February -- The Holy Family
O Heavenly Father, our loving God, you have given us the Holy Family as our patron to bless and guide our families that the fruit of the Holy Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control - shall reign in our homes. As husbands and wives, teach us to love our spouses more than ever. As parents, give us wisdom and knowledge in rearing our offsprings to be responsible and successful Christians forever. As brothers and sisters, may we learn to care and support for one another and be of inspiration to each other. As children, teach us to be obedient just as Jesus showed obedience and respect to Mary and Joseph. As Christians, melt us, mold us, fill us, and use us, in spreading the good news in our community that they may see Christ in us. When trials come, help us to face them with trusting faith and confidently hope that all things work for good for those who love God. May we have a happy holy family forever through Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, our miraculous patron, the adorable Holy Family. Amen.
Sunday -- The Holy Trinity
Praise to you, O Lord, who in the beginning created us in freedom.
Praise to you, O Lord, who endowed us with reason and free will.
Praise to you, O Just Father, who in your love has desired to have us for your very own.
Praise to you, O Holy Son, who for our salvation did put on a human body like ours.
Praise to you, O Spirit of Life, who has enriched us with your gifts.
Praise to you, O Lord, who has brought us to know your divinity.
Praise to you, Lord, who has made us worthy to join with the angels in praising you.
From every mouth, let praise rise up to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
On the heights and in the depths, let there be praise to the Holy Trinity, on earth and in heaven, from beginning to the end of time, world without end. Amen.
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Monday -- The Holy Spirit
We beseech Thee, O Holy Spirit, descend with Thy light and consolation into our souls; enlighten out understanding, and consecrate the hearts which Thou hast sanctified as Thy temples. O Holy Spirit, come and bring us Godﾃつｹs blessings and peace; console us and all the afflicted; encourage and strengthen the weak; instruct and support the wavering ; arouse sinners to penance, and enkindle in their cold hearts the fire of divine love and filial confidence in Thee, that all men, in peace and joy, may thankfully praise and adore Thee, together with the Father and the Son, one God, world without end. Amen.
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Tuesday -- The Holy Angels
Bless the Lord, all you His angels. You who are mighty in strength and do His will, intercede for me at the throne of God. By your unceasing watchfulness protect me in every danger of soul and body. Obtain for me the grace of final perseverance, so that after this life I may be admitted to your glorious company and with you may sing the praises of God for all eternity. All you holy angels and archangels, thrones and dominations, principalities and powers and virtues of heaven, cherubim and seraphim, and especially you, my dear guardian angel, intercede for me and obtain for me the graces and favors I need while on this journey in life. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Amen.
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Wednesday -- St. Joseph
O blessed Joseph, faithful guardian of my Redeemer, Jesus Christ, protector of thy chaste spouse, the virgin Mother of God, I choose thee this day to be my special patron and advocate and I firmly resolve to honor thee all the days of my life. Therefore I humbly beseech thee to receive me as thy client, to instruct me in every doubt, to comfort me in every affliction, to obtain for me and for all the knowledge and love of the Heart of Jesus, and finally to defend and protect me at the hour of my death. Amen
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Thursday -- Holy Eucharist
Lord Jesus Christ, you gave us the Eucharist as the memorial of Your suffering and death. May our worship of this Sacrament of Your Body and Blood help us to experience the salvation You won for us and the peace of the Kingdom where You live with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
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Friday -- The Sacred Passion
O Jesus! Heavenly Physician, raised aloft on the Cross to heal our wounds with Thine, remember the bruises which Thou didst suffer and the weakness of all Thy Members which were distended to such a degree that never was there pain like unto Thine. From the crown of Thy Head to the Soles of Thy Feet there was not one spot on Thy Body that was not in torment, and yet, forgetting all Thy sufferings, Thou didst not cease to pray to Thy Heavenly Father for Thy enemies, saying: "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Through this great Mercy, and in memory of this suffering, grant that the remembrance of Thy Most Bitter Passion may effect in us a perfect contrition and the remission of all our sins. Amen.
