This weekend we honor Saint Teresa of Avila on Friday, Saint Hedwig and Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque on Saturday along with the Observance of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday. Sunday is not only the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time but also the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Antioch in preparation for Monday's Feast of Saint Luke, the Evangelist. For the liturgies, readings, meditations and vignettes on the Saturday feasts, click on LITURGY
Feast of Saint Teresa of Avila, Virgin, Religious and Doctor of the Church
Probably no religious reformed the Church more than the great Saint Teresa of Avila who was born of Jewish descent in Avila, Spain on October 4, 1515 as Teresa de Cepeda y de Ahumada. Teresa was educated by the Augustinian nuns but at the age of 17 she was forced to leave the convent because of ill health. Regaining her strength she succumbed for a short time to the world and the wealth of Spain which was regaling in the golden age of riches garnered from the New World and the many superb spiritual treatises emanating from Spain. Teresa, like Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Anthony, longed to become a missionary and receive the crown of martyrdom at the hands of the heathen Moors. But this faded from memory as she regained her strength and gave into vanity and the distractions of the world, the flesh and the devil. It was while reading the writings of Saint Jerome that she realized the error of her ways and sought to become a Carmelite nun at the Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila in 1535. Shortly after her profession in 1537, she again became ill and was dispatched for treatment in 1538. Two years later she returned but remained an invalid for several years. After nearly 20 years as a nun she was greatly touched by the Confessions of Saint Augustine, in particular his description of the image Ecce Homo and dedicated the rest of her life to prayer and reform of the Carmelites. During the two years of 1556 and 57 Teresa experienced mystic occurrences with visions and locutions. Because she thought this was satan mimicking Our Lord and Our Lady she was thrown into great anguish until she confided in her new spiritual advisor Saint Peter of Alcantara who convinced her they were authentic from all she had conveyed to him. The Messages from Heaven prompted her to found St. Joseph Convent in Avila despite fierce opposition and ridicule from those who derided her for founding a convent to live the strict Carmelite rule rather than the relaxed rule that was being taken advantage of and being lived in most every convent of that time. In 1567 the Prior General of the Carmelites Father Rubeo gave Teresa permission to establish other convents with the same strict rule as established at St. Joseph's. This gave rise to a bitter struggle from the calced Carmelites who feared their easy-going lifestyle was threatened by this ultra conservative upstart nun. At the General Chapter Convention at Piacenza in 1575, Fr. Rubeo was forced by the majority to place strict restrictions on Teresa's group. The bitter struggle continued for the next five years but Teresa was undaunted and prayed diligently that the Will of God would prevail in this struggle. Joining her in this tireless crusade to reform the Carmelites was a young priest John Yepes who is better known as Saint John of the Cross. With his help she founded the first monastery for men under the strict decalced rule and continued to travel throughout Spain establishing more monasteries as she continuously turned over to St. John the duties of each in the formation of the friars. This responsibility, not to mention the constant harassment and struggle for control, all contributed to the doubts and void John felt in which he wrote about in his now famous "Dark Night of the Soul". Yet, he and Teresa persevered and in 1580 Pope Gregory XIII through the encouragement of the King of Spain King Philip II officially recognized the two distinct branches of the Carmelites - Calced and Discalced and made the latter a separate province free from the influence of those who sought to discredit Teresa. During her travels and drawing from her mystical experiences, Teresa wrote her autobiography The Life in 1565, The Way of Perfection in 1573, and the work The Interior Castle in 1577 - all classics in spiritual literature. Teresa, considered one of the greatest mystics of all time, confounded many who met this saint for she was deeply spiritual and intelligent but could be as stubborn and bullheaded as they come. Add to this that she combined her highly active and political life with a love for deep contemplation which she passed on to all she met, founding 40 new foundations throughout her lifetime to totally reform the Carmelites and put the life of a religious back on the track God intended. Teresa, greatly worn by her travails, travels and trials died at Alba de Tormes in the Province of Salamanca, Spain on the evening of October 4, 1582 - the very same evening the new Gregorian calendar replaced the old Julian calendar and moved everything up ten days, thus the confusion of when Teresa died because the new calendar would have her called home to Heaven on October 14th. It was symbolic that the new had replaced the old for Teresa had replaced the stagnant, liberal lifestyle of the religious with a more dedicated and reverent contemplative way of life in keeping with the vocation they were called to; and she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. In 1970 Pope Paul VI honored her as the first woman to be declared a Doctor of the Church.
