St. William of York

St. William of York, pray for us

St. William of York, pray for us

William Fitzherbert was born in England in the twelfth century. He was the nephew of King Stephen. As a young man, William was rather easy-going and even a bit lazy. He seems to have given the impression to some that he was not very serious about taking responsibility in life. However, William was very popular with the people of his city of York.

Years later, when the archbishop of York died, William was chosen to take his place. In those times, princes used to interfere in the election of the bishops. This is why many priests did not think William had been properly chosen. It was his uncle, the king, who had appointed him. Even the great St. Bernard persuaded the pope to make someone else archbishop of York. William was asked to step aside because they felt his appointment was not valid. He left his bishop’s house feeling hurt and humiliated. He went to live with another uncle, a bishop. It seems that William became a much more spiritual person. He would not accept any of the comforts his uncle offered him. He prayed and performed penances. He began to show how much he cared about his faith and about the Church.

The people of York were angry at what had happened to their archbishop. They could not understand how something like this could take place. There were street fights between those who wanted William and those who did not. Six years passed. William lived a quiet life of prayer in the home of his uncle, the bishop. He asked the Lord for peace for his archdiocese. It did not matter any more if he had been treated unjustly. What mattered was that his people be taken care of.

Finally, his prayers were answered. When the other archbishop died, the pope sent William back to York. He arrived in May, 1154. The people were very happy. But William was an old man by this time, and about a month later, he died. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Honorius III in 1227.

Reflection

Hurts sometimes make us strong and perceptive about things that could happen. But how can we move on with our lives and not waste time thinking about them who cause our hurts? We can turn to Jesus and ask Him to free us from things that block us from living our life to the full.

Prayer

St. William, you were chosen by God to be Archbishop of York, but were unjustly accused of simony.  You’re election was opposed by many in favor of another.  Even through all this, you never took your eyes off of Christ and his will for you.  You devoted yourself to a life of prayer and mortification.  After many years, you were finally restored to the See that was rightfully yours.  Instead of reserving spite, you showed the utmost amount of forgiveness and love for those who had before been in opposition to your election.  Please help us to follow your example of perseverance and forgiveness so that we may forgive our transgressors and always persevere in the Lord’s will. Amen.

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St. Norbert

St. Norbert, pray for us

St. Norbert, pray for us

In the twelfth century in the French region of Premontre, St. Norbert founded a religious Order known as the Praemonstratensians or the Norbertines. His founding of the Order was a monumental task: combating rampant heresies (particularly regarding the Blessed Sacrament), revitalizing many of the faithful who had grown indifferent and dissolute, plus effecting peace and reconciliation among enemies.

Norbert entertained no pretensions about his own ability to accomplish this multiple task. Even with the aid of a goodly number of men who joined his Order, he realized that nothing could be effectively done without God’s power. Finding this help especially in devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, he and his Norbertines praised God for success in converting heretics, reconciling numerous enemies and rebuilding faith in indifferent believers. Many of them lived in central houses during the week and served in parishes on weekends.

Reluctantly, Norbert became archbishop of Magdeburg in central Germany, a territory half pagan and half Christian. In this position he zealously and courageously continued his work for the Church until his death on June 6, 1134.

Reflection

On the occasion of his ordination to the priesthood, Norbert said, “O Priest! You are not yourself because you are God. You are not of yourself because you are the servant and minister of Christ. You are not your own because you are the spouse of the Church. You are not yourself because you are the mediator between God and man. You are not from yourself because you are nothing. What then are you? Nothing and everything. O Priest! Take care lest what was said to Christ on the cross be said to you: ‘He saved others, himself he cannot save!’”

Prayer

Father,
you made the bishop Norbert
an outstanding minister of your Church,
renowned for his preaching and pastoral zeal.
Always grant to your Church faithful shepherds
to lead your people to eternal salvation.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

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St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs

St. Charles Lwanga and Companion, martyrs, pray for us!

St. Charles Lwanga and Companion, martyrs, pray for us!

