All posts by techdecisions

Jul 6 – St Maria Goretti, (1890-1902)

Realizing that teenagers sending each other nude photos of one another is now part of dating, I submit the following for your contemplation.  On February 12th of this year, the northwest Chicagoland chapter of Voice of the Faithful attended a workshop on the global exploitation of children sponsored by the Des Plaines Park District and Maryville Academy.  The workshop was presented by former Cook County detective and now international consultant on the subject Robert Hugh Farley, http://child-abuse-training-consulting.com/.  

Mr. Farley’s most poignant comment, I thought, was what he tells young people post facto.  They always ask him, usually in tears or near to regardless of gender, “Can you get the pictures back (from the internet, taken either by themselves or their abusers while abusing them)?”  Out of compassion, Mr. Farley always politely lies to them and says, “I’ll try.”

In my work with young people, one of the most difficult concepts to communicate to them is that in 2009, and every other time for that matter, but they are focused on the now, the concept of sin is not one of just trying to poop the party.  Rather, those behaviors we term as “sinful” are not just the truly tempting things in life, they are, but that the avoidance of sin is more than just theology and killjoy.  I guess like so much in adult life, it takes negative experience to appreciate this fact.  It certainly does and did for me.

Sin has a practical side, completely distinguishable and viewable and appreciable outside of theology.  You could, almost, disengage the two, but the logic which makes sense would be broken.  You would lose the meaning of why these behaviors with predictability have the tragic consequences they do, here and now, on this earth, in the “real” world, and then also in the next.

Sin is insidious, at least in my experience.  Always starting very small.  So small, the sinner, like me, can easily justify and dismiss it, like an annoying fly.  I’m not aware of big sinners who started big.  Everybody starts small, and if unchecked by the graces, the church would say, of the spiritual disciplines and sacraments it offers for our benefit, sin can grow very big.  The lie gets bigger.  The lie we tell ourselves and others.  Sin, in my experience, always grows by degrees until it consumes us and we forget how we got there.  We remember how small and easily we started and we realize how profoundly we have been deceived by the Prince of Lies and by ourselves.  I am always so ashamed of myself when I come to that point of realization, not how I was duped again, but how I let myself be duped again.  I wanted to be duped, and I knew better.  And I knew even as I began exactly what I was doing.  That was the temptation and the lie.  I wanted to be duped and embrace my sin = giving in to temptation.

Engaging in those behaviors us old fogey squares like me call sinful, and I am, deeply regrettably, a regular partaker, does lead to undesired and even tragic consequences.  Theology does not just go out and name every appearing pleasure in life sinful.  Those acts deemed sinful have to really earn their title, even deadly.  Sin is out of fashion from almost all homilies I have heard in my life.  We don’t want to become Jansenists, but neither should we deny the reality.

The daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer from Corinado, Ancona, Italy, Maria Goretti had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write.  Her father died while she was still very young and her mother struggled to feed her children. When she 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, Alessandro, 18 years old, 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.” Maria told Alessandro she would rather die than submit.  Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger.

Maria was taken to a hospital.  Her last hours were marked with care for others:  her mother and her attacker.  She forgave Alessandro while she lay dying.

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.  “If my daughter can forgive him, who am I to withhold forgiveness,” she said.  Alessandro spent the remaining years of his life in a Capuchin monastery at age 88.

Devotion to Maria grew, particularly in regard to advocacy for the young and the many truly dangerous alternatives and choices they must navigate, now more than ever, and with the speed of light.  She is the patroness of youth and of rape victims.  At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.

The Church admires and honors Maria Goretti not primarily because of her strong desire not to commit sin, but primarily for her solicitude of her offender while on earth and afterwards.

I know I’m crazy, but I am already starting to form the words in my mind for “talks” with Mara, trying to discern the right age, years from now and how I might say the words she will remember in her moments of truth.  I remembered when I was offered drugs in the locker room at Middle Township High School how much my parents loved me, and the firm knowledge of that love gave me the strength to say “no” then.  I hope and trust and pray I can give Mara similar assurance of her parents’ love for her and that will give her strength in her moments of truth.


Prayer

O Saint Maria Goretti!  Who, strengthened by God’s grace, did not hesitate even at the age of twelve to shed your blood and sacrifice life itself to defend your virginal purity, look graciously on the unhappy human race which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. Teach us all, and especially youth, with what courage and promptitude we should flee for the love of Jesus anything that could offend Him or stain our souls with sin. Obtain for us from our Lord victory in temptation, comfort in the sorrows of life, and the grace which we earnestly beg of thee (here insert intention), and may we one day enjoy with thee the imperishable glory of Heaven. Amen.


Prayer to St Maria Goretti before a dance or party

Dear Saint Maria Goretti! The world teaches that we must please others in order to be popular. Conscience demands that I please God more than one who asks an evil thing in the name of false love. Teach me by your example to instill into others a real respect for modesty and purity. Through your powerful intercession, help me to make of this evening an occasion for helping others to become spiritually stronger. Grant that others may see in me reason to change their ways, if that be necessary, and that I may have the courage to resist any temptation to sinful conduct. Let others be led closer to Jesus and Mary by my example.

Oh Little Saint who wanted to be popular only with your Divine Master and His Blessed Mother, help me to imitate you. Amen.


Prayer Before a Date

Saint Maria Goretti! Teach me that God must be my first love and that all other love is based on Him and Him alone. Obtain for me the grace to cease toying with the occasions of sin and to remember that my body and the bodies of all in grace are temples of the Holy Spirit, destined someday for a glorious resurrection.

Through your beautiful example, teach me the value and dignity of Christian modesty. Grant that I may never be the occasion of dragging others into sin, by suggestive words or evil deeds of any kind. Through the merits of your martyrdom, obtain for me the grace to turn aside from sin, no matter what the cost, so that one day I may enjoy Heaven with you and all the other saints. Amen.

St. Maria Goretti, pray for us and for all young people!  Deliver us from evil!

-the wax effigy containing the relics of St Maria Goretti at her shrine in Nettuno, Italy.
-a repentant Alessandro praying before an image of St Maria Goretti
 
Love,
Matthew

Jul 17, 2011 – Homily of the Most Rev Diarmud Martin, Archbishop of Dublin & Primate of Ireland

As an activist for the protection of children, I have spent the last three years reading and hearing the unreadable and the un-hearable.  I will wish I had not read it, or heard it until I die.  I can understand how someone unfamiliar with the subject would not understand.  Tragically, ignorance does not heal the afflicted.  I have observed how different countries have responded.  Archbishop Martin, it is my strong opinion, has responded in a more open, honest and healthy way than the Church in the US continues to do so.