Saturday, October 16, 1998
Saturday October 16: Twenty-eighth Saturday in Ordinary Timeand Feast of Saint HedwigWife, Mother and Religious and Feast of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin, Religious and Mystic and Observance of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday
This little known saint Saint Hedwig, who was known as the Duchess of Silesia, was the daughter of Count Berthold IV of Bavaria. Hedwig was born in 1174 into a very devout Catholic family with royal ties. Her two brothers were both bishops and one sister was an abbess while another, the mother of Saint Elizabeth was the queen of Hungary, and still another who was married to King Philip II of France. Hedwig had been educated by the Benedictine nuns in the Kitzengen Monastery in Franconia and developed a great love for the Word of God in Sacred Scripture. But the religious life was not meant for Hedwig and, at the age of 12, she was married to Duke Henry I of Silesia . They had seven children. When Henry's father died in 1202 he succeeded to the dukedom and at Hedwig's urging he built a Cistercian Monastery in Polish Trebnitz, which became the first monastery for nuns in Silesia. Hedwig, who was a devoted wife and mother and totally giving in her generosity of time and money, along with her husband, founded many more monasteries as well as hospitals. Two of their children Henry II and Conrad came to bitter blows over the division of territories made by their father in 1112. Though Hedwig prayed and tried to counsel them, they still resisted and war brokeout between Henry I and Swatopluk of Pomerania for territorial rights. Siding with Henry I was Duke Ladislaus while Conrad sided against Ladislaus, lusting after the latter's lands. When Ladislaus was slain by Ladislaus' men in 1227, Henry II waged war against his brother Conrad. It was only through Hedwig acting as a peacemaker that the two brothers were reconciled. Hedwig's husband Henry I died in 1238 and three years later her son Henry II was felled on the battlefield near Wahlstadt at the hands of the ruthless Mongol Tartars. With both her husband and son gone, Hedwig retired to the Monastery at Trebnitz in Poland where she lived for another three years, passing away peacefully on October 15, 1243. She was canonized less than a quarter of a century later by Pope Clement IV in 1267 with many miracles attributed to her. She is considered the Patroness of Silesia which is today western Poland.
Feast of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin and Religious Mystic
This simple Visitation nun was born Margaret Mary Alacoque on July 22, 1647 to Claude Alocoque and his wife Philiberte Lamyn Alacoque at L'Hautecour in Burgundy, France. When Claude died in 1655, Margaret was sent by her mother to the Poor Clares' school in Charolles where she stayed with her uncle who mistreated her badly. This in turn translated into rheumatic fever that found her bedridden for five years until she was 15. During this time she developed a special devotion for the Blessed Sacrament. Though she was courted by suitors, she declined all invitations to marriage and instead longed to be a bride of Christ as a Visitation nun at their convent at Paray-le-Monial and became a professed nun the following year. In 1667 she experienced her first mystical vision of Jesus. On December 27, 1673, when she was 26, Our Lord began the series of revelations to her that would last over a year and a half. Jesus confided to her that she was His chosen instrument to convey to the world all He revealed to her including Devotion to His Sacred Heart and the devotion of Nine First Fridays and Holy Hour and the graces inherent from observing these as well as establishing a feast specifically for His Most Sacred Heart. St. Margaret Mary in obedience went to her superior Mother de Saumaise but she was strongly rebuffed as all this being superstitious. Sr. Margaret was obedient but continued to pray that Mother Superior would see the light as Jesus continued to appear to her offering her guidance and a reassurance she was doing the right thing. Even though a group of theologians were called in to investigate, they refused to accept any of it as valid and this further alienated her from the members of her community and Mother de Saumaise who all thought Sr. Margaret was making a circus out of all of this. The only one who believed was her confessor Blessed Father Claud La Colombiere, who declared the visions genuine and valid. Sr. Margaret's prayers were answered when Mother de Saumaise was replaced in 1683 by Mother Melin, a dear friend who believed. She in turn selected Sr. Margaret as her assistant. Because of this appointment and the support of both the Father Confessor and Mother Superior the rest of the community changed their tune and began to believe. Shortly after that Sr. Margaret Mary was appointed Mistress of Novices and was overjoyed to see Mother Melin ordain that the Feast of the Sacred Heart would be officially celebrated at the convent on June 21, 1686. Two years later a chapel honoring the Sacred Heart was built at Paray-le-Monial with a beautiful painting commissioned to be painted on the standard of the king of France King Louis XIV. This was later adopted in France, Spain and in the western Alps. Soon the observation of this feast was spread to other convents throughout the Visitandine network and to other Orders. On October 17, 1690, with her work for Jesus complete, and at the fairly early age of 43, Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque, while in prayer at her convent, closed her eyes for the final time on this earth to be forever with Jesus in Heaven. 75 years later devotion to the Sacred Heart was officially recognized by Holy Mother Church and approved by Pope Clement XIII in 1765. In 1920 Pope Benedict XV canonized Sr. Margaret Mary along with her spiritual advisor and Saint John Eudes, all of whom the Holy Father proclaimed as "Saints of the Sacred Heart." Her visions and the subsequent embracing of all Jesus conveyed is another example of how private revelation is so slow to be received, yet when surviving the test of time and bearing good fruit, can add greatly to Holy Mother Church as God wills.
