of new life
that emerges from a confined space, such as Christ’s tomb.
Later, for a few years, I attended a Ukrainian Catholic grade-school
and there I was introduced to the fascinating art of Pysanky, or
“writing on eggs”, and tried my wobbly hand at it.
As I handled the “kistka” an instrument that dispenses hot wax, as an
ink pen dispenses ink, I loved every minute. The process, basically
masks designs and progressively dips the egg into dies to reveal, at the
end, and when the wax is melted off, a small marvel. No matter how
amateur or how proficient one is at it, there’s a thrill.
Indeed, pysanky, from the word pysaty, “to write”, dates back to
pre-Christian times, when eggs were celebrated for their
With the advent of Christianity, the custom was incorporated into the
new faith and related to Our Lord’s Resurrection with Christian symbols
replacing pagan ones.
I wasn’t to be a pysanky artist. I use a pen, rather than a “kistka”,
but never forget that one time I did “write” on an egg, and felt the
fascination of the ancient tradition.
It was thus, with another heart-skip that last October, while on
vacation in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I met a group of bubbly Pysanky
artists who convene there every year.
Inspired by Pysanky master Lorrie Popow, a life-long writer
of Pysanky, just named 2015 Arkansas Living Treasure, people come from
all over the world to learn this ancient art form.
Culture is a powerful thing. It can be used for bad, as manifested
all around us today, or it can be used for good as evinced by the
strength of ancient customs. Steeped in a civilization inspired by
Christ, these customs not only have enriched generations past, but
continue to cross oceans, resurfacing in places such as the heart of
Indeed such traditions, when used and passed on with the right
knowledge and linked to their deep religious meaning, can be an asset to
faith, especially for children who are so visual and “hands on”.
I loved those eggs I found in the bush, and I loved those eggs I
learned about in school. They never took away from faith, but rather
lent a marvelous component of enjoyment and art to the sacred in my
By Andrea F. PhillipsPhotos: Pysanky Eggs displayed at the 2014 convention of Pysanky painters in Hot Springs Arkansas.
Resurrection represents the eternal and definitive triumph of Our Lord
Jesus Christ, the complete defeat of his adversaries, and the supreme
argument of our faith. Saint Paul said that, if Christ had not
resurrected, our faith would be vain. The whole edifice of our beliefs
is founded on the supernatural fact of the Resurrection. Let us then
meditate about this highly elevated subject.
* * *
Lord was not resurrected: He resurrected. He was dead. Lazarus was
resurrected. Someone other than him, in this case, Our Lord, called him
back to life. As for the Divine Redeemer, no one resurrected Him. He
resurrected Himself, needing no one to call Him back to life. He took
his life back when He so willed.
Everything that is said about Our Lord
can be analogically applied to the Holy Catholic Church. We often see,
in the history of the Church, that precisely when She seemed
irremediably lost and all the symptoms of catastrophe seemed to
undermine Her, events took place that kept Her alive against all the
expectations of Her adversaries. A rather curious fact is that
sometimes it is the Church’s enemies that come to Her aid, rather than
Her friends. For example, in a most sensitive time period for
Catholicism like Napoleon’s era, an extremely unusual episode took
place: a conclave was convened for the election of Pius VII under the
protection of Russian troops, all of them schismatic and under the
command of a schismatic sovereign. In Russia itself, the practice of
the Catholic religion was curbed in a thousand ways. Yet, in Italy,
Russian troops ensured the free election of a Sovereign Pontiff
precisely at the moment when a vacancy in the See of Peter would have
caused such grievous damages for Holy Church that, humanly speaking, she
might never have been able to overcome them.
the marvelous means that Divine Providence employs to demonstrate that
God has the supreme government of all things. However, let us not think
that the Church owed Her salvation to Constantine, Charlemagne, John of
Austria, or Russian troops. Even when She seems to be entirely
abandoned and when She lacks the most indispensable natural resources
for survival, let us be certain that Holy Church will not die. Like Our
Lord, She will rise with Her own, divine strength. And the more
inexplicable the seeming resurrection of the Church may be from the
human standpoint (we say seeming, because, unlike Our Lord, the Church
will never die a real death), the more glorious Her victory will be.
murky and sad days, let us thus confide. However, in order to restore
all things in the Kingdom of Christ, let us confide not in this or that
power, man, or ideological current but in Divine Providence, which will
once again force the sea to open wide, move mountains and cause the
whole earth to tremble if necessary to fulfill the divine promise:
“The gates of Hell shall not prevail against Her.”