I still meet and speak with the ordained here in the US who “don’t get it”.  They should spend more time with the survivors of clerical sexual abuse, if those survivors could tolerate their presence.  I can tell you from much personal experience, those survivors are a blessing to me.  They reflect God to me, more than defensive denial or minimization ever could.

We must relearn the words and the meaning of the words as Catholic Christians, “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”.  Every one of us.  And beg the mercy of God and the forgiveness of survivors of offenses by the Church.  The Lord is a just judge. (Psalm 7, etc.)  We must also remember the judgment of the Lord will be harsher upon those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders, therefore a sacrament most grave.

I strongly encourage you to read the article in its entirety:

 
“Only a few months ago, here in Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral, we celebrated a liturgy of lament and repentance reflecting on the shattering facts regarding the wide-ranging abuse of children by priests and religious in this diocese and about the manner in which the Church in this diocese responded to that abuse.It was for me a moment of hope. The liturgy had been prepared by survivors of abuse and survivors took part in the carrying out of the liturgy. Courageously, men and women who had been abused spoke out about their hurt and their hopes.

It was a moment which I know brought healing to many and gave them renewed strength in themselves and some sense of renewed hope in the Church which had not believed them or had even betrayed them. At that liturgy I saw many faces that I knew in tears; I watched others whose names I will never know sit alone in silence and sadness.My first thoughts on reading the Cloyne report went back to that liturgy and to those who organized it and took part in it. I asked myself: what are they thinking today? Are they asking themselves if that entire liturgy was just an empty show? Were they being used just to boost the image of the Church? Were their renewed hopes just another illusion about a Church which seems unable to reform itself? Was their hurt just being further compounded?

As I reflected, the first emotion that came to me was one of anger:

• anger at what had happened in the diocese of Cloyne and at response – or non-response – that was made to children whose lives had been ruptured by abuse;
• anger at the fact that children had been put at risk well after agreed guidelines were in place which were approved by all the Irish bishops;
• anger at how thousands of men and women in this diocese of Dublin must feel, who have invested time and training to ensure that the Church they love and hope can be different would truly be a safe place for children;
• anger at the fact that there were in Cloyne – and perhaps elsewhere – individuals who placed their own views above the safeguarding of children, and seemingly without any second thought placed themselves outside and above the regime of safeguarding to which their diocese and the Irish bishops had committed themselves.

Paradoxically, appealing somehow to their own interpretation of Canon Law they had put themselves even above and beyond the norms which the current Pope himself has promulgated for the entire Church.

Some years ago I was criticized in some Church circles for speaking of strong forces still present in the Church which “would prefer that the truth did not emerge”. “There are signs”, I said, “of subconscious denial on the part of many about the extent of the abuse which occurred within the Church of Jesus Christ in Ireland and how it was covered up. There are other signs of rejection of a sense of responsibility for what had happened. There are worrying signs that despite solid regulations and norms these are not being followed with the rigour required”.

Much has, thank God, been undertaken within the Catholic Church to address the facts of the past and to improve safeguarding procedures. The Catholic Church in Ireland is a much safer place today than it was even in the recent past.

Much is being said, on the other hand, that despite words the Church has not learned the lessons. Both statements are true. At our liturgy of lament and reconciliation I stressed that that event was only a first step. “It would be easy for all of us”, I said, ”to go away this afternoon somehow feeling good but feeling also ‘that is that now’, ‘it’s over’, ‘now we can get back to normal’”. I repeat once again what I said on that occasion “The Church can never rest until the day in which the last victim has found his or her peace and he or she can rejoice in being fully the person that God in his plan wants them to be”.

That is a challenge not just for bishops and Church leaders. It is a challenge for all. Obviously in this diocese it is a challenge to me personally. I know my own inadequacies and I do not wish to present myself as being better or more expert than anyone else. Like all of us, I need to have the courage to address my responsibilities with the utmost honesty day by day.

All of us need to have in place systems of verification and review which help us to identify mistakes made or areas where more can be done or things can be done better. We need to continue to build a cooperative climate where all the institutions of the Church work in a constructive way together and with the institutions of the State, which bears the primary responsibility for child safeguarding in the country.

I thank the priests and lay persons in this diocese who have committed themselves to implementing our child safeguarding policies and I appeal to them not to be become frustrated or indifferent. The Church needs you.

The children who frequent our Churches need you. Parents need to be reassured by your presence. Public recognition is due to the mobilisation within the Church of so many volunteers who are in the front line in our parishes and organizations in child safeguarding.Those priests who have ministered untarnished and generously over years – indeed for an entire lifetime – should not be made scapegoats and objects of hate. Priests deserve recognition for the good they do and they need the support of their people. I appeal to those priests who have become demoralised and half-hearted not to give in to cynicism but to heed the Lord’s call to renewal and conversion.

However, those in Church and State who have acted wrongly or inadequately should assume accountability.

What is at stake here is not just the past, but the future of our children and our young people and the need to foster a healthy environment across the board in which our upcoming generations are cherished and can grow to maturity. This is a huge challenge and cannot be addressed in a patchwork manner. The early results of the most recent census indicate that there will be a significant growth in the numbers and the proportion of children and young people in our population in the coming years. This will inevitably require significant investment.

While recognising the challenges of our current economic crisis, our long-term economic planning cannot overlook the need to provide not just protection but also vision, hope and opportunity for this future generation.

The Proclamation of 1916 contained a vision of solidarity and inclusivity which dreamt not just of the freedom for Ireland’s people, but also of their welfare; it hoped for “equal rights and equal opportunities for all its citizens”; it dreamt of a society “where all the children of the nation would be cherished”. These are perennial goals for our nation which must at all times be a clear focal point for future economic and social planning.The same proclamation and vision of those who founded our republic recognised that religious and civil liberty of all was to be fostered.

A republic is not indifferent to the faith of its citizens. A republic respects the specific rights of believers. It recognises the role of believers in contributing to the common good as they journey with others in search of that hope to which we are all called as human beings and believers.Great damage has been done to the credibility of the Church in Ireland. Credibility will only be regained by the Church being more truly what the Church is. Renewal will not be the work of sleek public relations moves.

Irish religious culture has radically changed and has changed irreversibly. There will be no true renewal in the Church until that fact is recognised.The Church cannot continue to be present in society as it was in the past. That is not to say that the Church will be renewed by that changed culture or should simply adapt itself to the vision of that new culture. The Gospel reading reminds us that the Church lives its life in the midst of different cultures and indeed with the presence of sin in its own midst.

As believers we know that in the long-term Christ who sows the good seed in our midst will work tirelessly to see that those forces “that provoke offence and who do evil” will not prevail but will face judgement on their lives.

It would however be false to interpret the Gospel reading as if we should simply sit back and allow good and evil to grow together in the hope that in the end the good will win out. It is reminding us that fidelity to the message of Jesus is the way in which we will ensure the victory of the good.The Gospel reading cries out: “Listen”, anyone who has ears”. Rarely more often than in our day are we as believers called to listen, to take note, to be alert and on our guard, so that the virtuous life will shine through us in our world.

