Saint Wenceslas, Martyr

September 28

Today is the feast day of Saint Wenceslas.  Ora pro nobis.

Saint Wenceslas was son of Wratislas, duke of Bohemia, and of Drahomira of Lucsko, and grandson of Borivor, the first Christian duke, and the blessed Ludmilla. His father was a valiant and good prince; but his mother was a pagan, and her heart was not less depraved, as to sentiments of morality, than as to those of religion. This princess was not less cruel than haughty, nor less perfidious than impious. She had two sons, Wenceslas, and Boleslas.

Saint Wenceslas

by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

St. Wenceslas, duke of Bohemia, was the son of Wratislas and Drahomira. In proportion as his father was a model of all Christian virtues, his mother was the possessor of all vices, besides being a great enemy to the Christian Religion. Wratislas, upon his dying bed, gave Wenceslas in charge of his grandmother Ludmilla, while Boleslas, his younger, was kept by Drahomira. As both women were totally different in their morals, so also the conduct of the two children became entirely unlike. Wenceslas became pious and holy; Boleslas, godless and licentious. Drahomira seized the government of the state and persecuted the Christians most cruelly. She banished the priests, dismissed the Christians from all public places, which she filled with heathens of whom the faithful had nothing to expect but cruelty. The nobles would not submit to this administration, and deposing Drahomira, placed Wenceslas on the throne, and bound themselves to him by an oath of allegiance. Drahomira, burning with rage when she perceived that the Christians were again protected by the pious Ludmilla, was determined to revenge herself. She sent some hired assassins who strangled her with her own veil, while she was at her devotions in her private chapel. Not satisfied with this murder, Drahomira sought to make away with her son Wenceslas.

Meanwhile, this holy Prince conducted himself towards God and his subjects in such a manner, that he was beloved and highly esteemed by every one. He was extremely kind in all his actions, temperate in eating and drinking, unwearied in his care for his subjects, and blameless in his whole conduct. He was so charitable to the poor and to prisoners, so compassionate to widows and orphans, that the Christian world could count but few men like him. The prisoners he visited at night and gave them rich alms, the sick he supplied with all they needed, and showed a fatherly heart to the widows and orphans. It is known that he himself, at night, carried wood upon his shoulders to the destitute. Not a shadow of impurity tarnished the brightness of his life, and he preserved his chastity unpolluted to his end. He gave daily several hours to prayer, and even in winter frequently visited the Church at night barefooted. One of his servants who accompanied him, one day complained of the cold, and the duke told him to step in the footprints which he, walking before him, had made in the snow. The servant did so and no longer felt any cold; for the footprints of the prince were warmed by his love to the Holy Eucharist. Towards the priests he was always extremely generous. He often served them at the Altar, and allowed not the least wrong to be done them by word or deed. He distinguished himself especially in his devotion to the Holy Mass at which he daily assisted. He sowed, gathered and prepared with his own hands, the wheat which was used in making the Hosts; and cultivated and pressed the grapes for the wine used at Holy Mass. In one word, Wenceslas reigned and lived like a Saint.

Count Radislas, scorning the piety of the duke, caused the people to rebel and marched against Wenceslas. The latter, sending him a deputation, made offers of peace, but Radislas would not even listen to the king’s message, esteeming it a sign of Wenceslas’s cowardice. Hence the holy duke was forced to meet him at the head of his army. The two armies were drawn up opposite each other in battle array, when Wenceslas, sad that so much innocent blood should be shed, and being willing rather to give his own than that of his subjects, challenged Radislas to single combat, with the condition that the victory should be on the side of him who should slay his adversary.

Radislas accepted the challenge, and spear in hand, galloped in full armor towards the Saint. The latter was also clad in armor, but carried only a sword. Radislas intended to unhorse Wenceslas with his spear and thus have him in his power. The Saint went to meet him, making the sign of the cross. At the moment when Radislas was about to thrust his spear, he saw, by the side of Wenceslas, two angels who cried to him: “Stand off!” This cry acted like a thunderbolt upon Radislas, and changed his intentions. Throwing himself from his horse, he fell at the Saint’s feet, asking for grace and pardon, promising obedience in future. Wenceslas raised him from the ground and kindly received him again into favor.

Soon after, the duke was summoned to Worms to assist at the general Diet. The emperor and all the princes and dignitaries were already assembled, but Wenceslas had not yet appeared as he was detained by hearing Mass. Thinking that his delay was intentional and caused by pride, they determined to receive him very coldly, and without the honor he had a right to expect. But when the Saint entered the hall, Otho, the emperor, saw two angels accompanying him, carrying before him a golden cross. When the Emperor had recovered from the awe with which this sight had inspired him, he arose from his throne and going towards the Saint, he led him to the seat prepared for him. The entire assemblage were greatly astonished at this act of the emperor, but when he related what he had seen, they all regarded the Saint with the greatest reverence. The emperor also bestowed the royal dignity and power on Wenceslas, and presented him with the arm of the holy martyr, St. Vitus, which Wenceslas received gratefully and with due respect, and took with him to Bohemia. At the close of the Diet, the Saint returned as king, and continued his holy life.

The more the pious monarch was loved and honored by his subjects on account of his holiness and his new dignity, the more hostile Drahomira and Boleslas grew towards him. Wenceslas, who perceived this, determined to resign his crown. But the wicked Drahomira would not wait for this. Boleslas had become father of a son, and Wenceslas was invited to be present at the baptism of the young prince. Although the holy king had reason to suppose that this invitation covered other intentions, he accepted it, in order not to manifest any distrust of his brother. Having gone to confession and Holy Communion, he went fearlessly to the palace of Boleslas. He was received with great honor and magnificently entertained. At midnight, before the banquet was ended, the Saint quietly left the hall, and went, according to his custom, into the Church. Drahomira seized this opportunity, and calling Boleslas aside, told him that the hour was now come when he could revenge himself and make the royal crown his own. The blood-thirsty tyrant needed no persuasion. Seizing his sword, he hastened, with some attendants, into the Church and stabbed his holy brother with such brutal force, that the blood bespattered the wall, where it is yet to be seen at this day. But the punishment of God soon overtook the murderers. The earth opened and swallowed Drahomira, the instigator of the sinful deed, with her horse and carriage, in that part of Prague which is called the castle of Ratschin. Of the murderers who were with Boleslas when he committed the crime, some lost their reason, while the rest died by their own hands. Although God delayed the punishment of Boleslas, it came at last. Having long been tormented by most painful maladies, at length he expired in all his wickedness.

The shrine of the holy king Wenceslas was honored with many miracles, after God had crowned his virtuous soul with everlasting glory in the kingdom of Heaven. (1)

Image:    Altar of Saint Wenceslas, artist: Angelo Caroselli, circa 1740, located in St Peter’s (3)

Research by REGINA Staff





Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs

September 27

Today is the feast day of Saints Cosmas and Damian.  Orate pro nobis.

