St. Elizabeth of Hungary

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2016

On Nov. 17, the Catholic Church celebrates the life and example of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a medieval noblewoman who responded to personal tragedy by embracing St. Francis’ ideals of poverty and service. A patron of secular Franciscans, she is especially beloved to Germans, as well as the faithful of her native Hungary.

As the daughter of the Hungarian King Andrew II, Elizabeth had the responsibilities of royalty thrust upon her almost as soon as her short life began in 1207. While she was still very young, Elizabeth’s father arranged for her to be married to a German nobleman, Ludwig of Thuringia.

The plan forced Elizabeth to separate from her parents while still a child. Adding to this sorrow was the murder of Elizabeth’s mother Gertrude in 1213, which history ascribes to a conflict between her own German people and the Hungarian nobles. Elizabeth took a solemn view of life and death from that point on, and found consolation in prayer. Both tendencies drew some ire from her royal peers.

For a time, beginning in 1221, she was happily married. Ludwig, who had advanced to become one of the rulers of Thuringia, supported Elizabeth’s efforts to live out the principles of the Gospel even within the royal court. She met with friars of the nascent Franciscan order during its founder’s own lifetime, resolving to use her position as queen to advance their mission of charity.

Remarkably, Ludwig agreed with his wife’s resolution, and the politically powerful couple embraced a life of remarkable generosity toward the poor. They had three children, two of whom went on to live as as members of the nobility, although one of them –her only son– died relatively young. The third eventually entered religious life and became abbess of a German convent.

In 1226, while Ludwig was attending to political affairs in Italy, Elizabeth took charge of distributing aid to victims of disease and flooding that struck Thuringia. She took charge of caring for the afflicted, even when this required giving up the royal family’s own clothes and goods. Elizabeth arranged for a hospital to be built, and is said to have provided for the needs of nearly a thousand desperately poor people on a daily basis.

The next year, however, would put Elizabeth’s faith to the test. Her husband had promised to assist the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the Sixth Crusade, but he died of illness en route to Jerusalem. Devastated by Ludwig’s death, Elizabeth vowed never to remarry. Her children were sent away, and relatives heavily pressured her to break the vow.

Undeterred, Elizabeth used her remaining money to build another hospital, where she personally attended to the sick almost constantly. Sending away her servants, she joined the Third Order of St. Francis, seeking to emulate the example of its founder as closely as her responsibilities would allow. Near the end of her life, she lived in a small hut and spun her own clothes.

Working continually with the severely ill, Elizabeth became sick herself, dying of illness in November of 1231. After she died, miraculous healings soon began to occur at her grave near the hospital, and she was declared a saint only four years later.

Pope Benedict XVI has praised her as a “model for those in authority,” noting the continuity between her personal love for God, and her public work on behalf of the poor and sick.

Patronage: Bakers; beggars; brides; charitable societies; charitable workers; charities; countesses; death of children; exiles; falsely accused people; hoboes; homeless people; hospitals; in-law problems; lacemakers; lace workers; nursing homes; nursing services; people in exile; people ridiculed for their piety; Sisters of Mercy; tertiaries; Teutonic Knights; toothache; tramps; widows.

Representation: A queen distributing alms; woman wearing a crown and tending to beggars; woman wearing a crown, carrying a load of roses in her apron or mantle.

 


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St. Rita

On May 22, the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Rita of Cascia, who the late John Paul II called “a disciple of the Crucified One” and an “expert in suffering.”rita[1]

Known in Spain as “La Santa de los impossibiles” (the saint of the impossible), St. Rita has become immensely popular throughout the centuries. She is invoked by people in all situations and stations of life, since she had embraced suffering with charity and wrongs with forgiveness in the many trials she experienced in her life: as a wife, widow, a mother surviving the death of her children, and a nun.

Born in 1386 in Roccaparena, Umbria, St. Rita was married at the age of 12 to a violent and ill-tempered husband. He was murdered 18 years later and she forgave his murderers, praying that her twin sons, who had sworn to avenge their father’s death may also forgive. She was granted this grace, and her sons, who died young, died reconciled to God.

The saint heard the call to become a nun in the Augustinian convent at Cascia, but was refused entry at first. She asked the intercession of Sts. Augustine, Mary Magadalene and John the Baptist and was finally allowed to enter the convent where she lived the last 40 years of her life in prayer, mortification and service to the people of Cascia.