To do that we must renew ourselves and, as the second reading reminds us, allow the spirit of God to put into our lives a goodness and a love that cannot be summed up in our words. It is only then if we love good that we will drive evil away from us.” 

 


Apr 3 – Servant of God Jerome Lejeune, (1926-1994), Doctor of Down’s Syndrome

Life_is_a_blessing_Clara_Lejeune

Letter to Cardinal George of Chicago:

6/12/2011

Dear Cardinal George,

Hello, my name is Amy Goggin and I am a parishioner at St. John Fisher in Chicago. I’m writing this letter to you to ask for your support and guidance in a cause that has been on my heart recently. I have an on-line store. I make rosaries and religious jewelry. I have wanted to make a chaplet/bracelet for people afflicted with Down’s syndrome. While researching the patron Saint for these individuals, I realized that there is no patron Saint for them. I am wondering how to go about declaring one? How does the Church declare a patron saint?

I understand that there are patron saints for people with mental illnesses and people that are handicapped in one form or another but, there needs to be a specific advocate in heaven for the growing number of people afflicted with Down’s syndrome. Prenatal screening and diagnostic testing is most often used to identify unborn babies with Down’s syndrome and then that information is used to encourage an abortion. This testing does not provide information that could be used to treat the baby before birth. One out of every 800 pregnancies is diagnosed with having a Down’s baby.

That is about 400,000 in the US alone. Out of those, 84% to 91% are aborted in the US. If a mother decides to have her Down’s syndrome child there are many medical complications that are awaiting the child throughout his/her life. There seems to be a cultural war against these innocent human beings right from the start. Due to the large number of people with this condition and the life-threatening situation they find themselves, we as Catholics need an advocate in Heaven to offer up our prayers of both petition and thanksgiving.

While researching a saint that would be appropriate for this cause, I found Servant of God (whose cause for canonization was opened in 2007): Dr. Jerome Lejeune. He was a French Doctor that spent his life trying to find a cure for Down’s syndrome and fighting for an awareness of the sanctity of their lives. He discovered the cause of Down’s syndrome in 1958.

Dr. Lejeune worked closely with Pope John Paul II and was appointed the first president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. He treated around 5,000 patients. He would explain to new mothers that their child’s name was (child’s name) and he/she is not a disease, but a person that happens to have a disease. His mission was to have others understand the dignity that these individuals possessed, by looking beyond their condition to see a human being. His own daughter, Clara Lejeune Gaymard wrote a memoir titled Life is a Blessing about her father .

I believe that due to the nature of Dr. Lejeune’s life’s work, he is the perfect patron saint for people afflicted with this genetic condition. I’m wondering if you can help us with three things by your guidance and blessing. My friends and I are willing to do whatever we have to do, we just need some direction and support. We want to know how to officially request that the Church declare Lejeune the patron saint for people afflicted with Down’s syndrome.

We want to know how to create a chaplet of prayers for his intercession. Finally, there is a strong local support to have a national shrine on the South Side of Chicago for Catholics to come and pray for Lejeune’s intercession for their loved ones with Down’s syndrome. We believe that because of the large population of individuals with this condition on the South Side of Chicago, this would be the most appropriate place for such a shrine. We are willing to take on any logistical legwork necessary to further this cause. I would appreciate any help you can offer my friends and I with this endeavor and look forward to hearing back from you soon.”

dr-lejeune-and-patient1

lejeune

Jerome Lejeune was born in Montrouge, France, in 1926. A reading of The Country Doctor by the French novelist Balzac convinced him of his vocation when he was 13 years old. He too wanted to be a simple country doctor dedicating his life to helping the poor.

After attending medical school, he was persuaded by Professor Raymond Turpin to collaborate with him on a study of Down syndrome. He accepted this challenge and his dreams of being a simple country doctor were laid to rest.

He and his wife Birthe had five children and his family life and his faith were always his priority. When his beloved father was dying of lung cancer, he recognised more deeply the mystery of human suffering and the presence of Christ in all those who suffer.

In 1954, he was appointed a committee member of the French Genetics society and in 1957 was named an expert on the effects of atomic radiation on human genetics by the United Nations.

In 1959 he discovered the cause of Down syndrome and was also to diagnose the first case of Cri du Chat Syndrome. In 1962, he was awarded the prestigious Kennedy prize and, in 1965, he was appointed to the first Chair in Fundamental Genetics at the University of Paris. During this time, he helped thousands of parents to accept and love their children with Down syndrome.

Lejeune-quote
-quote of Dr. Jerome Lejeune, MD, in a letter to his wife after his acceptance speech in 1969 when he was given the William Allen Memorial Award, the highest distinction that could be granted to a Geneticist, in which he strenuously condemned abortion.

In 1991, he wrote a summary of his reflections on medical ethics for his fellow Catholics in seven brief points:

1. Christians, be not afraid. It is you who possess the truth. Not that you invented it but because you are the vehicle for it. To all doctors, you must repeat: “you must conquer the illness, not attack the patient.”
2. We are made in the image of God. For this reason alone all human beings must be respected.
3. Abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.
4. Objective morality exists. It is clear and it is universal – because it is Catholic.
5. The child is not disposable and marriage is indissoluble.
6. “You shall honour your father and mother.” Therefore, uniparental reproduction by any means is always wrong.
7. In so-called pluralistic societies, they shout it down our throats: “You Christians do not have the right to impose your morality on others.” Well, I tell you, not only do you have the right to try to incorporate your morality in the law but it is your democratic duty.

There is a famous story of an American physician who told Lejeune the following:

“My father was a Jewish physician in Braunau, Austria. One day only two babies were born at the local hospital. The parents of the healthy boy were proud and happy. The other was a girl (with Down syndrome) and her parents were sad.”

The physician ended the story by saying that the girl grew up to look after her mother despite her own disability. Her name is not known. The boy’s name was Adolph Hitler. Quite likely the story is apocryphal. However, it does express the truth that was central to Lejeune’s vocation: people with disabilities are certainly no less human than those without.

In 1993, Pope Saint John Paul II, his close friend, appointed Lejeune to be the first president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. That same year he was diagnosed with lung cancer and, by Good Friday of 1994, he was critically ill. “I have never betrayed my faith” he said. While reflecting on his patients, he was moved to tears and said: “I was supposed to have cured them…What will happen to them?”

