Today is the feast day of Saint Vladimir of Kiev. Ora pro Nobis.
Saint Vladimir was born in 956. He was Grand Duke of Kieff and All Russia, grandson of St. Olga, and the first Russian ruler to embrace Christianity. He was the illegitimate son of Sviastoslav, grand duke of Kiev, and his mistress, Malushka. Civil war broke out between his half-brothers Yaropolk and Oleg; Yaropolk made himself ruler by defeating and killing Oleg, and when he captured Novgorod. Vladimir was forced to flee to Scandinavia in 977.
Becoming bolder Vladimir waged war against Yaropolk towards the south, took the city of Polotzk. He slew its prince, Ragvald, and married his daughter Ragnilda, the affianced bride of Yaropolk. Vladimir returned with an army and captured Novgorod and defeated and slew Yaropolk at Rodno in 980. Vladimir was now sole ruler of Russia. Vladimir was notorious for his barbarism and immorality.
As a heathen prince Vladimir had four wives besides Ragnilda, and by them had ten sons and two daughters. Since the days of St. Olga, Christianity, which was originally established among the eastern Slavs by Sts. Cyril and Methodius, had been making secret progress throughout the land of Russ (now eastern Austria and Russia). Christianity had begun to considerably alter the heathen ideas. It was a period similar to the era of the conversion of Constantine.
Vladimir continued his conquering. After his conquest of Kherson in the Crimea in 988, he became impressed by the progress of Christianity. Vladimir approached Eastern Emperor Basil II about marrying the emperor’s daughter Anna. The emperor replied that a Christian might not marry a heathen, but if Vladimir were a Christian prince he would sanction the alliance. To this Vladimir replied that he had already examined the doctrines of the Christians, was inclined towards them, and was ready to be baptized.
He converted, reformed his life and married Anna, and thereafter put away his pagan wives. When Vladimir returned to Kieff he took upon himself the conversion of his subjects. He ordered the statues of the gods to be thrown down, chopped to pieces, and some of them burned. The chief god, Perun, was dragged through the mud and thrown into the River Dnieper. These acts impressed the people with the helplessness of their gods. When they were told that they should follow Vladimir’s example and become Christians they were willingly baptized, even wading into the river that they might the sooner be reached by the priest for baptism.
Additionally on his return to Kiev, he invited Greek missionaries to Russia, led his people to Christianity. Vladimir built schools and churches. He gave up his warlike career and devoted himself principally to the government of his people. Anna died in 1011, two sons by Anna, SS Romanus and David became martyrs. After this, his life became troubled by the conduct of his elder children. Following the custom of his ancestors, he had parcelled out his kingdom amongst his children, giving the city of Novgorod in fief to his eldest son Yaroslav; the latter rebelled against him and refused to render either service or tribute In 1014 he was obliged to march against his rebellious son Yaroslav in Novgorod, fell ill on the way and died at Beresyx, Russia.
Image: Crop of Baptism of Saint Prince Vladimir, artist: Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov: Circa
Molte donne, in seguito all’aborto, hanno avuto problemi psichici. Tra di esse, la maggior parte non capisce di essere stata vittima di un sistema che le convince di come la promiscuità sessuale sia una conquista, oppure di un uomo che le ha pressate psicologicamente convincendole ad abortire, e, non ultimo, di una società che discrimina fortemente le madri nubili.
A rendere ancora più dolorosa la loro situazione, queste donne sono messe nella condizione di sentirsi pienamente responsabili della loro scelta, come se i fattori sopra elencati non avessero nessuna rilevanza. Questo è il rovescio della medaglia, spesso volutamente ignorato, della “liberazione” femminile. Il fatto che non si parli mai delle conseguenze dell’aborto costringe milioni di donne a vivere la propria sofferenza in silenzio e in solitudine.
Una di queste donne ha trovato il coraggio di parlare. Si tratta di un’insegnante cattolica che vive a Brooklyn. Sebbene ami molto i bambini, è stata costretta ad abortire l’unico figlio che potesse avere. REGINA Magazine ha raccolto la testimonianza di Jennifer (nome di fantasia) in questo articolo diviso in due parti che narra la sua storia e il suo percorso di vita.
REGINA: Hai abortito a trentanove anni, nel mezzo di una relazione “instabile”.
JENNIFER: Brian era divorziato ed aveva una figlia dal suo precedente matrimonio. Il suo divorzio non era stato pacifico, e lui era ancora pieno di sentimenti di rivalsa nei confronti della sua ex moglie. Inoltre era disoccupato e viveva a casa di sua madre.
REGINA: Che triste situazione.
JENNIFER: Non riesco a dire con precisione cosa avessi in mente. Ci conoscevamo dai tempi del college. Inizialmente lo conoscevo solo di nome, in quanto avevamo degli amici in comune, e per diversi anni non l’ho visto. Finché lui non è riuscito a trovare il mio numero telefonico e mi ha contattato. Ad essere sincera, la nostra relazione è stata turbolenta sin dall’inizio, ma questo non mi ha scoraggiato. Lui litigava molto spesso con la sua ex moglie, e allo stesso tempo era in conflitto con la sua ex fidanzata in quanto non riusciva ad accettare la fine della loro relazione.
REGINA: E poi cosa è successo?
JENNIFER: Mi sono fatta coinvolgere dalla sua vita turbolenta. Ovviamente non ne sono rimasta estranea: semplicemente ero convinta di poterlo aiutare a risolvere i suoi problemi! Pensavo che sarei riuscita ad amarlo nonostante tutto. Ma mi sbagliavo: è vero che l’amore è la risposta di tante domande, ma non mi rendevo conto del pasticcio in cui stavo per cacciarmi. Ignoravo del tutto la dimensione razionale. In poche parole, mi sono impegnata più in questa relazione che non in tutte le altre relazioni della mia vita.
REGINA: La situazione era peggiore di quanto sembrasse, dunque.
JENNIFER: A dire la verità, nel corso della mia vita ho avuto diverse relazioni che poi non sono andate a buon fine. Una dopo l’altra. Mi mettevo con dei tossicodipendenti, o con degli alcolizzati, ed ero strenuamente convinta di poterli salvare, dopodiché la relazione sarebbe andata a gonfie vele. Molti di essi erano ragazzi splendidi, al di là della loro dipendenza. Mi ci vollero diversi anni per realizzarlo. Era come se stessi giocando ad essere Dio, in un gioco in cui dovevo salvare delle persone che non avrebbero mai potuto ricambiarmi.
REGINA: Tuttavia sembrerebbe che Brian fosse un po’peggiore. Come ti sei lasciata coinvolgere nella sua vita?
JENNIFER: Brian è un musicista molto affascinante e creativo; insomma, ha il “fascino dell’artista”. Quando disegnava era come se la matita si muovesse da sola, e quando cantava la sua voce era veramente speciale. Era molto talentuoso e, a tratti, era pure molto dolce e premuroso. E poi ci accomunava l’amore per la Brooklyn degli anni ’70 e ’80, e la passione per le arti visuali e musicali. Inoltre avevamo pure una certa attrazione fisica l’uno per l’altra.
Ero convinta di amare Brian per com’era. Mi riusciva più facile di accettare le situazioni negative. Io lo amavo per com’era, ma questo non significa che la nostra relazione fosse intima. Ora ho capito che il fatto di accettare una persona non significa per forza sentirsi costretti a starci insieme. Talvolta anche andarsene può essere un gesto d’amore.
All’inizio della nostra relazione, Brian venne ricoverato per la sua depressione. Anziché fuggire gli stetti accanto: ero convinta che la mia vicinanza e il mio amore avrebbero cacciato via tutta la sua negatività. In realtà, stavo ignorando un allarme rosso. Giustificavo il fatto di non essere scappata via con il fatto che neppure io ero perfetta, e di conseguenza dovevo accettare le imperfezioni degli altri. A lungo andare, questa relazione è diventata tossica: lui aveva costantemente altre donne al suo fianco con cui flirtare o chattare.
REGINA: Sembra orribile.
JENNIFER: Ci siamo visti per un po’, e in quel periodo mi capitava di andare a letto con lui. Ingenuamente, ero convinta di avere un approccio sano alla sfera sessuale: non avevo paura di fare esperienze e di usare il sesso come un mezzo per provare piacere. E in tutto questo, non mi accorgevo che in realtà mi stavo distruggendo. Negarlo è da pazzi. Non avevo idea di cosa stessi facendo a me stessa. Semplicemente ero convinta del contrario: credevo che stessi vivendo la mia libertà.
REGINA: Molte donne cadono in questa trappola.
JENNIFER: Con il senno di poi, mentre stavo cominciando a superare il dramma dell’aborto, mi sono accorta di quanto fossi vittima. Non solo di Brian, ma anche del sistema. Io sono nata nella generazione post sessantottina; quindi nei tardi anni ‘70 stavo vivendo la prima adolescenza e vivevo in una cultura che mi diceva che se cercavo un uomo, o un marito, ero debole. Il femminismo pregnava la società di allora al punto che noi ne eravamo assuefatte e ne parlavamo pur non avendo idea di cosa significasse realmente.
Sin da piccola sono stata abituata al concetto di “controllo delle nascite”. Ricordo che quando avevo sedici anni ricevetti la mia prima scatola di pillole anticoncezionali da parte di un centro gestito da Planned Parenthood. Me la presentarono come un modo per far valere la mia libertà e la mia indipendenza; uno strumento di emancipazione, insomma.
Nella realtà, ebbe un influsso negativo nella mia vita. Gli unici a beneficiarne erano gli uomini, i quali grazie alla pillola avevano maggiori possibilità di fare sesso occasionale e senza apparenti rischi. Questo per me era molto doloroso.
REGINA: Quali sono state le motivazioni che ti sei data per abortire?
JENNIFER: Innanzitutto, c’è da dire che io ho abortito per due volte: la prima volta l’ho fatto quando avevo sedici anni. Vivendo la mia prima storia, rimasi incinta: io e il mio fidanzatino ci amavamo, ma eravamo giovani e ingenui. Decidemmo così di abortire. Restai sconvolta, ma ero giovane e questo mi giustificava, anche se questo non mi impediva di provare rimorso.
Mi ripromisi che non avrei mai più abortito, vedendo quanto avevo sofferto. E Brian ne era ben consapevole. Sapeva che ero contraria all’aborto. Tuttavia insistette affinché continuassimo ad avere rapporti sessuali non protetti.
Mi ero data alcune regole prima di mettere piede nella clinica. Innanzitutto non volevo entrarci da sola, ma al contempo non volevo farlo con Brian perché sapevo che la nostra relazione non era duratura. Inoltre non volevo farmi accompagnare nemmeno dai miei familiari, in quanto pensavo non potessero aiutarmi. Il che non era vero. Mi ripetevo che ero costretta a farlo, e che non avevo altra scelta.
Questo è paradossale: il mondo dipinge l’aborto come se fosse una “libera scelta”, ma io ho abortito solo perché sentivo di non avere altra scelta.
REGINA: Dunque, a trentanove anni sentivi di non avere altra scelta e di non essere in grado di tirar su un figlio da sola?
