Proper of the Saints and Feasts |
Friday, October 4:
Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, Confessor, Mystic and Religious Founder
Double Major Feast, white vestments. FIRST FRIDAY
Few saints are as beloved as Saint Francis of Assisi who founded the Franciscans in the 12th Century. No order ever grew so fast. Francis was born Francis Bernardone in 1181 to a wealthy wool dyer who encouraged Francis to follow in his footsteps. Francis was well on his way toward this avocation, spending his youth recklessly at times with an adventurous spirit, impulsively enlisting in the war between Assisi and Perugia. One night, while sleeping on the battlefield in full gear, Francis had a mystical dream in which he saw himself returning to Assisi and entered the church of St. Damian where he heard three times Christ's words to repair His Church depicted by a crucifix that had been shattered. This dream was so pronounced that Francis, upon awakening, resigned his commission in the military, then renounced his patrimony by defrocking to the waist in front of his father, bishops and the well-to-do aristocrats of Assisi as well as the townsfolk as a gesture that he was stripping himself of all worldly possessions and consecrating himself to God by turning to a life as a mendicant preacher. Around 1207 Francis put on the robes of a penitent and sought to lead a contemplative, secluded life. At first he had taken Our Lord's words literally, constructing with his own hands a one room portiuncula church that still stands today inside the large church at the base of the hills leading to the town of Assisi. While reading a passage from Luke 9: 3-5 on the mission of the Apostles, Francis knew his mission was to gather a group of like-minded men for the purpose of preaching the gospel to all, especially those who could not read. Thus, he began the Order of Friars Minor and Pope Innocent III orally approved the first Rule, but not until Francis and his men had walked all the way from Assisi to Rome in hopes of gaining an audience with his holiness only to be turned away. In a mystical dream, Innocent was shown what would happen if he turned down Francis' request and what Francis' mission truly was. Innocent sent for Francis who already was half way back to Assisi to give him word that yes, the Holy Father had approved his Holy Rule. Francis, overjoyed, shared the news with his compadres and they began to preach the gospel everywhere, fostering numerous vocations as men sought to join this holy friar, with only a brown robe, cinctured rope and sandals as their possessions. Francis had always longed to be a martyr and yearned, like his counterpart and friend Saint Anthony to go the Morocco and preach to the heathens. Francis did go to Morocco, Egypt and then Palestine and five of his Franciscans were martyred by the Muslims, but not Francis who returned to Assisi where he, along with Saint Clare founded the Poor Clares, an order of Franciscan women dedicated to a life of contemplative, cloistered life in supporting the Friars through their sacrifices and prayers. Because his order had grown so fast, not all were the "cream of the crop" and many began to fudge here and there relaxing the rigors of the rule in respect to holy poverty. Therefore Francis, not wanting to lose them and realizing not all were cut out for a life of strict poverty, began working in 1220 on a second Rule for just this purpose establishing two branches of the Franciscan Friars, catering to the more relaxed rule, while maintaining the purity of the strict rule. On September 14, 1224 with his health suffering greatly from numerous physical afflictions from the rigorous schedule he had maintained and almost blind, Francis received an extraordinary gift from Jesus - the mark of the stigmata, the holy wounds of Christ while in contemplation on Mount Alverno in Italy. It was the first authenticated case of a stigmatist in the history of the Church. He was, as it were, wounded in love, and here he composed his famous "Canticle of the Sun" as well as the beautiful St. Francis' Prayer for Peace that he is most widely known for. This dedicated saint, referred to this day as "The Most Holy Father," died on October 4, 1224 at the relatively young age of 45 years old and was mourned the world over. The Franciscans remain the largest body of religious in the Church today.
Francis, the son of a merchant of Assisi, was born in a poor stable, his birth already prophesying the Saint who would preach poverty to a world seduced by luxury. Though chosen by God to be for the world a living manifestation of Christ’s poor and suffering life on earth, in his youth he was generous, always of equal humor, and much appreciated by his friends; he was fond of splendors, fine clothing, and good company, and easily won the affection of all who knew him. More than once various holy persons foretold for him a future of glory, but in veiled terms. Francis did not understand these predictions, and supposed he would become the leader of a large militia.
His military life ended when Jesus told him he was destined to fight another kind of combat, one against the demon and sin; that the grandeurs predicted were spiritual, not temporal — and to return home. He became inspired with a great esteem for poverty and humiliation. The thought of the Man of Sorrows, who had nowhere to lay His Head, filled him with holy envy of the poor, and constrained him to renounce the wealth and the worldly station which he had come to abhor. And he gave a farewell feast for his friends. One day, while on horseback, he met a leper begging alms who inspired him with repugnance, and he took a path to avoid him. Then, repenting, he turned his horse around and returned to embrace him and give him a generous alms, as was his custom for all beggars. He continued on his way, but looked back once, and nowhere on the plain could the stranger be seen, though there were no trees, no refuges anywhere. He was from that day a completely transformed person.