A little later he was filled with joy. He said: “My children, if I can leave you with one message, this is the most important of all: We are in the hands of God. I have experienced this numbers of times.” He died the next day. Pope Saint John Paul II wrote of him: “We find ourselves today faced with the death of a great Christian of the twentieth century, a man for whom the defense of life had become an apostolate.” His cause for canonization has been postulated. Our bishops have recently agreed on three priorities for the Church, one of which is to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom by supporting integrity in public life, cohesion and mutual respect in society and serving the marginalized and the vulnerable. May this great servant of God, an apostle of the vulnerable, be an example to us all.

Prayer to Obtain Graces by God’s Servant’s Intercession

God, who created man in your image and intended him to share your glory, we thank you for having granted to your Church the gift of professor & doctor, Jerome Lejeune, MD, a distinguished Servant of Life. He knew how to place his immense intelligence and deep faith at the service of the defense of human life, especially unborn life, always seeking to treat and to cure.

A passionate witness to truth and charity, he knew how to reconcile faith and reason in the sight of today’s world. By his intercession, and according to Your will, we ask You to grant us the graces we implore, hoping that he will soon become one of your saints.

Amen.

Servant of God, Servant of Life!!!! Dr. Jerome Lejeune, MD, pray for us!!!!

Love,
Matthew

Jul 20 – St Apollinaris of Ravenna, (d. 79 AD), Bishop & Martyr

In Galatians 2:11-14, we read “And when Kephas (Peter) came to Antioch…”, where Paul rebuked him for treating Gentile converts as inferior to Jewish Christians.  

The Liber Pontificalis (9th century) mentions Peter as having served as bishop of Antioch (near modern day Antakya, Turkey, bordering northwestern Syria) for seven years and having potentially left his family in the Greek (culturally, due to the conquests of Alexander the Great) city before his journey to Rome. [Claims of direct blood lineage from Simon Peter among the old population of Antioch existed in the 1st century and continue to exist today, notably by certain Semaan families of modern-day Syria and Lebanon.]

Historians have furnished other evidence of Peter’s sojourn in Antioch.  Subsequent tradition held that Peter had been the first Patriarch (bishop) of Antioch, before departing for Rome to become Patriarch of Rome, and the first Pope, where he, like nearly all of the Apostles, except John, would suffer martyrdom.  Electii to the papacy have always had the words spoken to them after their election, “Tu es Petrus…”, as in “…you are Peter…” Mt 16:18.

In the first century AD, Apollinaris, tradition holds, accompanied Peter from Antioch to Rome.  Peter consecrated him a bishop and appointed him to proclaim the Gospel in the city of Ravenna, Italy.  Apollinaris, like the Apostles, dedicated his time to public preaching and soon won many converts to Christ.

The story goes Apollinaris’ first miracle was on behalf of the blind son of a soldier who gave him hospitality when he first arrived in the city of Ravenna. When the apostle told him of the God he had come to preach and invited him to abandon the cult of idols, the soldier replied: “Stranger, if the God you preach is as powerful as you say, beg Him to give sight to my son, and I will believe in Him.” The Saint had the child brought and made the sign of the cross on his eyes as he prayed. The miracle was instantaneous, to the great amazement of all, and news of it spread rapidly. A day or so later, a military tribune sent for him to cure his wife from a long illness, which again he did. The house of the tribune became a center of apostolic action, and several persons sent their children to the Saint to instruct them there. Little by little a flourishing Christian assembly was formed, and priests and deacons were ordained. The Saint lived in community with the two priests and two deacons.

Nobody likes competition.  The pagan priests grew angry.  They attacked Apollinaris, beat him senseless, and left him for dead on the beach. He was cared for by members of the small Christian community he had founded and recovered.

Apparently, Apollinaris was not one to take a hint, or be easily dissuaded.  A young girl whom he cured after having her father promise to allow her full liberty to follow Christ, consecrated her virginity to God.  It was after this he was arrested, interrogated, again flogged, stretched on the rack and plunged into boiling oil. Alive still, he was exiled to Illyria, east of the Adriatic Sea.

He remained three years in that country, having survived a shipwreck with only a few persons whom he converted. Then he evangelized the various districts, with the aid of his converts. When a pagan oracle ceased to speak during his sojourn in one of these regions, the pagans again beat him and threw him and his companions on a ship which took them back to Italy.  Soon imprisoned, he escaped but was seized again and subjected to another flogging.

A third time he returned to Ravenna. Again he was captured, hacked with knives, had scalding water poured over his wounds, was beaten in the mouth with stones because he persisted in preaching, and was flung into a horrible dungeon, loaded with chains, to starve to death.

He and his flock were again exiled from Ravenna during the persecutions of Emperor Vespasian.   A fourth time, he returned to Ravenna.  On his way out of the city he was identified, arrested, and martyred by being run through with a sword.

He died on July 23rd of the year 79. His body lay first at Classis, four miles from Ravenna, and a church was built over his tomb; later the relics were returned to Ravenna. Pope Honorius had a church built to honor the name of Apollinaris in Rome, about the year 630 AD.  Centuries after his death, he appeared in a vision to Saint Romuald.


Saint Apollinaris was Bishop of Ravenna for twenty-six years.

 
File:Saint Apollenaris.jpg
-From the apse of the frescoed basilica of St Apollinaris in Ravenna, Italy
 
-remains of St Apollinaris, Ravenna, Italy
 

Meditation:
Following Jesus involves risks—sometimes the supreme risk of life itself. Martyrs are people who would rather accept the risk of death than deny the cornerstone of their whole life: faith in Jesus Christ. Everyone will die eventually—the persecutors and those persecuted. The question is what kind of a conscience people will bring before the Lord for judgment. Remembering the witness of past and present martyrs can help us make the often-small sacrifices that following Jesus today may require.

Love,
Matthew

Jul 8 – St Gregory Grassi (1833-1900) & Companions, The Martyrs of Taiyuanfu

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While China’s growing economic prowess and assumption of American manufacturing jobs may weigh heavily on our minds today, China at the turn of 19th century into the 20th was writhing under foreign occupation.

Christian missionaries have often gotten caught in the crossfire of wars against their own countries. When the governments of Britain, Germany, Russia and France forced substantial territorial concessions from the Chinese in 1898, anti-foreign sentiment grew very strong among many Chinese people. Throughout China during the Boxer Uprising, five bishops, 50 priests, two brothers, 15 sisters and 40,000 Chinese Christians were killed.

Gregory Grassi was born in Italy in 1833, ordained in 1856 and sent to China five years later. Grassi was later ordained Bishop of North Shanxi. One of the principal promoters of the Boxer movement was the governor Yu Hsien who resided at Taiyuanfu, Shansi. In this city was also the residence of the Franciscan Bishop Gregory Grassi, vicar apostolic of northern Shansi, and his coadjutor, Bishop Francis Fogolla. Here were also a seminary and an orphanage. The latter was conducted by Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary who had arrived only the previous year.

