Blessed John Dun Scotus, Defender of the Immaculate

 

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Bl. John Dun Scotus, pray for us!

A humble man, John Duns Scotus has been one of the most influential Franciscans through the centuries. Born at Duns in the county of Berwick, Scotland, John was descended from a wealthy farming family. In later years, he was identified as John Duns Scotus to indicate the land of his birth; Scotia is the Latin name for Scotland.

 

John received the habit of the Friars Minor at Dumfries, where his uncle Elias Duns was superior. After novitiate, John studied at Oxford and Paris and was ordained in 1291. More studies in Paris followed until 1297, when he returned to lecture at Oxford and Cambridge. Four years later, he returned to Paris to teach and complete the requirements for the doctorate.

In an age when many people adopted whole systems of thought without qualification, John pointed out the richness of the Augustinian-Franciscan tradition, appreciated the wisdom of Aquinas, Aristotle, and the Muslim philosophers—and still managed to be an independent thinker. That quality was proven in 1303, when King Philip the Fair tried to enlist the University of Paris on his side in a dispute with Pope Boniface VIII. John Duns Scotus dissented, and was given three days to leave France.

In Scotus’s time, some philosophers held that people are basically determined by forces outside themselves. Free will is an illusion, they argued. An ever-practical man, Scotus said that if he started beating someone who denied free will, the person would immediately tell him to stop. But if Scotus didn’t really have a free will, how could he stop? John had a knack for finding illustrations his students could remember!

After a short stay in Oxford, Scotus returned to Paris, where he received the doctorate in 1305. He continued teaching there and in 1307 so ably defended the Immaculate Conception of Mary that the university officially adopted his position. That same year the minister general assigned him to the Franciscan school in Cologne where John died in 1308. He is buried in the Franciscan church near the famous Cologne cathedral.

Drawing on the work of John Duns Scotus, Pope Pius IX solemnly defined the Immaculate Conception of Mary in 1854. John Duns Scotus, the “Subtle Doctor,” was beatified in 1993.

Reflection:

As Christians and true sons and daughters of Our Lady, we must defend Her privileges. It is our sublime duty to safeguard our heavenly and loving Mother from the pangs of false accusations and presumptions, from prideful acts of the enemy, trying to demerit the Immaculata. We may be like Blessed J. Dun Scotus, braved enough to face the challenges, defeating the works of the lurking foe by the powerful assistance of the Madonna. “Allow us to praise you O Immaculate Virgin, give us strength against Your enemies.”

 

Prayer:

We humbly ask you, almighty God, that at the intercession of  blessed John Dun Scotus you may multiply your gifts among us and order our days in peace and to grow in the love of the Immaculate Virgin Mary so that we may please You all the more with Her and our joy may be complete. 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. Veronica Giuliani, Virgin

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Saint Veronica, pray for us!

Saint Veronica was born in Mercatelli, Italy. It is said that when her mother Benedetta was dying she called her five daughters to her bedside and entrusted each of them to one of the five wounds of Jesus. St. Veronica was entrusted to the wound below Christ’s heart.

At the age of 17, St.Veronica joined the Poor Clares directed by the Capuchins. Her father had wanted her to marry, but she convinced him to allow her to become a nun. In her first years in the monastery, she worked in the kitchen, infirmary, sacristy, and also served as portress. At the age of 34, she was made novice mistress, a position she held for 22 years. When she was 37, St. Veronica received the stigmata. Life was not the same after that.

Church authorities in Rome wanted to test St. Veronica’s authenticity and so conducted an investigation. She lost the office of novice mistress temporarily and was not allowed to attend Mass except on Sundays or holy days. Through all of this St. Veronica did not become bitter, and the investigation eventually restored her as novice mistress.

Though she protested against it, at the age of 56 she was elected abbess, an office she held for 11 years until her death. St.Veronica was very devoted to the Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart. She offered her sufferings for the missions, died in 1727, and was canonized in 1839.

