Proper of the Saints and Feasts |
Friday, October 18:
Traditional Feast of SAINT LUKE, Evangelist, Martyr, and Patron Saint of Doctors, Painters and Sculptors
Double of the Second-Class Feast. White Vestments.
Saint Luke, a physician at Antioch and a painter, was also an excellent rhetorician in Greek, his native language. He became a disciple of Saint Paul, the Apostle’s fellow-worker and his faithful friend during his two imprisonments, and is best known to us as the historian of the New Testament acts of both Christ and the Apostles. Though not an eye-witness of Our Lord’s life, the meticulous Evangelist diligently gathered information from those who had followed or listened to Jesus of Nazareth, and wrote, as he tells us, all things in order. His command of Greek is much admired. Saint Clement of Alexandria, Saint Jerome and Saint Thomas Aquinas state that it is he who translated Saint Paul’s famous Epistle to the Hebrews, written in the language of the Jerusalem Christians, into the admirable Greek which we presently possess as the only ancient version.
Saint Peter of Alcantara
The Acts of the Apostles were written by the Evangelist as a sequel to his Gospel, bringing the history of the Church down to the first imprisonment of Saint Paul in Rome, in the year 64. The humble historian never names himself, but by his occasional use of “we” instead of “he” or “they”, we are able to detect his presence in the scenes of Saint Paul’s life which he describes. We thus find that he sailed with Paul and Silas from Troas to Macedonia, where he remained behind, apparently, for seven years at Philippi. Finally, after remaining near Saint Paul during the time he was imprisoned in Palestine, he accompanied him, still a prisoner, when he was transported to Rome. Thus he shared the shipwreck and perils of that memorable voyage, narrated in Chapter 27 of Acts — which book no Christian should fail to read, along with the four Gospels. He then narrates the two years of Saint Paul’s first imprisonment, ending in his liberation.
There his narrative ends, but from Saint Paul’s Epistles we learn that Saint Luke was his faithful companion to the last. His paintings of Our Lady are still conserved with care in a number of places in Europe. Saint Luke certainly learned from the Mother of Christ Herself, the story of the Annunciation, the Visitation, and the Angelic mission to the shepherds of Bethlehem. After the martyrdom of the Apostle to the Gentiles, Saint Epiphanus says that Saint Luke preached in Italy, Gaul, Dalmatia and Macedonia. Others say he went to Egypt and preached in the Thebaid, the region of the Fathers of the desert. Saint Hippolyte says he was crucified in Greece. His mortal remains were transferred to the Church of the Apostles, built by Constantine the Great at Constantinople, with those of Saint Andrew and Saint Timothy. Some of his relics remain in the Greek monastery of Mount Athos.
Sources: The Holy Bible: Old and New Testaments; 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).
Saturday, October 19:
Traditional Feast of Saint Peter of Alcantara, Priest and Confessor
Double Feast. White Vestments.
Saint Peter was born in 1499 near the Portuguese border of Spain. While still a youth of sixteen, he left his home at Alcantara and entered a convent of Discalced Franciscans near Valencia. He rose quickly to high posts in the Order, as a guardian, a definitor, and then Superior of the Province of Saint Gabriel. But his thirst for penance was still unappeased, and in 1539, being then forty years old, he founded the Congregation of Saint Joseph of the “Strict Observance,” to conserve the letter of the Rule of Saint Francis. He suffered great tribulations to conserve that Rule in its integrity. Eventually Saint Peter himself, the year before his death, raised it to the status of a province under obedience to the Minister General of the entire Seraphic Order. The Reform he instituted has since been extended even to the farthest Orient and the Indies; it is believed God ordained that it repair the ravages to the faith of the sixteenth century.
Saint John Cantius, Priest and Confessor
The modesty of Saint Peter remains proverbial in the Franciscan Order; never did he raise his eyes to look at the non-essentials of his interior life with God. His fast was constant and severe; he lived perpetually on bread and water alone, even during his illnesses. He devised a sort of harness to keep him upright on his seat during the short hour and a half of sleep which he took every day, for forty years. He acknowledged to Saint Teresa of Avila that this mortification was the one which cost him the most. The cells of the friars of Saint Joseph resembled graves rather than dwelling-places. That of Saint Peter himself was four and a half feet in length, so that he could never lie down; his sackcloth habit and a cloak were his only garments; he never covered his head or feet. In the bitter winter he would open the door and window of his cell in order that, by closing them again, he might be grateful for the shelter of his cell. Among those whom he guided to perfection we may name Saint Teresa, who fully appreciated this remarkable director. He read her soul, approved her spirit of prayer, and strengthened her to carry out her reforms.
Everywhere he could do so, he planted crosses, for the Passion of Our Lord was engraved in his heart. Wherever they were to be placed, even on mountains, and however heavy they might be, he went to the destined sites carrying them on his shoulders. From these heights he would then preach the mysteries of the Cross, afterwards remaining in prayer there. Shepherds saw him several times in the air, at the height of the highest trees of the forests. Never did he go anywhere except on foot, even in his old age. He was often seen prostrated before a large crucifix, shedding torrents of tears; and he was found in ecstasy once at the height of the traverse of a crucifix. Saint Peter died at the age of sixty-three, repeating with the Psalmist, “I rejoiced when it was said unto me, let us go unto the house of the Lord!” The date was October 18, 1562; he was kneeling in prayer.