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Saturday -- The Blessed Virgin Mary
The Magnificat, Prayer of the Blessed Virgin Mary
My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my savior, For he has looked upon his servant in her lowliness; all ages to come shall call me blessed. God who is mighty has done great things for me, holy is his name; His mercy is from age to age on those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm; he has confused the proud in their inmost thoughts. He has deposed the mighty from their thrones and raised the lowly to high places. The hungry he has given every good thing, while the rich he has sent empty away. He has upheld Israel his servant, ever mindful of his mercy; Even as he promised our fathers, promised Abraham and his descendants forever. (Lk 1:46-55)
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St. Brigid Of Ireland -- February 1
A few years after St. Patrick arrived in Ireland, a little girl named Brigid was born. Her father was an Irish lord named Dubthac and her mother was named Brocca. As Brigid grew up, she deepened her love for Jesus. She looked for him in the poor and often brought food and clothing to them. It has been said that one day she gave away a whole pail of milk. Then she began to worry about what her mother would say. She prayed to the Lord to make up for what she had given away. When she got home, her pail was full again. Brigid was very pretty. Her father thought that it was time for her to marry. However, she had decided in her heart to give herself entirely to God. She did not want to marry anyone. When she learned that her beauty was the reason young men were attracted to her, she made an unusual request to God. She asked that her beauty be taken from her. God granted her request. Seeing that his daughter was no longer pretty, Brigid's father gladly agreed when Brigid asked to become a nun. The girl did follow her call to religious life. She even started a convent so that other young women could become nuns, too. It seems that after she consecrated her life to God in the convent, a miracle happened. Brigid became beautiful again! She reminded people of the Blessed Mother because she was so lovely and gentle. Some called her the "Mary of the Irish." St. Brigid died in 525. Jesus loves each one of us. We look the way he wants us to. Brigid concentrated on important values such as the meaning of her life and helping less fortunate people. She reminds us not to waste our time worrying about whether we are nice looking or plain. Each of us is special to God.
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Presentation Of The Lord -- February 2
Forty days after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph brought the Child to the great Temple in Jerusalem. There they presented Jesus to the Heavenly Father. That was the Jewish law. The Holy Family obeyed it with loving hearts. While they were in the Temple, Mary also fulfilled another requirement of the law. After the birth of their children, all Jewish mothers were supposed to go to the Temple for the ceremony called the Purification. Mary did her duty cheerfully. She teaches us to be humble and obedient as she was. A holy old priest of the Temple named Simeon learned from God that the Infant Jesus was truly the Savior. With what joy he held Mary's Son in his arms. "My own eyes are looking at my salvation," he exclaimed. God let him recognize Jesus as the Savior and Simeon put his trust in the little Child. Imagine what Mary and Joseph were thinking. Then, inspired by God, Simeon told Mary that she would have to suffer very much. He was talking about the terrible pain our Blessed Mother would feel when Jesus died on the cross. This feast of the Presentation reminds us that we belong to God first of all. Because he is our Father and Creator, we owe him our loving obedience. We, too, can imitate Mary and Joseph. We can cheerfully obey our parents, guardians and teachers in all that is right. We can ask the Holy Family to help us live responsibly every day of our lives.
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St. Blase -- February 3
St. Blase lived in the fourth century. Some say that he came from a rich family and received a Christian education. As a young man, Blase thought about all the sufferings and troubles of the times. He began to realize that only spiritual joys can make a person really happy. He became a priest and then bishop of Sebaste in Armenia which is now modern Turkey. With all his heart, Blase worked to make his people holy and happy. He prayed and preached; he tried to help everyone. When the governor, Licinius, began to persecute the Christians, St. Blase was captured. He was sent to prison to be beheaded. On the way, people crowded the road to see their beloved bishop for the last time. He blessed them all, even the pagans. A poor mother rushed up to him. She begged him to save her child who was choking to death from a fishbone. The saint whispered a prayer and blessed the child. He worked a miracle that saved the child's life. That is why St. Blase is called upon by all who have throat diseases. On his feast day, we have our throats blessed. We ask him to protect us from all sicknesses of the throat. In prison, the saintly bishop converted many pagans. No torture could make him give up his faith in Jesus. He was beheaded in the year 316. Now St. Blase is with Jesus forever. Today let us honor St. Blase by going without that candy bar or ice cream cone we planned to have.
