Saturday, October 23, 1999
Saturday October 23: Twenty-ninth Saturday in Ordinary Time plus
Feast of Saint John of Capistrano, Priest, Religious and Missionary and
Observance of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday
Green or white vestments
First Reading: Romans 8: 1-11
Psalms: Psalm 24: 1-6
Gospel Reading: Luke 13: 1-9
Feast of Saint John of Capistrano, Priest, Religious and Missionary
Born in Capistrano, Italy near Abruzzi in 1386, Saint John of Capistrano he entered law school at Perugia where he was appointed governor there in 1412 at the age of 26. Married, he became enmeshed in the war between Perugia and Malatesta and was captured. While in prison, he had a life-changing conversion through a purported vision of Saint Francis of Assisi who invited John to join him in his Order. When John was finally released , was able to obtain a dispensation to enter the Friars Minor, despite the fact he was married. In 1420 he was ordained and began to preach throughout Italy, bringing in thousands to hear him wherever he spoke. His life would be one of preaching the true faith in the midst of great schism and defending Holy Mother Church and Europe from the threatening Turkish infidels. He would become known as the "Apostle of Europe" for his prayers, devotion and staunch defense of the faith not only saved Europe, but saved the Franciscan Order as well and strengthened the Church during dire times. Along with Saint Bernardine of Siena John endeavored to heal the split within the order, drawing up plans that were approved by the general chapter in 1430 at Assissi. That same year John, who was commissary general of the Franciscans, was instrumental in getting his dear friend St. Bernardine appointed Vicar General of the Observants. Almost immediately after that he journied to France where, in cooperation with Saint Colette, helped reform the Poor Clares. John was also a great aid to the pontiffs. Pope Eugene IV appointed John inquisitor in the proceedings against the Fraticelli vs. the Franciscans and John also ruled over the charges leveled against the Gesuats. In 1439, Eugene IV sent him on a papal diplomatic mission as papal legate to Milan and Burgundy to successfully make a stand against the antipope Felix V. Six years later the Holy Father, so pleased with John's diplomacy and firmness in backing Holy Mother Church, sent him to France to meet with the king as the papal legate to France. Rulers were so impressed with John that in 1451, the Emperor Frederick strongly recommended that the new pontiff Pope Nicholas V send John as commissary and inquisitor general to fend off the Hussites. Along with twelve Franciscans John again was successful. John preached throughout Europe, specifically Bavaria, Poland and Saxony, effecting countless conversions and tremendous revivals of faith. When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453 John concentrated all his energies and faith into denouncing the infidels, forming a crusade against the Turks. Though he was unsuccessful in Austria and Bavaria, he teamed up with Hungarian leader Janos Hunyady to rally the Hungarians to resist the Turkish invasions. After capturing Constantinople, the Turks set their goal in capturing Belgrade in Serbia, at that time gateway to the west. Rallying the people against the infidels, John led the left wing of the Christian army to triumph at the Battle of Belgrade in 1456. His victory stalled the Turkish invasion which in turn saved all of Europe. To commemorate the significance of this event Pope Callistus III instituted the Feast of the Transfiguration. That same year both he and Hunyady contracted the bubonic plague from the filthy conditions of the battlefield, and both subsequently were claimed by the Black Death, Hunyady one week before John who died on October 23, 1456 at Villach, Austria. John was canonized by Pope Alexander VIII in 1690. This faithful Franciscan is most remembered here in the United States for the mission of the same name located in southern Orange County, California along the Pacific coast where, for decades, the swallows always return to the Mission of San Juan Capistrano on the feast of St. Joseph.
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."