During the night of July 5, Yu Hsien’s soldiers appeared at the Franciscan mission and arrested the two bishops, two fathers and a brother, and seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Five Chinese seminarians, and eight Chinese Christians who were employed at the mission were also apprehended. In prison they were joined by one more Chinese Christian who went there voluntarily.

Four days later, on July 9, 1900, all of them were taken before the tribunal of Yu Hsien, some of them being slashed with swords on the way. Yu Hsien ordered them to be killed on the spot, and an indescribable scene followed. The soldiers closed in on the prisoners, struck them at random with their swords, wounded them right and left, cut off their arms and legs and heads. Thus died the 26 martyrs of Taiyuanfu, of whom all except three belonged to the First Order and Third Order Regular and Secular of St. Francis. They were beatified on January 3, 1943 and elevated to sainthood by JPII on 1 Oct 2000.

A list of the Martyrs of Taiyuanfu follows:

  • Saint Gregory Grassi, bishop, who was 68 years old,
  • Saint Francis Fogolla, bishop,
  • Saint Elias Facchini, a priest from Italy,
  • Saint Theodoric Balat, a priest from France,
  • Saint Andrew Bauer, a lay brother from Alsace.

Seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, the protomartyrs (first martyrs) of their congregation and its first members to be beatified.  All were between the ages of 25 and 35:

  • Saint Mother Mary Hermine Givot from France, the superior,
  • Saint Mother Mary of Peace Giuliani from Italy,
  • Saint Mother Mary Clare Nanetti from Italy,
  • Saint Sister Mary of Ste. Natalie Kerguin from France,
  • Saint Sister Mary of St. Just Moreau from France,
  • Saint Sister Mary Amandine Jeuris from Belgium,
  • Saint Sister Mary Adolphine Dierkx from Holland.
  • Five Chinese seminarians, ages 16 through 22.
  • Nine laymen who had been employed at the episcopal residence and mission, ages 29 to 62.
  • Fourteen of the martyrs were natives of China and 12 were Europeans.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”  – Tertullian (160 – 220 AD)

Despite the evidence of this persecution and continued persecution, the 146,575 Catholics served by the Franciscans in China in 1906 would grow to 303,760 by 1924 and were served by 282 Franciscans and 174 local priests.

LocationJuly9Martyrdom_402w
-site of martyrdom

Gregory Grassi
-St Gregory Grassi

“O God, Who desires that all men be saved and come to the acknowledgement of Truth, grant, we beseech You, through the intercession of Your blessed martyrs Bishops Gregory, Francis, and Antonine (Fantosati, who was stoned to death separately), and their companions, that all nations may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent, our Lord. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Jul 18 – St Camillus de Lellis, M.I. (1550-1614)

It would seem Camillus was going in the wrong direction from the very beginning.  Born to lose?  God writes straight with crooked lines.
At age 65, Camillus’ mother had a dream her unborn son would wear a red cross on his chest and lead others who also wore that same symbol.  Saint Camillus de Lellis was born on May 25, 1550 in Bucchianico, Italy. His mother, Camilla, was almost sixty at the time. She and her husband, Giovanni, who was of noble ancestry, had waited in vain for an heir—their only other son had died in childbirth—so when the midwife delivered a healthy baby boy, Giovanni positively leapt for joy, capering about the room. Camilla, always the sensible one, simply smiled and told her excitable spouse to act his age. A good Italian, he only gamboled the more, asking her how she could be so calm “seeing that we have such a big son we could send him to school this very day!”  Camilla would die while Camillus was still a child, when he was twelve.
Camillus’ father was an officer in both the Neapolitan and French royal armies, and so by necessity was away from home quite a bit.  Passed from extended family member to extended family member, Camillus was allowed to do pretty much as he chose.  He became a rebellious teenager and fell in with the street gangs of his time.   It is reported that, as a young man, Camillus was quite the physical specimen (6’6”) and powerfully built, towering above all others – a trait that served him well in his not so gentile surroundings.   He developed a very quarrelsome disposition.
In what seems to have been a unique departure from family tradition, Camillus was named after his mother, but in every other way he took after his father, the hot-blooded career soldier. Camilla could do nothing to keep him in line, and Giovanni was too often away from home, on campaign, to do so.
The boy repeatedly ran away from school. A tutor was hired, but could not manage him. Card playing and gambling became his passion and, eventually, an addiction. He was intelligent—known for his exceptional ability to recite poems from memory—but undisciplined and reckless. Finally, at seventeen, he went off to fight against the Turks with two of his cousins. His father, even in his old age, could not resist coming along.
As it happened, both father and son got sick on the way. Giovanni became gravely ill, received the last sacraments, and died. Camillus was left destitute, and, possibly as a result of his illness, a sore broke out on his right foot. Festering, it never healed, and became a painful, lifelong affliction.
And so he began his unhappy journey home. On the way, he chanced to meet two Franciscan friars, and, wondering at their apparent serenity and good cheer, he secretly, and perhaps rashly, vowed to become a friar himself. Going to see his uncle, who was superior of a Franciscan house in Aquila, he sought admittance to the community. The wise old man encouraged him, but said he was not yet ready to enter religious life.
After a period of convalescence at the hospital of San Giacomo in Rome, where he was eventually hired as a servant and then fired for constant quarrelling and gambling, Camillus went back to war and fought in the bitter assault on the Turkish fortress of Barbagno (on the coast of modern-day Montenegro). Returning with his pay, he immediately gambled it away, along with his cloak. So he went back to war. On a sea voyage to Naples, a storm almost took his life. This inspired him to renew his vow to become a Franciscan, but, having arrived at Naples, he once again gambled everything away, including the very shirt on his back. Reduced to utter poverty, he wandered about with a fellow soldier, Tiberio, and begged for food.
It was in this sorry state that he caught the attention of a certain Antonio di Nicastro, who offered him a job working for the Capuchins. At first, Camillus declined, perhaps because the prospect of doing manual labor was too much for his pride. Eventually, however, he reconsidered the offer, thinking this might be God’s way of allowing him to make good on his vow. But after several weeks on the job, he was so desperate to get back to his old life that he refused to wear some of the friars’ serge, offered as protection against the cold, because it was too much like donning the habit.
Maybe this was protesting too much, because very soon afterward the decisive moment came.
The Capuchins sent Camillus to fetch wine from a nearby friary. The superior there took him aside and, beneath a grape arbor, spoke to him about God and sin. He exhorted him, when tempted by evil thoughts, to “spit in the face of the devil.” Perhaps this roused the soldier’s combative spirit; certainly, the conversation roused his conscience. The next day, riding back on a mule with his cargo of wine, he could stand it no longer. He flung himself to the road and wept freely for all his sins.  Camillus later joined that same monastery; however, due to the recurring problems with his ulcerated leg, Camillus was forced to take leaves of absence and was finally dismissed.
Camillus returned home. He was never cured.  He moved into San Giacomo Hospital for the incurable, and eventually became its administrator. Repulsed by the slack, uncaring character of the attendants he encountered at San Giacomo, he sought to reform the hospital’s staff by finding people of character wishing to serve in charity. This was met with much resistance, but he also resolved with the help of his confessor, St. Phillip Neri, to receive Holy Orders, in order to more completely help the sick. Lacking education, Camillus began to study for the priesthood with children when he was 32 years old.
At thirty-two, he was as old as some of his teachers, and, at six-and-a-half feet tall, he towered over nearly all his contemporaries, especially the thirteen-year-old boys with whom he attended Latin class. They would laugh at their gigantic, bearded classmate and say, Venisti tarde! “You’ve come late!” Of course, if they had known their friend had once been a battle-hardened soldier with a violent temper, they might have spoken more respectfully. As it was, they just got an affectionate smile. Camillus devoted the rest of his life to helping the sick and was ordained in 1584.
The origin of the Red Cross symbol we are so familiar with today is the symbol in his mother’s dreams. It became the symbol for the Order of Ministers of the Sick (Fathers of a Good Death) which was founded by Saint Camillus in 1586.
The next twenty years would see great expansion of the Congregation, with 15 houses of priests and brothers, and also 8 hospitals being erected. Two major houses were established, and he oversaw the Congregation’s involvement in helping the sick on quarantined galleys in the harbor of Naples, from which several of his religious brothers died, becoming the first martyrs of charity.  Also accomplished was involvement in the wars in Croatia and Hungary, giving rise to the first military field ambulance. In 1591 Gregory XIV at last promoted the Congregation to an Order.
Camillus saw in the sick and the infirm the living image of Christ, and hoped the service he rendered them later in his life would be penance for his youthful waywardness.  During his final years, Camillus suffered from many other painful ailments, including a rupture, renal colic and stomach cramps.
St Camillus de Lellis is the patron of the sick, of hospitals, and of nurses.
“Let me begin with holy charity. It is the root of all the virtues and Camillus’ most characteristic trai
t. I can attest that he was on fire with this holy virtue – not only toward God, but also toward his fellow men, and especially toward the sick. The mere sight of the sick was enough to soften and melt his heart and make him utterly forget all the pleasures, enticements, and interests of this world.
When he was taking care of the sick, he seemed to spend and exhaust himself completely, so great was his devotion and compassion. He would have loved to take upon himself all their illness, their every affliction, could he but ease their pain and relieve their weakness. In the sick he saw the person of Christ. His reverence in their presence was as a great as if he were really and truly in the presence of his Lord.
To enkindle the enthusiasm of his religious brothers for this all-important virtue, he used to impress upon them the consoling words of Jesus Christ: “I was sick and you visited me.” He seemed to have these words truly graven on his heart, so often did he say them over and over again.
Great and all-embracing was Camillus’ charity. Not only the sick and dying, but every other needy or suffering human being found shelter in his deep and kind concern.” – from a biography of Saint Camillus by a contemporary
 