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St. Jane Valois -- February 4
St. Jane was the daughter of King Louis XI of France. She was born in 1464. Since the king wanted a son, he was very disappointed when Jane was born. He did not even want his little daughter to live at the palace because she was deformed. When the princess was just five years old, she was sent to live with other people. Despite the way she was treated by her own father, Jane was good and gentle with everyone. She was convinced that Jesus and Mary loved her. Jane also believed that the Lord would use her to do good in his name. And she was right. When she grew up, Jane decided that she did not want to marry. She had given herself to Jesus and his Blessed Mother. But her father ignored her personal choice. He forced her to marry the duke of Orleans. Jane was a devoted wife for twenty-two years. After the duke became king, however, he sent Jane to live by herself in a far-off township. The queen did not let herself become resentful. Instead, she exclaimed: "God be praised! He has permitted this that I may serve him better than I have up until now." Jane lived a prayerful life. She practiced penances and acts of kindness. She gave all her money to the poor. She even started an order of sisters called the Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She spent the rest of her life joyfully for Jesus and his Mother. St. Jane died in 1505. She was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1950. When we find someone or some situation hurtful, let us remember St. Jane Valois. We can ask her to help us be as patient and forgiving as she was.
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St. Agatha -- February 5
A beautiful Christian girl named Agatha lived in Sicily in the third century. The governor heard of Agatha's beauty and brought her to his palace. He wanted to make her commit sins against purity, but she was brave and would not give in. "My Lord Jesus Christ," she prayed, "you see my heart and you know my desire. You alone must have me, because I am all yours. Save me from this evil man. Make me worthy of winning out over the devil." The governor tried sending Agatha to the house of a wicked woman. Perhaps the girl would change for the worse. But Agatha had great trust in God and prayed all the time. She kept herself pure. She would not listen to the evil suggestions of the woman and her daughters. After a month, she was brought back to the governor. He tried again to win her. "You are a noblewoman," he said kindly. "Why have you lowered yourself to be a humble Christian?" "Even though I am a noble," answered Agatha, I am a slave of Jesus Christ." "Then what does it really mean to be noble?" the governor asked. Agatha answered, "it means to serve God." When he realized that she would not sin, the governor became angry. He had Agatha whipped and tortured. As she was being carried back to prison she whispered, "Lord, my Creator, you have protected me from the cradle. You have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Now receive my soul." Agatha died a martyr at Catania, Sicily, in the year 250. Let us learn from St. Agatha's example. Like her, we can pray with all our heart when we are tempted to do anything wrong.
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St. Paul Miki And Companions -- February 6
These twenty-six martyrs are sometimes called the martyrs of Nagasaki and the martyrs of Japan. St. Francis Xavier brought the Good News of Christianity to Japan in 1549. Many received the Word and were baptized by St. Francis himself. Although Francis moved on and eventually died near the shores of China, the faith had grown in Japan. By 1587 there were over two hundred thousand Catholics. Missionaries from various religious orders were there. Japanese priests, religious and lay people lived the faith joyfully. In 1597, forty-five years after the arrival of Francis Xavier, a powerful Japanese official, Hideyoshi, listened to the gossip of a Spanish merchant. The merchant whispered that the missionaries were traitors of Japan. He suggested that these traitors would cause Japan to be defeated by Spain and Portugal. The claim was false and absurd. But as an overreaction, Hideyoshi had twenty-six people arrested. The group included six Franciscans from Spain, Mexico and India; three Japanese Jesuit catechists, including St. Paul Miki; and seventeen Japanese Catholic lay people, including children. The twenty-six were led to the place of execution outside Nagasaki. They were fastened to individual crosses with chains and cords and had iron collars clamped around their necks. Each cross was hoisted and the base was lowered into a hole dug for it. Spears were thrust into each of the victims. They died almost at the same moment. Their blood-stained clothes were treasured by the Christian community and miracles happened through their intercession. Each martyr was a gift to the Church. St. Paul Miki, a Jesuit catechist, had been a great preacher. His last valiant homily came from the cross as he encouraged the Christian community to be faithful until death. It was February 5, 1597. St. Paul Miki and his companions were proclaimed saints by Pope Gregory XVI in 1862. We can pray every day for people who live in parts of the world where they are persecuted for their beliefs. We can also ask St. Paul Miki and his companions for courage to be faithful to Jesus.
