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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Saint Ignatius of Loyola taken from "Defenders of the Faith."
Ignatius discovers God in a cave
Ignatius discovered a dark cave, virtually unknown because it was so overgrown with brush. There, he would spend hours, sometimes all through the night, praying without interruption, except for the occasional sounds of God's four-legged and winged creatures calling out to one another. The cave at Manresa was a battlefield, a lonely battlefield, with Ignatius battling one temptation, winning that battle only to be put to the test with another temptation and another battle. Among other struggles, he imagined himself guilty of all types of sins, mistaking venial sin for mortal sin, battling alleged scruples and scrupulosity to the point of near desperation. He did not know where to turn; it seemed to him that God had deserted him. Then, he remembered hearing that God would come to his aid, if he fasted until his petition was granted. He fasted from Sunday to the following Sunday. His Spiritual Director seeing him dangerously weakened by this excessiveness, near death, ordered him to eat some food or he would deny him absolution. Ignatius obeyed and his melancholy left him!
Temptations of one kind or the other persisted until his trial over, his doubts and anxieties were also at an end. It had been one of the severest duels of his life; it seemed as if he were fencing with the prince of darkness himself, with the devil thrusting and him parrying, Ignatius, God's holy knight falling, appearing at times to be down for the last time, mortally wounded; but with the force of the Holy Spirit Who never left him, he would rise again to fight another battle. This time in the cave of Manresa would fill a spiritual well with teachings from which not only Jesuits would draw lifegiving water of knowledge and strength but those who in the future would read the Spiritual Exercises and follow Ignatius and his experiences to a deeper life with God.
He had fought! The lessons, received from both the powers of Heaven and hell would serve to form the vessel which God was shaping for His purpose. But it was not easy for Ignatius to follow what he called the "Finger of God!" He would say "that God had treated him as a wise master does a child, to whom He gives little to learn at a time, and before whom He does not place a second lesson until he has well understood the first."...
For more information about St. Ignatius of Loyola click here

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Saint Bonaventure

Bonaventure becomes Minister General of the Franciscans.
Taken from our book, "Saints Maligned, Misunderstood and Mistreated."
That same year, 1257, when Bonaventure was barely 36 years old, one of the most serious and difficult challenges in his life would be given to him. He was chosen Minister General of the Franciscan Order. While this would seem to most to be a great honor, it was a job which no one would have been able to handle as well as St. Bonaventure. He was the right man for the job at a crucial time. But he suffered.
To give you a little background, from the time the new Rule was forced upon the entire community in 1223, and St. Francis formally resigned as head of the Friars Minor, a rift had opened which became wider and wider, and more and more vindictive, until it had reached disaster proportions. Either you were a supporter of Father Francis, or you were an adherent of the new Rule, which they knew was not what Francis wanted. We would like to insert a small passage here from our book "Saints and Other Powerful Men in the Church."
"In the last days of September, 1226, Francis was brought back to Assisi. It was enough now with the doctors and the cures. Francis knew the Lord was calling him Home, and he responded. He dictated his last Testament. He wanted to set things straight. While he trusted in God, he didn't trust in man. He wanted everyone to know exactly how he felt, what his concerns were for the Order, now that he was leaving them. In reading the Testament, it doesn't appear that Francis was trying to open an old wound, but that's exactly what happened. While he made a point of telling the brothers not to interpret what he was saying, this Testament became the ammunition for many who believed he did not accept the Rule of 1223. It became food for those who wanted to split from the Fraternity as it existed.
Francis did recap his values, and his commitment to the Rule. He warned the brothers not to be going off in all directions, but to be obedient to the legitimate authority. He ended his Testament with a blessing from the Holy Trinity, and from himself."[1]
However, the split did come about, and today we have the Friars Minor and the Conventual. It all began in 1226, and by 1257, when Bonaventure became Minister-General, it was completely out of control. Bonaventure was almost like the Franciscans' last ditch effort. If he could not put things back together, there was danger that they might be disbanded. The first thing he did was to criticize both ends of the spectrum, those who wanted complete laxity in the Rule, and the others who wanted to go even beyond Francis in their rigid spirituality. He insisted that the Rule of 1223 should be strictly observed, and in addition, neither the excesses of the Conservative extremists, nor the liberal wing, would be tolerated either. He wrote a letter to each of his provincials outlining exactly what he expected of them. Now remember, many of these provincials were much older than Bonaventure, but all respected him as having the wisdom and endurance, and above all, the love of St. Francis and all things Franciscan, to make it work. And so they obeyed.
He held five general chapters, the first of which was in 1260 in Narbonne, France, in which he wrote and presented a new set of constitutions, in an attempt to bring all factions together amicably, or so he hoped. They were accepted and adopted by most, but not by all. They did, however, have an enduring effect on the Franciscan community, at least enough to get them out of the big trouble they were in. However, there were those who felt he had sold out to the more liberal elements in the community, and were never really reconciled with the rest of their Friar brothers. One of the complaints of the rigorous devotees of the original Rule was that Bonaventure was attempting to take the Francis out of the new Franciscan constitutions. However, for the most part, that accusation was attributed to sour grapes....
[1]Saints and Other Powerful Men in the Church" Page 144