-St. Camillus de Lellis, St. Peter’s Basilica. (The book in St. Camillus’s right hand displays John 15:13: “No man has greater love than this, that he lay down his life of his friends.” It’s a fitting verse since, from the time of their founding, the Camillians have taken a fourth vow: to minister to the sick even at risk to their own lives. Indeed, during St. Camillus’s own lifetime, several of his followers died as a direct result of caring for victims of the Plague. The distinctive red cross on their habit, along with their history of caring for those afflicted by war and natural disasters, has led some to call the Camillians “the original Red Cross.”)
 

-the heart of St Camillus de Lellis
 
Love, 
Matthew

Jul 10 – St Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727)

Veronica’s desire to be like Christ crucified was answered with the stigmata.  Baptized Ursula, she was born in Mercatello in the Duchy of Urbino, Italy, in 1660.  

We would think it sentimental today, but Veronica’s mother, as she lay dying while Veronica was still a child, would have understood it more practically, wanted divine protection for her five children after she was gone.  When dying Benedetta (nee Mancini) Guiliani, Veronica’s mother, she called her five daughters to her bedside and entrusted each of them to one of the five wounds of Jesus. Ursula (Veronica) was entrusted through prayer to the wound below Christ’s heart, created by the Roman soldier testing to see whether the Lord was actually dead yet, from which blood and water flowed.

It is said Ursula showed marvelous signs of sanctity from an early age.  It is recorded when eighteen months old, Ursula chastised a shopkeeper who was serving a false measure of oil, and said, saying distinctly, “Do justice, God sees you!”

Ursula took the religious name Veronica.  (A religious name is a new name those who enter consecrated/religious life often take to signify and symbolize their death, poetically and spiritually, to their former life and now the beginning of their new life dedicated to serving God.)  Ursula took the name Veronica, in honor of the Passion and the woman whom tradition (although not Scripture) holds wiped the face of Jesus as he carried His cross, and an image of the Lord’s face was left on her cloth.  Ursula entered the Poor Clares directed by the Capuchins at Citttidi Castello, Umbria, in 1677. She remained there for the rest of her life and served as novice mistress for thirty-four years.

Her father, Francesco, an official in the local government, had wanted her to marry, but she convinced him to allow her to become a nun. In her first years in the monastery, Veronica worked in the kitchen, infirmary, sacristy and served as portress. At the age of 34, she was made novice mistress, a position she held for 22 years. When she was 37, Veronica received the stigmata, literally, mystically – the wounds of Christ Himself – considered by Catholics a great honor and a sign of personal sanctity given by the Lord Himself to only a very few with whom He has a special relationship. Life was not the same after that.

In our modern times, Padre Pio (1887-1968) and Theresa Neumann (1898-1962) are two examples regularly inspected by modern doctors and theologians.  St Francis of Assisi is another historical example.   Dr. Imbert Gourbeyre, a Paris doctor, researched and compiled a two volume work which says that (up to that date of 1894) there were 321 historically recorded stigmatists. (Stigmata is no fluke or aberration of history.) The Catholic church had at that point only canonized (officially declared as saints) 62 of them.

As a mystic, recipient of a stigmata in 1697, and visions, the accounts of which are quite detailed, Church authorities in Rome wanted to test Veronica’s authenticity and so conducted an investigation.  We get the expression “devil’s advocate” from such investigations of the Church and the proceedings of canonizations.  A skilled and knowledgeable Church official is appointed to be the “prosecutor” in opposition to the claimant or representative (postulator of the cause) of the deceased holy person reputed to have direct Divine experience or heroic Christian virtue. Veronica lost the office of novice mistress temporarily and was not allowed to attend Mass except on Sundays or holy days. She submitted to many medical examinations and treatments of the day and the scorn of her peers.  She never tried to prove the reality of the wounds, merely suffering through their pain.

