During this week we celebrate the feasts of Saint Dominic, Saint Lawrence, Saint Clare, Saint Pontian and Saint Hippolytus along with the Solemnity of the ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED MOTHER. For the liturgies, readings, meditations and vignettes on all these feasts, click on LITURGY
Very little is known of Pope Saint Sixtus II. This Grecian-born pontiff, elected on August 30th, 257, was the twenty-fourth successor of Saint Peter. He possessed a meek disposition but was not afraid to settle the disputes that had arisen under his predecessors Pope Saint Cornelius, Pope Saint Lucius I, and Pope Saint Stephen I. It was Sixtus who effected the translation and identification of the mortal remains of St. Peter and Saint Paul. The Romans captured Sixtus while he was celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the catacombs and was immediately beheaded to discourage others. It had the opposite effect as Saint Cyprian wrote as he originated the exclamation now part of the Mass - "Deo Gratias". Many companions willingly joined Sixtus in martyrdom on August 6, 258. Sixtus' body was retrieved and given an appropriate burial with a church being built in his honor a century later after the liberation by Constantine. Another church was eventually built over the original one and early in the 13th Century it was given over to Saint Dominic who bequeathed it to his Order of Preachers. It gradually became a cloistered monastery for Dominican nuns. Today, known as the church of St. Dominic and St. Sixtus, it is located in the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.
FEAST OF SAINT CAJETAN, PRIEST AND RELIGIOUS FOUNDER
Born twelve years before the discovery of America, Saint Cajetan would go on to be a staunch defender of the faith in the face of Martin Luther's attacks against the Church. This holy canon lawyer was appointed protonotary apostolic and secretary to Pope Julius II in 1505 twelve years before becoming a priest in 1517. Realizing the Church needed universal and radical reform as assessed by the Fifth Lateran Council, he stayed near the Vatican while bringing the order he had helped foster with John Peter Carafa. This was the Company of Divine Love which was founded by Saint Catherine of Genoa in that city, and dedicated to caring for the poor and infirm. Cajetan was instrumental in establishing a hospital in Rome and later one in Vicenza where he became the pastor of St. Mary's in 1520. Three years later he returned to Rome to found the Institute of Clerks Regular with the charge of preaching, administering the sacraments and celebrating the liturgy. They became known as the Theatines with their first Superior General being Bishop Carafa who sent St. Cajetan to fend against Lutheranism in Venice in 1536. Upon Carafa's death, St. Cajetan returned to Naples where he was elected the Order's Superior General. Over and over he strove to pacify the unrest in Naples and the worldliness of its inhabitants. Beaten down by the discord and apathy, he died in 1547 at the age of 67 before he could realize the fruits he had sown which would become evident at the Council of Trent.
FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, PRIEST AND RELIGIOUS FOUNDER
One of the greatest preachers in Church History, Saint Dominic is the founder of the Order of Preachers, known world-wide as the Dominicans. Born in 1170 in of noble parents in Caleruega, Spain, Dominic became an Augustinian canon after being educated at Palenci, Spain. Dominic received the rare gift of being chosen, at the age of 24, of joining his bishop the Most Reverend Diego de Azevedo on a mission to Denmark which also took them through southern France where Dominic encountered first-hand the Albigensianism and the Waldensian heresy rampant in those parts. He realized then and there the Church needed more preachers to convey the true teachings of Holy Mother Church. Both he and Bishop Azevedo returned immediately to Osma, Spain to begin recruiting worthy preachers. Before they were able to complete this task, the Bishop died and the mission was left to Dominic alone. Undaunted, he realized the first necessity was prayer support and so set about to found a monastery of cloistered nuns in Prouille, France near Toulouse in 1215 similar to the Institute of Divine Mercy founded in Dallas three years ago. Two years later Dominic had assembled enough preachers to form the Friars Preachers and it was quickly approved as the Order of Preachers in a papal bull issued by Pope Honorius III a year later in 1218. The Rule Dominic adopted was patterned after the Rule of Saint Augustine in which the emphasis was on personal and community poverty, the specific ministry of preaching and an arduous and loyal study of the Divine Truth. Within a few years the Order had expanded to Madrid, Paris, Rome