Saints Cosmas and Damian were brothers, born in Arabia in the third century, of noble and virtuous parents. Saint Gregory of Tours wrote that they were twins. They studied the sciences in Syria, and became eminent for their skill in medicine. Being Christians and filled with the charity which characterizes our holy religion, they practiced their profession with great application and wonderful success, but never accepted any fee. They were loved and respected by the people for their good offices and their zeal for the Christian faith, which they took every opportunity to propagate.

Saints Cosmas and Damian

by Fr. Francis Xavier, 1876

Sts. Cosmas and Damian were brothers, born of rich Christian parents, at Aegae in Cilicia. Both studied medicine, in order to have an opportunity to gain the Pagans to Christ, and encourage the Christians to virtue as well as to constancy in their faith. God blessed their medical skill to such an extent, that they became celebrated through the whole country for the happy cures which they effected, and pagans, as well as Christians had recourse to them in all dangerous diseases. They asked no fee from their patients, but served them out of love to God. When they visited a patient, they inquired into his ailings, and then cured him by making the sign of the cross over him. They even restored sight to the blind, and made the lame walk. Many heathens, healed in this manner, were converted to the Christian faith, as they not only became convinced of the power of the holy cross, but were also taught by the holy brothers who He was who had died for us on the cross. Hence these two holy physicians were rightly esteemed and honored as apostles by the Christians.

The heathens, however, regarded them as the greatest enemies of their gods: and when the Governor Lysias, by the order of Dioclesian and Maximian, came to Aegas, to exterminate the Christians there, these two brothers were the first who were denounced as magicians and corrupters of the people. Lysias called them to account, but they said fearlessly: “We are no magicians, no corrupters of the people; but in faith, Christians, and physicians by profession. We are not actuated by selfish motives, by lust of gain, in the practice of our science, as we take remuneration from no one. The happy cures we make we owe not so much to our knowledge, as to the power of Jesus Christ, whom we worship as the true God.” It was enough for the governor to know that both professed Christianity. He ordered them to be bound, whipped, and then thrown into the sea. The first of these orders was immediately most cruelly executed, but with the second he did not succeed; for, an angel of the Lord loosened the fetters of the Martyrs and brought them back to the shore, healed of the wounds which they had received in the barbarous whipping. When Lysias was informed of this, he ordered them to be burned alive. They were cast into a burning furnace, but remained unharmed. The tyrant then had them bound to a cross and commanded stones and arrows to be thrown at them; but both stones and arrows rebounded from them without doing them the least injury, while they severely wounded the heathens who were standing around. A great many were converted by this miracle. Lysias alone remained unmoved; and as he knew no other tortures, he condemned the two Saints to die by the sword. (2)

Their three brothers, Anthimus, Leontius, and Euprepius died as martyrs with them. The execution took place 27 September, probably in the year 287. At a later date a number of fables grew up about them, connected in part with their relics. The remains of the martyrs were buried in the city of Cyrus in Syria; the Emperor Justinian I (527-565) sumptuously restored the city in their honour. Having been cured of a dangerous illness by the intercession of Cosmas and Damian, Justinian, in gratitude for their aid, rebuilt and adorned their church at Constantinople, and it became a celebrated place of pilgrimage. At Rome Pope Felix IV (526-530) erected a church in their honour, the mosaics of which are still among the most valuable art remains of the city. The Greek Church celebrates the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian on 1 July, 17 October, and 1 November, and venerates three pairs of saints of the same name and profession. Cosmas and Damian are regarded as the patrons of physicians and surgeons and are sometimes represented with medical emblems. They are invoked in the Canon of the Mass and in the Litany of the Saints.

Image: Saints Cosmas and Damian, artist: Jean Bourdichon, circa 1503-1508 (4)

Research by REGINA Staff


Saint Cyprian and Saint Justina, Martyrs

September 26

Today is the feast day of Saint Cyprian and Saint Justina.  Orate pro nobis.

Christians of Antioch who suffered martyrdom during the persecution of Diocletian at Nicomedia, 26 September, 304, the date in September being afterwards made the day of their feast.

Cyprian was a heathen magician of Antioch who had dealing with demons. By their aid he sought to bring St. Justina, a Christian virgin, to ruin; but she foiled the threefold attacks of the devils by the sign of the cross. Brought to despair Cyprian made the sign of the cross himself and in this way was freed from the toils of Satan. He was received into the Church, was made pre-eminent by miraculous gifts, and became in succession deacon, priest, and finally bishop, while Justina became the head of a convent.

When the persecution of Diocletian broke out, Cyprian and Justina were seized and presented to the same judge. She was inhumanly scourged, and Cyprian was torn with iron hooks. After this they were sent in chains to Diocletian, who commanded their heads to be struck off. This sentence was executed at Nicomedia, in the year 304.


The Golden Legend or Lives Of The Saints

Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275

Englished by William Caxton, First Edition 1483

From the Temple Classics Edited by F.S. Ellis

And this virgin was strongly grieved and vexed of Cyprian, and at the last she converted him to the faith of Jesu Christ. And Cyprian from his childhood had been an enchanter, for from the time that he was seven years old he was consecrated by his parents to the devil. And he used the craft of necromancy, and made women to turn into juments and beasts as them seemed, and many other things semblable. And he was covetous of the love of Justina, and burnt in the concupiscence of her, and resorted to his art magic that he might have her for himself, or for a man named Acladius, which also burnt in her love.

Then he called a devil to him, to the end that he might by him have Justina, and when the devil came he said to him: Why hast thou called me?

And Cyprian said to him: I love a virgin, canst thou not so much that I may have my pleasure of her?

And the devil answered: I that might cast man out of Paradise, and procured that Cain slew his brother, and made the Jews to slay Christ, and have troubled the men, trowest thou I may not do that thou have a maid with thee, and use her at thy pleasure? Take this ointment and anoint withal her house withoutforth, and I shall come and kindle her heart in thy love, that I shall compel her to assent to thee.

And the next night following the devil went and enforced him to move her heart unto unlawful love. And when she felt it, she recommended herself devoutly to God, and garnished her with the sign of the cross, and the devil, all afraid of the sign of the cross, fled away from her, and came again to Cyprian and stood before him.

And Cyprian said to him: Why hast thou not brought to me this virgin?

And the devil said: I see in her a sign which feared me, that all strength is failed in me.

Then Cyprian left him, and called another devil more stronger than he was. And he said: I have heard thy commandment and have seen the non-power of him, but I shall amend it and accomplish thy will.

Then the devil went to her, and enforced to move her heart in love, and inflame her courage in things not honest. And she recommended her to God devoutly, and put from her that temptation by the sign of the cross, and blew on the devil, and threw him anon away from her. And he fled all confused and came tofore Cyprian, and Cyprian said to him: Where is the maid that I sent thee for? and the devil said: I acknowledge that I am overcome and am rebutted, and I shall say how, for I saw in her a sign horrible, and lost anon all my virtue.

