Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Saint Peter Claver

Peter Claver was born at Verdu, Catalonia in Spain and was the son of a farmer. At a very young age he decided he wanted to join the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, and be a priest.

At the age of 20, while he was still studying at the University of Barcelona to become a Jesuit, he felt a great desire to go to South America as a missionary. He was sent to the seaport of Cartagena where great shiploads of African slaves were brought to be sold.

At the sight of those poor people all crowded together, sick and suffering, Peter felt great pity. He made up his mind to help them and bring them to Jesus.

As soon as a shipload arrived, he would go among the hundreds of sick slaves and gave them food and medicine. He baptized the dying and the little babies. He nursed the ill. It was hard work in terrible heat.

One man who went once with St. Peter to help these people found he could not face the heart-breaking sight again. Yet Peter did it for forty years. He baptized about three hundred thousand people. He was there when the ships came in to care for and love those who were treated so cruelly.

Although the slave owners tried to stop Father Claver, he taught the faith to the slaves anyway. It was slow work that could often be disappointing. Many people found fault with him, saying it was all a waste of time.

They thought the slaves would never keep the faith. But he was patient and he trusted that God would bless his people. The priest never stopped asking the slave owners to take care of the souls of their slaves and to be better Christians themselves.

During the last four years of his life, Father Claver was so sick that he had to stay in his room, he could not even celebrate Mass. Most people forgot about him, but he never complained.

When he died on September 8, 1654, it was like the whole city woke up. They realized that they had lost a saint. From then on he was never forgotten again and was called the Slave of Slaves.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

Saint Aloysius, the patron of Catholic youth, was born in a castle in Italy. He was so full of life that his father who was a big gambler decided to make a great soldier out of him. When Aloysius was just five, his father took him to the army camp.

Little Aloysius marched in parades and even managed to load and fire a gun one day while the army was at rest. He learned rough language from the soldiers. When he found out what the words meant, he felt very bad that he used them.

As he grew up, Aloysius was sent to the courts of dukes and princes. Telling lies, fighting and living a bad life of sin were common in the court. But all this only made Aloysius more careful to live his life as a good Christian. He became sick with a kidney disease. He felt this was a blessing from God as it gave him an excuse to spend time praying and reading good books.

When Aloysius was sixteen, he decided to become a Jesuit priest. At first, his father refused to give him permission but after three years when he found he could not change his son’s mind, he finally agreed. He taught catechism to poor street boys and signed all his wealth over to his brother.

Once Aloysius joined the order, he asked to do hard and humble tasks. He served in the kitchen and washed the dishes. He wanted to make his life pure by doing penance. When the plague broke out in Rome, Aloysius asked if he could care for the sick. He was used to his servants doing everything for him but he gladly washed the sick and made their beds.

He served them until he caught the sickness. Before he died, he said simply, "I am going to heaven." St. Aloysius was only twenty-three when he died on the night of June 20, 1591. The body of St. Aloysius Gonzaga is buried in the Church of St. Ignatius in Rome.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Saint Pius X

This great Pope was born in Riese, in Italy. His father was a mailman and named him Joseph Sarto, although he was affectionately called "Beppi."

Joseph felt that God wanted him to be a priest, and had to make many sacrifices to be able to study so he could be a priest. But he didn't mind. He even walked miles to school barefoot to save his one good pair of shoes.

After he became a priest, Father Sarto labored for the people in poor parishes for seventeen years. Everybody loved him. He used to give away everything he had to help them. His sisters had to hide his shirts or he would have had nothing to wear.

Even when Father Joseph became a Bishop, and later a Cardinal, he still gave away what he owned to the poor. He kept nothing for himself.

When Pope Leo XIII died in 1903, Cardinal Sarto was chosen pope. He took the name of Pius X.

He became known as the pope who loved the Holy Eucharist. Pope Pius X encouraged people to receive Jesus as often as they could. He also made a law permitting young children to receive Holy Communion too. Before that time, boys and girls had to wait many years before they could receive the Lord.

He believed in and loved our Catholic faith and taught the people more about the faith. He wanted every Catholic to share in the beauty of the truths of our faith. He really cared about every single person and their spiritual and material needs. He encouraged priests and religion teachers to help everyone learn about their faith.

When the terrible World War I broke out, Pope Pius X suffered greatly. He knew so many people would be killed. He said: "I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this horrible suffering."

