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St. Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)

September 20, 2019

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St. Pius of Pietrelcina, commonly known as Padre Pio, was born on May 25, 1887, in the small southern Italian town of Pietrelcina. His parents, Grazio and Maria Giuseppa Forgione, were devout Catholics and poor peasant farmers. He was baptized the day after his birth at St. Ana’s Chapel and given the name Francesco, named after San Francesco, St. Francis of Assisi.

Padre PioFrancesco entered the Capuchin Franciscan Friars at the age of fifteen, was invested with the Capuchin habit on January 22, 1903, and chose the name Pius or Pio in honor of St. Pius II, the patron saint of Pietrelcina. He imposed severe fasts on himself, lost weight, compromised his immune system, and eventually became seriously ill with tuberculosis or bronchial pneumonia as well as raging fevers. He left the friary and returned to his family because they were better able to care for him. Once recovered, he returned to the community, moved to San Giovanni Rotondo and studied philosophy and theology. He was ordained a priest on August 10, 1910.

Less than a month after his ordination, on September 7, 1910, while at prayer in his family’s farmhouse in Piana Romana, Padre Pio received the invisible stigmata, the five wounds of the crucified Jesus. Eight years later, on September 20, 1918, while at prayer in the Friary Chapel at San Giovanni Rotondo, he had a mystical encounter with Jesus and received the visible stigmata, wounds that he carried on his hands, feet, and side for the next fifty years, and he did so with great humility covering his hands with gloves and his feet with stockings.

Padre Pio was highly regarded for his personal holiness and spiritual wisdom, and as a result throngs approached him for advice and encouragement. He also had a tremendous reputation as a kindly confessor. Many days he spent up to twelve hours in the confessional, and some years he reportedly heard as many as twenty-five thousand confessions. Not only did he give wise counsel, he was able to see into the penitent’s heart and determine if the person was unaware of or in denial about a sin, and able to help the person to both name and turn away from the sin.

As the steady string of pilgrims and the size of the crowds grew, so did his troubles. Members of his own Capuchin community and Vatican officials were increasingly jealous and skeptical, alleged that his stigmata was a fraud, and maintained that he was promoting himself. Padre Pio was placed under investigation more than ten times, his priestly faculties were suspended, and he was forbidden to say Mass or hear confessions. It was a cross of untold suffering for him to be doubted, ridiculed, and rejected, and for long periods he retreated into isolation. Dark as those days were, he never lost faith, kept his sense of humor, and remained steadfast in prayer, especially before the Eucharist. He often said, “I only want to be a poor friar who prays.” It took until 1968 before Pope Paul VI granted the official approval of the Church.

Padre Pio’s dream was to establish a hospital that would provide compassionate care for the poor, and it was realized with the establishment of La Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, the Home for the Relief of Suffering, a one thousand bed hospital. It was dedicated in 1956 and it continues its mission today in conjunction with an international bioscience research facility.

Padre Pio died September 23, 1968 at the age of 81, was beatified in 1999 in the presence of 250,000 people, and canonized by Pope John Paul II on June 16, 2002. St. Pius of Pietrelcina is the patron saint of civil defense volunteers and Catholic adolescents.

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Our Lady of Sorrows

September 13, 2019

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Our Lady of Sorrows

Various Spiritual Titles. Our Lady of Sorrows is known by a number of different names. In Latin, she is called the Mater Dolorosa, the Sorrowful Mother. Mary endured The Seven Dolors or the Seven Sorrows.

A Two Day Celebration. A memorial that honors Mary is combined with a feast that honors Jesus. The Exaltation of the Holy Cross is on September 14 and Our Lady of Sorrows is on September 15. Similarly, earlier in the year, the Sacred Heart of Jesus is paired with the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Like Son, Like Mother. Both the hearts of Jesus and Mary were pierced. The heart of Jesus was pierced when a soldier thrust his lance into the side of Jesus (Jn 19:34a), and when Mary presented her infant son Jesus in the Temple, Simeon told her, “You yourself a sword will pierce” (Lk 2:35).