For the last 15 years of her life she received a stigmata-like thorn wound in answer to her prayers to be more profoundly conformed to the passion of the Lord Jesus. Rita was bedridden for the last four years of her life, consuming almost nothing except for the Eucharist. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 70 on May 22, 1456.

On the 100th anniversary of her canonization in 2000, Pope John Paul II noted her remarkable qualities as a Christian woman: “Rita interpreted well the ‘feminine genius’ by living it intensely in both physical and spiritual motherhood.”

St. Rita was canonized in 1900 by Pope Leo XIII. She is the patron saint of impossible causes, sterility, abuse victims, loneliness, marriage difficulties, parenthood, widows, the sick, bodily ills and wounds.

 


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St. Anthony

SATURDAY, JUNE 13, 2015

On June 13, Catholics honor the memory of the Franciscan priest St. Anthony of Padua. Although he is popularly invoked today by those who have trouble finding lost objects, he was known in his own day as the “Hammer of Heretics” due to the powerful witness of his life and preaching.

The saint known to the Church as Anthony of Padua was not born in the Italian city of Padua, nor was he originally named Anthony. He was born as Ferdinand in Lisbon, Portugal during 1195, the son of an army officer named Martin and a virtuous woman named Mary. They had Ferdinand educated by a group of priests, and the young man made his own decision to enter religious life at age 15.

Ferdinand initially lived in a monastery of the Augustinian order outside of Lisbon. But he disliked the distraction of constant visits from his friends, and moved to a more remote house of the same order. There, he concentrated on reading the Bible and the Church Fathers, while living a life of asceticism and heartfelt devotion to God.

Eight years later, in 1220, Ferdinand learned the news about five Franciscan friars who had recently died for their faith in Morocco. When their bodies were brought to Portugal for veneration, Ferdinand developed a passionate desire to imitate their commitment to the Gospel. When a group of Franciscans visited his monastery, Ferdinand told them he wanted to adopt their poor and humble way of life.

Some of the Augustinian monks criticized and mocked Ferdinand’s interest in the Franciscans, which had been established only recently, in 1209. But prayer confirmed his desire to follow the example of St. Francis, who was still living at the time.

He eventually obtained permission to leave the Augustinians and join a small Franciscan monastery in 1221. At that time he took the name Anthony, after the fourth-century desert monk St. Anthony of Egypt.

Anthony wanted to imitate the Franciscan martyrs who had died trying to convert the Muslims of Morocco. He traveled on a ship to Africa for this purpose, but became seriously ill and could not carry out his intention. The ship that was supposed to take him to Spain for treatment was blown off course, and ended up in Italy.

Through this series of mishaps, Anthony ended up near Assisi, where St. Francis was holding a major meeting for the members of his order. Despite his poor health, Anthony resolved to stay in Italy in order to be closer to St. Francis himself. He deliberately concealed his deep knowledge of theology and Scripture, and offered to serve in the kitchen among the brothers.

At the time, no one realized that the future “Hammer of Heretics” was anything other than a kitchen assistant and obedient Franciscan priest. Around 1224, however, Anthony was forced to deliver an improvised speech before an assembly of Dominicans and Franciscans, none of whom had prepared any remarks.

His eloquence stunned the crowd, and St. Francis himself soon learned what kind of man the dishwashing priest really was. In 1224 he gave Anthony permission to teach theology in the Franciscan order –  “provided, however, that as the Rule prescribes, the spirit of prayer and devotion may not be extinguished.”

Anthony taught theology in several French and Italian cities, while strictly following his Franciscan vows and preaching regularly to the people. Later, he dedicated himself entirely to the work of preaching as a missionary in France, Italy and Spain, teaching an authentic love for God to many people – whether peasants or princes – who had fallen away from Catholic faith and morality.

Known for his bold preaching and austere lifestyle, Anthony also had a reputation as a worker of miracles, which often came about in the course of his disputes with heretics.

His biographers mention a horse, which refused to eat for three days, and accepted food only after it had placed itself in adoration before the Eucharist that Anthony brought in his hands. Another miracle involved a poisoned meal, which Anthony ate without any harm after making the sign of the Cross over it. And a final often recounted miracle of St. Anthony’s involved a group of fish, who rose out of the sea to hear his preaching when heretical residents of a city refused to listen.

