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For Major Feasts from July, see JULY

Feast of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Wednesday, August 1, 2001

   Saint Alphonsus Liguori founded the Redemptorists in 1732 in Tuscany near Naples, Italy where he had been born in 1696. Alphonsus lived a long, productive life, dying at the ripe old age of 91. During this time he became known as the patron of moral theologians and confessors, which was posthumously bestowed on him by the Church in 1839 upon his canonization by Pope Gregory XVI and in 1871 Pope Pius IX proclaimed Alphonsus a Doctor of the Church. Alphonsus, a learned man with a law degree, spurned the world and was ordained a priest in 1726 at the age of 30. At first he had designs on becoming an Oratorian but decided against it in favor of remaining a diocesan priest. As Providence would have it, while training missionaries at the local college seminary, Alphonsus met Father Tom Falcoia who was sponsoring an order of nuns. Fr. Falcoia would later become the bishop. While preaching a retreat to Fr. Falcoia's nuns, one of the nuns confided in Fr. Alphonsus a vision she had had about the order. After much prayer Alphonsus discerned this message was from Heaven and, with Fr. Falcoia's consent, set about to fulfill the message which concerned changing the rule and habit. It was the beginning of the Redemptoristines. Pleased with Alphonsus' direction, Bishop Falcoia asked him to begin an order of priests in the same vein. Thus began the Redemptorists or Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer which was approved by Pope Benedict XIV in 1749 despite early dissension and opposition from jealous ecclesiatics. Throughout his lifetime Alphonsus was a master moral theologian, publishing many of his works and inspiring many. In 1762, against his wishes because he would have to relinquish control as Superior General of his congregation, he was consecrated Bishop of Benevento. There he served Holy Mother Church until, at the age of 79 he retired to a village near Naples where he suffered mental, physical and spiritual pangs because of the dissensions within his beloved congregation he had founded. Saddened, but full of trust in God, he handed it all over to Our Lord and died peacefully in 1787.

Feast of Saint John Baptist Mary Vianney, Confessor and Cure d'Ars

Saturday, August 4, 2001

   This humble parish priest was born on May 8, 1786 in Dardilly near Lyons, France three years before the French Revolution. Few realized this young John Baptist Vianney would stage his own revolution within the Church - one which would set the model for the importance of the parish priest and foster numerous vocations to the priesthood at a time when the Church was greatly persecuted and misunderstood. He saw first hand the slaughter of the clergy and exile of many of the priests who he longed for. Thus at age 20, with a fervent desire to rebuild the Church in France he began studying for the priesthood under the saintly Abbe Balley at Ecully. Because he was not a learned man, young John had great difficulty with his studies and struggled greatly, particularly with the Latin. Because of his grades he was not protected from the military draft and was called to Napoleon's army in 1808. Less than a year later, realizing the folly of war, he deserted and returned home in hiding. In 1810, the little French general, realizing how the populace was turning against him, granted amnesty to all deserters. This freed Vianney to pursue his studies where he was tonsured. Though he continued to struggle with his studies, the Abbe saw the qualities of holiness in John and interceded for his ordination. Thus John became a priest in 1815 despite his poor grades. His first assignment was under the Abbe as curate where he remained until the Abbe's death in 1817. The next year the bishop assigned Fr. Vianney as the Cure d'Ars where he remained for the rest of his life - 42 years - as a humble, parish priest. His first priority was to reinstill the reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and then reignite the flame of involvement in a parish that had become exceedingly indifferent. He waged a constant war on immorality and over-spending, eventually winning over the entire village though not before impassioned bouts with enemies who wanted to cling to the good life. But Fr. Vianney won out, opening a school for girls, a shelter for orphans and a shrine to Saint Philomena which drew enormous throngs as a place of pilgrimage. Many believe it was not the shrine they were being attracted to, but rather this simple, holy priest who spent sixteen to eighteen hours a day in the confessional counseling through spiritual direction, and giving absolution. Though he was laughed at by many of his peers and some of the villagers for his ignorance in things of the world, he had the unique gift of reading souls and the confessional became his classroom where he was the master teacher. As befits a holy man, the more one strives for sanctity the more satan assaults. Such was the case with Fr. Vianney who was subjected to demonic attacks for over thirty years. Though he was not an intellectual, the wisdom which he spoke told volumes. One such pearls of wisdom was on "Whom the devil torments most?" in "Beware if you have no temptations". Every time the bishop sought to transfer him, his parishioners stormed the ordinary with protests, causing the bishop to back down. Fr. Vianney himself longed to leave, not for another parish, but rather for the life of a Carthusian monk. Three times he sought the contemplative life but each time his parishioners brought him back and he finally realized his life would always be healing sinners and tending to the desolate. His fame spread throughout Europe and in 1843 he was awarded the medal of the Legion of Honor. He promptly sold it for the value it brought and gave the money to the poor. Exhausted from a life-long dedication to his parishioners and pilgrims, he died peacefully on August 4, 1859 a year after Our Lady, whom he had a deep devotion to, had appeared at Lourdes affirming the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. This holy saint truly believed in the power of prayer, saying "Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there, if you set it on fire it makes a long of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that." Such was the power of Mass, the Real Presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and the Holy Rosary and this devotion is still evident today in this tiny village which has become the shrine of St. John Vianney who was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and four years later proclaimed "patron of parish priests."

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Monday, July 16, 2001

   One of the manifestations of Jesus Christ's deity was the glorification of His appearance before His Resurrection. As the accounts of Matthew 17: 1-8; Mark 9: 1-8; and Luke 9: 28-36 describe while praying with His chosen Apostles Peter, James and John on the mountain, Jesus' "face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as snow." Then He was transfigured before them, and Moses and Elias or Elijah joined Him. The Apostles intuitively knew there was no need for fear as Peter remarked to his Master, "Lord, it is good for us to be here." It was truly prophetic for Peter showed his personality in this passage as he meandered on about erecting three altars to the three in the Transfiguration. It gives us a glimpse of the thinking behind the one who would be chosen to lead Christ's Church for Peter, along with the other two Apostles who heard the Father confirm Jesus' mission with the words, "This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear Him." After that, as if in a trance, the Evangelists tell only that the three Apostles fell on their faces - so in awe of this vision that the next thing they knew Jesus Himself was touching them, the Transfiguration over, beckoning them to "Arise, and be not afraid." Jesus knew no one else would understand what had just transpired and so counseled the three to tell no one of this event until AFTER the Resurrection when they would clearly understand that "Truly He was the Son of God" (Matthew 27: 54). Jesus also felt it was important for them to witness this event in order that when they later would see Him suffer, it would sustain them in knowing that He was truly God and would rise. As we know it was these same three Apostles who accompanied Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemani where they showed their frailties by falling asleep. Also, it was the impulsive Peter who seemed to forget the Transfiguration vision while he cowered in the courtyard denying Our Lord. The etymology of Transfiguration is derived from the Latin trans which means "change" and figura meaning "figure" which Jesus did indeed do, His countenance changed before the Apostles' very eyes as did His figure which became very agile providing proof that a glorified body can move rapidly from one place to another like the speed of light or sound. This was confirmed in Luke 24: 31, 34, 36 when the Evangelist places Jesus on the road to Emmaus and then "vanished from their sight", then immediately he was inside the upper room "stood in their midst." The doors were locked, yet besides agility, Christ possessed "subtility" which allows a body to go where it pleases without any resistance to material matter. Thus He was able to pass through walls as light streams through glass.

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