Then Cyprian left him, and blamed him, and called the prince of the devils. And when he was come he said: Wherefore is your strength so little, which is overcome of a maid ?

Then the prince said to him: I shall go and vex her with great fevers, and I shall inflame more ardently her heart, and I shall arouse and bedew her body with so ardent desire of thee that she shall be all frantic: and I shall offer to her so many things that I shall bring her to thee at midnight.

Then the devil transfigured himself in the likeness of a maid, and came to this holy virgin, and said: I am come to thee for to live with thee in chastity, and I pray thee that thou say what reward shall we have for to keep us so.

And the virgin answered: The reward is great, and the labour is small.

And the devil said to her: What is that then that God commanded when he said: Grow and multiply and replenish the earth? Then, fair sister, I doubt that if we abide in virginity that we shall make the word of God vain, and be also despising and inobedient, by which we shall fall into a grievous judgment, where we shall have no hope of reward, but shall run in great torment and pain.

Then by the enticement of the devil the heart of the virgin was smitten with evil thoughts, and was greatly inflamed in desire of the sin of the flesh, so that she would have gone thereto, but then the virgin came to herself, and considered who that it was that spake to her. And anon she blessed her with the sign of the cross, and blew against the devil, and anon he vanished away and melted like wax, and incontinent she was delivered from all temptation.

A little while after, the devil transfigured him in the likeness of a fair young man, and entered into her chamber, and found her alone in her bed, and without shame sprang into her bed and embraced her, and would have had a done with her. And when she saw this she knew well that it was a wicked spirit, and blessed her as she had done tofore, and he melted away like wax.

And then by the sufferance of God she was vexed with axes and fevers. And the devil slew many men and beasts, and made to be said by them that were demoniacs that, a right great mortality should be throughout all Antioch, but if Justina would consent unto wedlock and have Cyprian. Wherefore all they that were sick and languishing in maladies lay at the gate of Justina’s father and friends, crying that they should marry her and deliver the city of that right great peril. Justina then would not consent in no wise, and therefore everybody menaced her. And in the sixth year of that mortality she prayed for them, and chased and drove thence all that pestilence.

And when the devil saw that he profited nothing, he transumed and transfigured him in the form of Justina for to defoul the fame of Justina, and in mocking Cyprian he advanced him that he had brought to him Justina. And came to him in likeness of her, and would have kissed him as if she had languished for his love. And when Cyprian saw him and supposed that it had been Justina, he was all replenished with joy, and said: Thou art welcome, Justina, the fairest of all women.

And anon as Cyprian named Justina, the devil might not suffer the name, but as soon as he heard it he vanished away as a fume or smoke. And when Cyprian saw him deceived, he was all heavy and sorrowful, and was then more burning and desirous in the love of Justina, and woke long at the door of the virgin, and as him seemed he changed him sometimes into a bird by his art magic, and sometimes into a woman, but when he came to the door of the virgin he was neither like woman nor bird, but appeared Cyprian as he was.

Acladius, by the devil’s craft, was anon turned into a sparrow, and when he came to the window of Justina, as soon as the virgin beheld him, he was not a sparrow, but showed himself as Acladius, and began to have anguish and dread, for he might neither fly ne leap, and Justina dreading lest he should fall and break himself, did do set a ladder by which he went down, warning him to cease of his woodness, lest he should be punished as a malefactor by the law.

Then the devil, being vanquished in all things, returned to Cyprian, and held him all confused tofore him, and Cyprian said to him: And how art not thou overcome, what unhappy is your virtue that ye may not overcome a maid, have ye no might over her, but she overcometh you and breaketh you all to pieces? Tell me, I pray thee, in whom she hath all this great might and strength.

And the devil said: If thou wilt swear to me that thou wilt not depart from me ne forsake me, I shall show to thee her strength and her victory.

To whom Cyprian said: By what oath shall I swear?

And the devil said: Swear thou by my great virtues that thou shalt never depart from me.

And Cyprian said: I swear to thee by thy great virtues that I shall never depart from thee.

Then the devil said to him, weeping to be sure of him: This maid maketh the sign of the cross, and anon then we wax feeble and lose all our might and virtue, and flee from her, like as wax fleeth from the face of the fire.

And Cyprian said then to him: The crucified God is then greater than thou?

And the devil said: Yea, certainly he is greater than all others, and all them that we here deceive, he judgeth them to be tormented with fire inextinguishable.

And Cyprian said: Then ought I to be made friend of him that was crucified, lest I fall hereafter into such pains.

To whom the devil said: Thou hast sworn by the might and virtues of my strengths, the which no man may forswear, that thou shalt never depart from me.

To whom Cyprian said: I despise thee, and forsake thee and all thy power, and renounce thee and all thy devils, and garnish and mark me with the sign of the cross, and anon the devil departed all confused.

Then Cyprian went to the bishop, and when the bishop saw him he weened that he were come to put the Christian men in error, and said: Let it suffice unto thee, Cyprian, them that be without forth, for thou mayst nothing prevail against the church of God, for the virtue of Jesu Christ is joined thereto, and is not overcome.

And Cyprian said: I am certain that the virtue of our Lord Jesu Christ is not overcome.

And then he recounted all that was happened, and did him to be baptized of him. And after, he profited much, as well in science as in life. And when the bishop was dead, Cyprian was ordained bishop, and placed the blessed virgin Justina with many virgins in a monastery, and made her abbess over many holy virgins. St. Cyprian sent then epistles to martyrs and comforted them in their martyrdom. (4)


Image: Saints Cyprian and Justina  (3)

Research by REGINA Staff


The North American Martyrs, Confessors

September 26 (in Canada) and October 19 (in the US).

Today is the feast day of the North American Martyrs.  Orate pro nobis.

These Martyrs were among the earliest Saints of North America. All were French born Jesuits: Jean de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues, Antony Daniel, Gabriel Lalemant, Charles Garnier, and Noel Chabanel, priests; and John La Lande and René Goupil, lay-brothers. They selflessly worked among the native Hurons until they met their death at the hands of mortal enemies of the Hurons: the Iroquois and the Mohawks. The Iroquois were animated by the bitter hatred of the missionaries, whom they subjected to indescribable tortures before putting them to death.  Five died in what is now Canada, three in what is now the United States.

They came in the 1640’s to New France, to add their strength to that of the Franciscan Recollets, who had preceded them by a few years. There was not yet any bishop to assist them; the first bishop of Quebec, Blessed Monsignor Francis Montmorency de Laval, arrived only in 1658.