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bl Kateri Tekakwitha

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha below is taken from Bob and Penny Lord's book, "Visionaries, Mystics and Stigmatists."
Kateri is born - the Seed Bears Fruit

The Lord moves in great sweeping motions when He wants to accomplish something. The fruit of the Martyrs had to be a strong focus of the Lord from before the death of the Martyrs. In Trois-Rivieres, today a part of French Canada, in the province of Quebec, a young Indian Maiden of the Algonquin tribe was raised under the mantle of the French Jesuits. She was baptized in Trois-Rivieres and lived with French settlers for a time. When the Jesuits pulled their missions back to Quebec in 1649, as a result of violent raids by the Iroquois and the outrageous executions of the Blackrobe missionaries, the Algonquins were left on their own and came under the domination of the Iroquois. Kateri’s mother was taken prisoner and brought down the Mohawk river with the rest of the Indian captives. She landed in Ossernenon, a beautiful Mohawk village in what is today, Auriesville, in upstate New York.
It was in Ossernenon that she met her husband, a chief of one of the villages. They married, and settled down there. Now, we have to remember that Kateri's mother was as much a captive as she was the wife of the chief. Nothing is known about her relationship with her husband or the people of the village. She was a foreigner, who spoke a different language, and had different customs. We’re sure that she was not able to practice her Christian religion, because the Blackrobes had not yet returned to this area. How she must have grieved, especially over the loss of her Lord Jesus in the Eucharist.
She and her husband had two children, Kateri, born in 1656, and her younger brother. They lived a comparatively peaceful life in Ossernenon. Her mother tried to impart in the children at least the virtues of Christianity, if not the actual beliefs of the Faith, to the best of her understanding. She also tried to incorporate the teachings of the Church with the positive values of her Indian background, even though her Algonquin beliefs varied somewhat from the Iroquois or Mohawk.
Kateri was a beautiful child, possessing the best features of both mother and father. She was very loved by her parents, and respected as the daughter of a chief of the village. But all that was to come to an end swiftly when she was about four years old. A deadly epidemic of Smallpox erupted, and swept through the village like wildfire. It had no respect for age, sex or position. Kateri’s mother died first, then her brother and her father. Kateri’s mother had always prayed for the baptism of her children, and possibly they were baptized with the Baptism of Desire. But in her lifetime, Kateri’s mother did not see her children officially baptized. Kateri’s brother was never baptized. It would be 16 years after her mother’s death that her prayer for Kateri would be finally answered.
After the death of her family, the most difficult period of Kateri’s life began. She was taken in by her uncle, her father's brother, who was made head chief of the village. However, as much as he loved Kateri, the uncle's personality was different from Kateri’s father, from what she could remember of her father. Her actual upbringing was put in the hands of various aunts who loved her as a relative, but they were definitely not her mother.
The Smallpox epidemic had devastated the village and Kateri personally. In addition to losing her family, she was permanently scarred from the disease. Her face, beautiful before the Smallpox hit her, became extremely pockmarked. Her eyesight was severely affected to the point of being almost blind for the rest of her life. She walked with her head down, mostly to protect her eyes from the sunlight, but also because she couldn’t see clearly in front of her. It worked out to her favor after her baptism as she then walked in this manner, as an expression of humility. It was because of this condition that she was called Tekakwitha. Her uncle looked at her as she struggled to walk around, in the early days after her eyesight was affected. He called her Tekakwitha, which means literally “She pushed with her hands.” But Tekakwitha has a very special meaning among the Mohawks. It means the ideal woman, one who works hard and keeps everything in good order: a prudent, industrious, provident, loving wife and mother. The chief didn’t know it, but he was prophesying about the qualities Kateri would possess when the Lord put her to work for the Kingdom.
Ossernenon was considered an evil omen to the villagers. It had been the scene of almost total destruction to the people there. Everywhere they looked, they could see in their minds’ eyes the bodies of loved ones who had died from the epidemic. In addition, Smallpox was still ravaging the tribe. The chiefs determined it was best to leave Ossernenon, because evil spirits were there.
Her uncle, as main chief of the village, supervised the building of the new village, with the palisades for protection and the longhouses6 for living. They chose a spot on a hill facing the river, about a mile to the west of Ossernenon. It was called Caughnawaga, which meant “by the rapids.” In addition to being very beautiful, it was a very strategic location. From this vantage point, they could see their enemies approaching. This is where Kateri spent her childhood....

