St. Isidore of Seville, Bishop and Doctor

St-Isidore-Prayer2 (1)St. Isidore was literally born into a family of saints in sixth century Spain. Two of his brothers, St. Leander and St. Fulgentius, and one of his sisters, St.Florentina, are revered as saints in Spain. It was also a family of leaders and strong minds with Sts. Leander and Fulgentius serving as bishops and St. Florentina as abbess.

This didn’t make life easier for St. Isidore. To the contrary, St. Leander may have been holy in many ways, but his treatment of his little brother shocked many even at the time. St. Leander, who was much older than St.Isidore, took over St. Isidore’s education and his pedagogical theory involved force and punishment. We know from St. Isidore’s later accomplishments that he was intelligent and hard-working so it is hard to understand why St. Leander thought abuse would work instead of patience.

One day, the young boy couldn’t take any more. Frustrated by his inability to learn as fast as his brother wanted and hurt by his brother’s treatment, Isidore ran away. But though he could escape his brother’s hand and words, he couldn’t escape his own feeling of failure and rejection. When he finally let the outside world catch his attention, he noticed water dripping on the rock near where he sat. The drops of water that fell repeatedly carried no force and seemed to have no effect on the solid stone. And yet he saw that over time, the water drops had worn holes in the rock.

St. Isidore realized that if he kept working at his studies, his seemingly small efforts would eventually pay off in great learning. He also may have hoped that his efforts would also wear down the rock of his brother’s heart.

When he returned home, however, his brother in exasperation confined him to a cell (probably in a monastery) to complete his studies, not believing that he wouldn’t run away again.

Either there must have been a loving side to this relationship or St. Isidore was remarkably forgiving even for a saint, because later he would work side by side with his brother and after St. Leander’s death, St. Isidore would complete many of the projects he began including a missal and breviary.

In a time where it’s fashionable to blame the past for our present and future problems, Isidore was able to separate the abusive way he was taught from the joy of learning. He didn’t run from learning after he left his brother but embraced education and made it his life’s work. Isidore rose above his past to become known as the greatest teacher in Spain.

His love of learning made him promote the establishment of a seminary in every diocese of Spain. He didn’t limit his own studies and didn’t want others to as well. In a unique move, he made sure that all branches of knowledge including the arts and medicine were taught in the seminaries.

His encyclopedia of knowledge, the Etymologies, was a popular textbook for nine centuries. He also wrote books on grammar, astronomy, geography, history, and biography as well as theology. When the Arabs brought study of Aristotle back to Europe, this was nothing new to Spain because Isidore’s open mind had already reintroduced the philosopher to students there.

As bishop of Seville for 37 years, succeeding Leander, he set a model for representative government in Europe. Under his direction, and perhaps remembering the tyrannies of his brother, he rejected autocratic decision- making and organized synods to discuss government of the Spanish Church.

Still trying to wear away rock with water, he helped convert the barbarian Visigoths from Arianism to Christianity.

He lived until almost 80. As he was dying his house was filled with crowds of poor he was giving aid and alms to. One of his last acts was to give all his possessions to the poor.

When he died in 636, this Doctor of the Church had done more than his brother had ever hoped; the light of his learning caught fire in Spanish minds and held back the Dark Ages of barbarism from Spain. But even greater than his outstanding mind must have been the genius of his heart that allowed him to see beyond rejection and discouragement to joy and possibility.

REFLECTION:

The strength  of temptation usually lies in the fact that its object is something flattering to our pride, soothing to our sloth, or in some other way attractive to the meaner passions. St. Isidore  teaches us to listen neither to the promptings of nature  nor the plausible advice of friends when they contradict to the voice of God.

PRAYER:

Graciously hear the prayers, O Lord, which we make in commemoration of Saint Isidore, that your Church may be aided by his intercession, just as she has been instructed by his heavenly teaching. 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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St. Simon

St. Simon, pray for us!

St. Simon, pray for us!