Father Jean de Brébeuf was born in Condé-sur-Vire, Normandy, France on March 25, 1593. He became a Jesuit in 1617. In 1625 he sailed to Canada as a missionary, arriving on June 19, and lived with the Huron natives near Lake Huron, learning their customs and language, of which he became and expert; although the missionaries were recalled in 1629, Brébeuf returned to Canada in 1633. He unsuccessfully attempted to convert the Neutral nations on Lake Erie in 1640. In 1648 the Iroquois attacked Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, where Brébeuf was living, and he was captured and tortured to death on March 16, 1649.

Father Isaac Jogues: One of the eight Frenchmen known as the North American Martyrs, the Jesuit priest Isaac Jogues’ first task when he arrived in Quebec in 1636, was to learn the Huron language. His teacher was Father Jean le Brébeuf , another Jesuit. Brébeuf earlier had written Instruction, a collection of data based on his years of living among the Hurons since 1625. His practical advice included tips for conduct: eating with the Indians, sharing their camps, caring for the ill in view of “medicine men’s” feelings. It was “helpful for many situations,” its introduction stated, “both the predictable and the unexpected.”

Early in 1644 Fr. Jogues sailed to Montreal and ministered again to the Hurons while waiting for a chance to return to the Mohawks. Two years later he was sent to Ossernenon, the principal Mohawk village, to negotiate a peace agreement between the Iroquois Nation—–of which the Mohawks were a part—–and the French. After meeting for a week, Jogues left for Quebec with news of success and a plan to return again to Ossernenon.

Unfortunately, the Mohawks had poor crops that year, and an epidemic broke out. They believed that the box containing vestments and religious articles which Jogues had left behind caused these disasters. As he was returning to the village from Quebec with John de La Lande and some Hurons, some members of the Mohawks’ Bear Clan invited Jogues to a dinner. As he stooped to enter their longhouse on Oct. 19, 1646, he was tomahawked to death. The next day they killed La Lande. Perhaps this was the “unexpected” le Brébeuf could not prepare him for.

Father Antoine Daniel was the first to die in Canada, after ten years among the Hurons. The chapel of the village where his mission stood was filled with his faithful Christians, and he had just finished saying Mass, when the Iroquois attacked in July of 1648. The men ran to the palisades; the priest, when the invaders broke through, went to the chapel door and faced the Iroquois, warning them of God’s anger. They slew him at once and threw him into the chapel they had already set on fire, still occupied by the women and children.

Father Gabriel Lalemant (Born at Paris, France, 1610; died 1649) joined the Jesuits in 1630. He taught at Moulins for three years, and after further study at Bourges, was ordained in 1638. After teaching at La Flèche and Moulins, he was sent to Canada at his request in 1646 as a missionary.  Father Gabriel Lallemant, 39 years old in that year and of a delicate constitution, was martyred the next day; he had been forced to witness the death of his beloved Father Brebeuf. He cried out: Father, we are given up as a spectacle to the world, the Angels and men! And he went up to him and kissed his bleeding wounds. Facing the same fate afterwards, he knelt down and embraced the stake to which he was to be tied, to make his final offering to God. He himself survived for longer still, seventeen hours. The Iroquois set fire to the bark they had attached to him; he was baptized in mockery of the faith, in boiling water, not once but many times. The savages cut the flesh of his thighs to the bone and held red-hot axes in the wounds. They finally tired of their task and finished him with a blow from an axe.

Father Charles Garnier:  He was a valiant priest who had said: The source of all gentleness, the sustenance of our hearts, is Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He was of a wealthy family, and as a student in the Jesuit college of Clermont, would deposit his weekly allowance in the church’s collection box for the poor. In the mission he slept without a mattress, and when traveling with the Indians, would carry the sick on his shoulders for an hour or two to relieve them.  He died the day before the feast of the Immaculate Conception, on December 7, 1649, while aiding the wounded and the dying; an Iroquois fired two bullets directly into his chest and abdomen. Seeing a dying man near him, twice he tried to stand and go to him, and twice he fell heavily. Another Iroquois then ended his life with an axe.Though Garnier has been canonized and therefore his memory is still green, yet we find few who know much about him. But what an impression he must have created by his character and his presence that even dim memories are alive today. Scarcely was he dead than his fellow missionaries Fathers Leonard Garreau, Simon le Moyne and René Menard are high in their praise of his apostolic work and life. Warmly they recall to mind this great souled apostle, the very acquaint-ance of whom was an inspiration to greater things.

Father Noel Chabanel: (Born near Mende, France, on February 2, 1613; died December 8, 1649), after joining the Jesuits in 1630, was sent to New France in 1643 to evangelize the Hurons. He became assistant to Fr. Garnier at Etarita in 1649 and was murdered by an apostate Indian while returning from a visit to neighboring Sainte Marie. The two Fathers left at once to see the sad spectacle with their own eyes. It was a sight worthy in God’s sight. There were corpses everywhere, one on top of another, of some poor Christians half burned in the remains of the fire-swept village, of others drenched in their own blood. . . . At last, in the middle of the ghost town, they came across the body they had come to find, but it was hardly recognizable, all covered with blood and ashes from the fire that had swept over it. But some christian Indians recognized their Father who had died for love of them. They buried him on the spot where the church had been, though there was no trace left of the church. It had been swallowed up in the flames.

Lay Brother John de la Lande:  When Isaac Jogues returned to Canada from France to resume his missionary work, he asked for an assistant. His Jesuit superior offered him John de la Lande, a permanent lay volunteer.  Born in Dieppe, the young Belgian had come to New France as a settler sometime before 1642—–but once there, he offered himself to the Jesuits, desiring to devote his life to the service of God by working with the missionaries. Upon hearing that Fr. Jogues wanted a companion, John volunteered to help. The veteran missionary spoke to the young man with great frankness, describing the hardships and rigors of missionary life, warning that there might be captivity, torture (such as Jogues himself had already suffered), and even death. Nevertheless, the description of possible privations and suffering could not undo la Lande’s determination. It is said that he took Fr. Jogues’ mutilated hands into his own and professed his desire to share his future, even if that future were to include Martyrdom.

When John de la Lande was told of the murder of Father Jogues, he was also advised to not to leave the lodge under any circumstances because the Mohawks were hoping to kill him as well. Eventually, however, the thought of the body of Fr. Jogues, perhaps lying unburied somewhere in the village, overcame John’s caution. He wondered whether it might be possible, under cover of darkness, to locate the body, recover some articles that Jogues had taken with him, and send them as holy relics to the Jesuits in Quebec. As he ventured out of the lodge, a tomahawk crashed down upon his head. It was early morning on October 19, 1646. When daylight came, the bodies of Isaac Jogues and John de la Lande were thrown into the Mohawk River, and their heads were exposed on the palisades enclosing the Mohawk village.

