Proper of the Saints and Feasts |
Tuesday, October 8:
Feast of Saint Bridget of Sweden, Widow and Religious
Double Feast. White Vestments.
Saint Bridget was born into the Swedish royal family in the year 1302, the daughter of very virtuous Christian parents. More than one prophetic episode attended the birth of Bridget, “whose voice would be heard with admiration by the entire world,” according to a bishop of her country. Curiously, for three years she said not a word, then began to speak with facility and clarity, like persons of mature years. At the age of seven, after her mother had died, she beheld the Mother of God, who presented her with a beautiful crown. She became sober, modest, candid, humble, and peaceful. At ten years old she saw Our Lord as He was on the Cross, and she began to meditate constantly on the mysteries of the Passion, while occupying herself exteriorly with needlework.
In obedience to her father, she was married to Prince Ulpho of Sweden. Saint Bridget became the mother of eight children, four boys and four girls, one of whom, Saint Catherine of Sweden, is honored as a Saint. Their four sons died young, two during one of the crusades. After some years she and her husband separated by mutual consent; he entered the Cistercian Order, where he died thirty years before his holy spouse. After his death, her life became still more austere; for her guide she had a celebrated Doctor of Theology, a Canon of the cathedral of Linkoeping. Severe for herself, Saint Bridget remained gentle for the poor and nourished twelve persons every day, serving them herself; she established hospices for the sick and the convalescent. She founded the Order of the Holy Saviour for sixty nuns, at the Abbey of Wastein or Wadstena in Sweden.
Saint Bridget received a series of sublime revelations, all of which she scrupulously submitted to the judgment of her confessor. During a famous pilgrimage which she made to Rome at the command of her Lord, He dictated to her the “Fifteen Prayers of Saint Bridget,” in honor of His Passion. Saint Bridget also went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land with her daughter, Saint Catherine of Sweden, and amid the very scenes of the Passion was further instructed in the sacred mysteries. She died in Rome, during her return from this pilgrimage, in 1373.
REFLECTION: Saint Bridget appreciated in an extraordinary way the grace of the Sacrament of Penance. “Is confession a matter of much time or expense?” asks Saint John Chrysostom. “Is it a difficult and painful remedy? Without cost or hurt, this medicine is ever ready to restore you to perfect health.”
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).
Wednesday, October 9:
Semi-Double Feast of Saint John Leonardi, Confessor and Religious Founder, and Saint Dionysius and Companion Martyrs.
Semi-Double Feast. White Vestments
Saint John Leonardi
Born in Lucca, Italy in the year 1541, Saint John Leonardi sought the career of a pharmacist but at 25 was swayed by Heavenly inspiration to enter the seminary where at the age of 20 John became a priest. His vocation was to dedicate all he did to teaching the catechism to youth - childrens and teens. It was St. John Leonardi who founded the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in 1571, known the world over today as CCD and three years later he founded the Congregation of Clerks of the Mother of God to help preach the catechism and live all the Church taught. The Congregation was approved in 1595 by Pope Clement VIII St. John was persecuted greatly by those who doubted his sincerity and thought he had a personal agenda in his efforts to form the Congregation. Thus, unable to execute his duties without slander in his own town, John went to Rome where he met St. John Calasanz and his spiritual director and confessor, the great St. Philip Neri. There, under his influence, St. John Leonardi sent many members of his Congregation to foreign missions and, with the help of Spanish prelate Bishop G.B. Vives, founded the seminary City College for the Propagation of the Faith (Collegium Urbanum de Propaganda Fide) for the specific purpose of forming priests to send to the missions. All his life St. John Leonardi lived the Gospel, dedicating his life to evangelizing as Jesus asked in Mark 16: 15 to "Go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature." In 1607 Pope Paul V merged the Clerks Regular of the Pious Schools with the Congregation St. John founded to make it stronger and encouraged by this event and the universal evangelization efforts of his Order, their founder died in Rome on October 9, 1609.
Saint Dionysius and Companions
Of all the Roman missionaries sent into Gaul, Saint Dionysius or Saint Denis the Areopagite, converted by Saint Paul in Athens, carried the Faith farthest into the west, fixing his see at Paris. France claims him as one of her greatest glories.
He was a highly educated philosopher of Greece, and one of the nine archontes or leaders of the city of Athens, a counselor, as some say, if not the Head of the Athenian senate. He was born in the year 9 of the Christian era, and had traveled to Heliopolis in Egypt to learn mathematics and astrology. There he saw for himself, in his early twenties, the eclipse of the sun contrary to all the laws of nature, which occurred at the death of the Son of God. His teachers could not explain it to him otherwise than as a sign of changes in divine matters. In his letters to Saint Polycarp he says himself that the astrologer he questioned had answered him rather by divine inspiration than by any natural knowledge. And he himself had cried out: “Either the God of nature is suffering, or the entire mechanism of the world is going to be destroyed to return to its ancient state of chaos!” Already he was being prepared for his conversion twenty years later, which is related by Saint Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter seven.
Through Saint Paul, the see of Athens was established with Saint Denys as its first bishop, and this flock, which he extended through the entire region, became one of the most considerable of Greece. He made a number of journeys outside Greece and was present when the Apostles were assembled at the Dormition and glorious Assumption of the Mother of God. He wrote of Her, and he became a friend of Saint John, Her guardian. He corresponded with Saint Timothy, Saint Titus, Saint Polycarp and others of the Apostles’ successors. It appears that it was after a conversation with Saint John the Apostle that Saint Denys, already in his late sixties, determined to go to the Occident to preach to the idolaters of that region. He left Saint Publius as his successor in Athens, and departed for Rome with Eleutherius and Rusticus. Pope Saint Clement of Rome confirmed this enterprise, and added to the group at least ten more priests, all of whom are now listed among the Saints. The authors of the oriental church are steadfast in asserting, with Roman tradition, that it was Saint Denys the Areopagite, converted by Saint Paul, who was sent to Gaul. Others have thought Saint Denys was a fourth century missionary, but this theory cannot be credited, as the Bollandists explain at length in a dissertation.
Through him and his disciples, whom he sent to evangelize various districts, the sees of Rouen, Chartres, Evreux, Verdun, and Beauvais were established. With his two original companions, Eleutherius and Rusticus, Saint Denis went to Paris, where he built four oratories. The first baptized Christian, who received them into his house, was decapitated, denounced to a Roman official by his own pagan wife, as an accomplice of their three guests. The three missionaries were imprisoned and chained in such a way as to suffer torture, then flogged while they blessed God. Other torments were devised, but God preserved the bishop, at this time nearly 100 years old. They were finally beheaded on Montmartre; a large group of Christians, who wept on this occasion, as well as others of the city and the entire region, were also massacred. The wife of the first Parisian Christian and martyr was converted and died with the others. Their joint martyrdom occurred about the year 117.
Source: Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 12.