St. Alphonsus Maria De Ligouri, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

St. Alphonsus, pray for us !

St. Alphonsus, pray for us !

St. Alphonsus Liguori was born near Naples in Italy. He was a hard working student who became a very famous lawyer.

One day he made a big mistake in court and decided to give up his law practice to become a priest. His father tried very hard to stop him but Alphonsus had made up his mind.

He became a priest and was extremely happy serving God. His life was filled with activity. He preached, wrote many hymns and about 60 books. He also played the organ and painted pictures.

He had lots of followers who became priests and he started an order called “Redemptorists”.

St. Alphonsus was wise and good and guided the people who came to him bringing them peace through the sacrament of Reconciliation. He reminded people about God’s love for them and the importance of their religion. His sermons were very simple so everyone including children could understand what he said.

The Pope wanted to make him a bishop but he was so humble that he gently said “no”. Then the Pope helped Alphonsus understand that it was important for him to become a bishop, as people in the area where he lived needed a shepherd. After he became bishop, he sent many of his preachers to preach the word of God to the people.

As he got older he became ill and suffered much. He became crippled, deaf and almost blind but he loved Mother Mary and prayed for her help. When he was 91 years old, he died a very peaceful and holy death.

Years after he died the Pope announced that St. Alphonsus was made a Doctor of the Church.

Reflection: Let us do with all our heart the duty of each day, leaving the result to God, as well as the care of the future.

Prayer: O God, who constantly raise up in your Church new examples of virtue, grant that we may follow so closely in the footsteps of the Bishop Saint Alphonsus in his zeal for souls as to attain the same rewards that are his in heaven. 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. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church

St. Lawrence of Brindisi, pray for us !

St. Lawrence of Brindisi, pray for us !

Caesar Rossi was born at Brindisi, in Naples, Italy and was the son of Guglielmo de Rossi and Elisabetta Masella. His father died when he was only twelve. As Caesar was growing up, he felt God calling him to serve Him. He obeyed this calling and at the age of sixteen, he joined the Capuchin Franciscans taking the name Brother Lorenzo or Lawrence.

He was sent to the University of Padua where he studied theology and gained a wonderful knowledge of the Bible. Lawrence, whose first language was Italian, surprised everyone by learning six languages also. He turned out to be a brilliant student who could speak French, German, Greek, Spanish, Syriac and Hebrew.

After he was ordained a priest, he became a popular preacher as he could comfortably preach in any of the six languages he had learnt. Because he could speak Hebrew, he worked for the conversion of the Jews living in Rome. Later, St. Lawrence was sent to set-up a new house for the Franciscans in Austria. The emperor, Rudolph II, did not want them to come. But Lawrence’s tender care for victims of a plague won Emperor Rudolph to support his mission.

Then the emperor asked Lawrence to persuade the German princes to fight the Turks who were trying to wipe out Christendom (the followers of Christ). Lawrence did convince the princes to go into battle, on the condition, that he would go with them too. Lawrence agreed. But when the soldiers saw how large the Turkish army was, they wanted to quit.

So St. Lawrence putting his trust in God, rode in the lead armed only with a crucifix. The Christian soldiers took heart and fought bravely. The Turks were completely defeated. St. Lawrence received the praise which he refused, and gave glory to God for their success.

In 1602, St. Lawrence became the master general of his order. He worked hard, preached beautiful sermons and prepared many writings to spread the Good News. He went on important peace missions to Munich in Germany and Madrid in Spain. He helped the rulers see how much pain and suffering this enmity was causing and made peace between the two countries.

The strain of traveling so much and his hard life finally made St. Lawrence very sick. He died on his birthday, July 22, in 1619. The Capuchin Franciscans put together fifteen volumes of his sermons, letters and writings in 1956. And three years later, he was honored as “Apostolic Doctor of the Church” by Pope John XXIII in 1959.

Reflection: To whom do I give credit and offer thanks for the success or good things that I receive in life?

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St. Leo IV, Pope

St. Leo IV, pray for us !

St. Leo IV, pray for us !