JENNIFER: Brian non era assolutamente propenso ad avere questo figlio, e io ero sconvolta all’idea di abortire di nuovo. Piangevo, e lui mi diceva che Dio era favorevole al mio aborto perché si trattava di un bambino indesiderato e che lui era ancora studente. Controbattei dicendo che Dio non approvava affatto, e che questa scelta era estremamente egoista. Ma non potei fare altro, e fui costretta a chiedere a un mio amico di fissare l’appuntamento in clinica.
Era lunedì, e l’appuntamento venne fissato al sabato successivo. Trascorsi una settimana infernale. Andavo a scuola, e vedevo centinaia di bambini al giorno. Pensavo che anche il più pestifero di loro avesse comunque il diritto di vivere. Mangiavo a malapena.
REGINA: Sembrerebbe che tu fossi molto stressata in quel periodo.
JENNIFER: Telefonai svariate volte alla clinica. Non volevo abortire. Un mio amico che era al corrente della mia situazione mi disse: “Non puoi andare avanti così”. Aveva ragione. Probabilmente sarei riuscita ad allevare un figlio da sola, ma non penso che sarei mai riuscita a vivere per sempre con Brian. La nostra relazione era tossica. Aveva problemi mentali, era depresso e mi faceva del terrorismo psicologico. E io non potevo farcela. Lo temevo.
REGINA: Avresti voluto figli?
JENNIFER: Sì, da sempre. Sono un’insegnante, e ho sempre amato i bambini. Ma non avrei mai potuto immaginare quello che poi è successo nella mia vita: che non ne avrei mai avuti a causa delle mie relazioni tossiche.
REGINA: Quindi, pensi che quella fosse la tua ultima possibilità di essere madre?
JENNIFER: Paradossalmente, i miei genitori erano l’uno il primo amore dell’altra, e il loro matrimonio è durato fino alla morte di mio padre, nel 2014. Ho pensato che questa fosse la mia ultima possibilità di avere un figlio. È dolorosissimo ancora ora. Non lo avevo mai realizzato se non dopo aver abortito: prima lo stress me l’aveva fatto dimenticare. E quando l’ho realizzato, era troppo tardi. Ancora adesso ci penso ogni giorno. Grazie al Cielo, sono consapevole dell’Amore di Dio per me, e questo mi aiuta ad andare avanti.
REGINA: Hai mai considerato l’idea di cambiare vita per allevare quel figlio?
JENNIFER: Ho pensato di parlare con i miei familiari, chiedendo loro aiuto per allevare il mio figlio. Ma poi sono tornata con i piedi per terra: loro hanno le proprie vite e le proprie responsabilità, e io non posso pensare di far conto su di loro.
Ho quindi pensato di allevarlo facendo conto solo sulle mie forze, ma questa prospettiva mi spaventava. Stavo faticando a pagare la mia casa, come potevo riuscire a far fronte alle spese che il mio figlio avrebbe comportato? Mi chiedevo “Forse Dio mi darà i mezzi per mantenerlo, e io allora lo terrò”. Ma evitai di pensarci troppo.
Se il padre fosse stato una persona amorevole e premurosa e la relazione non fosse stata così tormentata, lo avrei tenuto. Ma lui non voleva avere un figlio. Una sera, nel corso della settimana prima dell’aborto, gli telefonai in lacrime. “Dove sei?” gli chiesi “Sto morendo!”.
Si arrabbiò tantissimo, e mi sbraitò che “avrebbero dovuto abortirmi” perché lo stavo “scocciando”. Dunque, se la relazione fosse stata migliore, l’avrei senz’altro tenuto. Non volevo abortire. Ma sono stata costretta.
Leggendo la testimonianza di Teresa Bonaparte, mi era rimasto impresso il passaggio in cui diceva di “essere stata abbandonata proprio dalle stesse persone che l’avevano spinta ad abortire”.
Era la mia situazione. Colui che mi stava spingendo ad abortire mi stava lasciando sola. E questo mi spaventava.
REGINA: Hai chiesto consigli?
JENNIFER: Ho evitato la compagnia dei miei amici, delle persone o delle organizzazioni che avrebbero potuto chiedermi di rivalutare la mia scelta, anche se era questo quello di cui avevo bisogno. Mi limitavo a parlare con coloro che avrebbero potuto sostenere la mia scelta.
Ad un certo punto, mi trovai ad un evento insieme alla mia sorella maggiore, che è madre e casalinga. Mentre eravamo in auto, mi disse: “I miei figli ormai sono grandi, e io sono triste perché la casa è vuota!”. Sapevo che avrei dovuto dirle che ero incinta, e che lei mi avrebbe potuto aiutare. E che questo forse avrebbe risolto il mio problema. Ma non dissi niente.
REGINA: Spesso non lo ammettono, ma molte donne dopo aver abortito si sentono in colpa. Tra di esse, quelle che realizzano di essere state vittima delle scelte altrui non riescono a capire come abbiano fatto a scegliere l’uomo che poi le ha spinte a compiere quel gesto, e sostengono di non aver avuto altra scelta. Per cui entrano in un circolo vizioso in cui si colpevolizzano da sole. Poi, coloro che sono a favore dell’aborto cercano di tranquillizzare queste donne ripetendo loro che “hanno solo esercitato un diritto”. Ma questo non impedisce loro di provare rimorso.
JENNIFER: Di recente ho provato a parlarne con un mio amico favorevole all’aborto. Ovviamente non riusciva a credere che io non parteggiassi per la possibilità di controllare le nascite.
Gli ho detto “Mi dispiace contraddirti, ma so per diretta esperienza che l’aborto è molto doloroso per le donne.”.
Mi ha risposto “Ma è un tuo diritto scegliere di soffrire!”.
JENNIFER: Questo dovrebbe essere lo slogan del movimento a favore dell’aborto: “Possiamo soffrire se lo vogliamo!”. È tristemente ironico sapere che questo movimento ha convinto delle donne a voler soffrire.
REGINA: Tu ti prendi cura di te stessa, hai un bel fisico e hai spirito. Perché, secondo te, sei stata per tutto quel tempo con un ragazzo che ti ha messo in quella situazione?
JENNIFER: Avevo un bisogno disperato di amore. Mi sentivo rifiutata. E non avevo capito niente in termini di valori. Mi sembra banale anche a scriverlo: non avevo stima di me, e di conseguenza la mia percezione riguardo a cosa fosse accettabile in una relazione era fortemente deformata. Inoltre ero fortemente convinta che le cose sarebbero cambiate, o perlomeno che io fossi in grado di gestirle.
REGINA: Che effetto ha avuto l’aborto su di te?
JENNIFER: Ventiquattr’ore prima della procedura ero pronta. Avevo cercato di essere al meglio prima di subire l’operazione: ero andata a far compere in un negozio di dolci, avevo lavorato un po’a maglia, mi ero concessa un tè; insomma avevo cercato di rilassarmi.
REGINA: Non ti è stato d’aiuto?
JENNIFER: Il giorno dopo essere tornata a casa dalla clinica, la verità venne a galla come un pugno nello stomaco. Avevo preso la sciarpa che stavo lavorando a maglia per stare un po’sulla poltrona, e Dio mi mostrò il volto di mio figlio. Ad alcune donne succede; ad altre no. Per i primi due mesi restai completamente scioccata, al punto che non mi accorsi degli altri sintomi della mia depressione.
REGINA: Sembra orribile.
JENNIFER: Il mio quarantesimo compleanno era quattro giorni dopo l’aborto. Brian si offrì di portarmi fuori, e io gli risposi: “Sei pazzo, perché dovrei festeggiare?”.
Per diversi anni continuai a portare dei fiori a mia madre nel giorno del mio compleanno: era il mio modo per dimostrarle la mia gratitudine per avermi donato la vita. Il giorno del mio quarantesimo compleanno realizzai che quella donna aveva avuto un grandissimo coraggio e una grande forza nel mettermi al mondo: cosa che io non avevo avuto. Non fu facile realizzarlo?
REGINA: Cos’hai fatto?
JENNIFER: Sono un’insegnante, per cui in qualche modo ho resistito fino alla fine di giugno, mettendo a tacere la mia disperazione. Tuttavia insegnavo solo di giorno, e le notti e i fine settimana li passavo piangendo sulla poltrona, abbracciata al mio cane. E con Dio. Gli chiesi di starmi vicino, e Lui mi ascoltò.
Dopo due mesi, avevo disperato bisogno di aiuto. Disperato, ho detto. Nella mia mente si affacciava costantemente l’idea di suicidarmi; ero depressa, spaventata, ansiosa e altro ancora.
Come potete vedere, non ho affatto negato la mia responsabilità; tutt’altro.
Stavo facendo i conti con la verità. Sapevo che avrei dovuto rivolgermi a qualche psicologo.
REGINA: E Brian?
JENNIFER: La nostra relazione degenerò. Cercavo di farmi perdonare, questa mi sembrava una buona idea, ma non ci riuscivo. Ero troppo arrabbiata e disperata.
Le cose peggiorarono ancora. In quel periodo ero in cura da uno psicologo, talvolta andavo dalla polizia o dal procuratore. Se litigavo con Brian, chiamavo la polizia. Di rimando, anche lui chiamò la polizia quando, una volta, gli chiesi delucidazioni circa un suo appuntamento con un’altra. Ci mancò poco che non mi mettessero sotto custodia.
Tuttavia non smettemmo di vederci. Girammo diversi psicologi. Uno normalmente non lo farebbe perché si tratta di un argomento delicato: ma io ero irata, e lui aveva ancora i suoi problemi.
Today is the feast day of Saint Henry II. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Henry was a German King and Holy Roman Emperor, son of Duke Henry II (the Quarrelsome) and of the Burgundian Princess Gisela. He was born in 972
Saint Henry II, Emperor by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877
Among the Roman Emperors there is one whom the Catholic Church mentions, as well in the Martyrology as in holy Mass and the breviary, as a Saint; the Emperor Henry. He was the son of the Duke of Bavaria, and received instruction in the Christian religion, and also in the liberal arts, under St. Wolfgang. This holy teacher inculcated not only piety, but also holiness, as is proved by the Emperor’s whole after-life. The early death of his holy tutor was a source of deep grief to the pious youth, and he spent many an hour at his grave, confiding all his cares to him with the confidence of a child. One day, while he was thus praying, sleep overtook him, during which he saw the holy bishop standing before him, telling him to turn his eyes to the wall. On doing so, he saw distinctly the two words “After Six.” He awoke, and thinking he should die after six days, he prepared himself piously for his departure from this life. The six days, however, passed, and as he was still alive, he thought that perhaps six weeks had been intended by those words. But these also went by, and in like manner six months and six years, during all of which he lived so piously that he was constantly ready to die. When, however, at the expiration of six years, he was chosen Emperor, he comprehended the import of those two words.
