Saints

St. Paul of the Cross


St Paul of the Cross-FounderSaint
St. Paul of the Cross founded the Passionist Fathers with the spiritual insight that the best way to know Jesus is through contemplating his suffering and death. This intimacy brings about a loving energy to minister to Christ in the poor and suffering throughout the world. 

St. Paul would carry a large cross around with him whenever he gave parish retreats as a reminder of Christ's suffering and death for us leading to his life-restoring resurrection.

 


The North American Martyrs

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Surely we can admire the courage and dedication of the Jesuits who ministered to the Native Americans in upstate New York and Southern Canada during times of political and tribal tumult. Warring Native American tribes, competing French, Dutch and English fur traders and the epidemic of disease brought by the settlers themselves to the naive immunity of the Native Americans all made for harrowing and dangerous evangelization. It eventually cost the missioners their lives, including Isaac Jogues who returned after an escape to France for yet another mission in North America.

During his escape to France from his first captivity, he stayed for a brief time in the Dutch colony of Manhattan and became the first Catholic priest there, for which he is honored on one of the great bronze doors at St. Patrick's cathedral.

The statue shown here depicts his maimed hand from torture, which prohibited him from saying mass until special permission was obtained from the pope.

 


Saint Luke, Evangelist

St Luke edited from Shutterstock
Today's feastday is Saint Luke, the Evangelist, by tradition a Greek gentile and physician. In addition to his gospel, Acts of the Apostles is also attributed to him and both are written in an educated and polished form of Greek, indicating he took great care in composing and putting his words into writing. 

His gospel is written for those who do not necessarily understand Jewish customs and emphasizes Jesus' concern for the poor and the "left out," showing Jesus very often at prayer. His gospel narrative contains some of the most beloved stories in the New Testament. His symbol is the ox, in this statue portrayed at his feet.

How fortunate for us that St. Luke loved the Lord and not only spread the gospel message, but took time to write it down.

 

 


Sacred Heart

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Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque's revelations were instrumental in changing popular piety. Jesus' merciful love for us became more greatly appreciated and more frequent communion encouraged. First Friday Communion was actually more frequent than receiving once per year at Easter! 

 


Saint Francis Borgia

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Yes, those Borgias. If I am reading the family tree correctly, he was the great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI. Francis enjoyed great success in the royal and ecclesiastical politics of the day, marrying a Portuguese noblewoman and becoming a close advisor to the Holy Roman Emperor. Upon the death of his wife after more than a decade of marriage and eight children, he decided to renounce his royal succession and become a Jesuit priest.

His ascent in the Jesuits was no less notable. He was eventually elected the third Father General of the Order after Ignatius. His administrative skills were put to worthy use by the Jesuits though he was still sought for counsel by kings and popes. Francis, however, preferred a quiet life of prayer. He founded a school in Rome which would eventually become the Gregorian University.

 


Saint John Leonardi

John Leonardi

Saint John Leonardi was a diocesan priest, originally trained as a pharmacist, who ministered in the Church during the Catholic Reformation and The Council of Trent. As he began to pastor a parish, a group of young men gathered around him whom he helped realize their vocations to priesthood. A group of reform-minded clergy also formed around him and despite difficulties he organized them into a community which received recognition from the Church early on, but aroused the suspicion of the local government in the politically charged days of the Counter Reformation, which saw the foundation of too many religious communities in their view.

His community was eventually named the Order of the Mother of God. Here is St. Pope John Paul's description of his life and works at the Church he had been given to pastor in Rome:

Problems abounded. Indeed, the structural condition of the church and annexed buildings was precarious and in such a state of dilapidation that it looked like "a shepherd's cottage or hut". The flooding of the Tiber gave rise to an unhealthy humidity and dangerous infections which, in 1609, caused the death of many religious, including the founder himself. This prompted the Order, at the Congregation that met to elect St John Leonardi's successor, although reasserting the determination to remain in "that church of so great a devotion", to give an account of their difficult situation to Pope Paul V, asking him "for some other retreat, where they could care for the sick and seek shelter in the dangerous weather" (A. Bernardini, Croniche, parte III, p. 6).