Observance of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday
Honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary is a custom first promoted by the Benedictine Monk Saint Alcuin back in the days of Charlemagne (see archives December 23, no. 25 issue). He composed different formulas for Votive Masses for each day of the week, with two set aside to honor Our Lady on Saturday. This practice caught on with great enthusiasm and eventually the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday became the Common of the Blessed Virgin. This Mass was a favorite with retired priests and those whose sight was failing for most had memorized this Mass and were able to say it by heart without having to read the Lectionary or Sacramentary. One reason Saturday was dedicated to Mary was that Saturday held a special meaning in Mariology. First of all, as Genesis accounts for, God rested on the seventh day. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was Saturday. Jesus, Son of God rested in the womb and then, when He became incarnate, in the loving arms of Mary from birth until she held His lifeless body at the foot of the Cross. Thus the God-head rested in Mary. It was also on Saturday after Good Friday that Jesus gave His Mother a special gift and reward for keeping her faith in His Divinity intact by making an exceptional appearance to her. Thus, because of these reasons, the devotion spread by St. Alcuin and other liturgies that evolved within the Church, Saturday took on a special Marian significance. Saturday took on even more significance in honoring Mary when Our Lady imparted to visionary Lucia in her third apparition at Fatima on July 13, 1917, "Our Lord wishes that devotion to my Immaculate Heart be established in the world. If what I tell you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace; the war will end...I ask the consecration of the world to my Immaculate Heart and Communion of reparation on the First Saturday of each month...If my requests are granted, Russia will be converted and there will be peace...In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph, and an era of peace will be conceded to humanity." As we draw nearer to that wonderful event, it is more important than ever to honor Mary's request on the First Saturday as well as each Saturday that her feast is commemorated in the Church calendar, not to mention responding to her call daily with the Rosary and attending Daily Mass, nourished by her Divine Son present body and blood, soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament. It is in the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary where she remains in the background in the liturgy of the Word so that her Divine Son's words and His Presence take the spotlight as He should while Mary remains the chief intercessor before the Holy Trinity as she should and serves as the ideal for all Catholics to strive for, as we should. The Dictionary of Mary states quite succinctly, "Through these liturgical acts, (honoring Mary on Saturday) Christians exalt the person of Mary in the action that renews the sacrifice of Christ and in the action that prolongs His prayer."