Before he was crowned Emperor, he followed the wishes of his parents and married Cunegunda, daughter of the Palatine Siegfried, with whom, by mutual consent, he lived in perpetual chastity. Having attained the highest dignity that could be conferred upon him, he altered not in the least his pious manner of living. He united with his dignity, a most edifying humility, as he had accepted the imperial crown only with the intention of furthering the honor of God, of protecting and disseminating the true faith, and of laboring for the welfare of his subjects. During his reign of 22 years, he was often in the field, sometimes in one country, sometimes in another; at first against those who aspired to the throne, and then against the persecutors of the Church, or the rebels and enemies of the Empire. He was most miraculously assisted by God and obtained many glorious victories over his enemies. We will give one example as a proof of this.
Several barbarous nations of Sclavonia and other neighboring territories made inroads into some portions of the Empire, doing great damage to the inhabitants and sparing neither churches nor convents, but plundering and laying waste everything in their way. They ravaged the diocese of Merseburg, and the holy emperor, advised by the nobles of the land, marched against them. Girding around his loins the sword of the holy Martyr St. Adrian, he called on the Lord of Hosts to be with him, and then begged his holy patrons, especially the holy Archangel Michael, St. Gregory and St. Adrian to intercede for him. He further promised to St. Lawrence, the patron of the See of Merseburg, to renew the church that had been dedicated to him, and which had been destroyed by the idolatrous people, if he would obtain from God the grace to vanquish them. His whole army was prepared for the battle, by receiving the Holy Communion, and when the morning broke, the Emperor beheld the barbarians marching against him in immense masses. Having again called on God for aid, he encouraged his soldiers to fight bravely against the enemies of the country and religion. When the battle began, the holy Emperor perceived those Saints whose aid had been invoked, at the head of his army, strengthening his soldiers and causing such panic among the enemy, that most of them fled and others turned in wild rage against each other. Thus did the Almighty renew the miracle, which, in ancient times, He had wrought for the benefit of His people, and the holy Emperor won a complete victory for which he gave due thanks to heaven and fulfilled the promise made in honor of St. Lawrence.
Valiantly as the holy Emperor marched against the enemies of his land and the Holy Church, on this occasion, he was equally ready, at other times, to spare those who humbled themselves and requested peace. The inhabitants of Troja in Calabria had rebelled against the general of the Emperor, and the latter was obliged to punish them for it, in order to prevent others from following their expample. Hence he besieged Troja with his army. When the inhabitants saw that they could not oppose the imperial power, they sent all the children in a long procession to the Emperor, crying “Lord, have mercy.” So touching a cry, accompanied by floods of tears, went to the Emperor’s heart, and withdrawing his army, he announced to the people of the city his pardon, with the words, that it would be wrong for him, as a man, to disregard prayers and tears which oftentimes moved even God. Surely a beautiful example of Christian charity, far from all desire to seek revenge on those who gave offence. The same charity actuated the holy Emperor to assist the poor and needy, and to stretch forth his hand to help the oppressed. His love to the Almighty he manifested especially by his zeal to further His honor on all occasions. To this end he erected many magnificent churches and convents, on which he spent large sums of money. There can hardly be named a monarch, who renewed and erected so many churches, endowed so many dioceses, and founded so many convents as this holy Emperor.
He founded the diocese of Bamberg and endowed it most generously. In the city of Bamberg, he built, in honor of the holy Archangel Michael, a church on the site still called Mount-Michael, another dedicated to St. Stephen, and also the magnificent Cathedral. The last was consecrated by the Pope himself, with great solemnity. The same Pope, Benedict VIII., crowned Henry and Cunegunda at Rome, on which occasion he presented the Emperor with a golden ball–the imperial globe–surmounted by the cross. This precious gift, as also the crown placed on his head at Rome, the Emperor, on his return, bestowed on the Church of the monastery at Cluni, to which he paid a pious visit. Notwithstanding his being engaged in frequent wars, which devoured enormous sums of money, he bestowed great treasure on the churches to procure everything that was necessary to ornament them. He wished to see the churches and everything belonging to the divine service magnificent, and kept in proper order, and used to say: “The Lord, to whom these churches are consecrated, is so great, that we ought to do all in our power to worship and proclaim His greatness and majesty. Nothing is laid out uselessly that is given to this end, nay, we never can ornament our churches so much that there will be no room left to do still more.” The holy Emperor desired in this respect to imitate the Emperor Constantine the Great, who was celebrated through the whole Christian world, not only for the many grand churches that he erected, but also for the splendid vessels, candelabra, paintings and vestments with which he furnished and ornamented them; for the same reason which actuated King Solomon to gather an almost inconceivable amount of gold and silver for the building of the Temple. “For,'” said he, “we do not erect a dwelling for man, but for God.”
Besides these and other works, which the holy Emperor undertook for the welfare of the empire, and the honor of the Holy Church, he did not neglect those exercises of piety which he needed for his own salvation. He had certain hours both of the day and of the night, which he gave to prayer. He undertook nothing without first asking the assistance of the Almighty by prayer. During many bitter persecutions which he had to suffer, even from his own brother, his patience was most remarkable; a word of complaint was never heard to pass his lips. In like manner he bore the most cruel pains occasioned by sickness, until St. Benedict, who visibly appeared to him during his sleep, cured him. He mortified his body with rigorous fasts and other penances. He received frequently, and always with great devotion, the Holy Sacrament, and by this means preserved his chastity until the end of his life.
After so virtuous a life he became sick at the Castle of Grone, not far from Halberstadt, while on a journey. After receiving the Viaticum, he called his holy consort, Cunegunda and her relations around his dying bed, and after once again asking her to forgive him, for having once suspected her of evil deeds, as is related in the life of this holy Empress, on the third day of March, he took her hand and said to her relations, in the presence of many persons: “She was entrusted to me by you, or rather by Christ our Lord, and I give her back to Christ and to you, a pure virgin.” Soon after, he expired, in the year 1024, and the 52d of his age. It was the will of God that the holy Emperor should reveal, with his last words, the life of unviolated chastity which he and his consort had led; as until then it had been a secret. His relics were entombed at Bamberg, in the Cathedral erected by him, where they are greatly venerated at the present day. The many miracles, which have taken place at his tomb, induced Pope Eugenius III., to canonize him in the year 1152. (2)
Image: Sacramentary of king Henry II [1002-14] (8)
Today is the feast day of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. Ora pro nobis.
Kateri Tekakwitha was daughter of Kenneronkwa, a Mohawk chief, and Tagaskouita, a devout Roman Catholic Algonquian woman. She was born in the Mohawk fortress of Ossernenon near present-day Auriesville, New York, in 1656. Kateri’s mother was baptized and educated by French missionaries in Trois-Rivières, like many of Abenaki converts.
Her chieftain father, Algonquian mother and her brother died in a plague and, though the young Tekakwitha survived the ravages of her illness, it left her delicate for the rest of her life. The Mohawk community in Ossernenon was stridently anti-Christian, yet she held fast to the faith of her mother. At the age of 20, Tekakwitha was baptized on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1676 by Father Jacques de Lamberville, a Jesuit. At her baptism, she took the name Kateri, a Mohawk pronunciation of the French name Catherine. Tekakwitha literally means “she moves things.”
However this step and her newfound joy did not endear her to the other members of her tribe. She was often scorned and persecuted. For instance, her family refused her food on Sundays because she would not work on that day. Sometimes children would taunt her and throw stones.
Finally a priest arranged that she should escape to Canada to live there with other Christians. She made her way to the area around the great St. Lawrence River. She spent her time near modern-day Montreal helping the old and the sick and teaching the children. She made her first Holy Communion on Christmas Day, 1677.
She would often spend hours before the Blessed Sacrament, kneeling in the cold chapel by herself. When the winter season took many of the villagers away on hunting expeditions she would be left to erect her own little chapel in the woods by carving a cross on a tree and spending time there in prayer.
She was a most gentle and loving presence in the community. She was a great storyteller and people listened to her for hours. Her favorite subjects of discourse, of course, were Jesus and his mother. It is said that when she was praying, Saint Kateri’s face became radiantly beautiful, ‘as if she was seeing the face of God’. Her great desire was to establish a religious order for Native American women but her poor health did not allow for this. She herself, however, was allowed to take the vows of a religious and consecrate herself to Christ. “Now, I belong to no one – only Jesus”, she said.
Her poor health which had plagued her since the age of four was fast declining. She died in 1680, aged twenty-four. Immediately after her death, according to a number of witnesses, the smallpox scars that had covered her face for twenty years disappeared. It was claimed too, that on the day of her funeral, many of the sick who attended were healed. Her last words were, ‘Jesus, I love you.’ Like the flower after which she was named – the lily – her life was short and beautiful.
She is called “The Lily of the Mohawks,” the “Mohawk Maiden,” the “Pure and Tender Lily,” and the “Flower among True Men,” the “Lily of Purity” and “The New Star of the New World.” According to Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik’s Kateri of the Mohawks, her tribal neighbors called her “the fairest flower that ever bloomed among the redmen,” which was engraved on her tomb stone.
Pope John Paul beatified Kateri on 22 June 1980, and her feast day is 14 July. She was the first native American to be so honoured. She was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI.
Image: Crop of One of the oldest portraits of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha by father Claude Chauchetière around 1696 (4)
Today is the feast day of Saint Francis Solanus. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Francis Solano was born in 1549 at Montilla in the province of Andalusia, Spain, of very devout parents, Matthew Sanchez Solanus and Anna Ximenes. At the request of his mother, he received the name of Francis in baptism. She ascribed the fortunate delivery of the child to the intercession of the Seraphic Founder.
The boy grew to be a joy to his parents. While he was pursuing his studies with the Fathers of the Society of Jesus, his modesty, gentleness, and piety merited the esteem of his teachers as well as the friendship of his fellow students. Francis completed his studies and was ordained to the priesthood, proving his zeal for the salvation of souls during an epidemic of the plague that broke out in the region. The heroic sacrifices he made during an epidemic were especially admirable. He cared for the corporal and spiritual needs of the sick without any fear of infection. He became afflicted with the malady, but was miraculously restored to health.
After his ordination, he was sent by his superiors to the convent of Arifazza as master of novices.
Eventually, Francis was sent to South America in 1589 with several members of the Order, assigned to the provinces of Tucuman (Argentina), Gran Chaco (Bolivia), and Paraguay. Obediently, Francis accepted his assignment, never complaining about the countless hardships the missionaries encountered. Concentrating on the indigenous peoples of the regions, Francis approached the Indians so courteously and kindly that they rejoiced at his very appearance. He learned the difficult native languages in a very short time, and he was miraculously understood wherever he went.
God also gave Saint Francis marvelous power over hearts. Once when he was in the city of La Rioja, a horde of thousands of armed Indians approached in order to slay all Europeans and Christianized Indians. Saint Francis went out to meet them. His words at once disarmed them. All understood what he said although they spoke different languages. They begged him for instructions, and 9,000 were baptized.
After Father Francis had labored 12 years among the Indians, he was re-assigned to the Monastery at Lima, Peru, where he led the Christians of Lima away from wanton laxity, back to the tenets of the faith. Saint Francis processed through the city, calling aloud for the repentance of the inhabitants. They were—one by one—moved to repent, receive Reconciliation, enact penances, and pray for mercy. Through his efforts the city was restored.