Mary’s Sorrow. Mary shows in a heartrending way how when the person you love suffers, you suffer along with them. A mother suffers when her child suffers. As Jesus hung on the Cross in agony, Mary stood at the foot of the Cross (Jn 19:25) agonizing along with him. Mary suffered her own passion as she participated in her son Jesus’ Passion.

One of Seven. Mary’s sorrow at the foot of the Cross was not her first or her last. Traditionally there are seven sorrows of Mary, three during the early years of Jesus’ life and four on Good Friday. The first sorrow was Simeon’s prophecy, the troubling announcement that her heart would be pierced by a sword. The second sorrow was the flight to Egypt (Mt 2:13-15), the terrible anguish Mary endured knowing that the king wanted to kill her child, the hardship of a grueling trip across the desert, and the sadness of living in Egypt as a refugee apart from family and friends for a number of years. The third sorrow was the overwhelming fear that she experienced when her son Jesus was lost for three days in the Temple (Lk 2:41-52).

The Four Sorrows of Good Friday. The fourth sorrow was the tragic moment when Mary met Jesus along a street in Jerusalem as he carried his Cross. The fifth sorrow was the torment she endured as she stood at the foot of the Cross and watched her son writhe in pain and then die such an ignominious death. The sixth sorrow was when Jesus was taken down from the Cross and laid in her arms. And finally, the seventh sorrow was for Mary to watch, weeping, as her son was laid in the tomb.

Special Mass Texts. In addition to the Scripture readings that are recommended for the Mass, either Heb 5:7-9 or Col 1:24-25 for the first reading, and either Jn 19:25-27 or Lk 2:33-35 for the gospel, the Lectionary also offers an optional Sequence, a prose reflection on Mary’s sorrows, and the Stabat Mater, a poetic reflection with the verses that are commonly sung with the Stations of the Cross.

Our Lady of Sorrows in Art. The most famous representation of the Sorrowful Mother is the Pieta by Michelangelo which is on display at St. Peter’s Vatican Basilica in Rome. The primary symbol for Our Lady of Sorrows is a red heart pierced on top by a single sword. Mary is often portrayed with her head slumping, supported by her hand, her eyes downcast, and her face streaming with tears. She also is often shown with a single sword thrust into her chest or with her heart visible above her chest and pierced by seven swords.

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The History of the Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows

September 13, 2019

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The biblical origin of the memorial of our Lady of Sorrows is found in the Infancy Narrative of the gospel of Luke when, during the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Simeon told the Blessed Mother Mary, “You yourself a sword will pierce” (Lk 2:35). It was a deeply disturbing message on what should have been an extremely joyful day. Simeon forewarned Mary that she would endure much hardship in the future: burdens and anxiety, pain and suffering, tears and mourning. It was unknown when it would happen, how it would happen, or how hard it would be, but trouble surely was coming. The announcement itself was a sorrow for Mary.

Church historians believe that St. Anselm (1033-1109), a Benedictine monk, bishop, and Doctor of the Church, and the Benedictines, were the first to introduce the concept of Our Lady of Sorrows or the Sorrowful Mother during the Eleventh Century. The first liturgical celebration of the feast was during the Twelfth Century.

By the Fourteenth Century the single sorrow of Mary had been expanded to seven, three from the early years and four from Good Friday. The first three sorrows of Mary are Simeon’s painful prediction (Lk 2:35), the panic-stricken Flight into Egypt and the years spent as a refugee (Mt 2:13-15,19-22), and the acute anxiety of losing her son for three days (Lk 2:48). The final four sorrows of Mary are her encounter with Jesus as he carried his Cross, the torment of standing at the foot of the Cross to witness her son’s suffering and death (Jn 19:25a), the anguish of receiving his lifeless body in her arms as he was taken down from the Cross, and the grief of watching her son’s burial as he was laid in the tomb.

During the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries two religious orders, the Cistercians and the Servites of Mary, were strong advocates of the devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows through their preaching and missionary work, and the devotion spread throughout Europe and more broadly to the universal Church. The Servites consider Our Lady of Sorrows as their patron saint, they celebrate her memorial as their patronal feast, and it was first celebrated by their order in 1423 in Cologne, Germany.

