DAILY SAINTS

 

St Mary Magdalene

 

FEAST OF ST MARY MAGDALENE
July 22

 

St. Mary Magdalene is one of the greatest saints of the Bible and a legendary example of God's mercy and grace. The precise dates of her birth and death are unknown, but we do know she was present with Christ during his public ministry, death and resurrection. She is mentioned at least a dozen times in the Gospels.

Mary Magdalene has long been regarded as a prostitute or sexually immoral in western Christianity, but this is not supported in the scriptures. It is believed she was a Jewish woman who lived among Gentiles, living as they did.

The Gospels agree that Mary was originally a great sinner. Jesus cast seven demons out of her when he met her. After this, she told several women she associated with and these women also became followers.

There is also debate over if Mary Magdalene is the same unnamed women, a sinner, who weeps and washes Jesus' feet with her hair in the Gospel of John. Scholars are skeptical this is the same person.

Despite the scholarly dispute over her background, what she did in her subsequent life, after meeting Jesus, is much more significant. She was certainly a sinner whom Jesus saved, giving us an example of how no person is beyond the saving grace of God.

During Jesus' ministry, it is believed that Mary Magdalene followed him, part of a semi-permanent entourage who served Jesus and his Disciples.

Mary likely watched the crucifixion from a distance along with the other women who followed Christ during His ministry. Mary was present when Christ rose from the dead, visiting his tomb to anoint his body only to find the stone rolled away and Christ, very much alive, sitting at the place they laid Him. She was the first witness to His resurrection.

After the death of Christ, a legend states that she remained among the early Christians. After fourteen years, she was allegedly put into a boat by Jews, along with several other saints of the early Church, and set adrift without sails or oars. The boat landed in southern France, where she spent the remaining years of her life living in solitude, in a cave.

St. Mary Magdalene's feast day is July 22. She is the patroness of converts, repentant sinners, sexual temptation, pharmacists, tanners and women, and many other places and causes.

St Mary Magdalene, pray for us!

 

 

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St Lawrence of Brindisi

 

MEMORIAL OF ST LARENCE OF BRINDISI
July 21

 

At first glance, perhaps the most remarkable quality of Lawrence of Brindisi is his outstanding gift of languages. In addition to a thorough knowledge of his native Italian, he had complete reading and speaking ability in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, and French.

Lawrence was born on July 22, 1559, and died exactly 60 years later on his birthday in 1619. His parents William and Elizabeth Russo gave him the name of Julius Caesar, Caesare in Italian. After the early death of his parents, he was educated by his uncle at the College of St. Mark in Venice.

When he was just 16, he entered the Capuchin Franciscan Order in Venice and received the name of Lawrence. He completed his studies of philosophy and theology at the University of Padua and was ordained a priest at 23.

With his facility for languages Lawrence was able to study the Bible in its original texts. At the request of Pope Clement VIII, he spent much time preaching to the Jews in Italy. So excellent was his knowledge of Hebrew, the rabbis felt sure he was a Jew who had become a Christian.

Lawrence’s sensitivity to the needs of people—a character trait perhaps unexpected in such a talented scholar—began to surface. He was elected major superior of the Capuchin Franciscan province of Tuscany at the age of 31. He had the combination of brilliance, human compassion, and administrative skill needed to carry out his duties. In rapid succession he was promoted by his fellow Capuchins and was elected minister general of the Capuchins in 1602. In this position he was responsible for great growth and geographical expansion of the Order.

Lawrence was appointed papal emissary and peacemaker, a job which took him to a number of foreign countries. An effort to achieve peace in his native kingdom of Naples took him on a journey to Lisbon to visit the king of Spain. Serious illness in Lisbon took his life in 1619.

In 1956, the Capuchins completed a 15-volume edition of Lawrence’s writings. Eleven of these 15 contain his sermons, each of which relies chiefly on scriptural quotations to illustrate his teaching.

His constant devotion to Scripture, coupled with great sensitivity to the needs of people, present a lifestyle which appeals to Christians today. Lawrence had a balance in his life that blended self-discipline with a keen appreciation for the needs of those whom he was called to serve.

St Lawrence of Brindisi, pray for us!

 

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St Benedict4

 

MEMORIAL OF ST BENEDICT OF NURSIA
July 11

 

On the occasion of the dedication of the rebuilt monastery of Monte Cassino in 1964, Pope Paul VI proclaimed St. Benedict the principal, heavenly patron of the whole of Europe. The title piously exaggerates the place of Benedict but in many respects it is true. St. Benedict did not establish the monastery of Monte Cassino in order to preserve the learning of the ages, but in fact the monasteries that later followed his Rule were places where learning and manuscripts were preserved. For some six centuries or more the Christian culture of medieval Europe was nearly identical with the monastic centers of piety and learning.