Through all of this Veronica did not become bitter, and the investigation eventually restored her as novice mistress. She impressed her fellow nuns by remaining remarkably practical despite her numerous ecstatic experiences. Veronica was named abbess of the convent in 1716, remaining in that role until her death.

She is called one of the most extraordinary mystics of her era. Veronica was very devoted to the Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart.   Her ten volume “Diary of the Passion” catalogues her mystical experiences.

St Veronica Giuliani is one of the “Incorruptibles”, those saints who have died but whose bodies have not decayed.

 
 
Love,
Matthew

Jul 13 – St Clelia Barbieri (1847-1870), Patroness of those ridiculed for their piety


Clelia Barbieri was born to Giacinta Nannetti and Giuseppe Barbieri, on February 13th, 1847 in a village called “Budrie” of San Giovanni in Persiceto, in the outskirts of Bologna, Italy.

Her parents were of very different origins: Giuseppe Barbieri came from perhaps the poorest family of “Budrie”, while Giacinta from the most important family in town. Giuseppe worked as servant for Giacinta’s uncle, the district’s medical doctor, while she was the daughter of the well-to-do Pietro Nannetti.

After their much-contested wedding, the wealthy Giacinta accepted the poverty of a laborer’s life and moved from a comfortable home to the humble cottage of her father-in-law. Giacinta taught Clelia to love God early in her life placing in her heart the desire for sanctity. One day Clelia asked her, “Mother, how can I become a saint?”

In 1855, during a cholera epidemic, the then eight-year-old Clelia lost her father and through the generosity of her uncle, the doctor, she, her mother and younger sister Ernestina moved into a more comfortable house near the parish church.

At an early age, Clelia began to spend her time in contemplative prayer.  There existed in the Church at that time a group called “The Christian Catechism Workers” who were mainly men whose aim it was to combat the prevalent religious negligence of the times.

Clelia joined the The Workers of Christian Catechism as an assistant teacher at the age of 14. She became such an inspirational leader in the community that the parish priest, Don Gaetano Guido, entrusted her with teaching and guiding young girls in Christian doctrine. By the time she was 17, she rejected marriage offers, opting instead to lead a pious life.

Clelia eventually founded a separate group, the Suore Minime dell’Addolorata (Congregation of Minims of the Sorrowful Mother) May 1st, 1868 when she was only 21. The Congregation concentrates on ministering in hospitals and elementary schools, to the sick, the aged, the lonely, and a prayer ministry for the poor.

Two years after founding the order, Clelia Barieiri died of tuberculosis on July 13th, 1870.

The religious order of Suore Minime dell’Addolorata continues to operate 35 community houses in Italy, India and Tanzania.

Being only twenty-three at the time of her death, Clelia Barbieri is the youngest founder of a religious community in the history of the Church.


After Clelia’s death, an unusual and unexplained occurrence has often been reported in the various parishes she visited and houses in which her order is located. Her voice is often heard in readings and hymns. The voice never speaks alone but is always heard as part of a group. Throughout the years, people from various backgrounds have reported hearing the voice which is described as “unlike any of this earth”. The first reported occurrence happened one year after her death when sisters of her order were in evening prayer.


 
 

Prayer for the intercession of St Clelia Barbieri

Father, in Clelia Barbieri, You give the world an example of Gospel living, love of You, and the perfection of charity.

She celebrated and manifested her love of You in the service of others.  You call us to imitate her and to follow her example.

We ask You for the grace to do so, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns forever and ever.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jun 1 – St Justin Martyr, (100-165 AD)

Justin_Trial1

All the voices around Justin clamored that they had the truth he sought so desperately. He had listened to them all since he first came to Rome to get his education. They each shouted that they held the one and only answer but he felt no closer to the truth than when he had started his studies. He had left the Stoic master behind but the Stoics valued discipline as truth and thought discussion of God unnecessary. He had rejected the Peripatetic who seemed more interested in money than discussion. The Pythagorean had rejected him because he didn’t know enough music and geometry — the things that would lead him to truth. He had found some joy with the Platonists because the contemplation of ideas gave wings to his mind, but they had promised wisdom would let him see God and so, where was God?

There was one place that Justin always escaped to in order to get away from these shouting, confusing voices and search out the quiet inner voice that led him to truth. This place was a lonely spot, a path that seemed made for him alone in a field by the sea. So sure was he of the isolation of his retreat that he was shocked one day to find an old man following him.

The old man was not searching for truth but for some of his family. Nonetheless they began a discussion in which Justin identified himself as a philologian, a lover of reason. The old man challenged him — why was he not a lover of truth, a lover of deeds. Justin told him that reason led to truth, and philosophy led to happiness. This was certainly an interesting thing for Justin to say since he had not found the truth in the study of reason or happiness in his quest among the philosophers! Perhaps the old man sensed this for he asked for Justin’s definition of philosophy and of happiness.

In the long discussion that followed, Justin spoke eloquently to the old man’s searching questions but even Justin had to admit that philosophers may talk about God but had never seen him, may discuss the soul but didn’t really know it. But if the philosophers whom Justin admired and followed couldn’t, then nobody could, right?

The old man told him about the ancient prophets, the Hebrew prophets, who had talked not of ideas but of what they had seen and heard, what they knew and experienced. And this was God. The old man ended the conversation by telling Justin to pray that the gates of light be opened to him.

Inflamed by this conversation, Justin sought out the Scriptures and came to love them. Christ words “possess a terrible power in themselves, and are sufficient to inspire those who turn aside from the path of rectitude with awe; while the sweetest rest is afforded those who make a diligent practice of them.”

Why hadn’t Justin known about Christianity before with as much as he had studied? He had heard about it, the way other pagans of second century Rome had, by the rumors and accusations that surrounded the persecution of Christians. The fearlessness of their actions made him doubt the gossip, but he had nothing else to go by. Christians at that time kept their beliefs secret. They were so afraid that outsiders would trample on their sacred faith and desecrate their mysteries that they wouldn’t tell anyone about their beliefs — even to counteract outright lies. To be honest, there was good reason for their fears — many actors for example performed obscene parodies of Christian ritual for pagan audiences, for example.

But Justin believed differently. He had been one of those outsiders — not someone looking for trouble, but someone earnestly searching for the truth. The truth had been hidden from him by this fear of theirs. And he believed there were many others like him. He exhorted them that Christians had an obligation to speak of their faith, to witness to others about their faith and their mysteries.

Justin never ended his quest for religious truth even when he converted to Christianity at the age of thirty after years of studying various pagan philosophies.

As a young man, he was principally attracted to the school of Plato. However, he found that the Christian religion answered the great questions about life and existence better than the philosophers.