The memorial gained greater momentum in 1482 when it was added to the Missal under its former name, “Our Lady of Compassion.” Compassion was used because Jesus’ Passion became Mary’s passion, and as Jesus suffered, she suffered with him.

In 1668 the Servites of Mary introduced a similar devotion to commemorate the Seven Dolors of Mary. It was placed on the Roman Calendar in 1814 and celebrated on the first Sunday after September 14.

In 1727 Pope Benedict XIII universalized the devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows when he placed it on the Roman Calendar, and for nearly two hundred years it was celebrated by the worldwide Church on the Friday before Palm Sunday. Then in 1913 Pope Pius X permanently transferred the memorial to September 15, the day after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14, to combine the celebration of and reflection upon of the Passion of Jesus and the passion of Mary on consecutive days (see Lodi, E., Saints of the Roman Calendar, 264).

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St. Bartholomew

August 23, 2019

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Nothing is known about St. Bartholomew except that he was one of the original twelve apostles (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Lk 6:14; Acts 1:1). Was he a fisherman like some of the other apostles, or a farmer, a shepherd, or a craftsman? How did Jesus call him? How quickly did he respond? What was his personality like?

As little as is known about him, it is safe to presume that St. Bartholomew was an ordinary fellow like the others. It is highly unlikely that he was from the upper class, wealthy, well-educated, or a polished public speaker.

As an apostle, St. Bartholomew accompanied Jesus over the three years of his public ministry (Lk 8:1). Like the other apostles, even though he heard Jesus’ preaching and saw his miracles, he did not understand much of what Jesus said, was confused about who Jesus was, and was afraid many times. He supposedly was in Jesus’ inner circle, a partner and a friend, yet on the night that Jesus was arrested, he fled (Mt 26:56; Mk 14:50), and when Jesus was crucified, he was nowhere to be found. He did little to distinguish himself. He was an average person, plain and unremarkable, timid and weak, cautious and reserved in his commitment to Jesus.

This all changed, and suddenly. St. Bartholomew experienced an astonishing transformation. When he encountered the risen Jesus, Jesus roused his courage. Then he received the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. He had been lukewarm, and suddenly he was on fire for the Lord. Ordinary became extraordinary. Dull became brilliant. Halfhearted became rock solid. Sputtering became supercharged. Reserved became outspoken. Private went public.

St. Bartholomew had spent his whole life in Galilee, but now would take the gospel on the road. His only concerns had been mundane things, but now his concern was the Kingdom of God. He had shied away from opposition and conflict, and now he was ready to do battle with the world.

Church historians believe that St. Bartholomew made a number of missionary journeys. There is evidence that he made a major trip to India and founded a Christian community on the Malabar Coast. There are also reports that he made easterly expeditions to Mesopotamia and Persia, to the modern areas of Syria, Iraq, and Iran; and northwesterly expeditions to Phrygia and Lycaonia, regions in central and east central Asia Minor or Turkey. Tradition holds that his final missionary journey was to the west coast of the Caspian Sea in Armenia, southern Russia, where he both made converts and was martyred.

St. Bartholomew was an ordinary person, and Jesus called him to do extraordinary things in his name. He may have been unworthy, but Jesus made him worthy. He may have been weak, but Jesus gave him strength.

Likewise, most of us are rather ordinary. We have our shortcomings and faults. Yet, despite our limitations and flaws, Jesus still calls us not only to follow him but also to serve him, and to do so without holding back. Jesus uses ordinary people. He givse us courage. The Holy Spirit gives us power.

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St. John Eudes – Priest and Founder

August 16, 2019

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St. John Eudes

St. John Eudes is a great French saint of the Seventeenth Century. He was born in Ri, France, in the region of Normandy and the Diocese of Seez, in 1601. His family lived on a farm. He was the oldest of seven children.