Saint Benedict was not the founder of Christian monasticism, since he lived two and a half to three centuries after its beginnings in Egypt, Palestine, and Asia Minor. He became a monk as a young man and thereafter learned the tradition by associating with monks and reading the monastic literature. He was caught up in the monastic movement but ended by channeling the stream into new and fruitful ways. This is evident in the Rule which he wrote for monasteries and which was and is still used in many monasteries and convents around the world.

Tradition teaches that St. Benedict lived from 480 to 547, though we cannot be sure that these dates are historically accurate. His biographer, St. Gregory the Great, pope from 590 to 604, does not record the dates of his birth and death, though he refers to a Rule written by Benedict. Scholars debate the dating of the Rule though they seem to agree that it was written in the second third of the sixth century.

Saint Gregory wrote about St. Benedict in his Second Book of Dialogues, but his account of the life and miracles of Benedict cannot be regarded as a biography in the modern sense of the term. Gregory's purpose in writing Benedict's life was to edify and to inspire, not to seek out the particulars of his daily life. Gregory sought to show that saints of God, particularly St. Benedict, were still operative in the Christian Church in spite of all the political and religious chaos present in the realm. At the same time it would be inaccurate to claim that Gregory presented no facts about Benedict's life and works.

According to Gregory's Dialogues Benedict was born in Nursia, a village high in the mountains northeast of Rome. His parents sent him to Rome for classical studies but he found the life of the eternal city too degenerate for his tastes. Consequently he fled to a place southeast of Rome called Subiaco where he lived as a hermit for three years tended by the monk Romanus.

The hermit, Benedict, was then discovered by a group of monks who prevailed upon him to become their spiritual leader. His regime soon became too much for the lukewarm monks so they plotted to poison him. Gregory recounts the tale of Benedict's rescue; when he blessed the pitcher of poisoned wine, it broke into many pieces. Thereafter he left the undisciplined monks.

Benedict left the wayward monks and established twelve monasteries with twelve monks each in the area south of Rome. Later, perhaps in 529, he moved to Monte Cassino, about eighty miles southeast of Rome; there he destroyed the pagan temple dedicated to Apollo and built his premier monastery. It was there too that he wrote the Rule for the monastery of Monte Cassino though he envisioned that it could be used elsewhere.

The thirty-eight short chapters of the Second Book of Dialogues contain accounts of Benedict's life and miracles. Some chapters recount his ability to read other persons' minds; other chapters tell of his miraculous works, e.g., making water flow from rocks, sending a disciple to walk on the water, making oil continue to flow from a flask. The miracle stories echo the events of certain prophets of Israel as well as happenings in the life of Jesus. The message is clear: Benedict's holiness mirrors the saints and prophets of old and God has not abandoned his people; he continues to bless them with holy persons.

Benedict is viewed as a monastic leader, not a scholar. Still he probably read Latin rather well, an ability that gave him access to the works of Cassian and other monastic writings, both rules and sayings. The Rule is the sole known example of Benedict's writing, but it manifests his genius to crystallize the best of the monastic tradition and to pass it on to the European West.

Gregory presents Benedict as the model of a saint who flees temptation to pursue a life of attention to God. Through a balanced pattern of living and praying Benedict reached the point where he glimpsed the glory of God. Gregory recounts a vision that Benedict received toward the end of his life: In the dead of night he suddenly beheld a flood of light shining down from above more brilliant than the sun, and with it every trace of darkness cleared away. According to his own description, the whole world was gathered up before his eyes "in what appeared to be a single ray of light" (ch. 34). St. Benedict, the monk par excellence, led a monastic life that reached the vision of God.

St Benedict, pray for us!

 

 

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St Maria Goretti

 

MEMORIAL OF ST MARIA GORETTI
July 6

 

One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization in the mid-20th century—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti.

She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When Maria made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class.

On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, 18-year-old Alessandro, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it,” she cried out. “It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger.

Maria was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family), and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack.

Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother.

Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her 82-year-old mother, two sisters and a brother, appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later at Maria’s canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.

Maria may have had trouble with catechism, but she had no trouble with faith. God’s will was holiness, decency, respect for one’s body, absolute obedience, total trust. In a complex world, her faith was simple: It is a privilege to be loved by God, and to love him—at any cost.

St Maria Goretti, pray for us!

