Proper of the Saints and Feasts

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Proper of the Saints and Feasts


Monday, October 14:

    Feast of Saint Callistus I, Pope and Martyr
      Double Feast. Red Vestments.

Pope Saint Callistus I

   Early in the third century, it was to Callistus, then a deacon, that Pope Saint Zephyrinus confided the government of the clergy, as well as the creation and maintenance of the Christian cemeteries, which at that time were the catacombs of Rome. At the death of the Sovereign Pontiff, Callistus succeeded him as Head of the Church.

   It is he who made obligatory for the entire Church, the fast of the Ember Days which the Apostles had instituted, to bring down blessings on each season of the year. During his time, the Christians began to build churches, which though destroyed during the various persecutions, were eventually rebuilt. Among the catacombs owed to his government, is the one on the Appian Way which bears his name. Many precious memories are conserved there; in it are found the tomb of Saint Cecilia, the crypts of several popes, and paintings which attest the perfect conformity of the primitive Faith with that of the present-day Church.

   During the pontificate of Saint Callistus, several very striking conversions occurred among the very officers of the persecuting emperor Alexander Severus. At one time an officer, his family and household, forty-two persons in all, were baptized by the Pope on the same day. Many others asked him for Baptism; among them a Senator and sixty-eight persons of his household, and a guardian of the saintly Pope, whose name was Privatus, after the prayers of the Holy Father had cured him of an ulcer. All these new Christians were martyred, and their heads were exposed at the various gates of Rome to discourage any who would propagate the Faith of Christ in that city. Despite the continuing pursuits and his constant solicitude for all the churches, Saint Callistus found the means to have a diligent search made by fishermen for the body of a priest of his clergy, which had been cast into the Tiber after his martyrdom. When it was found he was filled with joy, and buried it with hymns of praise.

   During the persecution Saint Callistus was obliged to take shelter in the poor and populous quarters of the city. The martyred priest, Calipodius, appeared to him soon afterwards, saying: “Father, take courage; the hour of the reward is approaching; your crown will be proportionate to your sufferings.” Soon afterwards he was discovered there, and the house was guarded by soldiers who received the order to allow no food to enter it for several days. And Saint Callistus was martyred in his turn. With a rock suspended from his neck, he was thrown from a window into a well on October 14, 223. The priest Asterius recovered and buried his body in the catacomb named for Calipodius. A week later Asterius too was arrested and thrown into the Tiber. The Christians interred this martyr also.

    REFLECTION: In the mortal remains of a Christian, we see what has been the temple of the Holy Ghost, and which still is precious in the sight of God, who will watch over it and one day raise it up in glory to shine forever in His kingdom. May our actions bear witness to our belief in these truths.

Sources: Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 12; 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).


Tuesday, October 15:

    Feast of Saint Teresa of Avila, Virgin and the first female Doctor of the Church
      Double Feast. White Vestments.

Saint Teresa of Avila

   “By their fruits you will know them,” says Our Lord of those who claim to be His followers. The fruits which remain of the life, labors and prayer of Saint Teresa of Avila bear to her virtue a living and enduring testimony which none can refuse to admit. She herself wrote her life and many other celebrated spiritual works, and much more can still be said of this soul of predilection, whose writings and examples have led so many souls to high sanctity.

   Born in 1515 in the kingdom of Castile in Spain, she was the youngest child of a virtuous nobleman. When she was seven years old, Teresa fled from her home with one of her young brothers, in the hope of going to Africa and receiving the palm of martyrdom. Brought back and asked the reason for her flight, she replied: “I want to see God, and I must die before I can see Him.” She then began, with her same brother, Rodriguez, to build a hermitage in the garden, and was often heard repeating: “Forever, forever!” She lost her mother at the age of twelve years, and was led by worldly companions into various frivolities. Her father decided to place her in a boarding convent, and she obeyed without any inclination for this kind of life. Grace came to her assistance with the good guidance of the Sisters, and she decided to enter religion in the Carmelite monastery of the Incarnation at Avila.

   For a time frivolous conversations there, too, checked her progress toward perfection, but finally in her thirty-first year, she abandoned herself entirely to God. A vision showed her the very place in hell to which her apparently light faults would have led her, and she was told by Our Lord that all her conversation must be with heaven. Ever afterwards she lived in the deepest distrust of herself. When she was named Prioress against her will at the monastery of the Incarnation, she succeeded in conciliating even the most hostile hearts by placing a statue of Our Lady in the seat she would ordinarily have occupied, to preside over the Community.

   God enlightened her to understand that He desired the reform of her Order, and her heart was pierced with divine love. The Superior General gave her full permission to found as many houses as might become feasible. She dreaded nothing so much as delusion in the decisions she would make in difficult situations; we can well understand this, knowing she founded seventeen convents for the Sisters, and that fifteen others for the Fathers of the Reform were established during her lifetime, with the aid of Saint John of the Cross. To the end of her life she acted only under obedience to her confessors, and this practice both made her strong and preserved her from error. Journeying in those days was far from comfortable and even perilous, but nothing could stop the Saint from accomplishing the holy Will of God. When the cart was overturned one day and she had a broken leg, her sense of humor became very evident by her remark: “Dear Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, it is no wonder You have so few!” She died October 4, 1582, and was canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV.

   The history of her mortal remains is as extraordinary as that of her life. After nine months in a wooden coffin, caved in from the excess weight above it, the body was perfectly conserved, though the clothing had rotted. A fine perfume it exuded spread throughout the entire monastery of the nuns, when they reclothed it. Parts of it were later removed as relics, including the heart showing the marks of the Transverberation, and her left arm. At the last exhumation in 1914, the body was found to remain in the same condition as when it was seen previously, still recognizable and very fragrant with the same intense perfume.

    REFLECTION: The devotion of Saint Teresa of Avila to Saint Joseph, virginal father of Jesus, is proverbial. She said she had never asked anything of him without receiving what she requested. In the eighteenth century the Carmelite churches named for him numbered over one hundred and fifty. Let us imitate this holy Foundress and invoke Saint Joseph for our needs, both spiritual and temporal.
Sources: Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 12; 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).


PROPER OF THE SAINTS & FEASTS
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