First Reading: Isaiah 45: 1, 4-6 Psalms:Psalm 96: 1, 3-10 Second Reading:1 Thessalonians 1: 1-5 Gospel Reading:Matthew 22: 15-21
Even though it is superseded by Sunday in Ordinary Time, today is traditionally the feast of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr:
Feast of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr
Considered a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Ignatius of Antioch was converted to Christianity around 50 AD. Many accounts report that he was consecrated a bishop by Saint Peter (first bishop of Antioch) to replace his dear friend Bishop Evodius (second bishop) in the See of Antioch shortly after that. He ruled Antioch as the Diocese's third bishop for around 40 years. Legend has it that he was persecuted by the notorious Emperor Trajan at the turn of the first century and the Roman ruler ordered him to be brought to him in Rome by ship. This ship stopped often on its route to Rome, docking at various coastal towns in Asia Minor, Smyrna and Greece. At each port Ignatius was greeted with enthusiasm and love by Christians, but further persecuted by the Roman soldiers on the ship. He wrote four letters to the churches at Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralies and Rome as well as to the churches of Philadelphia and Smyrna and to Saint Polycarp. His final letter to the Christians in Rome beseeched them not to try to stop his martyrdom for that was the will of God and his blood, along with countless other Christians, would nourish the seed of Christianity as he so eloquently stated: "The only thing I ask of you is to allow me to offer the sacrifice of my blood to God. I am the wheat of the Lord; may I be ground by the teeth of the beasts to become the pure bread of Christ." Historians report he reached Rome on December 20, 107 and was immediately led into the great colosseum and fed to the lions who had been starved for days in anticipation of his coming. That's how much Trajan feared and despised Ignatius. Two companions were with him during his final days, Agathopus and Philo who transcribed seven letters of instruction Ignatius dictated to them on the Church, the Sacrament of Marriage, the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, Redemption, the Incarnation and on the Holy Trinity. They became some of the most important and inspiring works passed down among the early Christians. His feast was first celebrated in 360, celebrated in the Syrian Church. His tomb, which is believed to be on the outskirts of Antioch, was venerated since the second century according to Church Doctors Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Jerome. When Antioch was conquered by the Saracens, there are reports his body was exhumed by faithful followers and smuggled to Rome where it was re-buried in the catacombs beneath the church of St. Clement. Whether this is true or not, Ignatius is venerated in both places today.
Historians differ on whether Saint Luke the Evangelist, author of the Third Gospel, was martyred or died a natural death around the year 84 AD in Boetia. Also unknown is his exact origin though many believe he was Greek hailing from Antioch which is substantiated by Saint Jerome and Saint Eusebius. Others surmise Luke was one of 70 disciples and a close associate of the teacher and prophet Lucius of Cyrene (cf. Acts 13:1) which would more likely confirm Luke's Grecian heritage. Whether this Lucius was the same one who was Paul's companion at Corinth (cf. Romans 16:21) is open to conjecture. We do know he was a physician and a Gentile (cf. Colossians 4: 10-14) and traveled with Saint Paul on his second missionary journey around 51 AD. He stayed on at Philippi in charge of the Christian community there until about 57 when he rejoined Paul on his third journey and accompanied him to Rome where he was during Paul's imprisonment from 61 to 63 AD. After Paul's martyrdom in 66, Luke went back to Greece. There, is is assumed, he wrote his Gospel as well as the Acts of the Apostles as a sort of epilogue so to speak. While Sts. Eusebius and Jerome claim he wrote it before Paul's death while in Rome, their counterpart Saint Iraneaeus maintains it was afterwards. Without a doubt Luke's Gospel was written for Gentile Christians and his account in Acts depicts the growth of the new Church from around 35 to 63 AD, all under the inspiration of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity which was founded by the Second Person of the Trinity Jesus Christ. Whether Luke ever met Jesus is open to conjecture though the evangelist was believed to have been born the same year of Our Lord. While Luke is venerated as the Patron Saint of Doctors, along with Saints Cosmas and Damian, he is also associated with painters for another legend from the sixth century on has him as an accomplished master of various paintings including several icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary for he is believed to have visited Our Lady in Jerusalem before her Assumption into Heaven. There is also the possibility this could have occurred after her Assumption and she appeared to him much in the same manner she appeared to Saint James and countless visionaries throughout the centuries right up to the present day. Luke's writings exhibit an extraordinary literary flow and these, too, could easily have been dictated largely by Heavenly means as so much of Sacred Scripture is. His Gospel shows a steady movement from Nazareth to Jerusalem and Acts shows a direction away from Jerusalem to Rome. His Gospel describes the announcement of good tidings and is broken into six sections: the narrative of Christ's infancy, the Messianic attributes of Jesus, His carrying out these attributes in Galilee, Christ's preaching, His Passion and Death, and the fruits of Jesus' salvific act through His Resurrection and Ascension. In addition, none of the evangelist painted more pictures with words as Luke who is credited with the most parables as related by Our Lord. In paintings Luke is associated with the ox which symbolizes strength as well as sacrifice which introduces his Gospel with the history of Zechariah or Zachary the father of Saint John the Baptist, who offered sacrifice to God (cf. Luke 1:9-25).