Saint Francis Solano had labored untiringly for the salvation of souls in South America for twenty years, when God called him to Himself on the feast of his special patron, St. Bonaventure, July 14, 1610. The viceroy and the most distinguished persons of Lima bore the body of the poor Friar Minor to the grave.
Almighty God glorified Saint Francis after death by many miracles, especially in favor of sick children; yes, even dead children were restored to life at his grave. Pope Benedict XIII canonized Saint Francis Solano amid great solemnity in the year 1726.
Image: Crop of Saint Francis Solanus and the Bull, artist:Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, circa 1645 (4)
Today is the feast day of Saint Bonaventure. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Bonaventure was born at Bagnorea in the vicinity of Viterbo in 1221. He died on the night between the 14th and 15th of July, 1274. His parents were Giovanni di Fidanza and Maria Ritella. He was a frail child, given the name of John at his baptism. He soon fell so ill that his cure was despaired of, and his sorrowing mother had recourse to Saint Francis. She promised God she would endeavor to have the child take the habit of the Franciscan Order, if he were cured. Her prayer was granted, the child was cured, and Saint Francis himself gave him his new name. In reference to the miraculous cure, he prophetically exclaimed of the infant, “O buona ventura!— O good fortune!” Saint Francis died a few months later, not without foreseeing the future of this little one, destined to be a seraph of love like himself. Saint Bonaventure is titled “the Seraphic Doctor,” from the fervor of divine love which breathes in his writings.
The Franciscan Order has ever regarded Bonaventure as one of the greatest Doctors and from the beginning his teaching found many distinguished expositors within the order. Among the earliest being his own pupils, John Peckham later Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew of Aquasparta, and Alexander of Alexandria (d. 1314), both of whom became ministers general of the order. The last named wrote a “Summa quaestionum S. Bonaventura. Other well-known commentaries are by John of Erfurt (d. 1317), Verilongus (d. 1464), Brulifer (d. c. 1497), de Combes (d. 1570), Trigosus (d. 1616), Coriolano (d. 1625), Zamora (d. 1649), Bontemps (d. 1672), Hauzeur (d. 1676), Bonelli (d. 1773), etc. From the fourteenth to the sixteenth century the influence of Bonaventure was undoubtedly somewhat overshadowed by that of Duns Scotus, owing largely to the prominence of the latter as champion of the Immaculate Conception in the disputes between the Franciscans and Dominicans. Sixtus V, however, founded a special chair at Rome for the study of St. Bonaventure; such chairs also existed in several universities, notably at Ingolstadt, Salzburg, Valencia, and Osuna. It is worthy of note that the Capuchins forbade their Friars to follow Scotus and ordered them to return to the study of Bonaventure. The centenary celebrations of 1874 appear to have revived interest in the life and work of St. Bonaventure.
St. Bonaventure, Cardinal and Doctor of the Church
from the Liturgical Year, 1901
Four months after the Angel of the Schools, the Seraphic Doctor appears in the heavens. Bound by the ties of love when on earth, the two are now united for ever before the Throne of God. Bonaventure’s own words will show us how great a right they both had to the heavenly titles bestowed upon them by the admiring gratitude of men.
As there are three hierarchies of Angels in heaven, so on earth there are three classes of the elect. The Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones, who form the first hierarchy, represent those who approach nearest to God by contemplation, and who differ among themselves according to the intensity of their love, the plenitude of their science, and the steadfastness of their justice; to the Dominations, Virtues, and Powers, correspond the prelates and princes; and lastly, the lowest choirs signify the various ranks of the faithful engaged in the active life. This is the triple division of men, which, according to St. Luke, will be made at the last day: Two shall be in the bed, two in the field, two at the mill; that is to say, in the repose of divine delights, in the field of government, at the mill of this life’s toil. As regards the two mentioned in each place, we may remark that in Isaias, the Seraphim, who are more closely united to God than the rest, perform two together their ministry of sacrifice and praise; for it is with the Angel as with man: the fullness of love, which belongs especially to the Seraphim, cannot be without the fulfilment of the double precept of charity towards God and one’s neighbour. Again our Lord sent His disciples two and two before His face; and in Genesis we find God sending two Angels where one would have sufficed (Gen. xix. 1). It is better therefore, says Ecclesiastes, that two should be together than one; for they have the advantage of their society?
Such is the teaching of Bonaventure in his book of the Hierarchy (Eccles. iv. 9), wherein he shows us the secret workings of Eternal Wisdom for the salvation of the world and the sanctification of the elect. It would be impossible to understand aright the history of the thirteenth century, were we to forget the prophetic vision, wherein our Lady was seen presenting to her offended Son His two servants Dominic and Francis, that they might, by their powerful union, bring back to Him the wandering human race. What a spectacle for Angels when, on the morrow of the apparition, the two saints met and embraced: “Thou art my companion, we will run side by side,” said the descendant of the Gusmans to the poor man of Assisi; “let us keep together, and no man will be able to prevail against us.” These words might well have been the motto of their noble sons, Thomas and Bonaventure. The star which shone over the head of St. Dominic, shed its bright rays on Thomas; the Seraph who imprinted the stigmata in the flesh of St. Francis, touched with his fiery wing the soul of Bonaventure; yet both, like their incomparable fathers, had but one end in view : to draw men by science and love to that eternal life which consists in knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.
Both were burning and shining lamps, blending their flames in the heavens, in proportions which no mortal eye could distinguish here below; nevertheless, Eternal Wisdom has willed that the Church on earth should borrow more especially light from Thomas and fire from Bonaventure. Would that we might here show in each of them the workings of Wisdom, the one bond even on earth of their union of thoughts, that Wisdom, who, ever unchangeable in her adorable unity, never repeats herself in the souls she chooses from among the nations to become the prophets and the friends of God. But to-day we must speak only of Bonaventure.
When quite a child, he was saved by St. Francis from imminent death; whereupon his pious mother offered him by vow to the Saint, promising that he should enter the Order of Friars Minor. Thus, in the likeness of holy poverty, that beloved companion of the Seraphic Patriarch, did Eternal Wisdom prevent our Saint from his very cradle, showing herself first unto him. At the earliest awakening of his faculties he found her seated at the entrance of his soul, awaiting the opening of its gates, which are, he tells us, intelligence and love. Having received a good soul in an undefiled body, he preferred Wisdom before kingdoms and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in comparison with the august friend, who offered herself to him in the glory of her nobility and beauty. From that first moment, without ever waning, she was his light. Peacefully as a sunbeam glancing through a hitherto closed window, Wisdom filled this dwelling, now become her own, as the bride on the nuptial day takes possession of the bridegroom’s house, filling it with joy, in community of goods, and above all of love. For her contribution to the nuptial banquet, she brought the substantial brightness of heaven; Bonaventure on his part offered her the lilies of purity, so desired by her as her choicest food. Henceforth the feast in his soul was to be continual; and the light and the perfumes, breaking forth, were shed around, attracting, enlightening, and nourishing all. While still very young, he was, according to custom, sent, after the first years of his religious life, to the celebrated University of Paris, where he soon won all hearts by his angelic manners; and the great Alexander of Hales, struck with admiration at the union of so many qualities, said of him that it seemed as if in him Adam had not sinned. As a lofty mountain whose head is lost in the clouds, and from whose foot run fertilizing waters far and wide, Brother Alexander himself, according to the expression of the Sovereign Pontiff, seemed at that time to contain within himself the living fountain of Paradise, whence the river of science and salvation flowed over the earth (Litt. Alexandri IV.: De fontibus paradisi flumen egrediens). Nevertheless not only would he, the irrefragable Doctor, and the Doctor of doctors, give up his chair in a short time to the new-comer, but he would hereafter derive his greatest glory from being called father and master by that illustrious disciple (Bonavent. in 11 Sent., dist. xxiii. art. 2. qu. 3, ad 7). Placed in such a position at so early an age, Bonaventure could say of Divine Wisdom, even more truly than of the great master who had had little to do but admire the prodigious development of his soul: “It is she that has taught me all things; she taught me the knowledge of God and of His works, justice and virtues, the subtleties of speeches and the solutions of arguments (Cf. Wisd. vii. and viii).”
Such indeed is the object of those Commentaries on the four Books of Sentences, first delivered as lectures from the chair of Paris, where he held the noblest intellects spellbound by his graceful and inspired language. This masterpiece, while it is an inexhaustible mine of treasures to the Franciscan family, bears so great testimony to the science of this doctor of twenty-seven years of age, that, though so soon called from his chair to the government of a great Order, he was worthy on account of this single work to share with his friend Thomas of Aquin, who was fortunately freer to pursue his studies, the honourable title of prince of Sacred Theology.
The young master already merited his name of Seraphic Doctor, by regarding science as merely a means to love, and declaring that the light which illuminates the mind is barren and useless unless it penetrates to the heart, where alone wisdom rests and feasts (Exp. in Lib. Sap. viii. 9, 16). St. Antoninus tells us also, that in him every truth grasped by the intellect, passed through the affections, and thus became prayer and divine praise (Antonini,Chronic., p. III. tit. xxiv., cap. 8). “His aim,” says another historian, “was to burn with “love, to kindle himself first at the divine fire, and afterwards to inflame others. Careless of praise or renown, anxious only to regulate his life and actions, he would fain burn and not only shine; he would be fire, in order to approach nearer to God by becoming more like to Him who is fire. Albeit, as fire is not without light, so was he also at the same time a shining torch in the House of God; but his special claim to our praise is, that all the light at his command he gathered to feed the flame of divine love (H. Sedulius, Histor. seaph).”
The bent of his mind was clearly indicated when, at the beginning of his public teaching, he was called upon to give his decision on the question then dividing the Schools: to some theology was a speculative, to others a practical science, according as they were more struck by the theoretical or the moral side of its teaching. Bonaventure, uniting the two opinions in the principle which he considered the one universal law, concluded that “Theology is an affective science, the knowledge of which proceeds by speculative contemplation, but aims principally at making us good.” For the wisdom, of doctrine, he said, must be according to her name (Eccli. vi. 23), something that can be relished by the soul; and he added, not without that gentle touch of irony which the saints know how to use: “There is a difference, I suppose, in the impressions produced by the proposition, Christ died for us, or the like, and by such as this: the diagonal and the side of a square cannot be equal to one another (Bonavent.Praemium in Sent., qu. 3).” The graceful speech and profound science of our saint were enhanced by a beautiful modesty. He would conclude a difficult question thus: “This is said without prejudice to the opinions of others. If anyone think otherwise, or better, as he may well do on this point as on all others, I bear him no ill-will; but if, in this little work, he find anything deserving approval, let him give thanks to God, the Author of all good. Whatever, in any part, be found false, doubtful or obscure, let the kind reader forgive the incompetence of the writer, whose conscience bears him unimpeachable testimony that he has wished to say nothing but what is true, clear, and commonly received.” On one occasion ,however, Bonaventure’s unswerving devotion to the Queen of Virgins modified with a gentle force his expression of humility: “If anyone,” he says, “prefers otherwise, I will not contend with him, provided he say nothing to the detriment of the Venerable Virgin, for we must take the very greatest care, even should it cost us our life, that no one lessen in any way the honour of our Lady (IV. Sent. dist. xxviii, qu. 6. ad 5).” Lastly, at the end of the third book of this admirable Exposition of the Sentences, he declares that charity is worth more than all science. It is enough, in doubtful questions, to know what the wise have taught; disputation is to little purpose. We talk much, and our words fail us. Infinite thanks be to the Perfecter of all discourse, our Lord Jesus Christ, who taking pity on my poverty of knowledge and of genius, has enabled me to complete this moderate work. I beg of Him that it may procure me the merit of obedience, and may be of profit to my brethren: the twofold purpose for which the task was undertaken (III. Sent., dist. xl. qu. 3, ad 6).”
