Profiles of the Saints and Feasts

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Profiles of the Saints and Feasts

SUNDAY, December 8, 2002

    Double of the First Class Feast of the Solemnity of the IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY. Holy Day of Obligation. Also, the Second Week of Advent though the solemnity takes precedence.

        White Vestments.

    Mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

    EPISTLE: Wisdom: Proverbs 8: 23-35
    GRADUAL: Judith 13: 23
    GOSPEL: Luke 1: 26-28


   This feast was established for the universal Church by Pope Pius IX when He proclaimed that from all eternity, the Triune Divinity chose the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the tabernacle of the Son of God. The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception proclaimed once and for all that it was unthinkable that Mary be defiled in any way by sin in any manner whatsoever. Thus, in that infinitesmal second that God created Mary He made her Immaculate. This grace, like all other graces since Adam and Eve's fall, was given to Mary through the merits of her Divine Son Jesus. She stood alone as one free of the stain of original sin, redeemed not from the evil already present at birth, but from any evil that threatened this sacred temple known as the Mother of God.

   This was confirmed in the infallible words of Pius IX,

    "The most holy Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ the Redeemer of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin."

   Saint Ephrem first held this belief in the fourth century. Seven centuries later the crusaders brought this belief back to the Western Church from the Eastern Church in the Holy Land where, since 750, it had been celebrated on December 9 along with the feast of Saint Anne who had conceived the Blessed Mother.

   In 1050 a feast honoring Mary's conception was offered by Pope Leo IX. In the twelfth century the Franciscan Father Duns Scotus defended the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and was listed in the Roman Calendar in the year 1476 by Pope Sixtus IV. In 1708 Pope Clement XI made the conception of Our Lady a feast of obligation. Nearly 150 years later in 1854, Pius IX proclaimed it the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This interestingly followed the lead of the United States Bishops eight years earlier who had decreed in 1846 that the U.S. was consecrated to Mary's Immaculate Conception and assigned December 8 as the official feast of their Heavenly patron. Four years after Pius IX's infallible pronouncement, Our Lady herself confirmed this dogma at Lourdes when she proclaimed to the visionary Saint Bernadette Soubirous, "I am the Immaculate Conception."

Monday, December 9, 2002

    Semi-Double observance Within the Octave or the Advent Feria

        White or Green Vestments.

    Mass of the Immaculate Conception above or the Mass of the Second Sunday of Advent below:

    EPISTLE: Romans 15: 4-13
    GRADUAL: Psalm 49: 2-3, 5
    GOSPEL: Matthew 11: 2-10

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

    Semi-Double Feast of Pope Saint Melchiades or Miltiades, Martyr, observance Within the Octave and historical feast of Our Lady of Loreto

        Red or White Vestments.

    Mass Si diligis for Common of one or several Popes

    EPISTLE: 1 Peter 5: 1-4, 10-11
    GRADUAL: Psalm 106: 31-32
    GOSPEL: Matthew 16: 13-19

Pope Saint Miltiades

   Pope Saint Melchiades was the first African pope elected. He was so on July 2, 311 as the 32nd successor of Peter. The papacy had been vacant for two years. It was during his papacy that Constantine the Great would come to power. Six years earlier the Emperor Diocletian had abdicated his throne in the East while in the West Maximian had also given up his rule. Diocletian was succeeded by Emperor Galerius while in the west Constantius Chlorus replaced Maximian. A year later Chlorus was succeeded by his 32 year-old son Constantine who was a Serb. Constantine set his sights on overthrowing Maxentius, son of Maximian in Italy and Africa. Constantine was victorious in Africa and as he moved up the boot of Italy Maxentius retreated to Rome. The night before the showdown outside the city, Constantine beheld in the sky a lighted cross surrounded by the Latin words, "In Hoc Signo Vincis" which means "In This Sign You shall Conquer." Then, through private revelation, a Voice spoke to Constantine advising him to adopt the cross as a standard bearer instead of the Roman eagle which had been the standard. He took it to heart because his own mother Saint Helena was a Christian and it was she who had unearthed the true cross in Jerusalem. Meanwhile Maxentius had also consulted his gods and confidently was assured of victory over Constantine, announcing to all and even letting it reach the ears of Constantine. Unabashedly Maxentius led his troops out from Rome to attack by way of the Milvian Bridge over the Tiber where, despite greatly outnumbered, Constantine's men soundly defeated them in a great battle that numbered thousands of fatalities including Maxentius. Constantine knew then and there that the sign he had been given was not another superstition but one of substance. He marched triumphantly into Rome carrying the cross as his standard and the people received him with great pomp, erecting an arch and statue of him in memory of his great triumph. Shortly after this Constantine sought out the new emperor of the East Licinius whose soldiers had called upon Jesus' protection before their victory over Galerius' son Maximian Daia. Both Constantine and Licinius had seen first hand the Hand of God in their victories and were moved to accept the Christians and their faith. Thus, in 312 the two signed a pact of toleration toward the Christians called the Edict of Milan giving all people the freedom to worship as they wished.

    On January 2nd, 314 Miltiades, having just completed construction of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, died peacefully.