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Blessed Giles Mary -- February 7
His complete name as a religious was Brother Giles Mary-of-St.Joseph. Brother Giles Mary was born near Taranto, Italy, in 1729. As a child he learned rope-making and was good at his trade. When he was twenty-five, Giles became aware of a call from the Lord to enter a religious order and give his life to God. Giles entered the Friars of St. Peter Alcantara in Naples. And what extraordinary things did he do to be proclaimed "blessed"? He was singled out for such an honor because of two virtues that guided his whole religious life. The virtues were simplicity and humility. Brother Giles Mary tried to approach each day with an attitude of wanting to serve God. He was grateful for his calling and it showed. Brother Giles walked up and down the halls where he lived. He was the porter. He opened the door promptly and with a smile every time a visitor pulled the rope that rang the bell. He took gentle care of the poor, the homeless, the ill who came to that door. He was given the responsibility of distributing the food and alms that his community could spare. Brother Giles Mary loved to do that. No matter how much he gave to needy people, so much remained for others. He knew it was St. Joseph who did this. After all, St. Joseph had once taken such good care of Jesus and Mary. Brother Giles Mary spread devotion to St. Joseph throughout his whole religious life. After a life of faithfulness to God and his chosen vocation, Brother Giles Mary-of-St.-Joseph died on February 7, 1812. He was declared "blessed" by Pope Pius IX in 1888. We can learn from Blessed Giles' life. It won't be great things or important responsibilities that make us successful with God. What God looks for is a generous heart and faithfulness in what we do.
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St. Jerome Emiliani -- February 8
Jerome was born in 1486, the son of a noble family of Venice, Italy. He was a good soldier and was put in command of a fortress high in the mountains. While defending this post from an invasion by some troops of Maximilian I, he was taken prisoner and thrown into a dungeon. Chained in that miserable prison, he began to regret the careless way he had been living. He was sorry that he had thought so little about God. He was sorry for wasting several years in immoral living. Jerome promised the Blessed Mother that he would change his life if she would help him. His prayers were answered and he escaped to safety. It is said that Jerome, with a grateful heart, went straight to a church. He hung his prison chains in front of Mary's altar. The young man eventually became a priest. He was devoted to works of charity. His special concern was for the many homeless orphan children he found in the streets. He rented a house for them, and gave them clothes and food. He instructed them in the truths of the faith. St. Jerome started a religious congregation of men called the Company of the Servants of the Poor. They would care for the poor, especially orphans, and would teach youth. He did all he could for the peasants, too. He would work with them in the fields. St. Jerome would talk to them of God's goodness while he worked by their side. He died while caring for plague victims in 1537. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XIV in 1767. St. Jerome Emiliani was a gift to the people of his time and to all the Church. By totally turning his life around, he became an image of the love of God. He gave hope to those who were poor and abandoned. In 1928, Pope Pius XI named him the patron saint of orphans and homeless children. We can ask St. Jerome Emiliani to help us see the importance of being a good example. We can ask him to help us recognize the opportunities we have to witness to our love for Jesus, Mary and our Catholic faith.
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St. Apollonia And The Martyrs Of Alexandria -- February 9
A holy virgin, Apollonia, lived in Alexandria, Egypt, in the third century. Christians were being persecuted there during the reign of Emperor Philip. Apollonia had spent her whole life serving God. Now that she was growing old, she was not about to take time to rest. She bravely risked her life to comfort suffering Christians in prison. "Remember that your trials will not last long," she would say. "But the joys of heaven will last forever." It was just a matter of time until Apollonia, too, was captured. When the judge asked her name, she courageously said, "I am a Christian and I love and serve the true God." Angry people tortured Apollonia, trying to force her to give up her faith. First, all her teeth were smashed and then knocked out. Strangely enough, that is why people frequently pray to St. Apollonia when they have a toothache. But even this painful ordeal did not shake the woman's faith. Apollonia was then told that if she did not deny Jesus, she would be thrown into a raging fire. The woman would not let her fear overcome her. She chose to die by fire rather than abandon her faith in Jesus. When the pagans saw how heroic she was, many were converted. Apollonia died around 249. The martyrs greatly desired to shed their blood for Jesus. And what are we willing to do for him? Are we strong enough to stand a little inconvenience without pouting or complaining?
