Profiles of the Saints and Feasts |
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Traditional Double Feast of Saint Peter of Alexandria, Bishop and Martyr, and Saint Sylvester, Abbot and Martyr.
Saint Peter of Alexandria
The Church of Alexandria, founded by the Evangelist Saint Mark in the name of the Apostle Saint Peter of Alexandria, was the head of the churches of Egypt and of several other provinces; it had lost its Metropolitan when Saint Thomas of Alexandria died at the end of the third century. Saint Peter, a priest of that city, replaced him, and soon was governing the church amid the terrors of the persecution by Diocletian and Maximian. Two bishops and more than six hundred Christians were in irons and on the verge of torture; he sent to them pastoral letters to animate them to fervor and perseverance, and rejoiced to learn that a number of them had won the grace of martyrdom.
Many, however, had preferred apostasy to a cruel death. Saint Peter was obliged to instigate penances in order for them to return to the communion of the faithful. When he deposed a bishop who had incensed an idol during the persecution, his act of justice acquired for him the hostility of a certain Arius, the bishop’s favorite, who became thereafter the author of a schism and an instrument of the cruel emperor Maximian who persecuted the Christians. He in fact animated this tyrant against Saint Peter. The sentence of excommunication which Saint Peter was the first to pronounce against the two schismatics, Arius and Melitius, and which he strenuously upheld despite the united efforts of powerful members of their parties, is proof that he possessed firmness as well as sagacity and zeal.
The Patriarch was soon seized and thrown into prison. There he encouraged the confessors imprisoned with him to sing the praises of God and pray to their Savior in their hearts, without ceasing. Saint Peter never ceased repeating to the faithful that, in order not to fear death, it is necessary to begin by dying to oneself, renouncing our self-will and detaching ourselves from all things. He was soon to give proof of his own perfect detachment in his glorious martyrdom.
While in prison he was advised in an apparition as to his successors in the Alexandrian church, and he recognized that the day of his eternal liberation was at hand. He informed these two faithful sons that his martyrdom was imminent. In effect, the emperor passed sentence of death on him, despite the fact that a crowd of persons had come to the prison with the intention of preventing by force the martyrdom of their patriarch; they remained all night for fear he might be executed in secret. But Saint Peter delivered himself up to his executioners, and died by the sword on November 26, 310. His appearance on the scaffold was so majestic that none of them dared to touch him; it was necessary to pay one of them in gold to strike the fatal blow.
Sources: Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 13; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).
For St. Sylvester, the Mass "Os justi" for the Common of a Holy Abbot
EPISTLE: Wisdom 45: 1-6
GOSPEL: Matthew 19: 27-29
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Ferial Day and the Traditional Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
Mass of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
EPISTLE: Apocalypse 12: 12-16
GRADUAL: Psalm 104
GOSPEL: John 2: 1-11
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
The Miraculous Medal comes directly from the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother; it is a gift from heaven which has never ceased to effect marvels of grace throughout the entire world. This medal is a very simple and very efficacious means to benefit from the protection of Mary in all our necessities, both spiritual and temporal.
On November 27, 1830, in a residence of the Daughters of Charity, at the Chapel of the Rue du Bac in Paris, the Most Blessed Virgin appeared to Saint Catherine Labouré (1806-1876) for the second time. On this day the Queen of Heaven was seen with a globe under Her feet and holding in Her hands, at the level of the heart, another smaller globe, which She seemed to be offering to Our Lord in a gesture of supplication. Suddenly, Her fingers were covered with rings and beautiful jewels; the rays from these streamed in all directions...
The Blessed Virgin looked down on the humble novice who was contemplating Her. “Behold,” She said, “the symbol of the graces that I bestow on those who ask Me for them. The jewels which remain in the shadows symbolize the graces that one forgets to ask Me for,” the Virgin continued. And Catherine Labouré wrote later, “She made me understand how generous She is towards persons who pray to Her, how many graces She grants those who ask Her for them, and what joy She has to bestow them!” Then there formed around the Mother of God an oval background on which was written in gold letters:
O Mary, conceived without sin,
pray for us who have recourse to Thee.
In a gesture which invited recourse and confidence, the hands of Mary descended and were extended as we see them represented on the medal.
Sister Catherine Labouré beheld this vision with happiness. A voice said to her: “Have a medal struck on this model; the persons who will wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck. These graces will be abundant for those who wear it with confidence.” The picture seemed to turn around, and Sister Catherine saw, on its reverse side, the letter M surmounted by a little cross, and below it the holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the first surrounded by a crown of thorns, and the second transfixed by a sword. Twelve stars surrounded the monogram of Mary and the two holy Hearts.
Sister Catherine faithfully accomplished the mission Heaven had entrusted to her. In 1832 the medal was struck and immediately underwent a extraordinary diffusion throughout the world, accompanied by unceasing prodigies of cures, protection and conversion. Thus it came to be known as the Miraculous Medal. Let us wear this medal of the Most Blessed Virgin with respect, and often repeat with confidence and love, the invocation by which Our Heavenly Mother desires that we implore favors: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.