Christianity was still quite new to Uganda, Africa, when a Catholic mission was started in 1879. The priests were members of the Missionaries of Africa. Because of their white religious habit, they became popularly known as the “White Fathers.” King Mwanga did not know what Christianity was all about. But he became angry when a Catholic, Joseph Mkasa, corrected him for the way he was living. The king had murdered a group of Christians and their Anglican bishop. The king was also involved in homosexual activity. He was especially interested in his court pages. King Mwanga’s anger turned into resentment and hatred for Joseph Mkasa and his religion. A few of the king’s ambitious officers fueled his fears with lies. Joseph Mkasa was beheaded on November 18, 1885. The persecution had begun. Before it was over, a hundred people died. Twenty-two of them would be declared saints.

With the death of Joseph Mkasa, Charles Lwanga became the chief religion teacher of the king’s Catholic pages. On May 26, 1886, the king found out that some of his pages were Catholic. He called in Denis Sebuggwawo. He asked Denis if he had been teaching religion to another page. Denis said yes. The king grabbed his spear and flung it violently through the young man’s throat. Then the king shouted that no one was permitted to leave his headquarters. War drums beat throughout the night. In a hidden room, Charles Lwanga secretly baptized four pages. One was St. Kizito, a cheerful, generous thirteen-year-old. He was the youngest of the group. St. Charles Lwanga had often protected Kizito from the king’s lust.

Most of the twenty-two Uganda martyrs who have been proclaimed saints were killed on June 3, 1886. They were forced to walk thirty-seven miles to the execution site. After a few days in prison, they were thrown into a huge fire. Seventeen of the martyrs were royal pages. One of the martyred boys was St. Mbaga. His own father was the executioner that day. Another of the martyrs, St. Andrew Kagwa, died on January 27, 1887. He was among the twenty-two proclaimed saints in 1964 by Pope Paul VI.

REFLECTION:

May we be “steadfast in faith and love” in the face of difficult situations in our lives. May our witness be able to bring many people to God.

PRAYER:

“O God, who have made the blood of Martyrs the seed of Christians,
mercifully grant that the field which is your Church, watered by the blood shed by Saint Charles Lwanga and his companions, may be fertile and always yield you an abundant harvest. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.” Amen.

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St. Philip Neri

St. Philip Neri, pray for us.

St. Philip Neri, pray for us.

At an early age, Philip Neri abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate.

As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome.

At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way.

Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services.

The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.)

Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.

Reflection:

“My children, if you desire perseverance, be devout to our Blessed Lady.”

Prayer

O glorious St. Philip, who were so favored by God with the gift of consoling and assisting thy spiritual children at the hour of death, be also my advocate and father when I shall find myself at that dreadful moment. Obtain for me that at that hour the devil may not conquer me, nor temptation overcome me, nor fear itself revile me; but that, strengthened by a lively faith, a fervent hope and, a sincere charity, I may sustain with patience and perseverance that supreme struggle, and that, full of confidence in the mercy of the Lord, and in the infinite merits of Jesus Christ and the protection of the Most Blessed Mary, I may deserve to die the death of the just, and be united with thee and all the saints in the blessed home of Paradise, to praise and enjoy the Lord forever. Amen.

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St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest

sienaSt. Bernardine of Siena was born in 1380 in a town near Siena, Italy. He was the son of an Italian governor. His parents died when he was seven. His relatives loved him as if he were their own. They also gave him a good education. He grew up to be a tall, handsome boy. He was so much fun that his friends loved to be with him. Yet they knew better than to use any dirty words when he was around. He would not put up with it. Twice when a man tried to lead him into sin, Bernardine punched him and sent him on his way.

The saint had a special love for the Blessed Mother. She was the one who kept him pure. Even when he was a teenager, Bernardine would pray to her as a child talks with his mother.

Bernardine was tender hearted. He felt great pity for the poor. Once, his aunt had no extra food to give a beggar. The boy cried, “I’d rather go without food myself than leave that poor man with none.” When a plague struck the area in 1400, Bernardine and his friends volunteered their services at the hospital. They helped the sick and dying day and night for six weeks until the plague had ended.