In St. Matthew’s Gospel, we read of St. Simon or Simeon who is described as one of our Lord’s brethren or kinsmen. His father was Cleophas, St. Joseph’s brother, and his mother, according to some writers, was our Lady’s sister. He would therefore be our Lord’s first cousin and is supposed to have been about eight years older than He. No doubt he is one of those brethren of Christ who are  mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as having received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. St. Epiphanius says that when the Jews massacred St. Jamesthe Lesser, his brother Simeon upbraided them for their cruelty. The apostles and disciples afterwards met together to appoint a successor to James as bishop of Jerusalem, and they unanimously chose Simeon, who had probably assisted his brother in the government of that church. In the year 66 civil war broke out in Palestine, as a consequence of Jewish opposition to the Romans. The Christians in Jerusalem were warned of the impending destruction of the city and appear to have been divinely ordered to leave it. Accordingly that same year, before Vespasian entered Judaea, they retired with St. Simeon at their head to the other side of the Jordan, occupying a small city called Pella. After the capture and burning of Jerusalem, the Christians returned and settled among the ruins until the Emperor Hadrian afterwards entirely razed it. We are told by St. Epiphanius and by Eusebius that the church here flourished greatly, and that many Jews were converted by the miracles wrought by the saints. When Vespasian and Domitian had ordered the destruction of all who were of the race of David, St. Simeon had escaped their search; but when Trajan gave a similar injunction, he was denounced as being not only one of David’s descendants, but also a Christian, and he was brought before Atticus, the Roman governor. He was condemned to death and, after being tortured, was crucified. Although he was extremely old – tradition reports him to have attained the age of 120 -Simeon endured his sufferings with a degree of fortitude which roused the admiration of Atticus himself. His feast day is February 18.

REFLECTION:

Love makes us bear sufferings and tribulation even to the point of one’s death. If we have self love love in us then the Gospel could probably die and we cannot love genuinely  if we do not possess the Spirit of the Gospel which is love itself. Christ suffered lovingly for us, what have we done in return?

PRAYER:

Lord, you called our fathers to the light of the gospel by the preaching of Saint Simon
By his prayers help us to grow in the love and knowledge of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

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St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr

agathaSt. Agatha’s family lived in Sicily and were very rich and important. Young, beautiful and rich, she lived a life dedicated to God. St. Agatha refused marriage proposals from all the men who asked. Quintian the magistrate believed himself to be of high enough rank to be worthy of her affection, but she refused him also.

When Decius announced the edicts against Christians, Quintian tried to profit by Agatha’s sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her for being a Christian. She still refused him. He then turned Saint Agatha over to a brothel, but she refused to accept customers. After rejecting Quintian’s advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, and St. Agatha’s breasts were crushed and cut off. She told the judge, “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?” God gave her the relief she needed in the form of a vision of Saint Peter who then healed her wounds.

Imprisoned further, then rolled on live coals, she was near death when an earthquake struck. In the destruction, the magistrate’s friend was crushed, which frightened the magistrate and he fled. Brave, Saint Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died.

Catania, Sicily is the location of the martyrdom of Saint Agatha as well as her birthplace. 
She is their patron saint. Legend says that carrying her veil, taken from her tomb in Catania, in procession has averted eruptions of Mount Etna. 

Saint Agatha is the patron saint of Malta, they prayed for her intercession which saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.

St. Agatha’s Feast Day is February 5. She is the patron saint of Ali, Sicily, bellfounders, breast cancer, bakers, Catania, Sicily, against fire, earthquakes, eruptions of Mount Etna, fire, jewelers, martyrs, natural disaters, nurses, Palermo, Sicily, rape victims, single laywomen, sterility, torture victims, volcanic eruptions, wetnurses, Zamarramala, Spain.

REFLECTION:

Purity is a gift of God: we can gain it and preserve it only by care and diligence in avoiding all that may prove an incentive to sin.