Lay Brother René Goupil:  He was born in the little village of St. Martin, now a suburb of Anjou, which like Orleans, St. Isaac Jogues’ native city, is situated on the Loire River, but further downstream and to the west. As a young man he became a Jesuit novice with the intention of serving as a lay brother, but ill health prevented him from taking his vows. Skilled in the care of the sick and possessing a practical knowledge of medicine, after a time he resolved to sail to New France in order to help the Jesuit missionaries he had earlier hoped to join. St. Isaac Jogues found him working in the Quebec hospital in 1642, and was delighted when he volunteered to travel with him to the Huron country to serve as infirmarian at Mission Sainte Marie.  Both were captured by the ferocious Mohawk Iroquois on the St. Lawrence River, along with a large number of Christian Hurons. It was on the torture trail to the Mohawk country that Fr. Jogues received René’s perpetual vows as a Jesuit brother. Six weeks after their arrival at the village of Ossernenon, René became the first of the eight martyrs to die, the first canonized saint of North America.

St. Isaac Jogues, who was himself to die a glorious martyrdom four years later, buried the relics of his dear Brother, and upon his escape from the Mohawks, wrote a short “Way of Martyrdom” which relates the story of René’s triumphant passage into Eternity.

The North American Martyrs were beatified on June 21, 1925 and were canonized on June 29, 1930; the General Roman Calender Feast Day is October 19th; September 26 in Canada.  Two shrines commemorate them. One is at Auriesville, NY, the Ossernenon of old. The other at Midland, Ontario, near the site of Old Fort Ste. Marie of the Hurons.

Litany of the Jesuit Martyr Saints of North America
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us. *

Holy Mary, Queen of Martyrs,
Saint Isaac Jogues,
Saint John de Brebeuf,
Saint Gabriel Lalemant,
Saint Anthony Daniel,
Saint Charles Gamier,
Saint Noel Chabanel,
Saint Rene Goupil,
Saint John de la Lande,
Pioneers of the Cross in a new world,
Heroic apostles of the faith,
Zealous promoters of God’s glory,
Consumed with love for souls,
Men of prayer and action,
Lovers of poverty,
Models of chastity,
Faithful in obedience,
Followers of Christ Crucified,
Fearless in suffering for Christ,
Enduring cold and hunger for Christ,
Stripped and scourged for Christ,
Tortured by fire for Christ,
Cruelly slain for Christ,
Peerless athletes of God,
Loving children of the Queen of Martyrs,
Filial clients of St. Joseph,
Worthy sons of St. Ignatius,
Our intercessors in Heaven

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Spare us, O Lord
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Have mercy on us.

Let us pray:

 O God, Who hast hallowed the first-fruits of the faith in the northern regions of America by the preaching and blood of Thy blessed Martyrs John, Isaac and their companions: grant in Thy mercy, that through their intercession the plentiful harvest of the faithful may increase everywhere from day to day. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Image: Cartouche sur la carte de la Nouvelle-France Novae Franciae accurata delineatio. (6)

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Saint Firmin, Bishop and Martyr

September 25

Today is the feast day of Saint Firmin.  Ora pro nobis.

Saint Firmin was the son of a senator and a native of Pampeluna in Navarre. With his father he was taught the Christian faith by Honestus, a disciple of Saint Saturninus, the bishop of Toulouse, himself the disciple of Saint Peter the Apostle.

Saint Firmin, who had been confided by his father to Honestus for his education and had accompanied him on his apostolic journeys, was eventually consecrated bishop by Saint Honoratus, successor to Saint Saturninus at Toulouse. Firmin received the mission to preach the Gospel in the remoter parts of Gaul.   Thus he preached in the regions of Agen, Angers, and Beauvais. In what is now Clement-Ferrand, after long discussions with two ardent idolaters, he won them over.

He had not yet suffered persecution. Desiring martyrdom, he decided to go to a center of paganism in the north, in what is now Normandy, near Lisieux. There he was arrested and imprisoned for a time by the pagans. When delivered, he continued on towards the north, to a region where Saint Denys of Paris had baptized many. He confirmed the Christians in their faith, and went wherever a soul might have need of him. The Roman authorities heard of him and arrested him; the Saint generously confessed Jesus Christ in their presence. Again he was imprisoned, but released when the prefect and his successor both died suddenly. He was obliged, however, to flee secretly.

And then two Roman officials, Longulus and Sebastian, heard of him and came to the city of Amiens.

The pagan priests saw their opportunity, when all the city residents were convoked to appear before the visitors. The two officials explained that the capital penalty was decreed for those who did not obey the imperial edicts, not offering incense to the gods and honoring them. The pagan priests then told them of one who always refused to do so.  Saint Firmin, after an eloquent defense of the religion of Christ, was imprisoned. He finally saw his most ardent desire fulfilled when certain soldiers decided on their own to accomplish the imperial orders, and came with swords to his prison at night, where they decapitated the bishop. He died, filled with joy at their coming. This occurred under the reign of Trajan in the first years of the second century. The holy bishop remains in the greatest honor in the city of Amiens.

Image: San Fermín (3)

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Saint Vincent Strambi, Bishop

September 25

Today is the feast day of Saint Vincent Strambi.  Ora pro nobis.

Vincent Strambi was born in Civitavecchia, Italy, in 1745.  He was the only child of the pharmacist Giuseppe Strambi and his wife Eleonora who survived infancy.

He was a happy and athletic child who manifested a strong interest in spirituality. When he was fifteen, he received the clerical “tonsure” and entered the diocesan seminary at nearby Montefiascone. Two years later, he decided to continue his studies in Rome. The following year, he attended the Dominican house of studies in Viterbo to study theology.

He found his vocation when after his ordination as a deacon in 1767, he made a retreat amid the Passionists of Monte Fogliano, where Saint Paul of the Cross, their founder, was residing at the time.  Prior to his ordination he was named rector and professor within his seminary, Montefiascone. Saint Paul of the Cross named him professor of theology, patristics and preaching.

Saint Vincent became a bishop after many years of preaching missions all over Italy. But never could he forget his Order, though he had to put aside its habit. Saint Paul of the Cross on his deathbed had said to him several times: Padre Vincenzino, I recommend to you the poor Congregation. When Saint Vincent asked what he wished him to do, Saint Paul replied: You will do great things! You will do great good! I recommend to you this poor Congregation!

As bishop of Macerata and Tolentino, he continued whenever possible to rise at midnight for the divine office, and regretted being unable to dedicate more than five hours to prayer each day. He called in the poor and gave them alms.  He visited the hospitals and the prisoners, blessed, embraced and helped them. He visited every religious house of his diocese, then the Canons and the parish priests. He preached for his clergy a beautiful mission, then organized specialized services for the various professions of the laity, saying, the lawyers need different instruction and different sowings than the merchants or the physicians, for example; to each his own portion of the truth! His table was very frugal; never did he permit more than two dishes. He reduced expenditures to a minimum, to be able to give more to the poor.