If men do not go about barefoot now, nor undergo sharp penances as Saint Peter did, there remain many ways of trampling on the spirit of the world; and Our Lord teaches them, when He finds in souls the necessary courage.
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).
SUNDAY, October 20:
22nd Sunday After Pentecost and the Semi-Double Feast of Saint John Cantius, Priest and Confessor
Semi-Double Feast. Green Vestments.
Saint John Cantius was born at Kenty in Poland in 1403. He studied philosophy and theology at the University of Cracow with great intelligence, industry, and success, while his modesty and virtue drew all hearts to him. After earning his degrees, he was appointed to the Chair of Theology at the university. He inflamed his hearers with the desire of every kind of piety, no less by his deeds than by his words. He was ordained a priest and was for a short time in charge of a parish, where he manifested great concern for the poor, at his own expense. At the University’s request, he resumed the professor’s Chair and taught there until his holy death.
Saint Ursula and Companion Virgin Martyrs
He found a poor man on the snow one day, dying of hunger and cold; he clothed him in his own frock and took him to the rectory, to eat at his table. Afterwards, for many years, every professor of the College of Varsovie was obliged, once every year, to invite a poor man to dine with him.
He made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, preaching along the way to the Turks, and hoping for the grace of martyrdom. He went four times to Rome to visit the tombs of the Apostles and pay honor to the Holy See, desiring thereby to be spared the pains of purgatory. He always traveled on foot, carrying his own effects. Robbed one day by bandits, he forgot he had a few gold pieces sewn into his cloak; he soon remembered and called them back to give them to his benefactors. They were so astonished they refused to accept the offering, and even returned to him what they had taken.
Saint John Cantius wrote on the walls of his residence some verses which showed the horror he had for the vice of backbiting or detraction, talking without cause of our neighbor’s faults. He slept very little and often spent entire nights praying before a crucifix. After his classes he went to pray before the Blessed Sacrament in a church. Before his death, he gave absolutely everything he still had to the poor. He died in 1473, at the age of seventy-six years. The purple robe which he had worn as a Doctor was religiously conserved and always given to the venerable Head of the School of Philosophy on the day of his reception; and a promise was required of the teachers there, to imitate the virtues of this beloved Saint. He is a patron of both Poland and Lithuania; Pope Clement XIII canonized him in 1767.
He who orders all his doings according to the Will of God may often be spoken of by the world as simple, even stupid; but in the end he wins the esteem and confidence even of the world itself.
Source: Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 12.
Monday, October 21:
Traditional Feast of Saint Ursula and Companion Virgin Martyrs
Simple Feast. Red Vestments.
Saint Ursula was born in Great Britain of Christian parents; her father, Maurus, was king of Cornubia in Scotland. Ursula was sought in marriage by a young pagan prince, but had already vowed her life and her heart to Jesus Christ.
In the year 383 she was boarded onto a boat with a large number of young girls and Christian women whom a Roman conqueror wished to give as wives to his soldiers, after having endowed them with rich terrains. But during the crossing of the Channel a storm arose, and the ships, instead of reaching western Gaul, were driven towards the mouth of the Rhine. The Huns who at that time were ravaging Europe saw the ships, and were making ready to pillage them and inflict on these virgins and women a dishonor more dreaded by them than death. Commanded by Ursula, they resisted heroically and so well that suddenly the sentiments of the barbarians changed. They took up their arms to be rid of this peaceful army. Soon the victims fell under the blows of the executioners, and their souls winged their way to heaven.
The prince of the Huns, struck by Ursula’s beauty, spared her at first; he tried to console her for the death of her companions and promised to marry her. When she did not assent he shot her with an arrow, and this consecrated virgin fell with the others. She was considered the leader of the eleven thousand brought by the Romans from Great Britain. Many churches have relics of this army of martyrs, but no region is more richly endowed than that of Cologne, since it is to that city that the Christians of the region devotedly carried the mortal remains of the martyrs.
In the seventh century a magnificent church rose over their tomb, whose walls itself served as reliquaries. This holy cemetery has been rendered illustrious by many miracles. Pilgrims and especially young girls have come from all over Europe, to beg protection for their virginity from Saint Ursula and her companions. The very arrow which pierced Saint Ursula is still conserved there. A religious, who had great devotion to these martyrs, had fallen dangerously ill; a virgin appeared to him and said: “I am one of the virgins whom you honor. To reward you for the eleven thousand Our Father’s you recited to honor us, you will have our assistance at the hour of death.” And soon the glorious troop came to escort his soul. Saint Ursula is the patron of young teachers, and many congregations of nuns, dedicated to education, bear her name.
In the estimation of the wise man, to teach the safeguard of virtue is the most important part of the education of youth: “My son, conserve thy soul in meekness, and render to it the honor it deserves... Who will honor the one who dishonors it? The poor man finds his glory in his instruction and in his fear of God.” (Ecclc. 10:31-33)
Source: Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l’année, by Abbé L. Jaud (Mame: Tours, 1950).