and Bologna, Italy. Though he was always interested in establishing headquarters in universities, he also had a special affinity for the missions. But his duties as Founder and Superior General took him to Italy where he established the monastery of nuns at the church of Saint Sixtus and in 1218 Pope Honorius bestowed the gift of the basilica of Santa Sabina which became the headquarters for the Dominicans and has remained so ever since. So loved was Dominic that he was conferred the honor of Master of the Sacred Palace which from that time on has always gone to a Dominican. Another honor associated with the Dominicans is the Rosary for Our Lady appeared to Dominic giving him a beautiful garland of roses, asking Dominic to pray the Rosary daily and to teach others how to pray this prayer which would become one of the most powerful weapons against the enemies of the Church. The Rosary, through Dominic's preaching, was instrumental in bringing countless souls back to the Church. Dominic is often depicted with the cross, scrolls and a companion dog clutching the "torch of zeal" for souls. On the evening of August 7, the feast of St. Sixtus in whose Church Dominic's Order was headquartered, while the Dominicans were gathered for a provincial meeting in Bologna, Dominic breathed his last breath, exclaiming just before expiring that because of his illnesses he could now be of more help to them in Heaven than on earth.
Considered the first deacon of the Church, Saint Lawrence was born in Spain. He was summoned from
Toledo to Rome by Pope Sixtus II in 257 and appointed a deacon with the responsibilities of assisting the Holy Father in celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and helping distribute Holy Communion. He was also
placed in charge of Church property dispensing the offerings given by Christians to the poor and needy. Present
when the Romans seized Pope Sixtus II, Lawrence wept bitterly, sad that he could not join his holy pontiff, but
Sixtus consoled him as he was being led off, "Do not cry, my son; in three days you will follow me." True to his
word, Lawrence was arrested on the third day and the governor ordered Lawrence turn over the coffers of the
Church to him. Escorted by Roman soldiers, Lawrence headed out to retrieve the treasures for the governor.
Little did the governor know that Lawrence was not gathering the monetary wealth, but rather the poor and the
sick who he herded into the governor's palace and proclaimed: "These are the real treasures of the Church."
Incensed, the governor ordered Lawrence to be placed on a gridiron and slowly roasted over burning coals,
surmising that the young deacon would fess up where the monetary treasures were once he got singed. But to
his dismay, Lawrence offered it all up in joyful gratitude that he could die for Jesus. Always witty, Lawrence infuriated the governor even further when he replied jovially, "Turn me over; I'm done on this side." He joined Sixtus II in Heaven on August 10th, 258 with a smile and a prayer on his lips.
FEAST OF SAINT CLARE, VIRGIN AND RELIGIOUS FOUNDER
So impressed was Saint Clare of Assisi by the Lenten sermon of Saint Francis of Assisi that she fled her wealthy home at the age of 18. Rather than submitting to her parents' wishes to be married to an influential nobleman, she submitted to Christ and on Palm Sunday in 1212 received the habit from Francis at the Portiuncula. Because Francis had no convent, Clare became a Benedictine nun at St. Paul in Bastia. Her life of edification and example convinced her own sister Agnes and mother to join her in the convent. This catapulted into more aristocratic women joining and soon Francis decided to build a house next to the church at San Damiano where he appointed Clare in 1215 the Mother Superior, a position she held for forty years. Thus the Order of the Poor Clares were founded, though they were at first called "The Poor Ladies of San Damiano." At
Francis' request, Pope Gregory IX drew up the first Rule for Clare and her fellow sisters in 1228. The nuns were so intent on practicing an austere life that Francis several times had to step in and reprimand them for being too severe on themselves. Yet Clare insisted on the strict vow of poverty and sought out Pope Innocent IV to receive from him assurance that this vow would be upheld and respected by the Church which his namesake Pope Innocent III and successor Gregory IX had assured. She did this knowing full well the temptations of receiving property and gifts from noble families who sought to bestow their wealth on the Church by lavishing the clergy and religious with gifts in return for favors. Clare wanted this vow to be pure and free from any tainting. Some of the popes rescinded this vow and many of the orders as well as some of those under Francis opted for modification