Sunday, February 18, 2007

Saint Julie Billiart

Mary Rose Julie Billiart was born in Belgium. She was the sixth of seven children. Her parents Jean-Frangois Billiart and Marie-Louise-Antoinette Debraine were peasant farmers. Her uncle, the village school teacher, taught her to read and write.

Although she was not a very good student, she loved to study her catechism. In fact, when she was just seven, Julie knew her catechism by heart and would explain it to other little children. When her parents became poor, she worked hard to help support the family. She even went to harvest the crops. Yet she always found time to pray, to visit the sick, and to teach catechism.

When she was fourteen she decided she would not marry but give her life to God. Instead she spent her life serving and teaching the poor.

While she was still a young woman, she was sitting beside her father when some one shot at him. The shock made her very ill and completely paralyzed. Although helpless, Julie offered her prayers so that sinners would find eternal happiness with God. She was closer to God than ever and kept on teaching catechism from bed.

Julie was very holy and people came to her for advice because she helped them grow closer to Jesus and practice their faith with more love. She encouraged everyone who came to her to receive Holy Communion often.

Many young women were inspired by Julie's love for God. They were willing to spend their time and money for good works. With Julie as their leader, they started the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and were devoted to the Christian education of girls.

Once a priest gave a mission in the town where Julie was. He asked her to make a novena with him for an intention which was a secret. After five days, on the feast of the Sacred Heart, he said: "Mother, if you have faith, take one step in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus." Mother Billiart, who had been paralyzed for twenty-two years, stood up and was healed!

St. Julie spent the rest of her life looking after and training young women to become sisters. People who did not understand her mission, hurt her a lot, but she always trusted God. Her favorite words were: "How good is the good God."

God rewarded her by helping her religious congregation to grow. By the time St. Julie died on April 8, 1816, there were already fifteen convents. Today there are many of St. Julie's sisters of Notre Dame all over the world.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Blessed Joan of Toulouse

A few Carmelite brothers from Palestine started a monastery in Toulouse, France in 1240. The great Carmelite priest, St. Simon Stock, visited Toulouse twenty-five years later. A good and devout woman asked to see him. She introduced herself simply as Joan.

Joan earnestly asked the priest if she could join the Carmelite order as an associate. St. Simon Stock who was the head of the order agreed and granted Joan’s request. Joan became the first lay associate. She received the habit of the Carmelite order and in the presence of St. Simon Stock, she made a promise to always be chaste and pure.

Joan continued her quiet, simple life in her own home. She tried to be as faithful as possible to the rules of the Carmelites for the rest of her life. Joan went to daily Mass and devotions at the Carmelite church.

She spent the rest of the day visiting the poor, the sick and the lonely. She trained the altar boys. She helped the elderly and those who were weak and frail by performing tasks and running errands for them. Joan prayed with them and brightened many lives with her cheerful conversations.

Blessed Joan carried a picture of the crucified Jesus in her pocket. That was her "book." Every now and then, she would pull out the picture and gaze at it. Her eyes would light up. People said that Joan read some new and wonderful lesson every time she studied the picture.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Saint Isaac Jogues, Saint John De Brebeuf and Companions

More than three hundred years ago, six Jesuit priests and two holy laymen, all from France, died as martyrs in North America. These eight men were some of the bravest and most daring missionaries in the New World.

They put their own lives in danger to bring Jesus to the Indian people. They worked very hard and were able to convert many of the Huron tribe. But the Iroquois, bitter enemies of the Hurons, put them all to death.

Isaac Jogues was a Jesuit priest who was sent as a missionary to New France in Canada. This was a very difficult job. Not only were the living conditions hard, but the locals blamed the "Blackrobes", the priests, for any disease, bad-luck or other problems they had. The Mohawks captured and made him suffer for thirteen months. During that time, he tried to teach the Faith to anyone who would listen. When he was set free by the Dutch, he went back to France to get better, but as soon as he could, he returned to North America to continue his work.

Father Jogues had his head chopped off with a tomahawk (large axe) by the Bear Clan of the Mohawks.

When St. John de Brebeuf was in France, he had tuberculosis and was so sick that he could not teach much. But then he too was sent as a missionary to New France. There the harsh and hearty climate agreed with him so well that the Native Indians called him Echon or load-bearer. He was so huge that they were afraid to share a canoe with him as they feared it might sink.

Although he was a famous professor of Theology in France, it took him a long time to learn the Huron language. Finally he was able to write a catechism in Huron for the native people. He also wrote a French-Huron dictionary and a list of Instructions for other Jesuit Missionaries on how to work well with the Indians. He was a wonderful and brave apostle of Jesus and his courage amazed the fierce Iroquois as they tortured him to death.

St. Gabriel Lallemont was also tortured to death with St. John de Brebeuf.

St. Anthony Daniel had just finished celebrating Mass for his Huron converts, those who had become Christians, when the Iroquois attacked the village. The Christian Indians begged him to try and escape. But Father Daniel stayed. He wanted to help all those who were crying to him for Baptism before they would be killed. The Iroquois burned him to death in his little chapel.

St. Charles Garnier was shot by an Iroquois musket during a surprise attack, but he still tried to crawl to help a dying man. When the Iroquois saw this they angrily killed him with a hatchet blow.

Father Noel Chabenel found the life of a missionary very hard, but had made a promise to stay in North America. He was killed by a Huron traitor using a tomahawk.

The two lay helpers, Rene Goupil and John Lalande, were also both killed with tomahawks.

These brave martyrs were heroes of Christ and gave their lives for the native people of North America so that they too could know the love and friendship of Jesus. After their death, new missionaries were able to convert almost every tribe that the martyrs had known.