In the political upheavals of the time, he was a fearless advocate of the freedom of the Church and chose exile in preference to an unlawful oath of loyalty to Napoleon. When he returned to his Diocese after exile, he once again manifested his deep pastoral concern and extraordinary charity for the poor.   It was during his time in this office that Napoleon’s sister, Pauline Bonaparte, returned to the Catholic faith with Vincent’s guidance.

Called by Pope Leo XII to become his personal advisor, he died in Rome on January 1, 1824.

Saint Vincent was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and canonised by Pope Pius XII in 1950. In November 1957, his relics were transferred from SS John and Paul to the Church of Saint Philip in Macerata.

Image: St. Vincent Strambi (4)

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Saint Pacifico of San Severino, Confessor

September 24

Today is the feast day of Saint Pacifico (Pacific) of San Severino.  Ora pro nobis.

Pacifico Bruni was born into a distinguished family in San Severino in the Marche of Ancona in central Italy in 1653. Pacifico never really got to know his parents, Antonio and Mariangela, both of whom died when he was three years old.  As a child he evinced unusual seriousness, great piety, and love of mortification.

Pacifico was an ascetic man. He fasted perpetually, eating no more than bread, soup or water. His “hair shirt” was made of iron. Poverty and obedience were two virtues for which his confreres especially remembered him.  After joining the Friars Minor, he was ordained. He taught philosophy for two years and then began a successful preaching career. 

He was first assigned to the surrounding villages of the Apennines, where he found the greatest delight in preaching the Gospel to the poor and the uneducated. No road was too rough, no mountain too steep for him. He looked up the poor shepherds in their out-of-the-way huts in order to instruct and guide them on the road that leads to God.

Saint Pacifico of San Severino was not long to enjoy this apostolic work. After a few years, he became ill and never completely recovered his health, so that he was obliged to serve God patiently with an infirm body for more than thirty years.

Saint Pacifico was completely satisfied with God’s designs in his regard. “God wills it,” he said in a cheerful way, “and so may His will be done.”

The painful suffering he had to endure, and the many acts of mortification he performed in addition, he joined to his unceasing prayers and offered them up for the salvation of souls and the conversion of sinners. Even in his sickness he was so modest that he would never allow anyone else to dress the ugly sores on his legs, but always took care of them himself.

When death finally summoned him and he had received Holy Communion for the last time with admirable devotion, he once more expressed his gratitude to God for all His benefits, and then, with his hands crossed upon his breast, surrendered his soul to his Creator. The day was September 24, 1721.

Many miracles occurred at his grave, and two dead persons were restored to life after his holy relics were applied to them. He was buried in a common grave used by his deceased brothers in the community, but his body was found incorrupt after four years, even though he was given no coffin.

When the body was moved, the head of the saint was accidently struck so hard against a stairway that the head of the corpse detached from the body. Blood flowed freely from the neck, splattering blood as if the body were still alive. The blood was sopped up with a shirt and kept as a relic.

Pope Gregory XVI canonized Saint Pacific in 1839.

Image: Lendinara, Duomo di Santa Sofia: interno, statua di San Pacifico. (5)

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Commemoration of Our Lady of Ransom

September 24

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Ransom (also known as Our Lady of Mercy).  Ora pro nobis.

Our Blessed Lady ‘De Mercede,’ or for the Redemption of Captives

by Fr. Francis Cuthbert Doyle, 1896

The appropriateness of this beautiful title, given in 1218 to our Lady, will best be understood from a narration of the events which led to the institution of this festival in her honour, and to the foundation of a Religious Order under the same glorious appellation. In the year 1189, there was born in Languedoc a nobleman named Peter Nolasco, whose soul God filled, even in his earliest years, with a great love of virtue, and with a tender compassion for the poor. At the age of twenty-five he made a vow of chastity, and joined himself to Simon de Montfort in his crusade against the Albigensian heretics. After the defeat of these latter, James I., King of Aragon, appointed him tutor to his son, whom he accompanied into Spain. At that time the Moors had seized upon certain parts of the Peninsula, and the sight of the misery to which Christians were reduced in slavery under these cruel task-masters, filled the heart of Peter with a desire to lighten their heavy burthen.

While revolving in his mind how his good-will might best be carried into effect, our Lady appeared to him, in a vision during the night, and intimated to him that it would be very pleasing to her Divine Son, if an Order of religious men were established for the redemption of captives. On the following day, Peter went to his confessor, St. Raymund de Pennafort, to tell him of the vision with which he had been favoured; but to his great surprise, he found the Saint already acquainted with the fact, for the same heavenly visitant had graciously signified her wish to him also. Moreover, she had revealed to the King that this project had the blessing of her Divine Son. These three, therefore, at once determined to establish a Religious Order for the purpose of redeeming captive Christians from the tyranny of the Moors.

In addition to the usual vows of religion, they by a fourth vow bound themselves to remain, if necessary, in captivity till ransom could be procured for the liberation of the slaves. Pope Honorius III. by word of mouth approved of this Brotherhood, and Pope Gregory IX. in 1235, solemnly confirmed and established it as a Religious Order. He gave its members the Rule of St. Augustine to guide them to perfection, and a white habit to remind them of the purity to which they were to aspire under the patronage of the most pure Virgin. Thus, under the auspices of our Lady of Redemption, these holy men set about their heroic work, and while rescuing the bodies of Christians from the slavery of the Moors, they did their utmost to free their souls from the slavery of the devil.

You may judge from this indication of Mary’s love for the Christian people, and from her eagerness to free their bodies from the tyranny of cruel and infidel masters, what must be her zeal to free them from the still more cruel slavery of Satan. They are her children, committed to her care by Jesus Christ, loved by Him with unutterable tenderness, and purchased at the price of His bitter Passion. In her eyes they are, so to speak, invested with the personality of Jesus Christ. They are, in a measure, unto her what He was, and therefore the love which she bore to Him is transferred to them. Judge therefore of her sorrow, when she beholds them in the jaws of the wolves of hell. When men lose their liberty, and fall beneath the yoke of a foreign power, it is their bodies only that are in chains; their minds, their souls are free. No dungeon can darken their light, no manacles, no fetters can bind down their thoughts or their aspirations. The tyrant may threaten, may kill; but he cannot compel the will to bend. If, as a last resource, he strike with the sword, one sharp pang will forever free the poor wretched prisoner from his clutches.

It is far otherwise with the tyranny of the devil. He enslaves the souls of men. With a tempting bait, he first allures them into his nets, and having once entrapped them, he holds them fast. Very speedily sin enfeebles the will, darkens the intellect, and fills the soul with disgust for heavenly things. Hence, when from time to time grace urges it to rise again, it may do so for a season, feeling all the while how terribly strong is the hold which the devil has upon its powers. It struggles against him for a while, and then falls back. Thus the evil one, by his tyranny, succeeds in destroying not only the bodies of his slaves, but their immortal souls. Therefore, Jesus bids us not to fear those who can destroy only the body: ‘I will tell you,’ He adds, ‘whom you shall fear. Fear Him who can destroy the soul.’