After Lent in 1231, Anthony’s health was in decline. Following the example of his patron – the earlier St. Anthony, who had lived as a hermit – he retreated to a remote location, taking two companions to help him. When his worsening health forced him to be carried back to the Franciscan monastery in Padua, crowds of people converged on the group in hopes of paying their homage to the holy priest.

The commotion surrounding his transport forced his attendants to stop short of their destination. After receiving the last rites, Anthony prayed the Church’s seven traditional penitential psalms, sung a hymn to the Virgin Mary, and died on June 13 at the age of 36.

St. Anthony’s well-established holiness, combined with the many miracles he had worked during his lifetime, moved Pope Gregory IX – who knew the saint personally – to canonize him one year after his death.

“St. Anthony, residing now in heaven, is honored on earth by many miracles daily seen at his tomb, of which we are certified by authentic writings,” proclaimed the 13th-century Pope.


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St, Barnabas

ST. BARNABAS, APOSTLE
THURSDAY, JUNE 11, 2015

Catholics will celebrate the memory of St. Barnabas on June 11. The apostle and missionary was among Christ’s earliest followers and was responsible for welcoming St. Paul into the Church. Though not one of the 12 apostles chosen by the Lord, Jesus, he is traditionally regarded as one of the 72 disciples of Christ and most respected man in the first century Church after the Apostles themselves.

St. Barnabas was born to wealthy Jewish parents on the Greek-speaking island of Cyprus, probably around the time of Christ’s own birth. Traditional accounts hold that his parents sent him to study in Jerusalem, where he studied at the school of Gamaliel (who also taught St. Paul). Later on, when Christ’s public ministry began, Barnabas may have been among those who heard him preach in person.

At some point, either during Christ’s ministry or after his death and resurrection, Barnabas decided to commit himself in the most radical way to the teachings he had received. He sold the large estate he had inherited, contributed the proceeds entirely to the Church, and joined Christ’s other apostles in holding all of their possessions in common.

Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul, approached Barnabas after the miraculous events surrounding his conversion, and was first introduced to St. Peter through him. About five years later, Barnabas and Paul spent a year in Antioch, building up the Church community whose members were the first to go by the name of “Christians.”

Both Paul and Barnabas received a calling from God to become the “Apostles of the Gentiles,” although the title is more often associated with St. Paul. The reference to the “laying-on of hands” in Acts, chapter 13, suggests that Paul and Barnabas may have been consecrated as bishops on this occasion.

Barnabas and Paul left Antioch along with Barnabas’ cousin John Mark, who would later compose the most concise account of Christ’s life and be canonized as St. Mark. The group’s first forays into the pagan world met with some success, but Mark became discouraged and returned to Jerusalem.

The question of Mark’s dedication to the mission would arise again later, and cause a significant personal disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. For many years prior to this, however, the two apostles traveled and preached among the Gentiles, suffering persecution and hardships for the sake of establishing Christianity among those of a non-Jewish background.

The remarkable success of Barnabas and Paul led to one of the earliest controversies in Church history, regarding the question of whether Christian converts would have to observe Jewish rites. During the landmark Council of Jerusalem, recorded in the book of Acts, the assembled apostles confirmed St. Peter’s earlier proclamation that the laws of the Old Testament would not be mandatory for Christians.

Barnabas and Paul finally separated in their ministries, while remaining apostles of the one Catholic Church, over Paul’s insistence that Mark not travel with them again.

In death, however, the “Apostles to the Gentiles” were reunited. Mark is said to have buried Barnabas after he was killed by a mob in Cyprus around the year 62. St. Paul and St. Mark were, in turn, reconciled before St. Paul’s martyrdom five years later.

He is said to have been stoned to death in Salamis in the year 61.

St. Luke described Barnabas as ‘a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith’ (Acts 6:24), and he was known for his exceptional kindliness and personal sanctity, and his openness to pagans


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ST. JUSTIN MARTYR

Saint of the Day:  MONDAY, JUNE 01, 2015

Writings:     First Apology, Second Apology,  Dialogue with Typho, more…

“We are slain with the sword, but we increase and multiply; the more we are persecuted and destroyed, the more are deaf to our numbers. As a vine, by being pruned and cut close, shoots forth new suckers, and bears a greater abundance of fruit; so is it with us.” – St. Justin Martyr

Justin was born around the year 100 in the Palestinian province of Samaria, the son of Greek-speaking parents whose ancestors were sent as colonists to that area of the Roman Empire. Justin’s father followed the Greek pagan religion and raised his son to do the same, but he also provided Justin with an excellent education in literature and history.