He was educated by the Jesuits. At the age of 22 he became a member of the newly established French Congregation of the Oratory, the Oratorians, a religious order founded by Peter de Berulle in Paris, with a special charism for preaching. He was ordained a priest in 1625 and remained a member of the community for the next twenty years.

During the early years of his priesthood his special ministry was to preach parish missions throughout Normandy and Brittany. Some missions were a week, others several weeks, and a few were a month or more. He was a dynamic preacher and did much to revitalize and strengthen the faith of those who attended. He also gave retreats and conferences for priests.

It was also the time of the Counter Reformation, the time after the Council of Trent (1545-1563), and the Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation. Jansenism was a heretical movement that had many adherents in France. Jansen taught that the material world including the human body is evil, grace is given only to a few, and that people are such sinners that they are unworthy to receive the Eucharist. The common folk were easily misled and clergy with poor training were swayed. St. John Eudes boldly and courageously corrected the errors of Jansenism with his clear and persuasive proclamation of sound doctrine.

During this same period he served as the superior of the Oratorian monastery at Caen, France. There were several outbreaks of the plague, and he spent much time and energy in the spiritual and physical care of the victims. He also pondered the depths of the spiritual life, and he gathered his reflections in a book, The Life and Kingdom of Jesus in Christian Souls, which was published in 1637. It was so popular that it went through sixteen editions during his lifetime.

In 1641 he founded the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, today known as the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. Their mission was the care of morally endangered women, particularly those trapped in prostitution, and to help them to live virtuous Christian lives.

In 1643 he wished to open a seminary in Caen, a plan that was supported by the local bishop but opposed by the new superior of the Oratorians. As a result he decided to leave the community to found the Society of Jesus and Mary (C.I.M.), a society of diocesan priests commonly known as the Eudists. His goal was to reform the clergy, and six seminaries were established, one in Caen, and five in other French cities, to strengthen the education and training of future diocesan priests. Today the worldwide membership is about 450.

He also had a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He believed that Jesus, whose heart was pierced by a lance, is the source of all holiness, and that Mary, whose heart was pierced by a sword, is the greatest model of how to live the Christian life. He explained this devotion in two books, The Devotion to the Adorable Heart of Jesus, published in 1671, and The Admirable Heart of the Most Holy Mother of God, completed one month before his death.

St. John Eudes died in Caen in Normandy, France, on August 19, 1680 at the age of 79. He was beatified in 1909 and canonized a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1925.

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The preface for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 9, 2019

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Assumption

Each year on August 15 the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption, the belief that Mary was assumed, taken up body and soul to heaven, where she lives in eternal glory with her son Jesus. The prayers that are said at Mass, particularly the Preface, provide a concise statement of the major aspects of this dearly held belief.

The first sentence is, “For today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven.” “Today” seems to imply that the Assumption is happening at the present moment, when in fact it took place centuries ago. The Assumption is being remembered and honored today.

“Virgin” is a major statement about Jesus. The Holy Spirit came upon Mary, and the power of the Most High overshadowed her (Lk 1:35). It was the Holy Spirit in partnership with the Father that was the source of Jesus’ life. Jesus did not have human origins. He is divine.

“Mother of God” is another powerful statement, partly about Mary, but more importantly about Jesus. Jesus is “Son of God and Son of Mary”; he has two natures, divine and human. Mary is Theotokos, the bearer of God (Ephesus, 431 AD), and her son Jesus is not a holy man, a prophet, or an exceptional human being, but truly God, one of the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity.

“Assumed into heaven” is the belief that Mary was taken up into heaven, and in doing so, she joined elite company. The Bible names only two others who have been assumed to heaven, Elijah who went to heaven on a flaming chariot (2 Kgs 2:11), and Jesus who was taken up to heaven in a cloud (Acts 1:9). It is presumed that Moses also ascended because “no one knows the place of his burial” (Dt 34:6). Jesus and Mary were both without sin, and as Jesus was rewarded by his Father by being ascended to heaven, Mary was rewarded by her Son by being assumed into heaven.