Upon his conversion he continued to wear the philosopher’s mantle, and became the first Christian philosopher. He combined the Christian religion with the best elements in Greek philosophy. In his view, philosophy was a pedagogue of Christ, an educator that was to lead one to Christ.

Justin is known as an apologist, not someone who apologizes, but rather someone who defends in writing the Christian religion against the attacks and misunderstandings of the pagans. Two of his so-called apologies have come down to us; they are addressed to the Roman emperor and to the Senate.  He also opened a school of debate in Rome.  Naturally, he came to the attention of the Roman authorities.

Justin was arrested during the persecution of Emperor Marcus Aurelius along with four other Christians:  Chariton, Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus.

“The saints were seized and brought before the prefect of Rome, whose name was Rusticus. As they stood before the judgment seat, Rusticus the prefect commanded Justin, “Above all, have faith in the gods and obey the emperors.”

Justin replied, “We cannot be accused or condemned for obeying the commands of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Rusticus said, “What system of teaching do you profess?”

Justin said, “I have tried to learn about every system, but I have accepted the true doctrines of the Christians, though these are not approved by those who are held fast by error.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “Are those doctrines approved by you, wretch that you are?”

Justin said, “Yes, for I follow them with their correct teaching.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “What sort of teaching is that?”

Justin said, “Worship the God of the Christians. We hold him to be from the beginning the one creator and maker of the whole creation, of things seen and things unseen. We worship also the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Rusticus said, “You are a Christian, then?”

Justin said, “Yes, I am a Christian.”

The prefect said to Justin, “You are called a learned man and think you know what is true teaching. Listen: if you were scourged and beheaded, are you convinced that you would go up to heaven?”

Justin said, “I hope that I shall enter God’s house if I suffer in that way. For I know that God’s favor is stored up until the end of the whole world for all who have lived good lives.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “Do you have an idea that you will go up to heaven to receive some suitable rewards?”

Justin said, “It is not an idea that I have; it is something I know well and hold to be most certain.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “Now let us come to the point at issue, which is necessary and urgent. Gather round then and with one accord offer sacrifice to the gods.”

Justin said, “No one who is right-thinking stoops from true worship to false worship.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “If you do not do as you are commanded you will be tortured without mercy.”

Justin said, “We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved.” In the same way the other martyrs also said, “Do what you will. We are Christians; we do not offer sacrifice to idols.”

The prefect Rusticus pronounced sentence, saying, “Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to obey the command of the emperor be scourged and led away to suffer capital punishment according to the ruling of the laws.” Glorifying God, the holy martyrs were beheaded, and so fulfilled their witness of martyrdom in confessing their faith in their Savior.” – from the Acts of the Martyrdom of Saint Justin and his Companions

“We pray for our enemies; we seek to persuade those who hate us without cause to live conformably to the goodly precepts of Christ, that they may become partakers with us of the joyful hope of blessings from God, the Lord of all.”
―St. Justin Martyr

“By examining the tongue of a patient, physicians find out the diseases of the body, and philosophers the diseases of the mind.”
―St. Justin Martyr

“Wherein is it possible for us, wicked and impious creatures, to be justified, except in the only Son of God? O sweet reconciliation! O untraceable ministry! O unlooked-for blessing! that the wickedness of many should be hidden in one godly and righteous man, and the righteousness of one justify a host of sinners!”
―St. Justin Martyr

“No one in his right mind gives up piety for impiety.”
~ Justin Martyr, apologist, Saint; in answer to the Prefect Rusticus who had demanded sacrifice to the Roman gods; from the trial transcript by Tatian (A.D. 165).

Prayer to St Justin Martyr:
Saint Justin Martyr, pray that in our search for the Truth, God will open the gates of light for us the way He did for you and give us the wisdom no human being can give. Amen

Love,
Matthew

Jun 16 – St John Francis Regis, SJ (1597-1640)

st.-john-francis-regis

John Francis Regis was born in Fontcouverte, Aude, Languedoc, France, January 31, 1597.  It is reported that upon hearing instruction from his mother on the punishments of hell and the peril of damnation, the five year old John Francis fainted.

Being the son of a wealthy French merchant, he was educated at the Jesuit college at Beziers, and at Cahors, Le Puy, Auch, and Tournon.  Descartes was a contemporary of John’s, and was similarly being educated by the Jesuits in one of their other fifty or so colleges in France at the same time.  John joined the Jesuits at age 18, after briefly considering a conversion to Buddhism.  He is best known for his ability as a preacher.  He was such a good catechist, the children whom he taught brought their parents back to the Church.

He began his life’s work tending to plague victims.  He labored for the conversion of the Huguenots – French Calvinists.  He visited hospitals, sought material assistance for the poor, he created housing and employment as lace-makers for prostitutes wishing to reform their lives.  He endured many hardships.

As we all know, “no good deed goes unpunished”, and so it was with John Francis.  At one point there was a movement against him by some of his fellow Jesuits, who felt his zealous “signs of simplicity and indiscretion (in his charity)” did not best showcase their order nor follow its teachings. The bishop of the diocese where Regis was giving missions resulting in many conversions, however, recognized there was more jealousy than theology in the complaint, and ignored it. Regis asked for transfer to Canada where he could preach without worries about the politics of the Order, but he was ordered to continue his good works in the French countryside.

Another famous French saint, St John Vianney, Cure’ d’Ars & renowned confessor, Patron Saint of Priests, at the age of twenty, went on pilgrimage to the shrine and remains of St John Francis Regis in 1806.  It was the firm belief of this latter saint all his life that his vocation to the priesthood was due to the intercession of St John Francis Regis.

Knowing the end was near in late December, 1640, John Francis’ last words were, “Into Thy hands, I commend my spirit.”

0106_CathedralPaintings2

The portrait of St. John Francis Regis depicts him preaching to the French peasantry. The painting is full of symbolism, including the wampum belt, a tribal record treasured by the Iroquois. St. Regis wanted to preach and minister to the Indians and bring them to Catholicism.

Despite the fact that he never left France, Canadian Catholic Mohawk Indians, members of one of the original Five Nations of the Iroquois, founded a settlement in New York 1755 and named it St. Regis. The settlement, which straddles the St. Lawrence River, the international border between Canada and the United States, later became the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation.

800px-Le_Puy-en-Velay_autel_et_statue_St.Jean-François_Régis_église_Notre-Dame_du_Collège

Le Puy-en-Velay, altar and statue of St.Jean-François Régis, Notre-Dame du Collège Church. -Altar of St John Francis Regis

Prayer

St John Francis
You felt a burning love
You could not, nor desired to ignore
Rather you left all things
When you heard the words, “Follow Me!”

You led others
To the One you followed,
Help us to follow
The same Master
All our days.

Amen.

When St John Francis was struck in the face by a sinner whom he was reproving, he replied, “If you only knew me, you would give me much more than that.”

Love,
Matthew