PRAYER:

May the Virgin Martyr Saint Agatha implore your compassion for us, O Lord, we pray, for she found favor with you by the courage of her martyrdom and the merit of her chastity. 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. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales, pray for us

St. Francis de Sales, pray for us

Francis was born at the de Sales castle in Savoy, France, on August 21, 1567. His wealthy family provided him with an excellent education. By the age of twenty-four, Francis was a Doctor of Law. He returned to Savoy and led a hard-working life. He did not seem interested in important positions or a social life. In his heart, Francis was listening to a call that kept coming back like an echo. It seemed to be an invitation from the Lord to become a priest. Francis finally tried to explain his struggle to his family. His father was very disappointed. He wanted Francis to be a great man of the world. Family influence could have accomplished that goal. Instead, Francis became a priest on December 18, 1593.

Father de Sales lived in times when Christians were bitterly divided. He volunteered to go to a dangerous area of France to win back Catholics who had become Protestants. His father protested. He said it was bad enough that he had permitted Francis to become a priest. He was not going to let him be a martyr as well. But Francis believed that the Lord would protect him. He and his cousin, Father Louis de Sales, set out on foot for the Duchy of Chablais. The two priests soon learned how to live with insults and physical discomforts. Their lives were frequently in danger. Little by little, however, people returned to the Church.

Francis eventually became the bishop of Geneva, Switzerland. With the help of St. Jane de Chantal, he started a religious order of sisters in 1610. These women are called the order of the Visitation. Francis wrote wonderful books about the spiritual life and the way to become holy. The books, Treatise on the Love of God and Introduction to the Devout Life, are still in print today. They are considered spiritual “classics.”

Bishop de Sales died on December 28, 1622, at the age of fifty-six. He was declared a saint by Pope Innocent X in 1665. He was given the special title “Doctor of the Church.” He is also the patron saint of journalists.

Reflection

The person who possesses Christian meekness is affectionate and tender towards everyone: he is disposed to forgive and excuse the frailties of others; the goodness of his heart appears in a sweet affability that influences his words and actions, presents every object to his view in the most charitable and pleasing light. - St. Francis de Sales

Prayer

O God, who for the salvation of souls willed that the Bishop Saint Francis de Sales become all things to all, graciously grant that, following his example, we may always display the gentleness of your charity in the service of our neighbor. 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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Blessed Henry Suso

Bl. Henry Suso, pray for us

Bl. Henry Suso, pray for us

Famed German Dominican mystic wrote many classic books. Born to the German nobility,  Heinrich von Berg in Constance, Swabia, he entered the Order of Preachers, the Dominicans, at an early age. Undergoing a conversion, he developed an abiding spiritual life and studied under Meister Eckhart in Cologne from 1322-1325. He then returned to Constance to teach, subsequently authoring numerous books of spirituality.

Given to great austerities, Henry owned a half-length, tight-fitting, coarse undergarment equipped with 150 sharp brass nails, the points facing inward; he used it as his night shirt. After 16 years of this, an angel appeared to him on Pentecost Sunday and whispered that God wanted him to discontinue this practice; he threw his shirt into the Rhine.

As he supported Meister Eckhart,  who was then the source of some controversy and had been condemned by Pope John XXII in 1329  Henry was censured by his superiors and stripped of his teaching position. He subsequently became a preacher in Switzerland and the Upper Rhine and was a brilliant spiritual advisor among the Dominicans and the spiritual community of the Gottesfreunde. He endured persecution right up until his death at Ulm. Pope Gregory XVI beatified him in 1831.

Reflection

Patience in suffering is greater than raising the dead, or working other miracles. Bl. Henry Suso

Prayer

God of wisdom, you called Blessed Henry to follow your Son and gave him the grace to mortify his body. May we follow the crucified Christ and so obtain his eternal consolation. We ask 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. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr

st vincent martyr 11Deacon and martyr. Born at Huesca, Spain, he became a deacon and served St. Valerius at Saragossa until their martyrdom at Valencia during the persecutions under Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305). St. Valerius was exiled, but Vincent was cruelly tortured because he would not surrender the holy books. He converted the warden of the prison and then died. He was honored by Sts. Augustine, Pope Leo I, and Prudentius, and is considered the patron saint of vinedressers in some regions of Spain.