A few years later, the Pontiff Alexander VII, recognizing that the site of the church of Santa Maria in Portico was "too remote from trade and equally sordid and vile, in short not at all suitable", built the church of Santa Maria in Campitelli in one of the most beautiful and characteristic places of Rome, where this religious family established its General Curia more than three centuries ago. In 1662, the image of Our Lady Romanae Portus Securitatis was moved to the new Church, which thus acquired the name of Santa Maria in Portico in Campitelli.

Pope Benedict XVI remarked on his life as a pharmacist-turned-priest:

"...he never lost his passion for pharmacology; he felt that his profession as a pharmacist would serve as a bridge that would allow him to fulfill his vocation more fully, dispensing to men through a holy life “God’s medicine,” which is Jesus Christ who was crucified and who rose again, “the measure of all things.”

John Leonardi knew what the true medicine for these spiritual maladies was and summarized it in the expression “Christ first of all” — Christ at the center of the human heart, at the center of history and at the center of the cosmos.

Mankind, he stated firmly, has an extreme need for Christ because he is our “measure.”

There is no area that cannot be touched by his power. There is no ailment that does not have its remedy in him. There is no problem that cannot be resolved through him.

“Christ or nothing!” — this was his prescription for every kind of spiritual and social reform.

He was named patron saint of Pharmacists in 2006, a profession which needs to strength of Christ to resist the modern challenges of prescription abortifacients and becoming integral to the physician assisted suicide movement. In no small measure, they are also challenged to help find workable solutions to the opioid epidemic which engulfs us.


Saint Bruno, Founder of The Carthusians

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Saint Bruno founded a unique form of religious life, a way of being alone - together.

Carthusians live in individual cells with their own workshop, study, oratory and garden but eat some meals and pray sometimes in community. 

Their entire day is arranged around praying, working, reading and studying for God.

Bruno was a successful administrator, scholar and advisor, but longed for a more private life to which he returned even when repeatedly called out of seclusion by a former student who became pope and needed his advice.

Bruno is shown in this statue declining nomination as a bishop and with a skull to remind him of the fleeting nature of earthly honors and pleasures.

It is a peculiar phenomenon that the very busy often find the advice of the very quiet very valuable. 

 

 

 


Redemptorist Father Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos

SeelosA missionary to the German immigrants to the United States, but serving all God's people, Francis Xavier Seelos entered the United States around the time of Civil War, the "Know Nothing" Anti-Catholic movement and the rise of American Nativism in the US Church.

Initially an associate pastor with St. John Neumann in Philadelphia, he soon rose to a prominent leadership position in the Redemptorists and the Church, even declining nomination to become a  bishop.

He served as a tireless missionary in parishes throughout the states, finally succumbing to Yellow Fever at the age of only 48. Many healing miracles were reported both before and after his death. 

He was beatified by St. Pope John Paul II in 2000. 


St. Francis of Assisi

FrancisSt. Francis is famously pictured preaching to the birds and St. Anthony of Padua to the fishes. Undoubtedly both these saints loved God's creation, but both these sermons were meant for people who rejected the preacher and his message. Only the birds and the fish would listen.

Today it is important to remember St. Francis' radical message of discipleship and his love for nearly everything but money, especially his love for Christ crucified and those cast aside by society.

Let us resist the effort to turn Francis into a kind of modern eco-friendly saint who cared for the birds more than the poor.


St. Vincent de Paul

DePaulThis is the statue of St. Vincent dePaul in St. Peter's Basilica. It's not the usual representation of St. Vincent with children on his lap or giving service to the poor. It depicts his determination to serve God and God's people throughout his life, whether he was enslaved or free, in favor at court or ostracized, healthy or sick. His last words were reportedly confido, I trust. It takes a trusting faith for lifelong witness to the gospel. Through St. Vincent's example and intercession, let us ask God for such durable faith.