But the time had come when obedience was to give place to another kind of merit, less pleasing to himself, but not less profitable to the brethren. At thirty-five years of age, he was elected Minister General. Obliged thus to quit the field of scholastic teaching, he entrusted it to his friend, Thomas of Aquin, who, younger by several years, was to cultivate it longer and more completely than he himself had been suffered. The Church would lose nothing by the change; for, Eternal Wisdom, who ordereth all things with strength and sweetness, thus disposed that these two incomparable geniuses, completing one another, should give us the fullness of that true science which not only reveals God, but leads to Him.
Give an occasion to the wise man, and wisdom shall be added to him (Prov. ix. 9). This sentence was placed by Bonaventure at the head of his treatise on the “Six Wings of the Seraphim,” wherein he sets forth the qualifications necessary for one called to the cure of souls; and well did he fulfill it himself in the government of his immense Order, scattered by its missions throughout the whole Church. The treatise itself, which Father Claud Aquaviva held in such high estimation as to oblige the Superiors of the Society of Jesus to use it as a guide, furnishes us with a portrait of our Saint at this period. He had reached the summit of the spiritual life, where the inward peace of the soul is undisturbed by the most violent agitations from without; where the closeness of their union with God produces in the saints a mysterious fecundity, displayed to the world, when God wills, by a multiplicity of perfect works incomprehensible to the profane. Let us listen to Bonaventure’s own words: “The Seraphim exercise an influence over the lower orders, to draw them upwards; so the love of the spiritual man tends both to his neighbour and to God; to God that he may rest in Him; to his neighbour to draw him thither with himself. Not only then do they burn; they also give the form of perfect love, driving away darkness and showing how to rise by degrees, and to go to God by the highest paths (Bonavent. De Eccle. hier., p. II. c. ii).”
Such is the secret of that admirable series of opuscula, composed, as he owned to St. Thomas, without the aid of any book but his crucifix, without any preconceived plan, but simply as occasion required, at the request, or to satisfy the needs of the brethren and sisters of his large family, or again when he felt a desire of pouring out his soul. In these works Bonaventure has treated alike of the first elements of asceticism and of the sublimest subjects of the mystic life, with such fullness, certainty, clearness, and persuasive force, that Sixtus IV. declared the Holy Spirit seemed to speak in him (Litt. Superna caelestis). On reading the Itinerary of the soul to God, which was written on the height of Alvernia, as it were under the immediate influence of the Seraphim, the Chancellor Gerson exclaimed: “This opusculum, or rather this immense work, is beyond the praise of a mortal mouth (Gerson Epist. cuidam Fratri Minori. Lugd. an. 1426).” And he wished it, together with that wonderful compendium of sacred science, the Breviloquium, to be imposed upon theologians as a necessary manual. “By his words,” says the great Abbot Trithemius in the name of the Benedictine Order, “the author of all these learned and devout works inflames the will of the reader no less than he enlightens his mind. Note the spirit of divine love and Christian devotion in his writings, and you will easily see that he surpasses all the doctors of his time in the usefulness of his works. Many expound doctrine, many preach devotion, few teach the two together; Bonaventure surpasses both the many and the few, because he trains to devotion by science, and to science by devotion. ” If then you would be both learned and devout, you must put his teaching in practice (Trithem. de Scriptor. eccle).”
But Bonaventure himself will tell us best the proper dispositions for reading him with profit. At the beginning of his Incendium amoris, wherein he teaches the three ways, purgative, illuminative, and unitive, which lead to true wisdom, he says: “I offer this book not to philosophers, not to the worldly-wise, not to great theologians perplexed with endless questions, but to the simple and ignorant who strive rather to love God than to know much. It is not by disputing, but by activity, that we learn to love. As to these men full of questions, superior in every science, but inferior in the love of Christ, I consider them incapable of understanding the contents of this book; unless putting away all vain show of learning, they strive, by humble self-renunciation, prayer, and meditation, to kindle within them the divine spark, which, inflaming their hearts and dispelling all darkness, will lead them beyond the concerns of time even to the throne of peace. Indeed by the very fact of their knowing more, they are better disposed to love, or at least they would be, if they truly despised themselves and could rejoice to be despised by others (Incend. amoris Prologus).”
Although these pages are already too long, we cannot resist quoting the last words left us by St. Bonaventure. As the Angel of the School was soon, at Fossa Nova, to close his labours and his life with the explanation of the Canticle of Canticles, so his seraphic rival and brother tuned his last notes to these words of the sacred Nuptial Song: “King Solomon has made him a litter of the wood of Libanus: The pillars thereof he made of silver, the seat of gold, the going-up of purple (Cant. iii. 9, 10). “The seat of gold,” added our Saint, “is contemplative wisdom; it belongs to those alone who possess the column of silver, i.e. the virtues which strengthen the soul; the going-up of purple is the charity whereby we ascend to the heights and descend to the valleys (Illuminationes Ecclesiae in Hexaemeron, sermo xxiii).”
It is a conclusion worthy of Bonaventure, the close of a sublime but incomplete work, which he had not even time to put together himself. “Alas! alas! alas!” cries out with tears the loving disciple to whom we owe this last treasure, “a higher dignity, and then the death of our lord and master prevented the continuation of this work.” And then showing us, in a touching manner, the precautions taken by the sons lest they should lose anything of their father’s conferences: “What I here give,” he says, “is what I could snatch by writing rapidly while he was speaking. Two others took notes at the same time, but their papers are scarcely legible; whereas several of the audience were able to read my copy, and the master himself and many others made use of it; a fact for which I deserve some gratitude. And now at length, permission and time having been given to me, I have revised these notes, with the voice and gestures of the master ever in my ear and before my eyes; I have arranged them in order, without adding anything to what he said, except the indication of certain authorities (Illuminat. Eccles., Additiones).”
The dignity mentioned by the faithful secretary is that of Cardinal Bishop of Albano. After the death of Clement IV., and the succeeding three years of widowhood for the Church, our Saint, by his influence with the Sacred College, had obtained the election of Gregory X., who now imposed upon him in virtue of obedience the honour of the Cardinalate. Having been entrusted with the work of preparation for the Council of Lyons, convened for the Spring of 1274, Bonaventure had the joy of assisting at the reunion of the Latin and Greek Churches, which he, more than anyone else, had been instrumental in obtaining. But God spared him the bitterness of seeing how short-lived the reunion was to be: a union which would have been the salvation of that East which he loved, and where his name, translated into Eutychius, was still in veneration two centuries later at the time of the Council of Florence. On the 15th of July of that year, 1274, in the midst of the Council, and presided at by the Sovereign Pontiff himself, took place the most solemn funeral the world has ever witnessed. “I grieve for thee, my brother Jonathan,” cried out before that mourning assembly gathered from East and West, the Dominican Cardinal Peter of Tarentaise. After fifty-three years spent in this world, the Seraph had cast off his robe of flesh, and spreading his wings had gone to join Thomas of Aquin, who had by a very short time preceded him to heaven. (2)
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877
The Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure, was born in 1221,at Balneoregio, in the State of Tuscany. His parents were very distinguished people, not only on account of their nobility and great riches, but still more for their piety and virtues. When scarcely four years old, Bonaventure became dangerously sick and the physicians despaired of his life. His mother appealed to St. Francis of Assisium, who was still living at that period, begging him to obtain, by his prayers, her son’s life from God. She promised to bring him up to the honor of the Almighty, and in the course of time to consecrate him entirely to His divine service in the Order founded by St. Francis. The latter prayed for the sick child and the malady was subdued. In regard to this miracle the holy man cried: “O Buona Ventura! ” which means, “Oh happy event!” and from that time they called the child, so miraculously cured, Bonaventure, although at the baptismal font it had received the name of John.
Arrived at the period when reason awakens, Bonaventure heard of the promise his mother had made in regard to him and fulfilled it by entering joyfully into the Order of St. Francis. After having finished his probation, he went to Paris to devote himself to study, and his progress in learning was as great as his advancement in virtue, especially in humility, constant selfdenial, perfect obedience, great love of his crucified Lord, and ardent devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He meditated daily on the passion and death of Christ, and spent as much time as he could in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He seldom received Holy Communion, especially when he himself said Mass, without shedding many tears. His innocence he preserved inviolate. The celebrated Doctor Alexander of Hales, under whom Bonaventure studied, used to say, that it seemed to him that he had not committed any sin in Adam; so strictly did he control his inclinations, so great were his virtue and his piety.
Before he was thirty years old, his superiors appointed him to teach theology in the University of Paris, which he did with immense success. There he and St. Thomas of Aquin received the title of “Doctor,” the highest dignity conferred upon Theologians. At the age of 35 years, he was elected General of the whole Seraphic Order, and his election was confirmed by Pope Alexander, who had presided over the assembly. When once installed in his new functions, he was as zealous to preserve the rule of the holy Founder, as he had previously been earnest in declining the dignity. He made the most wholesome regulations, and led all those under him by word and example to great sanctity. During eighteen years he administered his office, with so much wisdom, mildness and strength of character, that he was loved and esteemed by all, and venerated as the second Founder of the Order.
Although occupied with such constant and important labors, he never neglected his devotional exercises or his studies. We possess this day a great many theological works of great learning written by this holy man. Among others, he wrote a book to refute those who slandered the Mendicant Orders, which he entitled: “A Defense of the Poor.” He proves in this book the temporal as well as spiritual benefits of such orders. He also wrote several most learned and eloquent books in praise of the Blessed Virgin, whose honor he desired to further to the best of his ability, and whom, from childhood, he had greatly venerated. There is also extant from his pen, the life of St. Francis, Founder of the Seraphic Order. Whilst he was writing this work, St. Thomas Aquinas came to pay him a visit. Hearing in what Bonaventure was occupied, he declined disturbing him, and left with the words: “Let us leave one Saint to work for another.”
St. Thomas so highly esteemed Bonaventure, that he did not hesitate to call him a Saint while he was still alive. This holy man was greatly astonished that Bonaventure, being so much occupied with his duties, yet found time to write so many books of such profound learning, and one day asked him where his library was. Bonaventure pointing to a crucifix, said: “This is the library, wherein I find all that I teach to others.” Before he began to study, or whenever a doubt or a difficulty during study embarrassed him, he fell down before the Crucifix and humbly prayed for Divine assistance. He said more than once, that by this means, he had obtained more knowledge and wisdom than by all his industry. Not content with all this, the holy man preached publicly in all the places which he visited in the exercise of his functions, exhorting sinners to repentance and the pious to be constant in good works; by which he converted, in a most remarkable manner, the most hardened sinners.