The Preface continues, Mary is “the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection.” Mary is “the beginning,” the first disciple of Jesus, the first member of his Church. She is also the “image of your Church,” the perfect model of discipleship, the picture of virtue, loving, kind, and generous, and Christians are to follow her example.

Next, Mary is mentioned with regard to the “Church’s coming to perfection.” The members of the Church are far from perfect, but Mary was immaculately conceived, free of sin from the beginning, and she avoided all forms of sin her entire life, free from sin until the end, sinless from start to finish, “perfect.” “Coming” acknowledges that perfection is the desired outcome and that this is a lifelong journey. Every disciple individually and the Church collectively is invited to become more like Mary, to root out all forms of sin and grow in holiness.

The Preface goes on to say that Mary is “a sign of hope and comfort.” The hope is that if Mary was taken up to heaven at the end of her time on her, that on the day of our death we will be taken up to heaven as she was. It is natural to be nervous about what will happen to us when we die, and it is a source of immense comfort to know that the glorious journey that Mary made to heaven is promised to every faith-filled believer.

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Mary and Martha: Ora et labora

July 19, 2019

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Jesus and St. Benedict were on the same page. Their advice was the same, and it was wise advice. Martha did not particularly like the advice. Neither did many of St. Benedict’s monks. Nor do hard working people who are constantly on the go.

Mary and Martha with JesusWhen Martha was laboring in the kitchen, Jesus observed, “Mary has chosen the better part” (Lk 10:42). When St. Benedict’s monks were ready to go to work in the monastery kitchen or dining room, the barn or the fields, the laundry or the workshop, the library or the classroom, he cautioned them with his famous motto, Ora et labora, pray and work, and in this order. It is crucial to follow the proper sequence. Prayer goes first. Work comes second.

The Christian life is about service. Jesus came not to be served but to serve (see Mt 20:28 and Mk 10:45), and he taught that “whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all” (Mk 10:43). The Collect for the memorial of St. Benedict on July 11 says that he was “an outstanding master in the school of divine service.” If Martha was thoroughly engaged in service, why would Jesus say that Mary had chosen the better part? If St. Benedict’s monks were chomping at the bit to get to work, why would he slam on the brakes with his instruction, Ora et labora?

Why? Martha was hot and bothered while she was laboring. She was upset with her workload. She was angry and frustrated with her sister who was no help. She was whining to herself. She complained to Jesus. She had a nasty disposition. It was no way to work.

St. Benedict’s monks often labored aimlessly. They were good men who completed their tasks, but the monks performed their tasks mindlessly, not concentrating, daydreaming, unfocused, without a sense of purpose, trudging along, and not all that happy. It was no way to work.

St. Benedict told his monks to pray before going to work. Jesus was pleased with Mary because she sat at his feet to listen to his instructions before she joined her sister Martha with the kitchen duties. Work without guidance often goes awry. It can easily be misdirected. The labor can seem meaningless or feel like drudgery.

When a person sits at the feet of the Master, like Mary did, or when the monks pray early in the morning, like St. Benedict’s monks did, the labor is properly guided. The work is motivated by love of God. It is done cheerfully and gladly. The load feels lighter. The time goes faster. The day seems brighter. The energy is stronger. Interactions with coworkers are more positive. The people who are served are treated better. The tasks are done with greater integrity. The work has greater purpose. It is more rewarding. There is more satisfaction. And most importantly, it is more pleasing to God.

We have long lists of tasks to do. We don’t want to wait. We want to jump right in and get going. This is dangerous. It is important to pause first, take a moment, sit at the feet of the Master, pray, and get our bearings for the day. Then, once grounded and pointed in the right direction by Jesus, we will be ready to begin the labors of the day.

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St. Henry, Emperor

July 12, 2019

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St. Henry was the Duke of Bavaria, the Holy Roman Emperor, a powerful ruler, and extremely involved in Church affairs.

St. Henry was born in Hildesheim, Bavaria, on May 6, 972. His parents were Duke Henry II of Bavaria and Gisela of Burgundy. He was the eldest of four children, all of whom rose to positions of influence. His brother Bruno became the bishop of Augsburg, his sister Gisella married Stephen of Hungary, and his sister Brigid became the abbess of the monastery of St. Paul in Regensburg.