 


Saint Matthew, Apostle and Martyr

Saint Matthew's conversion must be one of the quickest in Scripture. Jesus invited him to follow and he did. There's no indication that he asked Jesus if he could wait until closing time or give him some time to think about it, or flesh-out the 3 year plan.  That Jesus would call a hated tax-collector to be one of his closest associates was bad enough, but then Jesus attended the party Matthew threw in his home with party-goers who were not exactly on the A list of Pharisaical Society. Quite a lot to pray about in this story about call and conversion.

There seems to be little excuse for not accepting Jesus' invitation to discipleship as Matthew did, don't you think?

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Matthew Symbol from Book of Kells

 

Wikimedia
Matthew and Angel

 


Korean Martyrs

ShrineThe truth about Jesus Christ also reached Korean soil. It came by means of books brought from China. And in a most marvellous way, divine grace soon moved your scholarly ancestors first to an intellectual quest for the truth of God’s word and then to a living faith in the Risen Savior.

Yearning for an ever greater share in the Christian faith, your ancestors sent one of their own in 1784 to Peking, where he was baptized. From this good seed was born the first Christian community in Korea, a community unique in the history of the Church by reason of the fact that it was founded entirely by lay people. This fledgling Church, so young and yet so strong in faith, withstood wave after wave of fierce persecution. Thus, in less than a century, it could already boast of some ten thousand martyrs. 

St. Pope John Paul II, homily at canonization of Korean Martyrs.

 


Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Blessed Feast Day Everyone!

With great respect for Pierro della Francesca I've repaired his beautiful fresco of the Proving of the Holy Cross, the portion of his fresco series in Arezzo that most closely mirrors our Holy Cross Window, now in the choir loft.

This weekend would be a great time to read a little about the origin of the feastday and the history of St. Helena's pilgrimages to the Holy Land. 

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Photoshopped version of the Death of Adam
An Imaginary "Repaired" Version of the Death of Adam



Certain of the panels have more deterioration than others. In many of them the blue sky has flaked and disappeared, and in the Death of Adam, above, many of the greens have faded and disappeared. Looking at della Francesca's other paintings, it isn't too hard to either copy or modify the trees from his intact paintings to fill in the background of the trees in "Death of Adam." The Tree of Life is taken from a the panel of the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon. Some have argued that half of the tree was dead and half living. I'm not sure, but here's what it might look like if it were intact. Trees figure prominently in some of his other panels in this series and in his Baptism of Jesus by John, for instance. 

As we pray what kind of art to put in our reredos, it is well to consider the history of the iconography of the "Invention of the True Cross" in art.

 


Our Lady of Sorrows

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/18/Dirk_Bouts_%28follower_of%29_-_Mater_Dolorosa_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgToday is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, traditionally numbered as seven. Though paintings and statues of this aspect of Mary's life properly show her sorrowful, we can be assured that Mary was not a sad person. Throughout the sorrows she experienced, there were also joys and blessings. Her faith and trust in Her Son provided the inner peace necessary to sustain her.

Let us pray for the blessing of the inner peace which comes from faith in Jesus' Resurrection from the dead and his promise of eternal rest with Him in heaven.

 


Exile Can Be Death

 

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St. John Chrysostom in St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. John Chrysostom lived when the Emperors of Constantinople exercised great influence in the Eastern Church. He was exiled from Constantinople, having run afoul of the Emperor and Empress, and since his letters from exile even held great influence, banished to a further city during his second exile. He died on route to the more distant destination.

 

Our liturgical opening prayer calls him an “illustrious” preacher whose zeal for the truth of the gospel was “invincible.” As you probably know, his name means “golden mouth” for his preaching eloquence.

Social scientists are now discovering the ill effects of loneliness  on our population, including premature death. Though John’s living conditions were undoubtedly harsh, living in exile brings its own burdens.

Let us pray for God to give us the eloquence to defend His truth in this day and for the compassion to console the left-out and lonely.