of the rule which relaxed the vow of poverty. Clare would have none of it and she drew up a stricter rule in the spirit of Francis' rule guaranteeing absolute poverty for the Order. Throughout her life Clare sought from the supreme pontiffs the privilege of not receiving any privileges except the grace of God. This dedication to shunning everything of the world to embrace God and His Will paid off in dividends as vocations multiplied a hundredfold while the other orders suffered in recruiting. It was an omen of what has happened today in the religious orders. Those who have stuck by the strict rule their founders established have flourished while those who have slacked off, turning their back on the traditions of their orders, are closing their doors for lack of
vocations and inspiration. Clare's dedication and persistence was an inspiration to priests, bishops and even
popes during her lifetime. They sought her out for consultation and often offered generous remuneration for her
time, but always she refused. Clare grieved greatly at the death of Francis but realized God had much more
work for her to finish before He called her home to be with the humble founder of the Franciscans. Clare always
had a deep and abiding love for Jesus, especially in the Most Blessed Sacrament and, in 1241 when the
Emperor Frederick II threatened at the walls of Assisi, she confidently climbed to the top of the fortress and there held aloft the Eucharist within the Monstrance. She is often depicted in this manner. In the same
miraculous way Pope Leo the Great had stopped Attila the Hun at the gates of Rome, Clare's heartfelt prayers were answered and Frederick retreated. Twelve years later, on August 11, 1253 Clare closed her eyes in Assisi for the final time. It was time to join Francis in Heaven. Less than two years after her death Pope Alexander IV canonized this holy foundress of the Poor Clare nuns.
FEAST OF POPE SAINT PONTIAN AND SAINT HIPPOLYTUS, MARTYRS
The eighteenth in the line of Peter was Pope Saint Pontian who was born in Rome and elected to the papacy on August 28, 230. He is known for ordering the chanting of the psalms which many mendicant orders still do today. He also instituted the use of the salutation "Dominus vobiscum" in the liturgy of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which, of course, in the vernacular means "The Lord be with you" to which the congregation replies "and also with you." Saint Hippolytus, a Roman priest, is recognized as an important theologian to the early Church, considered one of the most learned men of his time. In the Ambrosian rite he is venerated in the canon of the Mass. Both saints were exiled to Sardinia by the Emperor Maximus to a life of hard labor in the mines where Pontian was forced to vacate rule over Holy Mother Church because of his remote and isolated situation. Both saints died of exhaustion in 235, Hippolytus in Sardinia, and Pontian on the tiny isle of Tavolara. It was the twentieth Vicar of Christ Pope Saint Fabian who oversaw the return of both saints' bodies to Rome for a proper burial in 237.
FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN MARY KOLBE, PRIEST AND MODERN MARTYR
One of the most recent martyrs in modern Church history, Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe was a 47 year-old
Franciscan priest from Poland who gave his own life through starvation at the notorious Auschwitz death camp
on August 14, 1941 so that a young Jewish husband and father could live. He was born Raymond Kolbe in the Polish village of Zdunska Wola. At the age of 13 he entered the Conventual Franciscans, receiving the name "Maximilian." Twelve years later he was ordained a priest. Having survived World War I, Maximilian could easily discern that this truly was the age Our Lady had prophesied at LaSalette and Lourdes and just a few years after Fatima. Thus he formed an organization entitled "Militia of the Immaculate", devoted to recruitting loyal members to Mary's army. The fruits were a community of over 800 Franciscan men devoted totally to the service of the Blessed Virgin Mary. With their help he constructed a city in Poland from the ground up which he called the "City of the Immaculate." In his zeal to spread this devotion and movement, Maximilian journeyed to the Far East where, in 1930, he built a similar city close to Nagasaki, Japan. Due to failing health, Maximilian was
forced to relinguish his plans there and return to his native Poland in 1936. There his heart sank for the
Gestapo had confiscated all his organization's possessions and turned his beloved City of the Immaculate into
a dreaded concentration camp. Three years later the Nazis invaded his homeland and he was immediately
captured. However, he was freed by the Germans in hopes that he would not interfere with their cruel agenda.