Toward the end of his life, he said: "I have lived poor, and I wish to die poor." He did so much to help the poor that people wondered where all the money came from. He never kept anything for himself, right to the end of his life. Pope Pius X died on August 20, 1914.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Saint Charles Borromeo

Charles was the son of a rich Italian count and the nephew of Pope Pius IV. Like other wealthy young men, he went to University. But he was different from most of the students there and refused to take part in sinful activities.

He seemed to be a slow student because he was not a good speaker, but he really made good progress and became a lawyer at the age of twenty-one.

He was only twenty-three when his uncle, Pope Pius IV, gave him many important duties, which Charles managed to handle well. He was afraid that he might stray from God because of the many temptations around him so he denied himself many pleasures. He also made a great effort to be humble and patient.

As a priest and later the cardinal archbishop of Milan, Saint Charles was a model for his people. He gave away great amounts of money to the poor. He had only one long black habit of his own. In public, he dressed grandly as a cardinal should and took great care to give dignity and respect to Church ceremonies.

In Milan, the people followed many bad practices and superstitions, false beliefs. By wise laws, gentle kindness and his own wonderful example, St. Charles made his diocese, the Churches that were under his care, a model for the whole Catholic Church.

He was never a good speaker, people could barely hear him but his words reached the hearts of the people. When a terrible disease caused many deaths in Milan, Cardinal Borromeo spent all his time caring for his people. He prayed and did penance. He organized crews of attendants and borrowed money to feed the hungry. He even had altars set up in the streets so that the sick could assist at Mass from their windows.

This great man was never too busy to help simple people. He once stayed with a little shepherd boy until he had taught him the Our Father and the Hail Mary.

As he lay dying at the age of forty-six, St. Charles said peacefully, "Behold, I come!" He died on November 3, 1584.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Saint Bernard

Bernard was born in France and had six brothers and sisters. They were very well educated. He was only 17 years old when his mother died and his heart was broken.

His lively sister Humbeline did not let him remain sad and she did whatever she could to cheer him up. Soon Bernard became a very popular man. He was handsome and intelligent, full of fun and good humor and people enjoyed being with him.

Bernard surprised all his friends by telling them he was going to join the very strict Cistercian order and become a Priest. They did all they could to make him give up the idea. But in the end, Bernard convinced his brothers, an uncle and twenty-six friends to join him.

As Bernard and his brothers left their home, they said to their little brother Nivard, who was playing with other children: "Good-bye, little Nivard. You will now have all the lands and property for yourself." But the boy answered: "What! How can all of you go to heaven and leave me here on earth? Do you call that fair?"

When Nivard was older he too joined his brothers in the monastery. Bernard became a very good monk. After three years, he was sent to start a new Cistercian monastery and to be its abbot, like a parish priest.

The new monastery was in the Valley of Light which in French is called "Clairvaux" and Bernard was the abbot there for the rest of his life. Although he would have liked to stay working and praying in his monastery, he was called out sometimes for special work. He preached, made peace between rulers, and went to advise the Pope.

He also wrote beautiful spiritual books. He became very famous and people everywhere had great respect for him. He did not want fame. More than anything else Bernard wanted to be a monk and be close to God.

Saint Bernard had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother. It is said that when he passed her statue, he often greeted her with a "Hail Mary." One day, the Blessed Mother returned his greeting: "Hail, Bernard!" Our Lady showed how much his love and devotion pleased her.

When Saint Bernard died in 1153, the people were very sad because they would miss his wonderful presence in their life.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Saint Peter of Alcantara

Peter was born of noble parents at Alcantara in Spain. He entered the Order of Friars Minor when he was sixteen. Peter showed himself a model of all virtues, especially poverty and chastity, and brought numberless men from vice to repentance by preaching the word of God.

He was very eager to restore the original observance of St. Francis of Assisi. Peter built a very small and very poor monastery near Pedroso. The way of life there was very strict, and from the beginning it spread in a remarkable way.

Peter helped St. Teresa of Avila in promoting the Carmelite reform, having approved the spirit in which she had begun it. Teresa often referred to him as a saint even while he was still living. From her writings we learn that he was famous for the grace of contemplation and miracles, and was blessed with the gift of Prophecy and of the discernment of spirits.

He died at sixty-three, and Saint Teresa saw him in a vision, shining with wonderful glory.