Source: A leaflet on the Miraculous Medal (Editions Magnificat: St. Jovite, 1999).
Thursday, November 28, 2002
Ferial Day and the Traditional Feast of Saint Catherine Labouré, Virgin and Visionary
Mass of Dilexisti Common of a Virgin not a Martyr
EPISTLE: Corinthians 10: 17-18; 11: 1-2
GRADUAL: Psalm 44: 5, 15-16
GOSPEL: Matthew 25: 1-13
Saint Catherine Labouré
Saint Catherine Zoé Labouré was born in a small village of France in 1806, the daughter of a well-to-do farmer who had at one time wanted to become a priest, and his very Christian wife. Catherine, the ninth of the eleven living children, lost her mother when she was only nine years old and had to abandon school to go to live with an aunt, accompanied by her younger sister. Two years later she was recalled to take charge of the household, because the older children had all left, one to become a Sister of Saint Vincent de Paul, the others to marry or seek a living elsewhere.
She made a vow of virginity when still very young, desiring to imitate the Holy Virgin, to whom she had confided herself when her mother died. She longed to see Her, and she prayed, in her simplicity, for that grace. She spent as many hours as possible in the Chapel of the Virgin in the village church, without, however, neglecting the work of the household. She talked to Our Lady as to a veritable mother, and indeed the Mother of Christ and ours would prove Herself to be such. Catherine wished to become a nun, without having opted for any particular community; but one day she saw a venerable priest in a dream, saying Mass in her little village church. He turned to her afterwards and made a sign for her to come forward, but in her dream she retreated, walking backwards, unable to take her gaze from his face. He said to her: “Now you flee me, but later you will be happy to come to me; God has plans for you.” The dream was realized and, as a postulant in the Community of Saint Vincent de Paul, she assisted at the translation of his relics to a nearby church of Paris. She had indeed recognized his picture one day in one of the convents of the Sisters of Charity, and obtained her father’s consent to enter that Congregation when her younger sister was old enough to replace her at home.
Catherine’s interior life was alimented by the visions she frequently had of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, where once she saw Him as Christ the King. And the designs of God for this humble novice began to be fulfilled, after Our Lady appeared to her in July of 1830, and confided to her the mission of having a Medal struck according to the living picture she saw one night, when a little Angel led her to the convent Chapel, and there she knelt at the Virgin’s feet to hear the words which would be the motivating force of her forty-six years of religious life.
Once more — insofar as we know — she would see the Blessed Mother, on November 27th of the same year, when one afternoon while at prayer with her Sisters, she beheld Her to one side of the chapel, Her feet poised on a globe, on which was prostrate a greenish serpent; the hands of the Virgin were holding a golden globe at the level of the heart, “as though offering it to God,” said Catherine later, in an attitude of supplication, Her eyes sometimes raised to heaven, sometimes looking down at the earth, and Her lips murmuring a prayer “for the entire world.” The face of the Virgin was of incomparable, indescribable beauty, with a pleading expression which plunged the Sister into ravishment, while she listened to Her prayers. The Immaculate Virgin, after having offered to God Her Compassion with the suffering Christ, prayed for all men and for each one in particular; she prayed for this poor world, that God might take pity on its ignorance, its weakness and faults, and that by pardoning He would hold back the arm of Divine Justice, raised to strike. She prayed the Lord to give peace to the universe.
For many years Catherine kept her secrets from all save her confessor, Father Aladel, priest of the Mission of Saint Vincent, who, wanting to be able to continue with his penitent, saw to it that she was not sent far from Paris, after he had fulfilled the first mission of having the Medal struck. He died, however, before having the statue made according to this second vision, as Our Lady desired. Catherine suffered much from her inability to accomplish the second part of her mission. When she finally confided this second desire of Our Lady to her Sister Superior, a statue of Our Lady, Queen of the World and Mediatrix of all Graces, was made for two Chapels of the nuns.
Saint Catherine died in 1876, after spending her life in the domestic and agricultural duties associated with the kitchen and garden, and in general caring for the elderly of the Hospice of Enghien at Reuilly, only about three miles southeast of Paris. Among her writings recounting the apparitions, we read: “Oh, how beautiful it will be to hear it said: Mary is Queen of the universe. That will be a time of peace, joy and happiness which will be long... She will be borne like a banner and will make a tour of the world.” The Virgin foretold that this time would come only after “the entire world will be in sadness... Afterwards, peace.”
Sources: La Sainte du silence et la Vierge au globe, by G. Gaetano di Sales (Centre Marial Canadien: Nicolet, 1951); Vie de Catherine Labouré, by Rev. R. Laurentin (Desclée de Brouwer: Paris, 1980).
