Proper of the Saints and Feasts |
Wednesday, October 2:
Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels
Double Major Feast, white vestments.
This devotion dates back to the Middle Ages, most probably in association with the account in Tobit of the Archangel Raphael leading Tobias which had been widely spread in art. It was specifically introduced in 1411 in Valencia, Spain to venerate the guardian angel of the city. Pope Sixtus V in 1590 allowed a special privilege to Portugal - that of a special Liturgy honoring the guardian angels. Pope Paul V added the feast universally to the Church in 1608, slotting it in the first available date after the feast of St. Michael. There are many accounts of angels, mentioned in over two thirds of the books of the Bible. They are not named specifically other than the three Archangels; the rest are referred to as "an angel" or "angels" in both the Old and New Testament. The Psalmist David makes frequent mention of the angels. The concept of "guardian" is first mentioned in Exodus 23:20--23, "See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way" as well as in Psalm 33: 8, "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them" and in Matthew 18: 10 in the New Testament when Jesus said to His disciples regarding the little children, "See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you their angels in Heaven always behold the face of My Father in Heaven." As we all know, angels were plentiful in great numbers at the Incarnation and with Jesus throughout His mission as He confirms in John 1: 51, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you shall see Heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." These same angels are there in full force adoring Jesus during each and every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass universally throughout the world. Today angels have had a resurgence in secular society, but in Holy Mother Church Guardian Angels are not a superstition or "fad" but rather a reality that each soul created by God is assigned at least one Guardian Angel to them for their lifetime. Though so often the Guardian Angel is associated with children as every Catholic child is taught the beautiful Angel of God Prayer, our Guardian Angels stay with us even as we become adults for though in the eyes of the world we are grown, in God's eyes we will always be His children. It is Catholic belief that the angels are with us always and we need to lean on them more often, ask for their assistance.
God does not abandon to what we call “chance,” any of His creatures. By His essence and providence He is everywhere present; not a sparrow falls to the ground, nor a hair from our heads, without His consent. He is not content, however, with assisting His creation daily and at every moment, with sustaining His handiwork, which without His continuous support would return to dust. His divine and infinite Love, not only maintaining the existence which He gives and perpetuates in living beings, has charged His Holy Angels with the ministry of watching and safeguarding each one of His rational creatures.
The Angels, divided into nine hierarchies, have varied obligations. Their intelligence and prudence are penetrating like the beam of a lighthouse; so it appears even when we compare it to the best of human intelligences, which are like the light of a little candle in contrast. An Angel, visualizing an end to be attained, sees instantly the means necessary to achieve it, whereas we must pray, study, deliberate, inquire, and choose during many phases of effort, in order to reach our proposed ends.
Kingdoms have their Angels assigned to them; dignitaries of the Church and of the world have more than one Angel to guide them; and every child who enters into the world receives a Guardian Angel. Our Lord says in the Gospel: “Beware lest you scandalize any of these little ones, for their Angels in heaven behold the face of My Father.” Thus the existence of Guardian Angels is a dogma of the Christian faith, based on Holy Scripture itself.
Reflection: This being so, what should our respect be for that holy and sure intelligence, ever present at our side? And how great should our solicitude be, lest, by any act of ours, we offend those eyes which, without losing the divine vision, are ever turned upon poor creatures in all their ways!
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).
Thursday, October 3:
Feast of Saint Therese of Lisieux, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Double Feast. White Vestments
The youngest of nine children, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus was one of four of the daughters who survived infancy. Five of the other children born to Theresa's parents Louis Martin Guerin and his wife Zelie-Marie had died in their infancy. Theresa was sent to the Benedictine monastery in Lisieux where she became known for her total suppression of her own will in favor of what Jesus wanted, offering every little sacrifice she could. Frail from birth, Therese, or Theresa, had been healed of a serious illness in 1883 through the intercession of Our Lady, and decided then and there she would become a Carmelite Nun. However her age prevented her from pursuing this immediate goal. Undaunted and persistent that Jesus wanted this, she even approached the Holy Father Pope Leo XIII during a group audience with him in Rome on pilgrimage, asking him to allow her to enter the convent. He was somewhat taken aback by her forwardness but replied gently, "Whatever your bishop advises, you follow, my child." This news from such a powerful prelate forced Theresa to bite her lip for she thought surely the Pope would allow this. Saddened she returned to France where she waited until old enough to be admitted which she was in 1888 and given the name Sister Theresa of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face. Five years later at the age of 20 she was chosen mistress of novices. Three years later in 1986 Tuberculosis set in. Once this was known, Theresa's older blood sister, Mother Agnes of Jesus insisted that Theresa write down her memoirs for posterity. This she did and after her death this work entitled The Story of a Soul was widely