St. HenrySt. Henry received his education from St. Wolfgang, the bishop of Regensburg, from whom he gained a strong love for the Church, and in monastic schools where he developed a great appreciation for the value of monastic life. He was a man of faith, prayer, and conviction.

In 995 at the age of 22, St. Henry succeeded his father as the Duke of Bavaria. Three years later he married Kunegunda of Luxemburg (also Cunegunda or Cunegund). They had no children, were married 26 years, and together performed many good works, particularly care for the poor. She became a Benedictine nun after his death in 1024, and she was canonized a saint in 1200.

In 1002 at the age of 29, St. Henry was elected to succeed his cousin, Otto III, as the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. He was first crowned in 1007 at Magonza, and then again in 1014 by Pope Benedict VIII in Rome. As emperor, he realized that he was subject to the King of all, and that the most important crown is not power and riches but the crown of immortality.

The Empire was vast and beset by strife. St. Henry led multiple military campaigns throughout his reign. In 1004 his forces crossed the Alps to defeat Arduin of Ivrea who had installed himself as king of Italy. In the same year his troops drove Boleslaus I of Poland from Bohemia. In 1021 his military returned to Italy to confront Greeks who had a stronghold at Apulia.

St. Henry did much to strengthen the Church in Germany, particularly in the reform and reorganization of the dioceses of Hildesheim, Magdeburg, Strassburg, and Meersburg. Also, in a strategic move, he founded the Diocese of Bamberg in 1006 in the hope that the capital of the empire would move from Rome to Germany, and he insisted on the construction of both a great cathedral and a monastery as focal points. Pope John XIX approved the new diocese, and Pope Benedict VIII consecrated the cathedral in 1020. The new diocese served as the center of a missionary outreach to the Slavs, but it was opposed by the bishops of Wurzburg and Eichstatt, both of whom lost territory from their dioceses.

St. Henry supported the Pope’s authority over the Papal States. He was a strong proponent of the Cluny monastic reform movement which put him squarely at odds with archbishop Aribo of Mainz, his friend and personal appointee, who opposed the reform.

St. Henry died in his Grona palace near Gottingen, Germany, on July 13, 1024, at the age of 51, and was buried in the Bamberg cathedral. Pope Eugene III canonized him a saint in 1146, and Pope Pius X named him the patron saint of the Benedictine lay oblates.

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St. Elizabeth of Portugal, Queen and Mother

July 2, 2019

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The memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal is celebrated by the Universal Church on July 4, but because of Independence Day, in the United States her memorial is celebrated on July 5.

St. Elizabeth was born in 1271 in Zaragoza, Spain, the daughter of King Peter III of Aragon. She was named after her great aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, but in Spain she is known as Isabella. She was devout and virtuous as a child and had a beautiful disposition.

St. Elizabeth of PortugalShe was married at the age of twelve to King Denis of Portugal and became queen. She divided her time between spiritual and temporal affairs. She rose every morning to pray the Liturgy of the Hours before Mass, and she spent a portion of most days in her outreach to the poor. But she also treated her husband with exceptional kindness and faithfully attended to her duties in the palace. She had a daughter when she was twenty, Constance, who would become the queen of Castile, and a year later she had a son, Alfonso, who would succeed his father as king.

Her marriage was filled with troubles. Her husband was unfaithful and fathered multiple illegitimate children, and she cared for them as if they were her own. The king falsely accused her of favoring her son Alfonso over him, and for inciting Alfonso to rebel against him. Consequently she was barred from the royal court and her possessions were confiscated. While in exile, she had many supporters, some who were soldiers, and they proposed a military response. She urged them to be patient, remain loyal to the king, and refrain from armed resistance. Later she was cleared of all wrongdoing. Amid these hardships she remained steadfast in prayer, received strength from God, and was able to persevere in marriage.