Our dear Mother is, therefore, full of tender solicitude for her children. When she beholds them in the power of this cruel enemy of her Son, she lifts up her pure and spotless hands before the throne of God, and continually pleads with Him for them, that the ransom of the precious blood may be applied to them, that their chains may be broken, and that they themselves may be restored to liberty.

Knowing, therefore, the great love of your holy Mother Mary for poor sinners, you must strive to the utmost of your ability to second her desire for the redemption of souls from the slavery of sin. In order that your zeal may be according to knowledge, you must begin with yourself; for otherwise you will present to the eyes both of Angels and of men the ridiculous spectacle of one who saves others, but destroys himself; who points out to others the way to heaven, but will not himself walk in it.

Do not be so foolish. Let not sin dwell in your soul; suffer it not to enslave your heart. Be not of the number of those fools who fancy that they can for a time walk with the devil, and then easily withdraw from his fellowship; who imagine that they may float with the stream, and then return in safety to the pleasant shore. Those who think thus, little know the tenacious grasp with which sin holds a man down in its iron fetters, nor the velocity with which the stream of iniquity whirls him beyond the reach of help or the hope of return. If you are wise, learn this in time. Withdraw your feet at once and forever from the fetters of sin, and turn your back resolutely upon the glitter of the tempting stream. After thus manifesting zeal for your own soul, you may venture to be zealous for the souls of others; for he who is in safety may strive to help others, and he who is not sick may with propriety try to heal those who are. (1)

Our Lady of Ransom

Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger

Finding their power partly crushed in Spain, and in the East checked by the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Muslim Saracens in the 12th century became wholesale pirates, and scoured the seas to obtain slaves for the African markets. We shudder to think of the numberless victims, of every age, sex, and condition, suddenly carried off from the coasts of Christian lands, or captured on the high seas, and condemned to the disgrace of the harem or the miseries of the bagnio. Here, nevertheless, in many an obscure prison, were enacted scenes of heroism worthy to compare with those witnessed in the early persecutions; here was a new field for Christian charity; new horizons opened out for heroic self-devotion. Is not the spiritual good thence arising a sufficient reason for the permission of temporal ills? Without this permission, Heaven would have forever lacked a portion of its beauty.

When in 1696 Innocent XII extended this Feast to the whole Church, he afforded the world an opportunity of expressing its gratitude by a testimony as universal as the benefit received.

Differing from the Order of the Most Holy Trinity (Trinitarians), which had been already 20 years in existence, the Order of Mercy (Mercedarians) was founded as it were in the very face of the Moors; and hence it originally numbered more knights than clerics among its members. It was called the Royal, Military, and Religious Order of Our Lady of Mercy for the Redemption of Captives. The clerics were charged with the celebration of Mass and the Divine Office in the commandaries; the knights guarded the coasts, and undertook the perilous enterprise of ransoming Christian captives. St. Peter Nolasco was the first Commander or Grand Master of the Order; when his relics were discovered, he was found armed with sword and cuirass.

In the lessons of Matins for this Feast, Holy Church gives us Her thoughts upon these facts:

At the time when the Saracen yoke oppressed the larger and more fertile part of Spain, and great numbers of the faithful were detained in cruel servitude, at the great risk of denying their Christian Faith and losing their eternal salvation, the Most Blessed Queen of Heaven graciously came to remedy all these great evils, and showed Her exceeding charity in redeeming Her children. She appeared with beaming countenance to Peter Nolasco, a man conspicuous for wealth and piety, who in his holy meditations was ever striving to devise some means of helping the innumerable Christians living in misery as captives of the Moors. She told him it would be very pleasing to Her and Her Only-Begotten Son, if a Religious Order were instituted in Her honor, whose members should devote themselves to delivering captives from the tyranny of the Turks. Animated by this heavenly vision, the man of God was inflamed with burning love, having but one desire in his heart, that both he and the Order he was to found, might be devoted to the exercise of that highest charity – the laying down of life for one’s friends and neighbors.

That same night, the Most Holy Virgin appeared also to Blessed Raymond of Pennafort, and to King James of Aragon, telling them of Her wish to have the Order instituted, and exhorting them to lend their aid to so great an undertaking. Meanwhile Peter hastened to relate the whole matter to Raymond, who was his confessor; and finding it had been already revealed to him from Heaven, submitted humbly to his direction. King James next arrived, fully resolved to carry out the instructions he also had received from the Blessed Virgin. Having therefore taken counsel together and being all of one mind, they set about instituting an Order in honor of the Virgin Mother, under the invocation of Our Lady of Mercy for the Ransom of Captives.

On the 10th of August, in the year of Our Lord 1218, King James put into execution what the two holy men had planned. The members of the Order bound themselves by a fourth vow to remain, when necessary, as securities in the power of the pagans, in order to deliver Christians. The King granted them license to bear his royal arms upon their breast, and obtained from Pope Gregory IX the confirmation of this Religious institute distinguished by such eminent charity toward neighbor. God Himself gave increase to the work, through His Virgin Mother; so that the Order spread rapidly and prosperously over the whole world. It soon reckoned many holy men remarkable for their charity and piety who collected alms from Christ’s faithful, to be spent in redeeming their brethren; and sometimes gave themselves up as ransom for many others. In order that due thanks might be rendered to God and His Virgin Mother for the benefit of such an institution, the Apostolic See allowed this special Feast and Office to be celebrated, and also granted innumerable other privileges to the Order.

Blessed be Thou, O Mary, the honor and the joy of Thy people! On the day of Thy glorious Assumption, Thou didst take possession of Thy queenly dignity for our sake; and the annals of the human race are a record of Thy merciful interventions. The captives whose chains Thou hast broken, and whom Thou hast set free from the degrading yoke of the Saracens, may be reckoned in the millions. We are still rejoicing in the recollection of Thy dear Birthday; and Thy smile is sufficient to dry our tears and chase away the clouds of grief. And yet, what sorrows there are still upon the earth, where Thou Thyself didst drink such long draughts from the cup of suffering! Thou alone, O Mary, canst break the inextricable chains, in which the cunning prince of darkness entangles the dupes he has deceived by the high-sounding names of equality and liberty. Show thyself a Queen, by coming to the rescue. The whole earth, the entire human race, cries out to Thee, in the words of Mordochai: “Speak to the King for us, and deliver us from death!” (Esther 15: 3) (3)

Image: Madonna of Mercy, artist: Domenico Ghirlandaio, circa 1472 (8)

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Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, Confessor

September 23

Today is the feast day of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina.   Ora pro nobis.