Friday, November 29, 2002
Vigil Feast of Saint Andrew and the Traditional Feast of Saint Saturninus, Bishop and Martyr
Saint Saturninus was a contemporary and a disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ; he came to Palestine from Greece, attracted by the reputation of Saint John the Baptist, which had echoed even to the northern Mediterranean region. He then followed our Savior, heard His teaching, and was a witness to many of His miracles. He was present in the Cenacle when the Holy Ghost descended at Pentecost upon the Mother of Christ, the Apostles and Disciples assembled in the number of 120. (Acts of the Apostles 1:15) He departed to teach Christianity under Saint Peter’s authority, evangelizing the lands east of Palestine, and going as far as the region of the Persians and Medes and their neighboring provinces. He cured the sick, the lepers, and the paralytics and delivered souls from the demons; and before he left, he gave written instructions to the new Christians concerning what they should believe and practice.
When Saint Saturninus went with Saint Peter to Rome, the Apostle was inspired to send out a number of fervent evangelists to the West, to dissipate by the light of Christ the darkness in which those regions were still plunged. Saturninus was directed to go to what is now southern France, to Toulouse in particular. Saint Peter consecrated him a bishop, that he might form and ordain native priests for the future Christian churches of Gaul. He was given for his companion Papulus, later to become Saint Papulus the Martyr.
The two companions acquired at Nimes an ardent assistant in the person of Honestus. At Carcassonne, when the three announced Christ they were thrown into a prison, where they suffered from hunger; but an Angel was sent by the Lord to deliver them, and they continued on their way to Toulouse, preaching the doctrine and the name of Christ publicly. At this large and opulent city, where idolatry was entrenched, the idols became mute when the missionaries arrived. This caused great astonishment, and the cause of the silence was sought. Saint Saturninus in the meantime was working miracles which produced a strong impression on the witnesses; among them, the cure of a woman with advanced leprosy. The sign of the cross which he made over crowds often cured many sick persons at the same time, and he then baptized those who showed themselves ready for the sacrament. For a time he left his two disciples there and continued on elsewhere, preaching in the cities of what are now Auch and Eauze. A Spaniard heard of him and crossed the Pyrenees to hear him; this man, by the name of Paternus, advanced so rapidly on the paths of virtue that Saint Saturninus ordained him and then established him bishop of Eauze. He himself returned to Toulouse and sent Honestus to Spain to preach. When the latter returned to ask him to come with him to Spain, he left his disciple Papulus in charge for a time at Toulouse.
At Pampeluna his preaching brought thousands to the truth, delivering these former idolaters from the heavy yoke of the ancient enemy. While he continued his apostolic labors elsewhere, in Toulouse a persecution broke out against Papulus, and the faithful Christian obtained the crown of martyrdom by a violent death. At once Saint Saturnin returned to Toulouse, when he learned of it.
The idols again became mute. One day a great multitude was gathered near a pagan altar, where a bull stood ready for the sacrifice. A man in the crowd pointed out Saturninus, who was passing by, as the cause of the silence. “There is the one who preaches everywhere that our temples must be torn down, and who dares to call our gods devils! It is his presence that imposes silence on our oracles!” He was chained and dragged to the summit of the capitol, situated on a high hill, and commanded to offer sacrifice to the idols and cease to preach Jesus Christ. An Angel appeared to him to fortify him, and the terrible flagellation he endured could not alter his firmness. “I know only one God, the only true one; to Him alone I will offer sacrifice on the altar of my heart... How can I fear gods who you yourselves say are afraid of me?” He was tied by a rope to the bull, which was driven down the stairs leading to the capitol. His skull was broken, and the Saint entered into the beatitude of the unceasing vision of God. His body was taken up and buried by two devout young women. Tradition conserved the memory of the place of his burial, where later a church was built.
When beset by the temptations of the devil, let us call upon the Saints, who reign with Christ. They were powerful during their lives against the devil and his angels. They are more powerful now that they have passed from the Church on earth to the Church triumphant.
Source: Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 13.
Saturday, November 30, 2002
Double of the Second Class Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle
Saint Andrew the Apostle
Saint Andrew was one of the fishermen of Bethsaida, and was the brother of Saint Peter. He became a disciple of Saint John the Baptist. When called himself by Jesus Christ on the banks of the Jordan, his first thought was to go in search of his brother, and he said to Peter, “We have found the Messiah!” and brought him to Jesus.
It was Saint Andrew who, when Christ wished to feed the five thousand in the desert, pointed out a little lad with five loaves and a few fishes. After Pentecost, Saint Andrew went forth upon his mission to plant the Faith in Scythia and Greece and, at the end of years of toil, to win a martyr’s crown at Patrae in Achaia. When Saint Andrew first caught sight of the gibbet on which he was to die, he greeted the precious wood with joy. “O good cross!” he cried, “made beautiful by the limbs of Christ, so long desired, now so happily found! Receive me into thy arms and present me to my Master, that He who redeemed me through thee may now accept me from thee!” After suffering a cruel scourging he was left, bound by cords, to die upon this diagonal cross. For two whole days the martyr remained hanging on it, alive, preaching with outstretched arms from this chair of truth, to all who came near, and entreating them not to hinder his passion.
REFLECTION: If we would do good to others, we must, like Saint Andrew, receive our cross with loving gratitude and not desire to be separated from it, until God so wills. To “take up our cross” is Jesus’ command; are we perhaps dragging ours?
Source: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).