Reflection:

Why did God grant the stigmata to Francis of Assisi and to Veronica Giuliani? God alone knows the deepest reasons, but as Celano points out, the external sign of the cross is a confirmation of these saints’ commitment to the cross in their lives. The stigmata that appeared in  St. Veronica’s flesh had taken root in her heart many years before. It was a fitting conclusion for her love of God and her charity toward her sisters.

(https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-veronica-giuliani/)

PRAYER:

O God, who declare that you abide in hearts that are pure, grant that through the intercession of the Virgin blessed Veronica we may be so fashioned by your grace, that we become a dwelling pleasing to you. 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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Saint Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr

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Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us!

Saint 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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Saint Thomas, Apostle of India

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Saint Thomas, pray for us!

Saint Thomas was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. Saint Thomas in the Syriac language means “twin.” St. Thomas loved Jesus very much. Once when Jesus was going to face the danger of being killed, the other apostles tried to hold Jesus back. But St. Thomas said to them, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

When Jesus was captured by his enemies, Thomas lost his courage and ran away with the other apostles. It broke his heart when Jesus died. Then on Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to his apostles after he had risen from the dead but Thomas was not with them. As soon as he arrived, the other apostles told him joyfully, “We have seen the Lord.” They thought Thomas would be happy. Instead, he did not believe them.

“Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails,” he said, “and put my finger in the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later when Jesus appeared to his apostles again, Thomas was there, too. Jesus called him and told him to touch his hands and the wound in his side. Poor St. Thomas! He fell down at Jesus’ feet and cried out, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, Thomas, you have believed. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.”

After Pentecost, Thomas was strong and firm in his belief and trust in Jesus. He took the mission he was given seriously and went to Parthia, Persia and India to preach the Gospel. He was killed by his enemies while kneeling in front of a cross and praying. He died a martyr there, after many people became followers of Jesus.

Reflection:

In this chaotic world of ours, we have in our mind the same doubts Saint Thomas had. Why? Because our faith in God is not firm. We must hold on to God even in worst situations. We must have that lively faith, an unshakable faith, a faith that nothing or no one can moved. Like Saint Thomas, let us confess that Jesus is our “God and Lord”. By this, our faith in Him becomes stronger and because confessing one’s faith is a sign of a firm and trusting faith to God. Lord Jesus, help our unbelief!

Prayer:

Grant, almighty God, that we may glory in the Feast of the blessed Apostle Thomas, so that we may always be sustained by his intercession and, believing, may have life in the name of Jesus Christ your Son, whom Thomas acknowledged as the Lord. 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. Faustinus and St. Jovita , Martyrs

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Pray for us O Holy Saints Faustinus and Jovita!

St. Faustinus and St. Jovita were brothers born in a noble family and lived in Brescia, Italy. From the time they were young, Faustinus and Jovita were well-known for their great love for God. They were eager professors of the Christian religion, which they preached without fear in their city of Brescia in Lombardy, during the persecution of Adrian.

They also performed works of Christian charity. They helped each other do good for the people who needed them. The bishop of Brescia made them both priests. They began to preach everywhere, to both the rich and the poor.

They spared themselves no sacrifice to bring many people to God. Because it was a time of persecution, it was easy to be afraid. But Faustinus and Jovita would not give in to fear of the soldiers even though these soldiers were actually putting many Christians to death.

They were preaching the Gospel fearlessly in the region when Julian, a pagan officer, arrested them. They were commanded to adore the sun, but replied that they adored the living God who created the sun to give light to the world.

The statue before which they were standing was brilliant and surrounded with golden rays. Saint Jovita, looking at it, cried out: “Yes, we adore the God reigning in heaven, who created the sun. And you, vain statue, turn black, to the shame of those who adore you!” At his word, it turned black. The Emperor commanded that it be cleaned, but the pagan priests had hardly begun to touch it when it fell into ashes.

They were left without food in a dark jail cell, but Angels brought them strength and joy for new combats. And no matter what the two priests suffered, they would not promise to stop preaching about Jesus. They kept an attitude of prayer even in that terrible prison. In fact, they willingly offered up their sufferings to the Lord.