The fame of his great knowledge and holiness, which spread all over the country, was of great benefit to him in his missionary work; whence he received the title of Seraphic Doctor, by which he is still known in our days. Bishops and prelates of the Church honored the Saint still more than other people of a lower degree. Clement IV, desired to reward him for his many services to the Church with the Archbishopric of York; but the holy man throwing himself at his feet, begged so earnestly to be spared the burden of this honor, that the Holy Father acceded to his request. After the death of this Pope, the Cardinals, assembled at Viterbo, could not agree in the election of a new head of the Church, and they at last determined to leave the choice to Bonaventure, promising to accept as Pope, whomsoever he thought deserving to receive the highest of earthly dignities. This was surely the greatest sign of honor which they could confer upon the Saint.
Bonaventure, after having prayed to God, said that, in his opinion, Theobald, archdeacon of Liege, who was not even present, was most worthy to be raised to the Pontifical Throne. The cardinals received his decision and Theobald became the head of Christ’s Church. This Pope, who took the name of Gregory X, sent afterwards the hat and insignia of a Cardinal to Bonaventure, nominating him Bishop of Albano, and commanding him at the same time, to obey without any opposition. The papal Nuncios who were to convey this news to the Saint, found him occupied in washing the dishes in the kitchen. He listened with unfeigned surprise to their message, and as he saw that, this time, there was no escape left, he obediently submitted, but nevertheless he finished his humble occupation. The Pope, calling him to Rome, took him to Lyons where a general Council was held, during which he gave new proofs of his great learning, and of his unwearied zeal in promoting the welfare of the holy Church.
It pleased the Almighty, to call His faithful servant, in the midst of his pious labor, and after a short illness, to receive his eternal reward. He died in 1274, only fifty-three years of age. The Pope and all the bishops deeply lamented his early death, but God immediately honored him by many miracles. One hundred and sixty years later, when on account of the erection of a new Church, the relics of the Saint were exhumed, it was found that the flesh of the body was entirely consumed, the head excepted, of which the hair, teeth, tongue, eyes and ears, lips and cheeks, were as perfect as though he had still been living. The head, therefore, was preserved in a rich shrine, and the rest of the body laid into a coffin. After many years, when the Huguenots or Calvinists took possession of Lyons, they publicly burned the body of the Saint and threw the ashes into the river. The holy head, however, was saved from their rage by the care of a priest, who, though most cruelly tortured, to make him confess where the relic was kept, preferred to bear the suffering rather than reveal where the precious treasure was concealed. (1)
Image: Saint Bonaventure, François, Claude (dit Frère Luc) – 1660 (7)
Today is the feast day of Saint Mildred. Ora Pro Nobis.
Saint Mildred or Mildthryth (694–716 or 733), also Mildrith, Mildryth was an Anglo-Saxon abbess.
She was the daughter of King Merewalh of Magonsaete, a sub-kingdom of Mercia, and Eormenburh (Saint Eormenburga), herself the daughter of King Æthelberht of Kent, and as such appearing in the so-called Kentish royal legend.
Her sisters Milburh (Saint Milburga of Much Wenlock) and Mildgytha (Saint Mildgyth) were also considered saints. Goscelin, probably relying on a now-lost history of the rulers of the Kingdom of Kent, wrote a hagiography of Mildthryth.
At an early age, her mother sent her to be educated at Chelles in France, where many English ladies were trained to a saintly life. A young nobleman, related to the Abbess of Chelles, entreated her to arrange that he might marry this English princess. The abbess tried to persuade her, but Mildred said her mother had sent her there to be taught, not to be married. All the abbess’s advice, threats and blows failed to persuade her to accept the alliance offered to her.
At last the abbess shut her up in an oven in which she had made a great fire. After three hours, when the abbess expected to find not only Mildred’s flesh but her very bones burnt to ashes, the young saint came out unhurt and radiant with joy and beauty. The faithful, hearing of the miracle, venerated Mildred as a saint. The abbess, more infuriated than ever, threw her on the ground. The abbess beat, kicked and scratched her and tore out a handful of her hair.
Mildred found means to send her mother a letter, enclosing some of her hair, torn from her head by the violence of the abbess. Queen Ermenburga soon sent ships to fetch her daughter. The abbess, fearing that her evil deeds should be made known, would, on no account, give permission for Mildred’s departure. Mildred, however, fled by night; but, having in her haste forgotten some ecclesiastical vestments and a nail of the cross of Christ which she valued extremely, she managed to return for them and brought them safely away. Upon her arrival back in England, she landed at Ebbsfleet. Here she found a great square stone, miraculously prepared for her to step on from the ship. The stone received, and retained, the mark of her foot. Afterwards the stone was removed to the Abbey of Minster-in-Thanet and kept there in memory of her. Many diseases are said to have been cured for centuries after, by water containing a little dust from this stone.
Mildred eventually entered the abbey of Minster-in-Thanet, which her mother had earlier established. She became abbess by 694. Suggesting that ties to Gaul were maintained, a number of dedications to Mildred exist in the Pas-de-Calais, including at Millam. Mildred died at Minster-in-Thanet and was buried there.
She continued to be an extremely popular saint, eclipsing the fame of St. Augustine, in the immediate neighbourhood of her monastery, where the place that used to be proudly pointed out as that of his landing came to be better known as “St Mildred’s Rock.”
St. Mildred died of a lingering painful illness, towards the close of the seventh century. This great monastery was often plundered by the Danes, and the nuns and clerks murdered, chiefly in the years 980 and 1011. After the last of these burnings, there were no more nuns but only a few secular priests. In 1033, the remains of St. Mildred were translated to the monastery of Austin’s at Canterbury, and venerated above all the relics of that holy place, says Malmesbury who testifies frequent miracles to have been wrought by them: Thorn and others confirm the same. Two churches in London bear her name. (4)
Mildred is sometimes represented in art holding a church and accompanied by three geese, as she was protector against damage by such wild birds.
Today is the feast day of Saint Eugenius, Bishop of Carthage. Ora pro nobis.
It is unknown when was Saint Eugenius was born.
In 428 Genseric, the King of the Vandals, invaded and took over North Africa. The Vandals, who were Arians, had the practice of persecuting the Catholics, especially the Bishops. They plundered and destroyed Carthage’s churches and monasteries. They banished to the desert St. Quodvultdeus, the city’s Bishop, along with other Prelates and clergy as well as 5,000 lay people. As they left, mothers followed the ecclesiastics, weeping and crying: “Who will take care of us after you leave? Who will baptize our children, hear our confessions and reconcile us with God? Who will bury us when we die? Who will offer the Divine Sacrifice? Let us go with you.”
In the year 481, the episcopal see of Carthage had been vacant for twenty-four years. Huneric, who succeeded Genseric, decided to allow the Catholics to fill it, provided certain conditions be met. The people chose Eugenius, a citizen of Carthage, eminent for his learning, zeal, piety and prudence. His charities to the distressed had already been very abundant, and in his new office he refused himself the slightest convenience, in order to be able to give all he had to the poor.
His virtue gained him the respect and esteem even of the Arians; but at length, moved by envy and blind zeal, the king sent him an order never to sit in the episcopal throne, preach to the people, or admit into his chapel any Vandals, among whom several had been converted. The saint boldly answered the messenger that the laws of God commanded him not to shut the door of his church to any that desired to serve Him in it.
Huneric, enraged at this answer, persecuted the Catholics in many ways, especially the Vandals who had embraced the true Faith. He commanded guards to be placed at the doors of the Catholic churches, who when they saw any man or woman going in clothed in the habit of the Vandals, struck them on the head with short jagged staves, which being twisted into their hair and drawn back with great violence, tore off hair and skin together. Some lost their eyes by this means, and others died with the extreme pain; but many lived a long time after. Women, with their heads flayed in this manner, were publicly led through the streets, with a crier going before them to show them to the people.
The streets of Carthage were filled with spectacles of cruelty; continually there could be seen some without hands, others without eyes, nose or ears, others whose heads appeared sunk in between their shoulders from having been hung up by the hands on the tops of houses. Many nuns were so cruelly tortured that several died on the rack. Nearly 5,000 men, women and children were banished into a desert filled with scorpions and poisonous snakes; but these servants of God suffered much more from the want of the necessities of life.
There were episodes in the many martyrdoms that took place when St. Eugenius was Bishop. A woman, for example, was brought to watch her son cruelly tortured for being a Catholic. Seeing him tremble in face of the torment, without hesitation she addressed him thus: “My son, remember that we were baptized in the name of the Trinity in the bosom of the Holy Church, our Mother.” Hearing this, the youth courageously faced martyrdom.
Many of the Catholics who apostatized from fear of martyrdom became cruel persecutors of their faithful brothers. This is the famous case of Elpidophorus who was appointed judge at Carthage. One day Deacon Muritta, who had baptized Elpidophorus when he was a child, was brought before him. With him Muritta brought the chrismale, or white garment, with which he had clothed the child after he was baptized. Showing it to the whole assembly, he said to the apostate judge: “This garment will accuse you when God the Judge shall appear in majesty on the last day. It will bear testimony against you to your condemnation. This garment that covered you when, pure and unspotted, you left the waters of Baptism, will increase your torment when you will be engulfed by the eternal flames.” St. Muritta is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology on July 13.
Eugenius was banished under Huneric. Gunthamund, who succeeded Huneric allowed Eugenius to return to Carthage and permitted him to reopen the churches. After eight years of peace Thrasamund succeeded to the throne. He revived the persecution, arrested Eugenius, and condemned him to death. Thrasamund commuted the sentence into exile at Vienne, near Albi (Languedoc), where the Arian Alaric was king. Eugenius built a monastery over the tomb of St. Amaranthus, the martyr, and led a penitential life till his death in 505. He is said to have miraculously cured a man who was blind.
Image: A statue portraying Saint Eugenius, in the church museum in Sant’Eustorgio (Milan, Italy). Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, March 1 2007. (4)
Ella los congrega. En el centro de México, al noroeste de Guadalajara, el Segundo el segundo santuario más visitado de México recibe millones de mexicanos cada año.
Aun el observador más cansado se sume en un respetuoso silencio, viendo a los mexicanos –casi siempre avanzando de rodillas—pedir por la intercesión y protección de esta estatua de la Virgen María del Siglo XVI.
¿Mera superstición? ¿Entonces por qué el día de hoy las paredes están llenas de exvotos? ¿Qué está pasando aquí?
En 1542, el padre español Miguel de Bologna, trajo una estatua de la Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepción a Jalisco, conocido entonces como San Juan Bautista Mezquititilán, habitado por los indios nochiztlecas. Una pequeña capilla con techo de paja fue su primer hogar.
Ana Lucia y la Virgencita
Por 1623, una pareja de indígenas ancianos, Pedro Antes y su mujer Ana Lucía, fueron los custodios de la estatua y de la capilla. Ana Lucía veneraba la imagen, teniendo una gran devoción a la Santa Virgen María. Ella decía que tenía conversaciones con Nuestra Señora, aunque la mayoría de la gente pensaba que Ana Lucía quería engañarlos.