Monday, July 7, 2008

Saint Benedict

The Fifth Century brings us not one but two future Saints.
It is 480 A.D. and a little voice cries out, Here I am world! But no sooner heard, than another tiny cry fills the air. Not one, but two babies will be born to the parents of the future Saints Benedict and his twin sister Scholastica. Now, Norcia is not easy to get to, as we well know. We often wonder why God chooses the most remote places in the world for apparitions by Mother Mary, by the Archangel Michael, for Miracles of the Eucharist and the birth of great Saints. Could it be, because we are too busy to hear or see God working in our midst? I don't know. What do you think?
Born of the nobility, Saint Benedict would have every advantage enabling him to receive the best education and preparation for life. It is believed that when he was no more than in his teens, his parents sent Saint Benedict and his nurse[1] to Rome, to pursue a higher education, more than likely majoring in law. As they had been blessed to be born of the nobility, it was the custom of people of their station to send their sons to acquire an education preparing them for a career as public magistrates or judges, in this way fulfilling their God-given obligations to serve.
Now Rome of his day had become nothing but a barbaric cesspool, filled with pagan tribes, who had invaded her shores, spreading heresy and immoral behavior the likes of which was leading to a widespread depraved and decadent culture infecting all, but especially the intelligentsia, as usual the students.
As goes the world, sadly, often follows the Church. Poor Mother Church was reeling from the attacks within and without - with schisms threatening to tear down all that the Early Church Fathers had built. Immoral and amoral behavior[2] soon became the accepted norm of the day with Christians accepting and adopting the culture of the hordes of heathens who had stormed their land. With permissiveness, war and rampant widespread plundering are sure to follow. There was not a ruler or king who was not either a pagan,[3]or an atheist,[4] or a heretic.[5]

Benedict moves on
Holiness begets holiness, as well as sin begets sin. As sheep willingly follow a goat[1] to slaughter, so it was with this scourge which covered society. It was such a deadly epidemic no one was exempt from its poisonous infection. The wholesale evil and totally immoral behavior of the parents soon cascaded down to the youth, who willing followed and consequently mimicked their example. By the grace of God, the young Benedict was repulsed by all the evil and scandalous behavior he could see permeating not only Rome, but the schools. Not prideful, and totally devoid of the brash opinion of youth, and society as well, that they can handle anything, Benedict made the decision to leave Rome. The only one he told was his nurse, who accompanied him.
The path was clear for him. Having completed all that higher education of his day could offer, he left behind his books; and rejecting all the trappings of the world, his parents' wealth and comforts of home and estate, departed for a life centered in God. It is fairly certain Benedict left Rome at age twenty, as he was mature enough to discern the decadency and immorality of his friends and class mates.
[1] A goat which leads sheep to slaughter is called a Judas goat.

[1] to care for his every need, most likely as his housekeeper

[2] Whereas in immoral behavior the sinner is aware of the difference of right and wrong and commits the sin anyway, in amoral behavior the sinner is unable to distinguish between right and wrong. He would be someone totally without principals.

