Friday, June 30, 2006

Saint Jerome Emiliani

Jerome was born to a noble family of Venice, Italy. He loved the good life and spent his youth carelessly enjoying the pleasures of this world. When he grew up he became a soldier and was put in command of a fortress high in the mountains.

One day, his post was attacked by troops of Maximilian I. He was taken prisoner and thrown into a dungeon. Chained in that miserable prison, he had time to think about his life. He began to regret the careless way he had been living. He was sorry that he had thought so little about God and for wasting so many years living a wicked life.

Jerome promised the Blessed Mother that he would change his life if she would help him. His prayers were answered and by a miracle he was able to escape to safety. Jerome, with a grateful heart, went straight to a church. He hung his prison chains in front of Mary's altar.

After returning to Venice, he took charge of the education of his young nephews while he studied to be a priest. When he became a priest he was devoted to works of charity.

Plague and famine struck northern Italy. Jerome began feeding the sick and the hungry with whatever money he had. He was especially concerned about the many homeless orphan children he found in the streets. He rented a house for them, and gave them clothes and food. He taught them about Jesus and the Catholic faith.

Saint Jerome started a religious congregation of men called the Company of the Servants of the Poor. They would care for the poor, especially orphans, and would teach youth. He did all he could for the peasants. He would work with them in the fields and would talk to them of God's goodness while he worked by their side. He died while caring for plague victims in 1537.

Saint Jerome Emiliani was a gift to the people of his time and to all the Church. By totally turning his life around, he became an image of the love of God. He gave hope to those who were poor and abandoned. He is the Patron Saint of orphans and homeless children and we celebrate his feast on February 8 th.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Blessed Marie-Leonie Paradis

Elodie Paradis was born in the village of L'Acadie in Quebec, Canada. Her parents were poor but good Catholics and they loved their little girl. When Elodie was nine, her parents wanted her to have the best education they could afford, so they sent her to a boarding school. The Sisters of Notre Dame warmly received their new student but Elodie and her family missed each other very much.

Mr. Paradis had a flour mill and although he worked hard, the mill did not make enough money to support his wife and children. He heard wonderful stories about large amounts of gold that was to be found in California. He was so worried about his family that he decided to go.
But in California, Mr. Paradis did not find the wealth he hoped for. When he returned to L'Acadie, he was shocked to find that his little Elodie had joined the convent to become a nun. She had entered the Holy Cross convent on February 21, 1854.

Mr. Paradis went to the convent and he begged his daughter to return home, but she really wanted to stay there. Finally, her father agreed and she took her vows as a nun in 1857.

Blessed Marie-Leonie taught school in different cities. She prayed and lived her life joyfully. As time went on, Sister Marie-Leonie was led by Jesus to begin a new religious order in the Church. The Little Sisters of the Holy Family were begun in 1880.

These loving sisters are committed to serving and caring for priests in the household. This helps the priest to carry out their important ministries without difficulty. The Little Sisters of the Holy Family now have sixty-seven convents in Canada, the United States, Rome and Honduras.

Although Mother Marie Leonie was weak and often sick, she worked for her sisters until the last few hours of her life. But she never stopped caring for God's people. She completed the book of rules she had written to help give her sisters the guidance they would need for their life.

On Friday, May 3, 1912. Mother Marie-Leonie said she felt very tired. She went to rest and died a few hours later. She was seventy-one years old.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Blessed Mary of the Incarnation

Barbe (Barbara) Aurillot was born at Paris in France. When she was seventeen, she married Pierre (Peter) Acarie. Barbra and her husband loved their Catholic faith and practiced it. They had six children and were a happy family.

Barbara tried to be a good wife and mother. Her family learned from her a great love for prayer and works of charity. Her husband was once wrongly blamed for a crime he had not committed. To save him, Barbara herself went to court, and, all alone, proved that he was not guilty.

Although she was busy with her own family, she always found time to feed those who were hungry. She taught people about the Catholic faith. She helped the sick and dying. She gently encouraged people who were living sinfully to change their ways. The good deeds she did were works of mercy.

When Barbara was forty-seven Pierre died. She then joined the Carmelite convent and spent the last four years of her life as a nun. Three of her daughters became Carmelite nuns, too and one son became a priest. Barbara's new name as a nun was Sister Mary of the Incarnation.
She worked with joy in the kitchen among the pots and pans. When her own daughter became the superior of the monastery, Blessed Mary willingly obeyed her.

When she was dying, she humbly said: "The Lord forgive the bad example I have given you." The nuns were very surprised because Barbara had always tried so hard to live a good life. Blessed Mary died in 1618 at the age of fifty-two.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Saint Onesimus

Onesimus was born in Phrygia and was a slave who robbed his master Philemon and ran away to Rome. In Rome he went to see the great apostle, St. Paul, who was a prisoner for his faith. Paul received Onesimus with the kindness and love of a good father. He helped the young man realize he had done wrong to steal. But more than that, he led Onesimus to believe in Jesus and baptized him.

After Onesimus became a Christian, Paul sent him back to his master. Philemon had earlier been converted by Paul and was Paul's friend. But Paul did not send the slave back alone and defenseless. He "armed" Onesimus with a short, powerful but beautiful letter that we know as the Epistle to Philemon. Paul hoped his letter would set everything right for his new friend, Onesimus.

Paul wrote to Philemon: "I plead with you for my own son, for Onesimus. I am sending him back to you. Welcome him as though he were my very heart." Paul asked Philemon to accept him "no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me. And if he has done you any injustice or owes you anything, charge it to me".