Bernardine joined the Franciscan order when he was twenty-two. He became a priest. After several years, he was assigned to go to towns and cities to preach. The people needed to be reminded about the love of Jesus. In those days, bad habits were ruining both young and old people. “How can I save these people by myself?” Bernardine asked the Lord in prayer. “With what weapons can I fight the devil?” And God answered, “My Holy Name will be enough for you.” So Bernardine spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. He used this Name a great many times in every sermon. He asked people to print Jesus’ Name over the gates of their cities, over their doorways-everywhere. Through devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus and devotion to the Blessed Mother, Bernardine brought thousands of people from all over Italy back to the Church.

St. Bernardine spent forty-two years of his life as a Franciscan. He died at the age of sixty-four in Aquila, Italy. It was May 20, 1444. He was declared a saint just six years later, in 1450, by Pope Nicholas V.

Reflection:

 “If you speak of God, speak with love. If you speak of yourself, speak with love. Take care that there is nothing in you but love, love, love.”-St. Bernadine of Siena

Prayer:

O God, who gave the Priest Saint Bernardine of Siena a great love for the holy Name of Jesus, grant through his merits and prayers, that we may ever be set aflame with the spirit of your love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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Blessed Nicholas Albergati, Bishop

Blessed Nicholas Albergati, pray for us!

Blessed Nicholas Albergati, pray for us!

Blessed Nicholas was born in Bologna, Italy. Nicholas’ family could afford to send him to the university where he began to study law. But then after a few years, he decided not to become a lawyer. At the age of twenty, Nicholas joined the Carthusian order. In 1417, this Carthusian monk was chosen to be bishop of his native diocese. He had not counted on that at all. He could not even believe it could be God’s will. But his superiors assured him it was.

People liked Bishop Nicholas. He lived in a small, plain house. He was like them. He began to visit the people of his diocese. He went to the poorest families first. He talked with them and helped them with their needs. He blessed their homes. The people were very grateful.

Bishop Nicholas became a cardinal in 1426. He was known to be wise and spiritual. Two popes, Martin V and Eugene IV, consulted him about important Church matters. Blessed Nicholas also encouraged learning. In fact, he wrote several books himself.

He died while on a visit to Siena, Italy. Pope Eugene IV had his body brought back to Bologna. The pope himself participated in the funeral Mass and burial.

Blessed Nicholas died in 1443.

REFLECTION:

Perhaps today we are invited to reflect deeply on how God wants us to live our life. Are we living a God-centered life? If so, we are praising and giving glory to God.

PRAYER:

Lord God, you counted Blessed Nicholas Albergati among your holy pastors,
renowned for faith and love which conquered evil in this world.
By the help of his prayers keep us strong in faith and love
and let us come to share his glory. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

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St. Philip and St. James, Apostles and Martyrs

Saints James and Philip, pray for us!

Saints James and Philip, pray for us!

Both of these saints were part of the original group of Jesus’ twelve apostles. Philip was one of the first apostles chosen. He was born at Bethsaida, in Galilee. Our Lord found him and said, “Follow me.” Philip was so happy to be with Jesus. He wanted to share his happiness with his friend, Nathaniel. “We have found the one Moses and the prophets wrote about,” Philip explained. “He is Jesus of Nazareth.”

Nathaniel was not at all excited. Nazareth was just a little village. It was not big and important like Jerusalem. So Nathaniel said, “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” But Philip did not become angry at his friend’s answer. He just said, “Come and see.” Nathaniel went to see Jesus. After he had spoken with him, he, too, became a zealous follower of the Lord.

St. James was also one of Jesus’ twelve apostles. He was the son of Alpheus and a cousin of Our Lord. After Jesus ascended into heaven, James became the bishop of Jerusalem. People thought so much of him that they called him “James the Just,” which means “James the Holy One.” He is also called “James the Less,” because he was younger than the other apostle named James. The other James was called “James the Greater” because he was older.

The saint of today’s feast was very gentle and forgiving. He prayed very much. He kept begging God to forgive the people who persecuted the followers of Jesus. Even when Our Lord’s enemies were putting him to death, he asked God to pardon them. St. James died a martyr in the year 62.

REFLECTION:

What would it be like to be an apostle today? Would I share the Good News of what faith in Jesus has done for me?

PRAYER:

O God, who gladden us each year with the feast day of the Apostles Philip and James, grant us, through their prayers, a share in the Passion and Resurrection of your Only Begotten Son, so that we may merit to behold you for eternity. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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