Wednesday, December 11, 2002

    Semi-Double Traditional Feast of Pope Saint Damasus I and Within the Octave. Also the historical feast of Our Lady, Queen of Angels

        White Vestments.

    Mass Si diligis for Common of one or several Popes

    EPISTLE: 1 Peter 5: 1-4, 10-11
    GRADUAL: Psalm 106: 31-32
    GOSPEL: Matthew 16: 13-19

Pope Saint Damasus I

   Saint Damasus was born in Rome at the beginning of the fourth century. His father, a widower, had received Holy Orders there and served as parish priest in the church of St. Laurence. Damasus was archdeacon of the Roman Church in 355, when Pope Saint Liberius was banished to Berda; he followed him into exile, but afterwards returned to Rome. On the death of Saint Liberius in 366, our Saint was chosen to succeed him, at the age of sixty-two. A certain Ursinus, jealous of his election and desiring for himself that high office, had himself proclaimed pope by his followers, inciting a revolt against Damasus in Rome, in which 137 persons died. The holy Pope did not choose to resort to armed defense, but the Emperor Valentinian, to defend him, drove the usurper from Rome for a time. Later he returned, and finding accomplices for his evil intentions, accused the holy Pontiff of adultery. Saint Damasus took only such action as was becoming to the common father of the faithful; he assembled a synod of forty-four bishops, in which he justified himself so well that the calumniators were excommunicated and banished.

   Having freed the Church of this new schism, Saint Damasus turned his attention to the extirpation of Arianism in the West and of Apollinarianism in the East, and for this purpose convened several councils. He sent Saint Zenobius, later bishop of Florence, to Constantinople in 381 to console the faithful, cruelly persecuted by the Emperor Valens. He commanded Saint Jerome to prepare a correct Latin version of the Bible, since known as the Vulgate; he ordered the Psalms to be sung accordingly. He rebuilt and adorned the Church of Saint Laurence, still called Saint Laurence in Damaso. He caused to be drained all the springs of the Vatican, which were inundating the tombs of the holy persons buried there, and he decorated the sepulchres of a great number of martyrs in the cemeteries, adorning them with epitaphs in verse. Before his death, he consecrated sixty-two bishops.

   Saint Damasus is praised by Theodoret as head of the famous doctors of divine grace of the Latin church; the General Council of Chalcedon calls him the honor and glory of Rome. Having reigned for eighteen years and two months, he died on the 10th of December in 384, when he was nearly eighty years old. In the eighth century, his relics were definitively placed in the church of Saint Laurence in Damaso, except for his head, conserved in the Basilica of Saint Peter.

Sources: Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 14; The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Principal Saints, by Rev. Alban Butler (Metropolitan Press: Baltimore, 1845), October-December, Vol. IV.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

    Semi-Double Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and observance Within the Octave

        White Vestments.

    Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

    EPISTLE: Ecclus. 24: 23-31
    GRADUAL: Canticle 6
    GOSPEL: Luke 1: 37-47

Our Lady of Guadalupe

   One of the most beautiful series of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Queen Heaven - occurred on the American continent on a December day of 1531, only ten years after the Spanish conquest. A fervent Christian Indian in his fifties, Juan Diego, a widower, was on his way to Mass in Mexico City from his home eight miles distant, a practice he and his wife had followed since their conversion, in honor of Our Lady on Her day, Saturday. He had to pass near the hill of Tepeyac, and was struck there by the joyous song of birds, rising up in the most melodious of concerts; he stopped to listen. Looking up to the hilltop, he perceived a brilliant cloud, surrounded by a light brighter than a fiery sun, and a gentle voice called him by name, saying, “Juan, come.” His first fear was transformed into a sweet happiness by this voice, and he mounted the slope. There he beheld the One he had intended to honor by hearing Her Mass. She was surrounded by a radiance so brilliant it sent out rays that seemed to transform the very rocks into scintillating jewels.

   “Where are you going, My child?” She asked him. “To Saint James to hear the Mass sung by the minister of the Most High in honor of the Mother of the Saviour.” “That is good, My son; your devotion is agreeable to Me, as is also the humility of your heart. Know then that I am that Virgin Mother of God, Author of Life and Protector of the weak. I desire that a temple be built here, where I will show Myself to be your tender Mother, the Mother of your fellow citizens and of all who invoke My name with confidence. Go to the bishop and tell him faithfully all you have seen and heard.”

   Juan continued on his way, and the bishop, Monsignor Juan de Zumarraga, a Franciscan of great piety and enlightened prudence, heard him kindly and asked questions, but sent him home without any promises. Juan was disappointed, but on his way past the hill, he once again found the Lady, who seemed to be waiting for him as though to console him. He excused himself for the failure of his mission, but She only repeated Her desire to have a temple built at this site, and told him to return again to the bishop. This he did on the following day, begging the bishop to accomplish the desires of the Virgin. Monsignor said to him: “If it is the Most Holy Virgin who sends you, She must prove it; if She wants a church, She must give me a sign of Her will.” On his way home, Juan Diego found Her again, waiting, and She said to him, “Come back tomorrow and I will give you a certain mark of the truthfulness of your words.”