He decided to use his wealth to care for the poor and the sick, and dedicate himself in person to the same works. When he prayed one day in the little chapel to do only what God willed of him, the Saviour spoke again to him, repeating three times the mysterious words: “Go, Francis, and repair My house which is falling in ruin.” He then undertook to repair the old church of San Damiano where he had heard these words, retiring for refuge to a grotto. He was regarded as a fool by the people, when he returned to the city in the clothing of a poor beggar. This was indeed the folly of the Cross.
Francis renounced his heritage definitively, to beg thereafter his daily sustenance and what he needed for the repair of the church, and left the city singing the praises of God. He repaired two other churches. The love of God which was burning brightly in the poor man of Assisi began to give light and warmth to many others also, and it was not long before several came to join him. One of them was a very wealthy man of Assisi, the second a Canon of the Assisi cathedral, and the third the now Blessed Brother Gilles. They adopted the absolute poverty of Francis, and the foundations of the Franciscan Order were laid. They were first called the “penitents of Assisi.” No counsels could make Francis change his resolution to possess nothing at all. God revealed to him then that he was to found a religious Order.
Pope Innocent III, when Francis with his first twelve companions journeyed to Rome, after first rebuffing them, recognized him as the monk God showed him in a vision, supporting on his shoulders the Church of Saint John Latran, which was growing decrepit. He received the profession of Francis and his twelve companions, and in 1215 they were formally constituted as a religious Order, which then spread rapidly throughout Christendom.
In 1216, Saint Francis after assembling his religious, sent them out to preach in France, Spain, England and Germany, where they established monasteries, lasting proofs of the efficacy of their missions. A second general Chapter was held in 1219 on the feast of Pentecost, and the little Brothers gathered from all over the world at Saint Mary of the Angels, the church which Francis and his first twelve disciples had received only nine years earlier. Cabins of reeds and tents were put up all over the countryside. The Cardinal who visited them exclaimed, with tears in his eyes, “O Brother, truly this is the camp of the Lord!” They were more than 5,000 in number. Saint Francis exhorted his brethren: “My Brothers, above all, let us love the Holy Church; let us pray for her exaltation, and never abandon poverty. Is it not written, ‘Trust in the Lord, and He Himself will sustain you’ ”?
Francis, after visiting the Orient in a vain quest for martyrdom, spent his life like his Divine Master — now in preaching to the multitudes, now amid the desert solitudes in fasting and contemplation. His constant prayer was “My God and my All!” During one of these retreats on Mount Alverno, he received on his hands, feet, and side the imprints of the five wounds of Jesus. With the cry, “Welcome, sister Death!” he passed to the glory of his God, October 4, 1226, at the age of 44 years.
Reflection: The prayer of Saint Francis, “My God and my All!” explains both his poverty and his wealth.
Source: 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).
Saturday, October 5:
Observance of Our Lady's Saturday and FIRST SATURDAY. Also Feast of Saint Placidius and Companions, Martyrs.
Simple Feast. White Vestments. Votive and Requiem Masses allowed.
Saint Placidius or Placid was born in Rome, in the year 515, of a patrician family, and at seven years of age was taken by his father to the Benedictine monastery of Subiaco, recently founded, to be educated. At thirteen years of age he followed Saint Benedict to a new foundation at Monte Cassino, where he grew up in the practices of a wonderful austerity and innocence of life.
He had scarcely completed his twenty-first year when he was chosen to found a monastery at Messina, in Sicily, upon some estates which had been given by his father to Saint Benedict. He spent four years in building that monastery. There miracles made him known, and it was said that his humility was so perfect and had such charm, that it earned for him the affection of all. He could not see a poor man without hastening to aid him. One day he cured all the sick of the island at the same time, when they were brought and assembled before him for his benediction.
The fifth year spent by the monks in Messina had not yet ended when a band of Saracen pirates who had already killed a great many persons, burnt everything to the ground in 541. They then put to a lingering death not only Placidius and thirty monks who had joined him, but also his two brothers, Eutychius and Victorinus, and his holy sister Flavia, who had come to visit him. The entire flotilla of the invaders perished when these barbarians left the island, amid a sudden storm; although they had a hundred ships and were 16,800 in number, not one ship or passenger survived. A religious who had escaped notice wrote to Saint Benedict an account of the massacre, after burying the martyrs. Saint Placidius was the first Benedictine martyr, and the monastery of Messina, which was rebuilt not long afterwards, was henceforth known by his name.
Reflection: Adversity is the touchstone of the soul, because it makes manifest the degree of its virtue. One act of thanksgiving when matters go wrong, is worth a thousand thanks when all things please us.
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 5:
TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST and the Semi-Double Feast of Saint Bruno, Confessor and Religious Founder of the Carthusians
Semi-Double Feast. Green Vestments
Saint Bruno was born into an illustrious family in Cologne, Germany around the year 1030. He was endowed with rare natural gifts, which soon shone with outstanding brilliance in Paris, though he was studying among other gifted young men. Ordained at Cologne, his native city, he became a Canon of its cathedral, and then was a Canon at Rheims, where the direction of studies in theology was entrusted to him. He already had a very strong distaste for honors, and a great desire for the life of contemplation.