REFLECTION:

Do you wish to be at peace amidst suffering and temptation? Then make it your principal endeavor to grow in habits of prayer and in union with Christ. Have confidence in Him. He will make you triumphant over spiritual enemies and over yourself. he will enlighten your darkness and sweeten your sufferings, and in your solitude and desolation he will draw you nigh to you with His holy angels.

PRAYER:

Eternal Father, you gave Saint Vincent the courage to endure torture and death for the Gospel: fill us with Your Spirit and strengthen us in Your love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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St. Thorfinn, Bishop

Thorfinn KarlsefniIn the year 1285, there died in the Cistercian monastery at TerDoest, near Bruges, a Norwegian bishop named Thorfinn. He had never attracted particular attention and was soon forgotten. But over fifty years later, in the course of some building operations, his tomb in the Church was opened and it was reported that the remains gave out a strong and pleasing spell. The Abbot made inquiries and found that one of his monks, and aged man named Walter de Muda, remembered Bishop Thorfinn staying in there monastery and the impression he had made of gentle goodness combined with strength. Father Walter had in fact, written a poem about him after his death and hung it up over his tomb. It was then found that the parchment was still there, none the worse for the passage of time. This was taken as a direction from on high that the Bishop’s memory was to be perpetuated, and Father Walter was instructed to write down his recollections of him. For all that, there is little enough known about St. Thorfinn. He was a Trondhjem man and perhaps was a Canonof the Cathedral of Nidaros, since there was such a one named Thorfinn among those who witnessed the agreement of Tonsborg in 1277. This was an agreement between King Magnus VI and the Archbishop of Nidaros confirming certain privileges of the clergy, the freedom of episcopal elections and similar matters. Some years later, King Eric repudiated this agreement, and a fierce dispute between Church and state ensued. Eventually the King outlawed the Archbishop, John, and his two chief supporters, Bishop Andrew of Oslow and Bishop Thorfinn of Hamar. Bishop Thorfinn, after many hardships, including shipwreck, made his way to the Abbeyof TerDoest in Flanders, which had a number of contacts with the Norwegian Church. It is possible that he had been there before, and there is some reason to suppose he was himself a Cistercian of the Abbey of Tautra, near Nidaros. After a visit to Rome he went to TerDoest, in bad health. Indeed, though probably still a youngish man, he saw death approaching and so made his will; he had little to leave, but what there was, he divided between his mother, his brothers and sisters, and certain monasteries, churches and charities in his dioceses. He died shortly after on January 8, 1285. After his recall to the memory of manas mentioned in the opening paragraph of this notice, miracles were reported at his tomb and St. Thorfinn was venerated by the Cistercians and around Bruges. In our own day, his memory has been revived among the few Catholics of Norway, and his feast is observed in his episcopal city of Hamar. The tradition of Thorfinn’s holiness ultimately rests on the poem of Walter de Muda, where he appeared as a kind, patient, generous man, whose mild exterior covered a firm will against whatever he esteemed to beevil and ungodly. His feast day is January 8th.

REFLECTION:

The psalmist says, “The just man will always be remembered”. And this is very true in the life of Saint Thorfinn, bishop; that even if being forgotten for almost half a century God in His providential love raised up again the dignity of this Saint, announcing to the world that this man is did great things that glorifies his Creator. May we be liken to St. Thorfinn, holy and humble.

PRAYER:

All-powerful and ever-living God, you called Saint Thorfinn to guide your people by his word and example.  With him we pray to you:  watch over the pastors of your Church with the people entrusted to their care, and lead them to salvation. We ask 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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