 

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St Anthony Zacaaria

 

MEMORIAL OF ST ANTHONY MARY ZACCARIA
July 5

 

At the same time that Martin Luther was attacking abuses in the Church, a reformation within the Church was already being attempted. Among the early movers of the Counter-Reformation was Anthony Zaccaria. His mother became a widow at 18, and devoted herself to the spiritual education of her son. He received a medical doctorate at 22, and while working among the poor of his native Cremona in Italy, was attracted to the religious apostolate. He renounced his rights to any future inheritance, worked as a catechist, and was ordained a priest at the age of 26. Called to Milan in a few years, he laid the foundations of three religious congregations, one for men, one for women, and an association of married couples. Their aim was the reform of the decadent society of their day, beginning with the clergy, religious, and lay people.

Greatly inspired by Saint Paul–his congregation is named the Barnabites, after the companion of that saint–Anthony preached with great vigor in church and street, conducted popular missions, and was not ashamed of doing public penance.

He encouraged such innovations as the collaboration of the laity in the apostolate, frequent Communion, the Forty Hours devotion, and the ringing of church bells at 3 PM on Fridays. His holiness moved many to reform their lives, but as with all saints, it also moved many to oppose him. Twice his community had to undergo official religious investigation, and twice it was exonerated.

While on a mission of peace, he became seriously ill and was brought home for a visit to his mother. He died at Cremona at the age of 36.

The austerity of Anthony’s spirituality and the Pauline ardor of his preaching would probably “turn off” many people today. When even some psychiatrists complain at the lack of a sense of sin, it may be time to tell ourselves that not all evil is explained by emotional disorder, subconscious and unconscious drives, parental influence, and so on. The old-time “hell and damnation” mission sermons have given way to positive, encouraging, biblical homilies. We do indeed need assurance of forgiveness, relief from existential anxiety, and future shock. But we still need prophets to stand up and tell us, “If we say ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

St Anthony Mary Zaccaria, pray for us!

 

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St Elizabeth of Portugal

 

MEMORIAL OF ST ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL
July 4

 

Elizabeth was a Spanish princess who was given in marriage to King Denis of Portugal at the age of twelve. She was very beautiful and very lovable. She was also very devout, and went to Mass every day. Elizabeth was a holy wife, but although her husband was fond of her at first, he soon began to cause her great suffering. Though a good ruler, he did not imitate his wife's love of prayer and other virtues. In fact, his sins of impurity gave great scandal to the people.

Later, to make matters worse, the King believed a lie told about Elizabeth and one of her pages by another page, who was jealous of his companion. In great anger the King ordered the one he believed guilty, to be sent to a lime-burner. The lime-burner was commanded to throw into his furnace the first page who came. The good page set out obediently, not knowing death was waiting for him. On his way he stopped for Mass, since he had the habit of going daily. The first Mass had begun, so he stayed for a second one. In the meantime, the King sent the wicked page to the lime-burner to find out if the other had been killed. And so it was this page who was thrown into the furnace! When the King learned what had happened, he realized that God had saved the good page, punished the liar, and proven Queen Elizabeth to be innocent.

This amazing event helped greatly to make the King live better. He apologized to his wife in front of everyone and began to have a great respect for her. In his last sickness, she never left his side, except for Mass, until he died a holy death. St. Elizabeth lived for eleven more years, doing even greater charity and penance. She was a wonderful model of kindness toward the poor and a successful peacemaker between members of her own family and between nations.

St Elizabeth of Portugal, pray for us!

 

 

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St Thomas

 

FEAST OF ST THOMAS, APOSTLE
July 3

 

Poor Thomas! He made one remark and has been branded as “Doubting Thomas” ever since. But if he doubted, he also believed. He made what is certainly the most explicit statement of faith in the New Testament: “My Lord and My God!” and, in so expressing his faith, gave Christians a prayer that will be said till the end of time. He also occasioned a compliment from Jesus to all later Christians: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29).

Thomas should be equally well-known for his courage. Perhaps what he said was impetuous—since he ran, like the rest, at the showdown—but he can scarcely have been insincere when he expressed his willingness to die with Jesus. The occasion was when Jesus proposed to go to Bethany after Lazarus had died. Since Bethany was near Jerusalem, this meant walking into the very midst of his enemies and to almost certain death. Realizing this, Thomas said to the other apostles, “Let us also go to die with him” (John 11:16b).

Thomas shares the lot of Peter the impetuous, James and John, the “sons of thunder,” Philip and his foolish request to see the Father—indeed all the apostles in their weakness and lack of understanding. We must not exaggerate these facts, however, for Christ did not pick worthless men. But their human weakness again points up the fact that holiness is a gift of God, not a human creation; it is given to ordinary men and women with weaknesses; it is God who gradually transforms the weaknesses into the image of Christ, the courageous, trusting, and loving one.

St Thomas, pray for us!

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