But this holy Franciscan, like his founder Saint Francis and countless other Franciscans after, realized God's agenda is above all else and thus Maximilian became a thorn in the Nazis' side. Consequently he was arrested again in 1941 and sentenced to Auschwitz. On July 31, 1941 one of the prisoners escaped. In retaliation the angry Germans sentenced ten innocent men to die for this transgression. Maximilian was not one of them,
however he willingly offered to take the place of a young Jewish husband with a family. The Nazi commander
accepted this trade and Maximilian was added to the list with nine others all of whom were deprived of all food
and water and held in isolation. Two weeks later, on August 14 Maximilian passed on to his Heavenly reward
with Our Lady guiding the way for her priest-son who had been so loyal during life.
First Reading:Rev/Apoc. 11: 19a; 12: 1-6a Psalms:Psalm 132: 6-10, 13-14 Second Reading:1 Corinthians 15: 20-27 Gospel Reading:Matthew 19: 3-12
SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY INTO HEAVEN
This feast celebrates the glorious Assumption into Heaven of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was first called the "Dormition of Mary" in reference to Our Lady having supposedly "died" at her home in Ephesus. She was
obeying the law of death, howver her death was not truly death as we know it but a 'gentle separation of the soul
from the body' where her soul had reached such a level of love that it could no longer rest unless it was truly in
the celestial bliss of the Triune Divinity. Thus her soul vacated her immaculate body to be reunited with her Son Jesus. But God so deigned that her immaculate body would be reunited with her immaculate soul so that He could raise her up body and soul into Heaven to be accorded the honors she had merited. The Apostle Saint John discovered her veil wafting to the earth from the sky and where her body had been lain were only beautiful flowers with heavenly music enveloping her tomb. He, along with the other Apostles and disciples, assumed correctly that she had been assumed into Heaven to be with her Divine Son. There is nothing in Sacred
Scripture regarding thisspecific event but the Church has relied heavily on 2 Corinthians 5: 1 as well as tradition
and private revelation to document her Assumption. This is specially true from the messages received by Saint
Gregory of Tours in 549 and further substantiated by Saint Bridget of Sweden and Blessed Catherine Emmerich. The feast was first commemorated in 451 in the East and established as a feast for the entire Roman empire in 602 by the Emperor Maurice. It was grouped together with the feast of the Theotokos, Mother of God on January 1. In the 8th Century it was first given the official title of "Assumption of Mary" as found in the Gregorian Sacramentary. The Church commemorated this feast with a midnight procession from St. Adrian's in Rome to the Basilica of St. Mary Major. It wasn't until this century however, that the Church officially proclaimed Our Lady's Assumption as Dogma. That was done by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950 after a four-year study in which the pontiff had polled all the Catholic Bishops of the world. Their response was overwhelmingly favorable. In his encyclical Munificentissimus DeusPius XII stated, "The august Mother of God...gained at last the supreme crown of her privileges - to be preserved immune from the corruption of the tomb and, like her Son, when death had been conquered, to be carried up body and soul to the exalted glory of Heaven." Pius XII's decree put the exclamation mark on what Pope Alexander II had stated in the 12th Century: "Mary conceived without detriment to her virginal modesty, brought forth her Son without pain, passed hence without decay, according to the word of the angel, or rather God speaking by the angel, that she might be shown to be full, not half-full of grace." This was a confirmation of Luke 1: and 1 John 3: 9 that the 'Mother of God was "full of grace" and could not be perfect as God foretold unless she remained incorruptible (cf 1 Corinthians 15: 54-57).' For prayers to Our Lady on her Assumption, please see Devotions on the Assumption.