[3] Paganism is a broad term which includes all religious beliefs, practices and systems with the exception of Christianity, Judaism, and Mohammedanism. It is thus applied to those who do not recognize a Supreme Being, the Monotheistic or Trinitarian God-oriented religions that have developed from the revelations of God and are carried through the fulfillment of the mission given by Christ to His Church. - The Catholic Encyclopedia by Broderick

[4] One who believes that God does not exist. Atheism can be a denial of God or the substitution of a lesser object in place of God. Moral Atheism holds that human acts have no morality with reference to the Divine Lawgiver; this is sometimes called particle atheism. - The Catholic Encyclopedia by Broderick

[5] A baptized and professed person who denies or doubts a truth revealed by God or proposed for belief by the Catholic Church is a heretic. - ibid

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Saint Veronica Giuliani

Saint Veronica Giuliani is taken from Bob and Penny Lord's book, Visionaries, Mystics and Stigmatists
Veronica receives the Stigmata
One day, while praying in her cell, Sister Veronica had a vision of Jesus. He was carrying His Cross on His Shoulder. He asked her, “What do you wish?” She replied, “That Cross and I wish it for You, for Your Love.” He took the Cross from His Shoulder and placed it on her shoulder. It was too heavy! She fell under the weight of it, and her Lord lifted her.
Still another time, Our Lord appeared to Veronica, covered with open sores, a Crown of Thorns on His Head. Blood spilled from His precious Body, as He said, “See what sinners have done to Me.” Veronica wrote in her Diary:
“Seeing the great agony that my Lord was in, I begged Him to give Me His Crown. He placed it on my head; I suffered so much, I thought I was dying.”
Another time, Jesus came and showed Veronica a Chalice full of liquid. She wrote that it seemed as if the liquid was on fire. The Lord told her, “If you want to be Mine, you must taste this liquid for My Love.” She later wrote that when He placed just a few drops of the liquid on her tongue, she was filled with such indescribable bitterness and sadness, she thought she would die. Her tongue became dry and from that day on, she could not taste anything.
On Christmas Day, the Infant Jesus appeared to Veronica. He sent an arrow deep into her heart. When she awakened, she found her heart bleeding. The burning flame roaring inside her heart was so painful, she could not rest day or night. He told her He wanted her heart to bear the marks of His Wound; He said, her heart had to feel the lance and her feet and hands, the nails He felt on the Cross.
Our Lord chose to make Veronica as much Himself as is possible, and what better way than to share His Passion with her. He had asked her many times what she wished, and she had replied, His Cross. Well on April 5, 1697, Veronica had a vision of Jesus Crucified, accompanied by His Mother Our Lady of Sorrows as she appeared at the foot of the Cross on Golgotha. Veronica’s heart, as with her Savior before her, was pierced. She experienced the crowning of thorns, the scourging, the crucifixion, her own death and that of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mother Abbess Mary Catherine told us that the other nuns could see the impressions of the crown of thorns on her head through her veil, the blood at times dripping from her eyes because of the deep wounds inflicted by the long sharp thorns. Sealed with this stigmata, Veronica's body became an indelible sign of the Lord’s total communion with her, one of everlasting unity and love. She wrote:
“In an instant, I saw five shining rays shooting out from His Wounds, coming towards me. I watched as they turned into little flames. Four of them (the flames) contained the nails, and the fifth one contained the lance, golden and all aflame, and it pierced my heart. The nails pierced my hands and feet.”
Veronica took the crucifix off the wall in her cell and embraced it saying:
“My Lord, pains with pains, thorns with thorns, sores with sores, here I am all Yours, crucified with You, crowned with thorns with You, wounded with You.”
Veronica takes up the Cross
Veronica received the stigmata. Now it was time for her to take up the Cross! She could not help Jesus carry His Cross, that dark and infamous day He walked to Calvary. He had told her, she would be the bride of the Crucified Savior. Now to be completely one with Him as His bride, in imitation of her Spouse, she would carry her cross each evening. At those times she would wear a robe, lined with sharp long thorns which pierced her body, especially doing damage to the shoulder upon which she carried the cross.13
Laden down by the weight of the cross, she staggered as she tried to maintain her balance. She would walk through the monastery’s orchard or within the monastery itself until she was to the point of collapse. When she completed her Way of the Cross, she would then climb up many steps to a painting, in the convent, of St. Francis receiving the stigmata, where she would flagellate herself. At other times, she would levitate up into the tree in the cloister gardens, the other nuns saying she looked like a little bird in flight.
At times Veronica would take a very heavy log and carry it across her shoulders as a cross beam to reenact more authentically Our Lord carrying the cross to Calvary. There are crosses there till today, which the nuns carry on Good Friday.
Our dear Lord asked Veronica to fast for three years. Upon receiving permission from her Superior, she fasted for the next three years on bread and water alone.