On the death of Bishop Gervais, Archbishop of Rheims, the region fell for a time into evil hands, and Bruno, who had resisted the decay of religion, became the object of a persecution. He stood firm and called for a papal legate; a council was assembled at Autun, of which Bruno was the soul, and the intruder at Rheims was repulsed, to die later in total obscurity. Bruno was not yet forty years old, but all desired that he assume the charge of the see; yet he could not bring himself to accept this honor. He retired from Rheims, and resolved to forsake the world definitively, to live a life of retirement and penance. Others joined him in retreat, desiring the pursuit of perfection, according to the means Christ prescribed. “If you would be perfect, go, sell all you possess and give to the poor, and come, follow Me.” Saint Bruno aspired to a desert and, inspired by God, looked towards the Alps of the east.
With six companions, four priests and two laymen, Saint Bruno applied to Hugh, Bishop of Grenoble, who led them to a wild solitude called the Chartreuse. There they lived in poverty, self-denial, and silence, each apart in his own cell, meeting only for the worship of God, and employing themselves in copying books. From the name of the solitude the Order of Saint Bruno was called the Carthusian Order. Six years later, Pope Urban II called Bruno to Rome, that he might benefit from his counsel. Bruno tried to live there as he had lived in the desert; but the echoes of the great city disturbed his solitude, and, after refusing high dignities, he finally obtained, by force of persuasion, the permission of the Pope to resume his monastic life, this time in Calabria, with only a few companions. There he lived, in humility and mortification and great peace, until his blessed death occurred, in the arms of his faithful monks, in 1101.
Reflection: “O everlasting kingdom,” said Saint Augustine; “kingdom of endless ages, whereon rest untroubled light and the peace of God which passes all understanding, where the souls of the Saints are in rest, and everlasting joy crowns their heads, where sorrow and sighing have fled away! When shall I come and appear before God?”
Monday, October 7:
Feast of the MOST HOLY ROSARY and the feast of Pope Saint Mark, Confessor.
Double of Second Class. White Vestments
As a result of the miraculous victory of the Christians over the superior Turk fleet in the landmark Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571 produced through Our Lady's intercession from the reverently praying her Holy Rosary, Pope Pius V proclaimed the date as the feast of Our Lady of Victory. The Rosary had been promulgated since Saint Dominic was given the Rosary in a vision in the early 14th Century. A century and a half later Pius V, a Dominican, realized intuitively that this was a manifestation of the power of the Rosary and declared it a great feast. His successor Pope Gregory XIII in 1573 made it obligatory for Rome and for the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. Pope Clement XI established the feast in the Roman Calendar earmarking it for the first Sunday in October as the Dominicans had been celebrating it. In 1960, Pope John XXIII officially proclaimed October 7 as the set day and changed the name from to Our Lady of the Rosary. Over the past two centuries the Rosary has been emphasized, specifically at Fatima. The Holy Rosary is the most powerful weapon we have, that each bead is a rose forming a beautiful bouquet Blessed Mary presents to God on our behalf; each bead becomes a firm link in the chain that will bind satan forever. Outside of the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary is the most important devotion we have in Holy Mother Church.
Pope Saint Mark
Pope Saint Mark, a Roman by birth, succeeded Pope Saint Sylvester in the apostolic chair on the 18th of January, 336. He had served God with such fervor that he advanced constantly in sincere humility and all the apostolic virtues; and he was consecrated a bishop two years before his election to the papal throne. The reign of his predecessor Saint Sylvester, from 314 to until the last day of the year 335, when God came for him, had coincided in large part with that of Constantine the Great. The persecution of the Christian religion had ceased after 313, result of the famous edict of the Emperor which established it as the official religion of State.
During his brief pontificate of eight months, Saint Mark ordained twenty-five priests; he sent for the first time the pallium, symbol of a superior episcopal authority, to the bishop of Ostia, and established by a constitution that the bishop of that see alone would have the right to consecrate future popes. The white wool of the symbolic pallium is worn across the shoulders, to symbolize the lost sheep recovered by the Good Shepherd of Christ’s parable. Saint Mark built two basilicas in Rome, the one earlier called in Pallacina, which today bears his own name and is substantially the same structure; the second was raised over an ancient catacomb, and there he himself was later buried.
With the intrigues of the Arians, the gravest problems arose; Saint Mark abated nothing of his watchfulness, but endeavored rather to redouble his zeal during the peace of the Church. He knew well that if men sometimes cease openly to persecute the faithful, the devil never allows them any truce, and his snares are generally most to be feared in times of apparent calm. This Pope witnessed a turning point of the conflict between the Church and Arianism; the heresiarch himself was struck down by the hand of God at the very moment he was expecting to triumph, and the Arians themselves were frozen in fear. Saint Mark died on October 7, 336, and was buried in his church on the Ardeatine Way.
Reflection: A Christian should fear no enemy more than himself, whom he always has with him, and from whom he is not able to flee. He should therefore never cease to cry out to God, “Unless Thou, O Lord, art my light and support, I watch in vain!”
Source: Histoire générale de l’Église, by Abbé J.-E. Darras (Louis Vivès: Paris, 1869), Vol. 9.