LA SACRISTÍA DE LA BASÍLICA EN NUESTROS DÍAS, CON PINTURAS DE LOS MILAGROS DE LA VIRGENCITA: Cien años después de la que estatua vino de España, sin embargo, casi había sido olvidada. No se encontraba más sobre el altar, sino en la sacristía, donde sólo la viejecita Ana Lucía le ponía atención.
En 1623, una familia de acróbatas de circo visitó el pueblo. Como artistas del trapecio, el padre, la madre y sus dos hijas deslumbraron a la audiencia al casi volar por los aires con el astuto uso de cuerdas. Para hacer el acto más emocionante, en el suelo se colocaron espadas y dagas apuntando hacia arriba.
Un día, durante una función, su hija de 6 años cayó y fue mortalmente herida por una cuchilla. Los padres no pudieron salvar a la niña y prepararon su cuerpo para el funeral en la capilla de Nuestra Señora de San Juan. En la capilla, Ana Lucía, de 78 años conoció a los dolientes padres. Tocada por una profunda piedad, les aconsejó creer en la Virgencita, que podría regresarles a su hija.
Ana sacó la estatua de la sacristía, la colocó a una del cuerpo sin vida de la niña y comenzó a orar. Momentos después, notaron movimiento dentro de la mortaja. Abrieron la misma y encontraron a la niña viva y completamente curada. En ese tiempo, la estatua, que estaba hecha de pasta de Michoacán (una mezcla de pegamento y tallos de maíz) estaba en un estado precario. El padre de la niña, agradecido, ofreció llevar la estatua a Guadalajara para que la restauraran. El sacerdote dio su permiso y envió dos indígenas de la villa para que acompañaran la estatua.
Cuando llegaron a Guadalajara, un hombre se les acercó, preguntando si necesitaban a alguien para reparar la santa estatua. Les ofreció sus servicios y como el precio era bueno, le dieron la estatua al extraño para que la reparara. Pocos días después, regresó con la estatua bellamente restaurada. Luego de eso se fue y su identidad ha sido un misterio desde entonces.
EX VOTO AGRADECIENDO A LA VIRGEN POR LA SALUD DE UN NIÑO QUE NACIÓ GRAVEMENTE ENFERMO: Por 1631, la devoción a la imagen milagrosa creció muchísimo. por lo que un santuario más grande tuvo que ser construido.
LA VIRGENCITA APARECE EN UN HOSPITAL MODERNO: En 1678, el Obispo de Guadalajara ordenó que se llevara un registro de todos los Milagros atribuidos a la imagen.
Toda esta información fue registrada por Nicolás de Arévalo. Ahora, los fieles crean ex-votos contando la historia de los Milagros atribuidos a la Virgencita.
Diseñada en un estilo barroco mexicano con una fachada decorada y muros bajos de las torres sin adornos, la basílica se completó casi 60 años después.
La milagrosa estatua está sobre una plataforma con una luna creciente que mira hacia arriba. Mide cerca de un pie de altura y su rostro es suave, ligeramente oscura y delicadamente esculpida. El cabello es café oscuro y cae hacia atrás desde la cara. Sus grandes ojos café oscuro están demasiado detallados para ser una imagen tan pequeña. Sus manos están unidas en oración con sus delicados dedos un poco separados. Esta vestida con un vestido bajo un manto azul, representando a Nuestra Señora de la Inmaculada Concepción.
El 15 de agosto de 1904, la estatua fue coronada litúrgicamente por el Arzobispo de Guadalajara, don José de Jesús Ortiz. Basados en la gran devoción a Nuestra Señora de San Juan de los Lagos, la edad de la estatua y los muchos milagros atribuidos a la intercesión de Nuestra Señora, la autorización fue concedida por el Papa San Pio X. La corona de oro usada en la ceremonia pesa casi tres kilogramos y mide 18 centímetros de alto. Esta incrustada con diamantes, zafiros y esmeraldas, casi 200 en total.
Otra característica excepcional de la estatua es su increíble longevidad. Hecha de tallos de maíz y pegamento, debió haberse deteriorado hace muchos siglos. El día de hoy, permanece en excelentes condiciones.
AUNQUE LA BASILICA ESTA CASI SIEMPRE LLENA, al final de enero, cada año hay peregrinaciones que llevan a más de un millón de personas de todo México a ver a su Virgencita.
Es un insólito George Washington. El nombre del ‘Padre de México’ se encuentra por todas partes: en letreros de calles, en los billetes de 1,000 pesos y, de hecho, en un estado entero. Coronado con laureles, con frecuencia vestido como senador romano, monumentales estatuas de Hidalgo presiden sobre plazas en pueblos y en glorietas por todo México.
Miguel Hidalgo es una figura emotiva, celebrado en la historia oficial de México y curiosamente aclamado como ‘un padre tres veces: padre religioso, padre de numerosos hijos ilegítimos y padre de su país.’
Aún más impactante, entonces, es descubrir que este hombre fué un cura bribón que encabezó un ejército de insurgentes asesinos en la parte central de México en 1809, atacando ciudadanos desarmados y cometiendo atroces crímenes de guerra. Al final, la afortunadamente breve carrera bélica de dos años de Hidalgo terminó de manera infame frente a un batallón de fusilamiento en 1811
¿Quién fué Hidalgo y por qué es celebrado en México hoy en día? La respuesta a esta pregunta revela en gran parte la lucha por el poder en México, el papel de la Iglesia y, efectivamente, cómo México se entiende a sí mismo y su historia.
Cuestión de Énfasis
Todo es cuestión de énfasis, como el extranjero rápidamente aprende en México. Oficialmente hablando, a Miguel Hidalgo se le describe como una figura un tanto marginada -un ‘criollo’ con menos derechos que los ciudadanos nacidos españoles- que se convirtió en sacerdote y profesor de seminario. Perseguido por sus ideas liberales, según la historia oficial, Hidalgo fue ahuyentado de su posición académica al rural pueblo de Dolores, Guanajuato donde, profundamente conmovido por las dificultades de los pobres, se radicalizó. Trató de ayudar a los pobres enseñándoles a cultivar la aceituna y la uva, pero en México, estos cultivos eran desaprobados o prohibidos por las autoridades debido a las leyes de importación españolas. En 1810 predicó desde su púlpito el famoso ‘Grito de Dolores’, convocando al pueblo a proteger el interés de su Rey Fernando VII (a quien Napoleón mantenía cautivo), sublevándose contra de los españoles nacidos en Europa que habían derrocado al Virrey Español.
Pero lo que la historia oficial falla en mencionar es que la familia de Hidalgo era muy acaudalada y que fué educado en las mejores escuelas de México. Aprendió francés, lo cual le permitió leer las nuevas ideas de moda de los escritores de la ‘Ilustración’ Rousseau y Voltaire. Tal parece que adoptó varias de estas ideas, practicando un abiertamente libertino estilo de vida de fiestas y apuestas, mientras enseñaba a seminaristas gramática del Latín y las Artes –sin duda una precaria posición, aún para un bien conectado y ambicioso joven.
Asimismo, a diferencia del famosamente monógamo matrimonio de George Washington con la acaudalada viuda mayor de edad Martha Custis, el ‘Padre de México’ era un mujeriego. Manuela Ramos Pichardo tuvo dos de sus hijos. Bibiana Lucero tuvo uno. Después él vivió con María Manuela Herrera, procreando dos hijas con ella. Más tarde, procreó tres hijos más con Josefa Quintana. En total, Hidalgo reconoció ocho hijos ilegítimos.
A pesar de sus lucidas indiscreciones, las conexiones de la familia de Hidalgo y su natural inteligencia le sirvieron de mucho al principio. Para cuando tenía 39 años de edad, ya era decano del seminario. Sin embargo, dos años más tarde fué abruptamente destituido debido a varias transgresiones, incluyendo el manejo irregular de fondos. Compareció ante la Corte de La Inquisición aunque, por alguna razón –posiblemente su riqueza y conexiones familiares- la Corte no lo encontró culpable.
Hidalgo en El Campo
De forma vergonzosa, Hidalgo fue reasignado a trabajo de parroquia rural. Sin embargo, el trabajo de cura en el pequeño pueblo de Dolores no le atrajo, así que asignó la mayor parte de sus obligaciones sacerdotales a clérigos de menor rango, y se enfocó en administrar sus asuntos de negocios, incluyendo tres haciendas mexicanas compradas con préstamos que había obtenido de la Iglesia bajo términos favorables.
No obstante, no escuchamos mucho sobre esto en textos oficiales de la Historia de México, los cuales prefieren pintar a Hidalgo como un hombre interesado en las dificultades de los pobres en Dolores. Se nos dice que se dedicó casi exclusivamente al comercio, a intereses intelectuales y actividades humanitarias, y que su estudio de obras científicas, el cultivo de la uva y la cría del gusano de seda eran un esfuerzo altruista para promover actividades económicas para los pobres y la gente del campo en su área. El objetivo de Hidalgo, debemos creer, era hacer a los indios y mestizos más autodependientes y menos dependientes de las leyes económicas españolas. Los textos mexicanos tienen cuidado en denotar que Hidalgo era un igualitario que supuestamente abría las puertas de su casa a gente de todas las razas.
Por supuesto fallan en mencionar que tanto el cultivo de la uva como la cría del gusano de seda eran dos de los más codiciados cultivos comerciales de la época, contando con ganancias sumamente altas. Las fábricas de ladrillo de Hidalgo, operadas por gente del lugar, también eran actividades con fines de lucro. Toda esta actividad era sustentada por la riqueza personal de Hidalgo, y grandemente aumentada por los préstamos de la Iglesia obtenidos a privilegiadas y bajas tasas de interés.
Los textos mexicanos prefieren enfocarse en cómo las actividades de Hidalgo entraron en conflicto con políticas de gobierno diseñadas para proteger la agricultura e industria en España, y cómo la explotación española de ‘castas de raza mixta’ fomentaron resentimiento en Hidalgo. También escuchamos cómo las prácticas mercantiles españolas causaron miseria a los pueblos nativos, contra lo cual peleó Hidalgo.
De lo que no escuchamos es cómo cobraron los españoles los préstamos personales de Hidalgo.
El Camino a La Guerra
En 1810, el nuevo enviado de Napoleón, quien mantenía como rehén al Rey Fernando III, cambió las reglas en México. Uno de sus edictos para ahorrar dinero estableció que el Estado mexicano asumiera todos los préstamos que mantenía entonces la Iglesia. Teniendo al gobierno como el nuevo prestamista, todo préstamo concedido por la Iglesia a sus sacerdotes deberían ser pagados en su totalidad en un año a partir de la fecha.
Encontrándose sobre-hipotecado y con todos los intereses de sus negocios dependiendo de esos préstamos, Hidalgo enfrentaba la ruina personal.
Su respuesta fué ‘El Grito de Dolores’, convocando al pueblo a rebelarse contra los españoles nacidos en Europa, quienes habían derrocado al antiguo Virrey Español. Sin embargo, este evento, que desde entonces ha alcanzado un estatus casi de leyenda, no fué un grito del corazón no planeado o espontáneo.