That touching letter is in the New Testament of the Bible. Philemon accepted Paul's letter and Paul's advice. When Onesimus returned to his master, he was set free. Afterwards, he went back to Saint Paul and became his faithful helper.

Saint Paul made Onesimus a priest and then a bishop. Later, as Saint Jerome and other Fathers tell us, he became a fervent preacher of the Good News that had changed his life forever. He was cruelly tortured in Rome, for eighteen days, by a governor of that city, who became angry by his preaching of the Gospel. His legs were broken and he was then stoned to death. We celebrate his feast day on February 16th.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Saint Peter Damian

Peter Damian was born at Ravenna, in Italy. His parents died when he was a child and he was left an orphan. He went to live with an older brother who treated him badly. He often left him hungry and starving and made him look after his herd of swine to earn his keep. Another brother named Damian found out about the trouble little Peter was having and brought him to his own home.

That was when Peter's life changed completely. He was treated with love, affection and care. He was so grateful that when he became joined a religious order he took the name Damian after his loving brother. Damian educated Peter and encouraged his studies. Peter later became a great teacher and taught at the university while he was in his twenties. But the Lord was directing him in ways he could never have thought of.

Peter lived in times when many people in the Church were more interested in collecting wealth. Peter realized that the Church is divine and has the grace from Jesus to save all people. He wanted the Church to shine with the holiness of Jesus.

After seven years of teaching, he decided to become a Benedictine monk. He wanted to live the rest of his life in prayer and penance. He would pray and make sacrifices so that many people in the Church would become holy. His health suffered when he tried to replace sleep with prayer.
He went to a monastery of St. Romuald and wrote a rule for the monks. He also wrote about the life of their holy founder, Romuald. Peter wrote many books about religious studies to help people deepen their faith.

Twice his abbot sent him to neighboring monasteries so he could help the monks change their lives so that they could live closer to God. The monks were grateful because Peter was so kind and respectful.

Peter was finally called away from the monastery. He became a bishop and a cardinal. He was sent on very important missions for various popes throughout his long life. Peter Damian died in 1072 at the age of sixty-five. Because he was a champion of truth and a peacemaker, he was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828. We celebrate his feast day on February 21 st.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Saint Martin

Martin was born in Tuscany, Italy. He grew up with a very good education and became a priest in Rome. In the year 649 he became pope. During that time people began arguing over the truths about Jesus and Pope Martin called a meeting of bishops. This meeting was named the Council of the Lateran. It clearly explained some of the beliefs and truths of the Catholic faith. Pope Martin knew the Council's explanations were true and it was his duty as pope to teach people the truth.

Some powerful Christians were not pleased about it. One such person was Emperor Constans II of Constantinople. He sent his soldiers to Rome to capture Martin and bring him to Constantinople. The soldiers kidnapped the Pope.

They took him right out of the Lateran Cathedral and smuggled him onto a ship. Pope Martin got sick, but they continued their journey. In October, 653, he was put in jail in Constantinople for three months. He was given only a little food and water each day. He wasn't even allowed to wash himself.

Pope Martin was put on trial and condemned to death. But then he was sent back to the same prison for three more months. Patriarch Paul of Constantinople pleaded for the pope's life. So instead of death, the pope was exiled and sent away from Italy. Pope Martin was put on a ship that took him across the Black Sea. In April, 654, it landed on the Russian peninsula called the Crimea.

Pope Martin was shocked at the suffering he was put through by those who were in charge of him. He wrote his own life story of those sad days. The pope said that he felt very sad to be forgotten by his relatives and members of the Church in Rome.

He knew they were afraid of the emperor. But at least, he said, they could have sent supplies of corn, oil and other basic needs. But they did not. They abandoned the pope because of fear.

The pope's exile lasted two years. He died around 656. Because of his terrible sufferings, he was proclaimed a martyr. He is the last of the popes so far to be considered a martyr. His feast day is April 13 th.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Saint John Berchmans

John was born at Driest, Brabant in Belgium. He was one of five children and the son of a shoemaker. His parents brought their five children up with much care and love, three of their children entered the religious life.

As a child, John stayed very close to his sick mother. Still, he liked to join with his young friends in putting on plays about Bible stories. He was especially good at playing the part of Daniel defending the innocent Susanna.

From the age of seven he formed the habit of rising early and would serve at two or three Masses with great eagerness. He once said, "If I do not become a saint when I am young, I shall never become one."

By the time he was thirteen, he wanted to begin studying for the priesthood. However, his father, needed his help in supporting the family. Finally, Mr. Berchmans decided to let John become a servant in the household of a priest. From there he could go to classes in the seminary.

Three years later, John Berchmans entered the Society of Jesus. He prayed, studied hard, and enthusiastically acted out parts in religious plays.

He made a motto: "Have great care for little things," and he lived up to it. St. John Berchmans never did any great or heroic things during his life. But he did every little thing well and for the love of God, from waiting on tables to copying down notes on his studies.

He was known as the saint who performed ordinary actions with extraordinary perfection. Kindness, courtesy and constant fidelity were an important part of his holiness.

When his was in his third year of college doing philosophy, he was asked to participate in a public debate, defending the Catholic faith, at a Greek college. He spoke with great confidence and knowledge on the subject.

But when he returned to his own college after the debate, he became sick with a violent fever and no doctor could discover what illness he had. John knew he was going to die.

He was very cheerful as always. When the doctor ordered that his forehead be bathed with wine, John joked: "It's lucky that such an expensive sickness is not going to last long."

John did not live to become a priest he died in 1621 at twenty-two but he had without any doubt, reached his goal of holiness. He died clutching his rosary, crucifix and rules of his order in his hands. Miracles took place at his funeral. Right away people began to call him a saint.