Born Francesco Forgione (named after Saint Francis of Assisi), this young saint grew up in a family of farmers in the small town of Peitrelcina (southern Italy). Twice, his father left the family, working in Jamaica, Queens (New York), to supplement the family income. From his childhood, it was evident that Francesco was a special child of God. Francesco was very devout even as a child, and at an early age felt drawn to the priesthood. At this young age, devoted to Our Blessed Mother, Francesco began praying the Holy Rosary every day. He eventually demonstrated great love for Our Lady of Fatima, attributing a cure of his own illness to her intercession.

At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins as a novice, and received the habit in 1902. After seven years of study, he took the name Padre Pio upon ordination in 1910. Drafted during World War I, he was discharged after the discovery that he had tuberculosis. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic. He would live the remainder of his life there, but his life was about to become much more blessed, and much more complicated.

On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. This was the first of many ecstasies this holy man would experience. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side. The doctor who examined Padre Pio could not find any natural cause for the wounds. (Upon his death in 1968, the wounds were no longer visible. In fact, there was no scarring and the skin was completely renewed. He had predicted 50 years prior that upon his death the wounds would heal.) The wounds of the stigmata were not the only mystical phenomenon experienced by Padre Pio. The blood from the stigmata had an odor described by many as similar to that of perfume or flowers, and when Padre Pio thought of those he directed (even if they were not present), they reported that they were surrounded by the odor of violets.

Saint Pio (1887-1968), mystic, confessor, and stigmatic. For the majority of his life, Padre Pio bore the continually bleeding stigmata of Christ and experienced the pain and suffering of His Passion. Famous for preaching, “Love is the first ingredient in the relief of suffering,” Padre Pio bore these daily pains with grace and humility, joining his suffering to that of Christ, and drawing upon his experience to guide others in the paths of righteousness. In one of the largest canonization ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II spoke of Padre Pio in 2002, highlighting his prayer and charity, as well as his patient suffering. “This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio’s teaching,” said the Holy Father. If accepted with love such suffering can lead to “a privileged path of sanctity.”

Padre Pio saw the benefits of suffering with joy, and the path of righteous suffering that leads to the Lord.

On  Friday, September 20, 1968, the 50th anniversary of Padre Pio’s receiving the Stigmata, he was very weak. He confined to a wheelchair, but still said Holy Mass. And he heard Confessions until ordered by his superior to cease for rest. It as if the people knew for they began coming in great numbers, praying for their beloved Padre. On Sunday he said his last Mass, heard his last Confessions and gave the crowds his final blessing.

On Monday, the 23rd, very early in the morning—it was just past midnight—he asked his confreres to come; he made his last Confession. He received Extreme Unction—as I have said—one of the favored few, that is, dying before the complete disorientation, in this case, the introduction of the rite of the Sacrament of the Sick which is not the equivalent of Extreme Unction. Now the Church has the power and authority to make changes in this Sacrament because Christ did not give the Apostles the form directly, like he did with the Consecration of the Blessed Sacrament and Baptism. But all the Saints warn us against the rejection of Tradition, to which the Sacrament of Extreme Unction belongs as do all the Sacraments. Changes where permitted in the sacred rites are to be of necessity. Nothing whatsoever mandated the change here.

At 2 AM he exclaimed that he could see his two mothers, his earthly mother and Our Lady. Even now his hands were still bleeding as he held his Rosary, unable now to say a Hail Mary. With his dying breath he uttered Gesu, Maria, Gesu, Maria, Gesu, Maria. And he passed into eternity with these words.

After he died his wounds were miraculously healed and most wondrous of all there was no blood left in his body, as if he had bled his last drop to suffer for Christ, as Christ suffered

His body is entombed in the crypt of Our Lady of Grace Church at the monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo. The Saint said that a body should be buried where its souls departed from it. Padre Pio’s beloved mother, who had died in his arms while she visited him for Christmas in 1929, is also buried in San Giovanni Rotondo Rotundo, next to her husband, who died in 1946, after he had made the monastery his home in his old age.

Image: Father Pio de Pietrelcina (6)

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Saint Linus, Pope, Martyr

September 23

Today is the feast day of Pope Saint Linus.  Ora pro nobis.

The “Liber Pontificalis” asserts that Linus’s home was in Tuscany, and that his father’s name was Herculanus; but we cannot discover the origin of this assertion.

Not much is known as certain concerning his life. He was reportedly converted to the faith in Rome after hearing St. Peter preach the Gospel. He renounced his noble origins and to serve Christ more perfectly. He soon gave admirable proofs of his zeal, learning and prudence, and the first Vicar of Christ employed him in preaching and the administration of the Sacraments.

He crossed into Gaul, and became the bishop of the city of Besançon. The number of the faithful increased daily by the conversion of many idolaters. The Saint one day attempted to turn some of those away from the celebration of a festival in honor of their gods, telling them that these idols were but statues without breath or sentiment, and represented only human beings whose vices were public knowledge.

He exhorted them to turn to the unique God, Creator of the heavens and the earth, to whom alone man owes the homage of sacrifice. A prodigy followed his words; a column of their temple crumbled and caused the fall of an idol, which broke into a thousand pieces. The worshipers, unmoved by this, drove the Saint out of the city of Besançon, as the city’s tradition still attests.

St. Linus was the immediate successor of St. Peter in the see of Rome, as St. Irenæus, Eusebius, St. Epiphanius, St. Optatus, St. Austin, and others assure us. Tertullian say that St. Clement was appointed by St. Peter to be his successor; but either he declined that dignity till St. Linus and St. Cletus had preceded him in it, or he was at first only vicar of St. Peter, to govern under him the Gentile converts, whilst that apostle presided over the whole church, yet so as to be chiefly taken up in instructing the Jewish converts, and in preaching abroad.

Linus’s term of office, according to the papal lists handed down to us, lasted only twelve years. The Liberian Catalogue shows that it lasted twelve years, four months, and twelve days. Perhaps it was on account of these dates that the writers of the fourth century gave their opinion that Linus had held the position of head of the Roman community during the life of the Apostle; e.g., Rufinus in the preface to his translation of the pseudo-Clementine “Recognitiones”.

But this hypothesis has no historical foundation. It cannot be doubted that according to the accounts of Irenaeus concerning the Roman Church in the second century, Linus was chosen to be head of the community of Christians in Rome, after the death of the Apostle. For this reason his pontificate dates from the year of the death of the Apostles Peter and Paul, which, however, is not known for certain.

His body was buried in the Vatican near that of Saint Peter. It was only in the 17th century that his tomb reappeared, marked Linus, when Pope Urban VIII had the work on the Confession of Saint Peter completed in the Basilica bearing his name.

Image: Patrobulus, Hermas, Linus, Caius, Philologus of 70 disciples (Menologion of Basil II) (5)

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