circulated. In it, Theresa emphasized her doctrine on the "little way" of spiritual childhood stressing that she wanted to save souls to help priests save souls by prayer, sacrifice, and suffering. Her "little way" means loving and trusting in God as a child, held in His loving arms as she writes, "From the age of three, I never refused our good God anything. I have never given him anything but love. I just want to love God. I want to do hard things for Him. I want to pray for priests and for sinners. I want to shine like a little candle before His altar." She exemplified two of the greatest virtues, humility and total dependence on the Will of God. She even prayed that God would hear her prayer and save so many souls by offering herself in total reparation, including letting God give away any graces she would earn to any soul who needed it. As she lay dying in the convent in 1897, she pressed her precious crucifix to her heart and peering Heavenward replied, "I love Him! My God, I love You!" Shortly afterwards the tuberculosis took its toll and Theresa died on September 30, 1897 at only 24. True to her promise that she would let fall from Heaven a "shower of roses," she became known far and wide as the "Little Flower" with many miracles of intercession attributed to her throughout the world so that in 1925 Pope Pius XI canonized her proclaiming, "St. Theresa of the Child Jesus is the greatest saint of modern times." In 1944, at the height of World War II when France was being pummelled by German howitzers, Pope Pius XII proclaimed her patroness of France along with Saint Joan of Arc. French aviators and soldiers took up the battle cry encouraged by her intercession and many attribute the fall of Germany to storming Heaven. Theresa also shares a title with Saint Francis Xavier as patroness of Foreign Missions. Though Theresa never had the opportunity to set step outside of Europe, she had a longing to go to a Carmelite mission in Hanoi, Vietnam in the late 19th Century. On September 19th of 1996, Pope John Paul II officially proclaimed St. Therese a Doctor of the Church, making her the third female saint to be so honored.
Few Saints have aroused so much admiration and enthusiasm immediately after their death; few have acquired a more astonishing popularity everywhere on earth; few have been so rapidly raised to the altars as was this holy young Carmelite. Marie Françoise Therese Martin was born January 2, 1873 at Alençon in Normandy, France, of very Christian parents. The Martins, who lost four of their little ones in early infancy or childhood, regarded their children as gifts from Heaven and offered them to God before their birth. Theresa was the last flower of this blessed stem, which gave four Sisters to the Carmel of Lisieux, still another to the Visitation of Caen. The five sisters were left without their mother, a victim of cancer, when Therese was only four years old; but her two oldest sisters were of an age to take excellent care of the household and continue the Christian character formation of the younger ones, which their mother had initiated. Their saintly father was soon to see his little flock separated, however, when one after the other they left to enter religious life. He blessed each one and gave them all back to God, with humble gratitude to God for having chosen his daughters.
From childhood Theresa had manifested a tender piety which her naturally lively temperament could not alter. Her mother’s death affected her profoundly, however, and at the age of nine she was visited with a severe trial in the form of an illness the doctors could not diagnose, and which seemed incurable. She was instantly restored to her ordinary good health by the Virgin Mary, in answer to her desolate sisters’ prayers; Therese saw Her statue become animated, to smile at her with an ineffable tenderness as she lay on her bed of suffering.
Before the age of fifteen Theresa already desired to enter the Carmel of Lisieux, where her two eldest sisters were already nuns; a trip to Rome and a petition at the knees of the Holy Father Leo XIII gave her the inalterable answer that her Superiors would regulate the matter. Many prayers finally obtained an affirmative reply to her ardent request, and four months after her fifteenth birthday she entered Carmel with an ineffable joy. She could say then, “I no longer have any desire but to love Jesus even to folly.”
She adopted flowers as the symbol of her love for her Divine Spouse and offered all her little daily sacrifices and works as rose petals at the feet of Jesus. Divine Providence gave to the world the autobiography of this true Saint, whose little way of spiritual childhood was described in her own words in her Story of a Soul. She could not offer God the macerations of the great soldiers of God, only her desires to love Him as they had loved Him, and to serve Him in every way possible, not only as a cloistered nun, but as a missionary, a priest, a hero of the faith, a martyr. She chose “all” in spirit, for her beloved Lord. Later she would be named patroness of missions. Her spirituality does not imply only sweetness and light, however; this loving child of God passed by a tunnel of desolate spiritual darkness, yet never ceased to smile at Him, wanting to serve Him, if it were possible, without His even knowing it.
When nine years had passed in the Carmel, the little flower was ready to be plucked for heaven; and in a slow agony of consumption, Therese made her final offering to God. She suffered so severely that she said she would never have believed it possible, and could only explain it by her desire to save souls for God. She died in 1897, was beatified in 1923 and canonized in 1925. And now, as she foretold, she is spending her heaven in doing good upon earth. Countless miracles have been attributed to her intercession.
Sources: Lives of the Saints for Every Day of the Year. (Reprint of the work of John Gilmary Shea, with Appendix including recently canonized Saints) (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1955. Third Edition: Tan Books and Publishers: Rockford, Ill., 1995); Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l’année, by Abbé L. Jaud (Mame: Tours, 1950).