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St. Scholastica -- February 10
Scholastica and St. Benedict were twins born in central Italy in 480. It is said that for many years, their parents had begged God to send them children. When at last Benedict and Scholastica were born, their parents cherished them. The couple tried to raise them well. Scholastica was a friendly, intelligent girl. She promised herself to Jesus when she was still very young. After her parents died, she went to visit her brother who had already left home. He had built a big monastery and was the leader of many good monks. Benedict had become the founder of the Benedictine order. St. Benedict was very good to his sister. When he realized that she and other young women wanted to become nuns, he helped them start a monastery for women. While Benedict was at Subiaco, Scholastica was at a nearby monastery. When her twin brother moved to Monte Cassino, she entered a woman's monastery near there. Once a year Benedict visited his sister and spent the day with her. On one of his visits, when he rose to leave, Scholastica begged him to stay longer. Benedict said he could not. His sister quietly bowed her head and begged the Lord to prolong her brother's visit. Suddenly, a storm arose and Benedict was unable to leave. He stayed and they talked all through the night. They spoke of the goodness of God and the happiness of the saints in heaven. Not long after, Scholastica passed away. She died in 547. Scholastica and Benedict helped each other draw closer to God by the way they treated one other We, too, can learn to value people who share with us their good example and spiritual attitudes.
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Our Lady Of Lourdes -- February 11
It was on February 11, 1858, that a beautiful lady first appeared to Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, France. Bernadette was a sickly girl. Her family was so poor they lived in a cellar that had once been a jail. Even though she was fourteen, Bernadette still could not read or write. She never could remember her catechism lessons, but she was a good girl. She loved God very much. Although her memory was poor, Bernadette kept trying hard to learn all she could about God. She was pure and obedient, too. The beautiful lady Bernadette saw wore a white dress and a light blue sash. A white veil covered her head and fell over her shoulders to the ground. On her feet were two lovely golden roses. Her hands were joined and a rosary hung from her right arm. Its chain and cross shone like gold. The lovely lady encouraged Bernadette to say the Rosary. She appeared eighteen times to St. Bernadette. She asked her to tell the people to pray, to do penance and to recite the Rosary for sinners. During the last apparition, Bernadette asked the beautiful lady who she was. The lady replied, "I am the Immaculate Conception." She was Mary, the Mother of God. A large church called a basilica was built where Bernadette saw Our Lady. Although the apparitions took place over a hundred years ago, miracles still happen there. Many people are cured of sicknesses. Crippled people walk again. Blind people see again. Lonely, broken people find hope again. There, where she once appeared to St. Bernadette, Our Lady still shows her love for us. Let us try to say the Rosary to our Blessed Mother every day. Through this prayer, we receive all the graces we need for ourselves and for those we love.
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St. Meletius -- February 12
Meletius was called to shepherd the Church in the fourth century. The Roman persecutions were over and Constantine had recognized Christianity as a legal religion in 315. What, then, could have made Bishop Meletius' ministry so difficult? Storm clouds had gathered within the Church. Some considered themselves Catholic, some Arian. The Arian heresy denied that Jesus is divine. Some people believed the error because things were not so clear then. Bishop Meletius loved the Church and was true to Jesus. He believed that Jesus is God and realized that the Church would have to speak up clearly about who Jesus is. Meletius became the bishop of Antioch in 361. The Arians were not pleased. For twenty years, Meletius was a patient, loving bishop. But his life was made difficult by people who did not accept him. He often had to go into hiding because other men were claiming to be the bishop of his diocese. But St. Meletius was the true bishop and would patiently return as soon as possible. When Emperor Valens died in 378, the Arians stopped their persecution. In 381, the famous Council of Constantinople, a large Church meeting, was called. The bishops wanted to talk about important truths of our faith. Bishop Meletius opened the Church Council meetings and directed the sessions. Then, to the sadness of all the bishops, he died right there at one of the meetings. Great saints like John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nyssa attended his funeral along with all the bishops at the Council. The people of Constantinople poured in to the church as well. St. Gregory of Nyssa delivered the funeral homily. He spoke of a meek, Christ-like bishop whom everyone loved. And he was right: everyone who loved the Church loved St. Meletius. St. Gregory spoke of Bishop Meletius' calmness and radiant smile, his fatherly voice and gentle touch. St. Meletius died on February 12, 381. Bishop Meletius was always kind and good-natured. Many people made his life difficult but he never lost his gentle ways. This is the real test of his goodness. This is how he proved his love for Jesus. We can do the same in little ways.