St. Leo was born at Rome, in Italy and spent his life in that city. When Leo grew up he studied at the Benedictine monastery near St. Peter’s Basilica to become a priest. As a priest he performed his ministry at St. John Lateran’s, a large, famous basilica. Leo was well-known and loved by two popes, Gregory IV who died in 844, and Sergius II who died in 847.

Around the time Pope Sergius II died, rumors of a barbarian invasion of Saracens had the Romans terrified. Neither the people nor the cardinals wanted to be left without a pope. Leo’s life changed forever, because they quickly elected him as pope and he took the name Leo IV.

As pope, Leo had the city walls around the Vatican and other areas repaired and strengthened. The walls had been damaged the previous year by a Saracen attack. He made the churches more beautiful and had St. Peter’s Basilica rebuilt. He brought many relics (remains of things that were holy) to Rome.

He called a meeting of all Roman priests and passed forty-two rules which helped priests live more fervent, prayerful and joy-filled lives. A few bishops lived bad lives and this caused Leo great suffering. They boldly faced the pope and would not change their wrong ways. No matter how much Pope Leo was hurt, he was always fair, patient and humble. He never let his troubles dishearten him but gave all his time and energy for Jesus and his Church.

He loved the beautiful prayers of the liturgy and encouraged liturgical chant and music. People loved St. Leo and with God’s grace he performed many miracles. It is said that he was responsible for stopping the terrible fire in the English quarter of Rome.

Pope Leo IV continued serving the Church with cheerfulness right up to the end of his life. He died on July 17, 855.

Reflection: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”- (Jn15: 13)

Prayer: O God, who are rich in mercy  and who willed that Saint Leo IV should preside as Pope over your universal Church,  grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching,
we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen

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Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us!

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us!

St. Kateri (Katherine) Tekakwitha was born in Osserneon, which today is called Auriesville in New York. Her mother was a Christian who had been captured and her father was a non-Christian Mohawk (Red Indian) chief. When Kateri was fourteen, her parents died of smallpox and a Mohawk uncle raised her.

St. Isaac Jogues and other missionaries that came from France were killed, while preaching the gospel to the Native American Indians. They were called the North American martyrs. Ten years after the death of St. Isaac Jogues, Kateri was born in the same village where he had died.

One day her uncle had three Jesuit missionaries as his guests. These priests prayed openly in the small chapel there. Kateri was fascinated and had many questions for them, which they patiently answered. Slowly the seed of faith began to grow within her and her heart was touched by the Holy Spirit. She let this faith in Jesus grow to full maturity and when she was eighteen, she was baptized on Easter Sunday.

Kateri knew her life would now become difficult as she was the only Christian in her village. Besides, she wanted to give her life to Jesus and refused to marry. Her uncle was angry and some people in the village were upset that she did not work on Sunday. But Kateri held her ground. She prayed her Rosary every day, even when others made fun of her. She practiced patience and suffered quietly. Kateri’s life grew harder each day as some people were very cruel and insulted her.

She finally fled to a Christian village near Montreal one night. There on Christmas Day, 1677, she received her First Communion. It was a wonderful day. Father Pierre Cholonec, a Jesuit priest, guided her spiritual life for the next three years. She and an older Iroquois woman named Anastasia lived as joyful, generous Christians.

Then Kateri fell ill and almost lost her eyesight completely because of the small pox she had suffered as a child. But she continued praying and giving glory to God as she was very grateful for the opportunity to practice her faith. She was just twenty-four when she died at Caughnawaga in Canada, on April 17, 1680. Many miracles have been reported at her grave. Exactly three hundred years later, on June 22, 1980, Kateri Tekakwitha was declared “blessed” by Pope John Paul II and was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 21, 2012 together with 6 other Blessed.

Reflection: Let us pray today for those who experience difficulty at the hands of others in their desire to live their Christian vocation more fully.

Prayer: O God, who desired the Virgin St. Kateri Tekakwitha to flower among Native Americans in a life of innocence, grant, through her intercession, that when all are gathered into your Church from every nation, tribe and tongue, they may magnify you in a single canticle of praise. 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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The Martyrs of Orange

Holy Martyrs of Orange, pray for us !