   The next day Juan was desolate to find his uncle, with whom he lived, fallen grievously sick; the old gentleman was clearly on the brink of death. Juan had to go and find a priest in the city. As he was passing the hill, Our Lady again appeared to him, saying, “Do not be anxious, Diego, because of your uncle’s illness. Don’t you know that I am your Mother and that you are under My protection? At this moment your uncle is cured.” “Then please give me the sign you told me of,” replied Juan. Mary told him to come up to the hilltop and cut the flowers he would find there, place them under his cloak, and bring them to Her. “I will tell you then what to do next.” Juan found the most beautiful of roses and lilies, and chose the most fragrant ones for Mary. She made a bouquet of them and placed it in a fold of his cloak or tilma — a large square of coarse cloth resembling burlap. “Take these lilies and roses on My behalf to the bishop,” She said. “This is the certain sign of My will. Let there be no delay in raising here a temple in My honor.” With joy Juan continued on to the city and the bishop’s residence, where he had to wait nearly all day in the antechamber. Other visitors noted the fragrance of his flowers, and went so far as to open his mantle to see what he was carefully holding in it, but found only flowers pictured on the cloth. When finally he was admitted to the presence of the prelate, he opened his cloak and the fresh flowers fell on the floor. That was not the only sign; on his cloak there was imprinted a beautiful image of the Virgin. It remains today still visible in the Cathedral of Mexico City, conserved under glass and in its original state, having undergone no degeneration in 471 years.

   Juan found his uncle entirely cured that evening; he heard him relate that Our Lady had cured him, and had said to him also: “May a sanctuary be raised for Me under the name of Our Lady of Guadalupe.” The bishop lost no time in having a small church built at the hill of Tepeyac, and Juan Diego himself dwelt near there to answer the inquiries of the pilgrims who came in great numbers. In effect, nearly all of the land became Catholic in a few years’ time, having learned to love the gentle Lady who like God their Father showed Herself to be the ever-watchful friend of the poor. In 1737 the pestilence ceased immediately in Mexico city after the inhabitants made a vow to proclaim Our Lady of Guadalupe the principal Patroness of New Spain. In 1910 She was proclaimed by Pope Saint Pius X “Celestial Patroness of all Latin America.” Recent studies of the image of Our Lady on the tilma have discovered in one of Her eyes the portrait of Saint Juan Diego, recently canonized, the son She chose to favor by this triduum of Heavenly apparitions and conversations.

Friday, December 13, 2002

    Double Feast of Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr and Within the Octave

        Red Vestments.

EPISTLE: Corinthians 10: 17-18; 11: 1-2
GRADUAL: Psalm 44: 8, 3
GOSPEL: Matthew 13: 44-52

Saint Lucy

   Saint Lucy was a young Christian maiden of Syracuse in Sicily. She had already offered her virginity to God and refused to marry, when her mother pressed her to accept the offer of a young pagan. The mother was afflicted afterwards for several years by an issue of blood, and all human remedies were ineffectual. Lucy reminded her mother that a woman in the Gospel, suffering from the same disorder, had been healed by the divine power. They determined to make a journey to Catania, a port of Sicily, where the tomb of Saint Agatha, martyred in 251, was already a site of pilgrimage. “Saint Agatha,” Lucy said, “stands ever in the sight of Him for whom she died. Only touch her sepulchre with faith, and you will be healed.” The Saint of Catania had already saved that city, when Mount Etna had erupted the year after her martyrdom: some frightened pagans, seeing a course of lava descending directly toward the city, had uncovered her tomb, and at once it had stopped.

   Saint Lucy and her mother spent an entire night praying by the tomb, until, overcome by weariness, both fell asleep. Saint Agatha appeared in vision to Saint Lucy, and addressing her sister in the faith, foretold her mother’s recovery and Lucy’s future martyrdom: “You will soon be the glory of Syracuse, as I am of Catania.” At that instant the cure was effected; and in her gratitude the mother allowed her daughter to distribute her wealth among the poor, and to conserve her virginity.

   The young man who had sought her hand in marriage denounced her as a Christian during the persecution of Diocletian, but Our Lord, by a special miracle, saved from outrage this virgin He had chosen for His own. The executioners who would have taken her to a house of ill fame were unable to move her. The exasperated prefect gave orders to attach her by cords to harnessed bulls, but the bulls, too, did not succeed, and he accused her of being a magician. “How can you, a feeble woman, triumph over a thousand men?” She replied, “Bring ten thousand, and they will not be able to combat against God!” A fire kindled around her did her no harm, though she was covered with resin and oil. When a sword was plunged into her heart, the promise made at the tomb of Saint Agatha was fulfilled. Saint Lucy died, predicting peace for the Church.

Sources: Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 14; Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l’année, by Abbé L. Jaud (Mame: Tours, 1950).

Saturday, December 14, 2002

    Semi-Double Observance Within the Octave

        White Vestments.

Mass within the Octave of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

EPISTLE: Wisdom: Proverbs 8: 23-35
GRADUAL: Judith 13: 23
GOSPEL: Luke 1: 26-28


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