The two brothers were sent to the amphitheater to be eaten by lions, but four lions came out and lay down at their feet. The flames of a huge fire did not burn them, and a large number of people who saw this were converted and became Christians at the sight.

Finally the Emperor ordered that they be beheaded, and they knelt down and received the death blow. The city of Brescia honors them as its chief patrons and treasures their relics (remains).

Reflection: Let us keep watch for opportunities to encourage and support our families in living out the Gospel.

Prayer: Almighty ever-living God, who gave Saints Faustinus and Jovita the grace of suffering for Christ, come, in your divine mercy, we pray, to the help of our own weakness, that, as your Saints did not hesitate to die for your sake, we, too, may live bravely in confessing you. 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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Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul

St. Paul was born at Tarsus, Cilicia, of Jewish parents who were descended from the tribe of Benjamin. He was a Roman citizen from birth. As he was “a young man” at the stoning of Stephen and “an old man” when writing to Philemon, about the year 63, he was probably born around the beginning of the Christian era.

To complete his schooling, St. Paul was sent to Jerusalem, where he sat at the feet of the learned Gamaliel and was educated in the strict observance of the ancestral Law. Here he also acquired a good knowledge of exegesis and was trained in the practice of disputation. As a convinced and zealous Pharisee, he returned to Tarsus before the public life of Christ opened in Palestine.

Some time after the death of Our Lord, St. Paul returned to Palestine. His profound conviction made his zeal develop to a religious fanaticism against the infant Church. He took part in the stoning of the first martyr, St. Stephen, and in the fierce persecution of the Christians that followed.

Entrusted with a formal mission from the high priest, he departed for Damascus to arrest the Christians there and bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was nearing Damascus, about noon, a light from heaven suddenly blazed round him. Jesus with His glorified body appeared to him and addressed him, turning him away from his apparently successful career.

An immediate transformation was wrought in the soul of St. Paul. He was suddenly converted to the Christian Faith. He was baptized, changed his name from Saul to Paul, and began travelling and preaching the Faith. He was martyred as an Apostle in Rome around 65 AD.

— Excerpted from Lives of the Saints

Reflection: Let us be witnesses of the Gospel. As what Saint Paul said,”Let us do good while there is time.” With zeal, let us preach the Gospel of Christ to the corners of the world. The Holy Mother Church needs you and is needing you NOW in spreading the story of the unconditional love of God!

Prayer: God our Father, you taught the gospel to all the world through the preaching of Paul your apostle. May we who celebrate his conversion to the faith follow him in bearing witness to your truth. 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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Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

21St. Agnes was a Roman girl who loved Jesus so much that she chose only him for her husband. She was very beautiful and when she was just twelve years old, many young men wished to marry her. But as Agnes had given her heart to Jesus, she would always say, “Jesus is my only husband.”

She even turned down the governor’s son, who became very angry. He tried to win her affection with gifts and promises but Agnes said to him, “I am already promised to the Lord.” Agnes was accused of being a Christian and brought to the governor.

Then she was taken to a Roman temple in Minerva (Athena), and asked to sacrifice to pagan gods. When Agnes was led to the altar, she made the Sign of the Cross.

The governor tried to scare her by putting her in chains, but even then she refused to turn against God. Agnes suffered other tortures. Finally, she was condemned and killed for her faith at the young age of twelve in 304.

St. Ambrose and other well-known early Church saints have written about this brave girl. Agnes is buried in a cemetery named after her. In 354, Emperor Constantine’s daughter built a large church there and had Agnes’ body placed under the altar.

Reflection: God is the only treasure man must aspire for. If our worldly cares and ambitions are bothering us today then, pause and reflect. Like Saint Agnes, who professes her love in the Lord Jesus by making Him her True Spouse, we may too do likewise.

Prayer: Almighty ever-living God, who choose what is weak in the world to confound the strong, mercifully grant, that we, who celebrate the heavenly birthday of your Martyr Saint Agnes, may follow her constancy in the 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. Amen.

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