Justin was an avid lover of truth, and as a young man, became interested in philosophy and searched for truth in the various schools of thought that had spread throughout the empire. But he became frustrated with the professional philosophers’ intellectual conceits and limitations, as well as their apparent indifference to God.

After several years of study, Justin had a life-changing encounter with an old man who questioned him about his beliefs and especially about the sufficiency of philosophy as a means of attaining truth. He urged him to study the Jewish prophets and told Justin that these authors had not only spoken by God’s inspiration, but also predicted the coming of Christ and the foundation of his Church.

“Above all things, pray that the gates of life may be opened to you,” the old man told Justin, “for these are not things to be discerned, unless God and Christ grant to a man the knowledge of them.” Justin had always admired Christians from a distance because of the beauty of their moral lives. As he writes in his Apologies: “When I was a disciple of Plato, hearing the accusations made against the Christians and seeing them intrepid in the face of death and of all that men fear, I said to myself that it was impossible that they should be living in evil and in the love of pleasure.” The aspiring philosopher eventually decided to be baptized around the age of 30.

After his conversion, Justin continued to wear the type of cloak that Greek culture associated with the philosophers. Inspired by the dedicated example of other Catholics whom he had seen put to death for their faith, he embraced a simple and austere lifestyle even after moving to Rome.

Justin was most likely ordained a deacon, since he preached, did not marry, and gave religious instruction in his home. He is best known as the author of early apologetic works which argued for the Catholic faith against the claims of Jews, pagans, and non-Christian philosophers.

Several of these works were written to Roman officials, for the purpose of refuting lies that had been told about the Church. Justin sought to convince the rulers of the Roman Empire that they had nothing to gain, and much to lose, by persecuting the Christians. His two most famous apologetical treatises were “Apologies” and “Dialogue with Tryphon.”

In order to fulfill this task, Justin gave explicit written descriptions of the early Church’s beliefs and its mode of worship. In modern times, scholars have noted that Justin’s descriptions correspond to the traditions of the Catholic Church on every essential point.

Justin describes the weekly Sunday liturgy as a sacrifice, and speaks of the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Christ. He further states that only baptized persons who believe the Church’s teachings, and are free of serious sin, may receive it.

Justin also explains in his writings that the Church regards celibacy as a sacred calling, condemns the common practice of killing infants, and looks down on the accumulation of excessive wealth and property.

His first defense of the faith, written to Emperor Antonius Pius around 150, convinced the emperor to regard the Church with tolerance. In 167, however, persecution began again under Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

During that year Justin wrote to the emperor, who was himself a philosopher and the author of the well-known “Meditations.” He tried to demonstrate the injustice of the persecutions, and the superiority of the Catholic faith over Greek philosophy. Justin emphasized the strength of his convictions by stating that he expected to be put to death for expressing them

He was, indeed, seized along with a group of other believers, and brought before Rusticus, prefect of Rome. A surviving eyewitness account shows how Justin the philosopher became known as “St. Justin Martyr.”

The prefect made it clear how Justin might save his life: “Obey the gods, and comply with the edicts of the emperors.” Justin responded that “no one can be justly blamed or condemned for obeying the commands of our Savior Jesus Christ.”

Rusticus briefly questioned Justin and his companions regarding their beliefs about Christ and their manner of worshiping God. Then he laid down the law.

“Hear me,” he said, “you who are noted for your eloquence, who think that you make a profession of the right philosophy. If I cause you to be scourged from head to foot, do you think you shall go to heaven?”

“If I suffer what you mention,” Justin replied, “I hope to receive the reward which those have already received, who have obeyed the precepts of Jesus Christ.”

“There is nothing which we more earnestly desire, than to endure torments for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he explained. “We are Christians, and will never sacrifice to idols.” Justin was scourged and beheaded along with six companions who joined him in his confession of faith.

St. Justin Martyr has been regarded as a saint since the earliest centuries of the Church. Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians also celebrate his feast day on June 1.

 


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