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
Green or White vestments
First Reading: Romans 4: 13, 16-18
Psalms: Psalm 105: 6-9, 42-43
Gospel Reading: Luke 12: 8-12
Feast of Saint Hedwig, Wife, Mother and Religious
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."