La noche anterior, Hidalgo había persuadido a su hermano Mauricio, al igual que sus amigos Ignacio Allende y Mariano Abasolo, a ir con un número de hombres armados a obligar al alguacil de Dolores a dejar en libertad a sus presos. Estos 80 criminales fueron los primeros en apoyar a Hidalgo.
Allende, quien contaba con entrenamiento militar, fué hecho a un lado a favor de Hidalgo, cuyo liderazgo ‘sacerdotal’ le dió al movimiento insurgente un aspecto sobrenatural. Muchos pueblerinos creían que el mismo Fernando VII, quien se encontraba preso, les ordenaba lealtad a Hidalgo; la mayoría creía que el monarca se encontraba en la Nueva España dirigiendo personalmente la rebelión en contra de su propio gobierno –y que el Rey ordenaba que exterminaran a todos los españoles y dividieran su propiedad entre las masas. Historiadores modernos especulan que el enormemente inepto generalato de Hidalgo se mantuvo a flote gracias a la creencia de los indios en tal supuesta legitimidad religiosa, que llegó tan lejos como a esperar el regreso del Mesías.
A la mañana siguiente, en una Misa a la que asistieron alrededor de 300 feligreses, Hidalgo exhortó a la gente de su parroquia a dejar sus hogares y unirse a él en una rebelión contra el actual gobierno, en el nombre de su Rey. Su Grito fué cuidadosamente formulado, evitando críticas al catolicismo, a la monarquía y al orden social. Recibió una oleada de apoyo de intelectuales, de unos cuantos sacerdotes liberales y de numerosos indios y mestizos que se integraron en tales números que la guerra de Hidalgo rápidamente asumió el carácter de una rebelión indisciplinada en busca de venganza, rapiña y botín.
Lo Que Hicieron
El ejército de Hidalgo creció de 800 pobremente armados y desprovistos indios y mestizos, a más de 100,000 en sólo unos cuantos meses. Marcharon por la parte central de México atacando ranchos, pueblos y aldeas en la rica y densamente poblada provincia de Guanajuato. Pronto cayeron en el robo, pillaje y saqueo de los pueblos que capturaban. También comenzaron a torturar y a ejecutar prisioneros.
Hidalgo encabezó todo esto con una imagen de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe sujetada a una lanza, pero la incesante violencia perpetrada por este indisciplinado y dispar ejército causo fricción con Allende. A fines de septiembre de 1810, Allende intentó detener la violencia de la muchedumbre golpeando a los insurgentes con la parte plana de su espada. Esto causó una reprimenda de Hidalgo, acusando a Allende de ‘maltratar a la gente’.
Unos cuantos días después, el ejército de Hidalgo, armado con palos, piedras y machetes, atacó poblaciones españolas y criollas desarmadas que se encontraban escondidas en un granero y mataron a todos los que se encontraban adentro –cientos de hombres, mujeres y niños. Las protestas de Allende contra estos atroces crímenes fueron ignoradas, y un par de semanas después, en Acámbaro, Hidalgo fué ‘promovido’ a ‘Generalísimo’ y se le dió el título de ‘Su Serenísima Alteza’.
El nuevo elevado rango de Hidalgo fué proclamado en su uniforme azul con un collarín clerical y solapas rojas adornadas con plata y oro, y una gran imagen dorada de la Virgen de Guadalupe en su pecho. Su primer paso fué emitir proclamaciones en contra de los blancos, a quienes acusaba de arrogancia y despotismo, así como de esclavizar a aquéllos en Las Américas durante casi 300 años. Hidalgo quería “mandarlos de regreso a la tierra natal”.
La Iglesia Responde
¿Cómo respondió la Iglesia a uno de los suyos encabezando una enorme y racista muchedumbre, cuyo objetivo era asesinar y saquear? Primero, el Obispo electo de Michoacán Manuel Abad y Queipo, expidió un decreto de excomunión el 24 de septiembre de 1810. Cuando Hidalgo le obligó a rescindirlo, la misma Inquisición expidió un edicto de excomunión el 13 de octubre de 1810, condenando a Hidalgo como un sedicioso, apóstata y hereje.
Sin ser acobardado y hasta el momento sin ninguna oposición, Hidalgo permaneció en Valladolid y se preparó a avanzar y a entrar a la Ciudad de México. El canon de la catedral valientemente se dirigió a Hidalgo, rogándole que prometiera que las atrocidades de San Miguel, Celaya y Guanajuato no se repetirían. El canon fué parcialmente efectivo ya que la destrucción total de la ciudad fue evitada. Sin embargo, cuando se enfureció al encontrar la catedral cerrada con llave, Hidalgo encarceló a todos los españoles y saqueó la ciudad y las recaudaciones de la catedral antes de marcharse hacia la Ciudad de México.
El Golpe de La Realidad
Las tropas de Hidalgo primero pelearon contra las fuerzas realistas en el camino en la Batalla del Monte de Las Cruces, obligándolos a retirarse –pero no sin que antes los entrenados soldados realistas causaran las primeras grandes bajas que el ejército de Hidalgo había sufrido. Hubo algunas deserciones, pero conforme se acercaban a la Ciudad de México, Hidalgo todavía contaba con unos 100,000 insurgentes, que sobrepasaban en número a las fuerzas realistas.
Sin embargo, los indios y las castas del Valle de México habían sido prevenidos de las despiadadas tropas de Hidalgo, así que los encontró oponiéndose a él tanto como los criollos y los blancos. Todos ellos estaban protegidos por tropas entrenadas. En lo que ahora es el barrio de Cuajimalpa en la Ciudad de México, Hidalgo dudó, decidió alejarse de la Ciudad de México y se dirigió a Guadalajara.
A este punto, sus insurgentes comenzaron a desertar en grandes números. En unas cuantas millas, el ejército de Hidalgo se había reducido a 40,000 hombres. Cuando el General Félix Calleja atacó a las fuerzas de Hidalgo, las derrotó fácilmente el 7 de noviembre de 1810. Allende se retiró, llevando las tropas bajo su mando a Guanajuato en vez de Guadalajara. Hidalgo llegó a Guadalajara el 26 de noviembre con solamente 7,000 pobremente armados hombres.
Hidalgo El Alcalde
Al principio, Hidalgo ocupó la ciudad con el apoyo de la clase baja basado en su promesa de poner fin a la esclavitud, a los tributos y a los impuestos sobre alcohol y productos de tabaco. Como autonombrado Alcalde de Guadalajara, Hidalgo pasó el siguiente mes expidiendo decretos y publicando un periódico revolucionario. Durante este período, la violencia insurgente escalaba en Guadalajara. Los ciudadanos eran aprehendidos y ejecutados, con los insurgentes teniendo como objetivo las propiedades de criollos y españoles, sin importar su afiliación política. Mientras tanto, el ejército realista había forzado a Allende a huir a Guadalajara, donde una vez más expresó su objeción a la violencia insurgente. Sin embargo, Hidalgo, queriendo permanecer en buenos términos con su propio ejército, le permitió cometer tanta rapiña y saqueo como deseara.
En respuesta, el Obispo Manuel Abad y Queipo excomulgó a todos los seguidores de Hidalgo en la víspera de Navidad (textos de la Historia de México cínicamente relatan que el Obispo “alegaba ‘sacrilegios’ y supuesto maltrato a sacerdotes.”).
Curiosamente, la Inquisición proclamó un detallado edicto de herejía contra Hidalgo, con cargos (casi definitivamente ciertos) de haber predicado la negación del castigo al pecado, la autenticidad de la Biblia, la perpetua virginidad de María, la existencia del infierno y la Presencia Real en La Eucaristía –además de denunciar a Papas y al mando de la Iglesia.
No obstante, el edicto de la Inquisición llevaba peso –temeroso de perder el apoyo de su ejército, Hidalgo respondió que él nunca se había apartado de la doctrina de la Iglesia en el más mínimo grado.
Afuera de esta iglesia en la Hacienda de Pabellón, el 25 de enero de 1811, Allende y los otros líderes insurgentes despojaron a Hidalgo del mando militar, culpándolo de sus derrotas.
El Juego Se Termina
Las fuerzas Realistas marcharon a Guadalajara y totalmente derrotaron a las fuerzas de Hidalgo con una bien entrenada fuerza menos del diez por ciento en número que la plebe bajo el incierto mando de Hidalgo. Una vez más, sus hombres lo abandonaron, obligando a Hidalgo a huir.
Lo que quedó del insurgente ‘Ejército de Las Américas’, se trasladó al norte por desoladas áreas montañosas, esperando llegar a los Estados Unidos en busca de apoyo. Sin embargo, Hidalgo se dió por vencido y, en Saltillo, públicamente renunció a su puesto militar, orgullosamente rechazando un indulto ofrecido a cambio de rendirse. Poco tiempo después, él y sus seguidores fueron traicionados y capturados.
Como sacerdote, Hidalgo no estaba sujeto de forma inmediata a la autoridad civil, por lo que fué entregado al Obispo de Durango, quien lo expulsó del sacerdocio y lo excomulgó el 27 de Julio de 1811. Fué entonces encontrado culpable de traición por una corte militar, y ejecutado.
En su ejecución, Hidalgo mantuvo su acostumbrada arrogancia, proféticamente diciendo a sus verdugos: “Aunque yo muera, seré recordado por siempre; todos ustedes pronto serán olvidados.” Su cuerpo, junto con los cuerpos de Allende, Aldama y José Mariano Jiménez, fueron decapitados, y las cabezas fueron expuestas en las cuatro esquinas de la Alhóndiga de Granaditas en Guanajuato. Las cabezas permanecieron ahí durante diez años hasta el final de la Guerra de Independencia de México, para servir como advertencia a otros insurgentes.
El cuerpo sin cabeza de Hidalgo primero fué enterrado en la Iglesia de San Francisco en Chihuahua, y después trasladado a la Ciudad de México en 1824, donde está sepultado debajo del Monumento a La Independencia, ‘El Ángel’, en la Ciudad de México, junto con los cuerpos de los otros héroes de la insurgencia.
El Monumento corona una glorieta de tráfico.
La Rehabilitación de Hidalgo
Tal monumental falla, responsable de extensa muerte, mutilación y desolación, parecería una extraña elección para el papel de paterfamilias (jefe de familia) de la República Mexicana. Entonces ¿cómo se explica esto?
En primera, pocos mexicanos conocen esta versión de los hechos. La política del siglo veinte se ha asegurado cuidadosamente de que una versión heroica de Hidalgo como un hombre del pueblo y mártir por la libertad se haya institucionalizado tanto en las escuelas como en un día festivo; cada año, en la noche del 15 de septiembre, el Presidente de México suena la campana del Palacio Nacional en la Ciudad de México y repite un grito de patriotismo –un ‘Grito Mexicano’ basado en el ‘Grito de Dolores’- con los nombres de estos héroes de la Guerra de Independencia de México, finalizando con el grito de “¡Viva México!” tres veces desde el balcón del palacio en la Plaza de la Constitución. Cada año, los presidentes suenan la campana y ondean la bandera mexicana, una banda militar toca el Himno Nacional Mexicano, y medio millón de espectadores de todo México y turistas aclaman a un hombre de quien muy poco saben.
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