She never wavered from her charitable works. She cared for the poor, sick, travelers, orphans, and prostitutes; and she built a hospital, orphanages, a home for wayward girls in Torres Novas, and the Poor Clare convent at Coimbra.

Her husband became seriously ill in 1324, and she vigilantly cared for him, and after offering countless prayers for his conversion he demonstrated a repentant spirit. After 41 years of marriage, he died at Santarem on January 6, 1325. This gave her the freedom to pursue her desire to become a religious sister. She sought membership with the Poor Clares at Coimbra but was refused. As an alternative, she became a Third Order Franciscan and took the Franciscan habit. She lived in a home near the monastery, distributed her inheritance to the poor, lived a simple life, followed the monastic prayer schedule, and continued her charitable deeds.

St. Elizabeth was renowned as a peacemaker. In the early years she resolved a dispute between her grandfather James and her father Peter that was causing a rift in the kingdom. Later her son Alfonso, who was distraught over the way his father seemed to prefer his illegitimate sons over him, rebelled and twice took up arms against his father. In each case Elizabeth intervened and rode out between their rival forces, and in each instance was able to quell the conflict. Finally shortly before her death, she expended enormous energy to prevent a war between Portugal led by James II of Aragon and Castile led by Ferdinand IV. The war was averted; worn out by the struggle, she died of exhaustion on July 4, 1336, in Estremoz, Portugal. She was widely regarded as a woman of extraordinary holiness, many offered prayers through her intercession, and numerous miracles were attributed to her. She was canonized a saint in 1626.

St. Elizabeth’s symbol is an apron full of roses. She is the patroness of brides, victims of adultery, charity workers, the Third Order of St. Francis, Coimbra, and the country of Portugal.

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The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

June 21, 2019

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The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is celebrated every year on the Second Sunday after Pentecost. The traditional name for the feast is Corpus Christi. It is one of the three doctrinal feasts celebrated during Ordinary Time, in addition to the Most Holy Trinity celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost and Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, celebrated on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time. It emerged not only to give honor to Jesus present in the Eucharist but also to correct false teaching.

Corpus ChristiOver the centuries many nonbelievers have been skeptical of the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, while others have belittled the belief or rejected it altogether. A surprising number of Catholics even question the Real Presence. These divergent understandings have led to much debate over the centuries. While the Real Presence of Christ has always been a core Catholic doctrine, it was defined as an essential element of the Catholic faith by the Council of Trent in 1551.

Various devotions and practices emerged to strengthen the faith of the people regarding the importance of the Eucharist. In the Eleventh Century people began to spend time in adoration kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament.

The featured event of the old Corpus Christi celebrations was an elaborate ceremonial procession, a practice that began in Cologne, Germany between 1274 and 1279 and spread rapidly to other countries. It was a religious parade. The people went to great expense to decorate the streets with draperies and banners in advance. Then on the festival day a large host, the consecrated bread, the Body of Christ or the Blessed Sacrament, was placed in a monstrance, a highly decorative receptacle, and it was carried under a canopy. The processions usually were quite long and arranged carefully according to a strict order of etiquette. The clergy and religious were positioned in front of the canopy, while civic officials, the lay faithful, other groups, residents, and visitors followed behind the canopy. The procession proceeded up and down the streets of the city or village with deep reverence. The participants sang hymns both while they were walking, and also at various places where the procession would stop. People lined up along the streets to witness the spectacle and adore the Blessed Sacrament, and the usual practice was to kneel as the Eucharist passed by. Also, at various points where the procession stopped, the minister used the monstrance and the Eucharist to bless the people.

Over time the crowds along the route grew increasingly diverse, and many nonbelievers were mixed in with devout Christians. Some were indifferent, but a few were downright hostile, heckling believers, hurling insults, and acting irreverently. In order to safeguard the Eucharist, the processions were restricted to the area in the immediate vicinity of the church or moved inside entirely.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is a special opportunity to worship the Lord Jesus, the true and eternal priest, really present in the sacrament of his Body and Blood. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life, and the grace and divine life that Jesus gives leads to ever greater holiness and joy in this life and eternal salvation in the next.

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