Holy Martyrs of Orange, pray for us !

During the French Revolution, thirty-two nuns were put in prison at Orange in France. These sisters were from different religious orders. There were sixteen Ursuline sisters, thirteen Sisters Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, two Bernardine sisters and one Benedictine sister.

These nuns were told that they had to take an oath of loyalty to the leaders of the French Revolution. The sisters who knew and believed that the oath was against God and the Church refused to sign it. They were immediately taken to the Orange jail.

Some of the sisters knew each other, while others did not. In the prison, the nuns got together and formed a community in that dark, damp room. They prayed together at particular times during the day. They cheered up and comforted each other and formed strong bonds, as the early persecuted Christian Church had.

On July 6, the first sister was taken to trial and condemned to the guillotine. She never returned. Every day another sister, some days two sisters, were taken to be killed. No one knew who would be next. The group became smaller and smaller, but the remaining sisters prayed especially for those who would die that day. Then they would sing a hymn of praise to God called the Te Deum.

By the end of July, 1794, thirty-two sisters had been sentenced to death by the people’s court at Orange, France and died as martyrs for their faith in Jesus. When the French Revolution was over, the judges of Orange were found guilty and punished for what they had done.

The thirty-two sisters called the martyrs of Orange were declared “blessed” by Pope Pius XI in 1925.

Reflection: In times of difficulty, how am I able to both give and receive support within my faith community?

Prayer: Grant a joyful outcome to our prayers, O Lord, so that we, who each year devoutly honor the day of the passion of the holy Martyrs of Orange, may also imitate the constancy of their faith. 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. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr

St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

Maria was born at Corinaldo, Ancona in Italy into a poor but loving home and was one of six children. She was baptized the day after she was born. Her father Luigi Goretti was a farmer. Her mother Assunta, was a poor orphan girl who did not know how to read or write. Luigi and Assunta loved God, Mother Mary and each other.

Their oldest child, a boy died when he was just a baby. Although they were very poor, and life was difficult, Luigi and Assunta thanked God for His great gifts. Assunta lovingly taught her children about God’s great love, by her words and actions.

The children had no toys, so a rock or an apple was used as a ball to play with. Maria never had a single doll and they could not afford to go to school, but they were a very happy family that lived in the light of God’s grace.

When Maria was six, she played like other children, running through the grass, picking flowers, laughing and smiling. But instead of playing with her friends, Maria played more often with her younger brothers and sister, and kept them happy so they would not trouble their mother.

Then the family moved to the Pontine Marshes where Luigi, along with his partner Mr. Serenelli and his sixteen year old son Allessandro (Alexander), lived together on Conte Mazzoleni’s farm as tenant farmers.

By the time she was nine, Maria did the family marketing. She always did her errands quickly and returned home where she was needed. She was a friendly girl and everyone loved her. A cheerful grocer Giovanni, gave Maria an apple one day, after she had finished paying for her groceries. But Maria did not eat it.

Instead, she thanked Giovanni and put it in her pocket saying that her brother Allesandrino loved apples. Then he gave her a cookie, which again she put in her pocket saying that she would give it to her little sister Ersilia. Giovanni finally gave her another cookie and said he would be very hurt if she didn’t eat it herself. So Maria not wanting to offend him, ate it.

A short time later, Mr. Luigi fell very ill and died, leaving Assunta to bring up her five children alone. At twelve, Maria was already very pretty. She helped her mother on the farm, in the house and with the care of the other children. She never complained because they were so poor. In fact, she cheered up her poor mother and was a great comfort to her.

She went to Mass every day even though it meant a two-hour walk. Maria received the sacrament of Reconciliation as often as she could. When she came home, she taught the children their prayers and told them Bible stories. Alexander who often joined the family for the rosary slowly began to notice how pretty Maria was.

He tried a few times to touch her and make Maria sin. She absolutely refused and did her best to avoid him. July 5, 1902, was a hot summer day. Maria was alone in the cottage mending clothes while her mother worked on the farm and Mr. Serenelli slept under a tree.

Alexander asked Maria to come to him, and when she refused, he dragged her into a room. Maria begged him not to touch her, repeating over and over that God did not want this, it was a sin and he would go to hell. When she struggled and tried to scream, he stuffed a handkerchief into her mouth and angrily stabbed her many times with a dagger and then ran away.

When they found her, Maria was quickly taken to a hospital but she died about twenty-four hours later. During her last hours she received Jesus in Holy Communion with great joy. She then told the priest that she forgave Alexander with all her heart, for the love of Jesus and hoped God would forgive him too.

Her only worry was for her mother. Alexander was sent to prison for thirty years. For a long time, he did not feel sorry for what he had done. Then one night Maria appeared to him in a dream, walking in a garden and offering him a bunch of Lilies. She said, she hoped he would come to heaven one day. From that moment on, he was a changed man.

He wrote a letter to the bishop, begging God’s forgiveness for the great sin he had committed. When he was freed from prison after twenty-seven years, his first visit was to the Goretti home where he asked Maria’s mother for forgiveness. Then Alexander spent the rest of his life as the gardener in a nearby monastery.

On April 27, 1947, Pope Pius XII appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica with Maria’s eighty-two-year-old mother, Assunta and declared Maria “blessed”.

Three years later, in a grand ceremony that had to be held outside the Basilica because the crowds were so huge, Maria was declared a saint. It was the only time that a parent was present to witness their child’s cannonization. The pope called her “a martyr of holy purity.”

Reflection: We pray today for all children, that with courage they may stay away from sin and avoid hurting Jesus, who loves them so much. We ask St. Maria Goretti, to help them stay pure and holy.

Prayer:O God, author if innocence and lover of chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we, too, may be firm in obeying your commandments. 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. Otto, Bishop

St. Otto, pray for us !

St. Otto, pray for us !

St.Otto was born in Swabia, present-day Bavaria which is in southern Germany and came from a rich family. He became a priest and entered the service of Emperor Henry IV. About then years later, Father Otto became Henry’s chancellor.

St.Otto tried to convince the emperor to act fairly and to be reasonable when faced with decisions. But Henry did many wrong things, causing trouble and tried to split the Church into two groups. He even appointed his own pope. St. Otto felt very bad and did his best to help Henry change.

Henry IV then appointed St. Otto as bishop but St.Otto refused saying that only the true pope in Rome, Pope Paschal II had the power to do this. Henry was forced to agree and St. Otto traveled to Rome where he was consecrated a Bishop.

Bishop Otto became a great help to the people of Swabia, especially under Emperor Henry V. This emperor followed his father, Henry IV’s bad habits. But although he was unkind and very strict, he respected St. Otto and often listened to his advice.

When King Boleslaus III of Poland conquered part of Pomerania in Prussia, he asked St. Otto to go there. The people there were pagans and believed in false gods. Bishop Otto welcomed the chance to tell them about Jesus and God’s great love for people. A couple of years later, the bishop led a group of priests and catechists into Pomerania.

More people were taught the faith and more than twenty thousand people were baptized. Bishop Otto appointed priests to minister to the new Christians. He returned to his own country and then a few years later the people of Pomerania began to return to their old pagan ways.

When he heard this, Bishop Otto went back to Pomerania helping the people become fervent Christians again. He started more than twenty monastries, built churches and worked hard to heal the problems between the king and the pope. He died on June 30, 1139.

Reflection: Only in the hands of St. Peter that the keys of the heaven and earth were given and it continues today in the person of the Pope. Faithfulness to his teachings leads us to perfection as what the Lord says,  “He who hears you hears me”, that is the tangible voice of the Shepherd in the midst of the world today. Listening to him gives us the grace that was only given to the Vicar of Peter alone.

Prayer: Almighty ever-living God, who chose blessed Otto to preside as Bishop over your holy people, we pray that, by his merits, you may bestow on us the grace of your loving kindness. 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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