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St. Catherine Of Ricci -- February 13
Alexandrina was born in 1522 into the Ricci family of Florence, Italy. At the age of thirteen, the girl entered the Dominican order. As a sister she chose the name Catherine. Even at that young age, Catherine had a deep love for the passion of Jesus Christ. She used to think about Our Lord's sufferings often. Jesus gave her the great privilege of receiving in her own body the marks of his wounds. She was happy to accept all the pains of these wounds. Catherine also felt very sorry for the poor souls suffering in purgatory. She realized how they longed to be with God in heaven. She realized, too, that this time in purgatory seemed to drag on endlessly. St. Catherine prayed and did penance for them. Once God let her know that a certain man was in purgatory. So great was her love that she offered to suffer for him. God listened to her prayer and she suffered greatly for forty days. After a long, painful illness, St. Catherine died at the age of sixty-eight. It was February 2, 1590. She was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement XII in 1747. Let us help the poor souls in purgatory with our prayers as St. Catherine Ricci did. We pray that they soon may be with the Lord. When they are in heaven, they will pray for us.
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St. Valentine -- February 14
Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended, and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his promises to make him renounce his faith in effectual, commended him to be beaten with clubs, and afterwards, to be beheaded, which was executed on February 14, about the year 270. (He supposedly cured the jailer's daughter of her blindness. The night before he was executed, he wrote the jailer's daughter a farewell letter, signing it "From Your Valentine." Another legend tells us that this same Valentine, well-loved by all, received notes to his jail cell from children and friends who missed him.) Pope Julius I is said to have built a church near Ponte Mole to he memory, which for a long time gave name to the gate now called Porta del Popolo, formerly, Porta Valetini. The greatest part of his relics are now in the church of St. Praxedes. His name is celebrated as that of an illustrious martyr in the sacramentary of St. Gregory, the Roman Missal of Thomasius, in the calendar of F. Fronto and that of Allatius, in Bede, Usuard, Ado, Notker and all other martyrologies on this day. To abolish the heathens lewd superstitious custom of boys drawing the names of girls, in honor of their goddess Februata Juno, on the fifteenth of this month, several zealous pastors substituted the names of saints in billets given on this day. In AD 496 Sain Pope Gelasius I named February 14 as "Valentine's Day". Although it's not an official holiday, most Americans observe this day. Whatever the odd mixture of origins, St. Valentine's Day is now a day for sweethearts. It is the day that you show your friend or loved one that you care. You can send candy to someone you think is special. Or you can send roses, the flower of love. Most people send "valentines," a greeting card named after the notes that St. Valentine received in jail. Valentines can be sentimental, romantic and heartfelt. They can be funny and friendly. If the sender is shy, valentines can be anonymous.
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St. Faustinus And St. Jovita -- February 15
St. Faustinus and St. Jovita were brothers who lived in Brescia, Italy. They were among the early Christian martyrs. The two brothers suffered during the persecution of Emperor Hadrian in the second century. From the time they were young, Faustinus and Jovita were well-known for their great love for their religion. They also performed works of Christian charity. They helped each other do good for the people who needed them. The bishop of Brescia made them both priests. They began to preach everywhere, to both the rich and the poor. They spared themselves no sacrifice to bring many people to God. Because it was a time of persecution, it was easy to be afraid. But Faustinus and Jovita would not give in to fear of the soldiers even though these soldiers were actually putting many Christians to death. When the emperor heard that Faustinus and Jovita dared to preach openly, he sent them to prison and had them tortured. He hoped that torture would silence them. But no matter what the two priests suffered, they would not promise to stop preaching about Jesus. They kept an attitude of prayer even in that terrible prison. In fact, they willingly offered up their sufferings to the Lord. Faustinus and Jovita encouraged each other to be courageous even if they, too, would have to die as martyrs for Jesus. Both brothers remained true to their belief in and love for Jesus until they were martyred. The exact date of their death was not recorded. Their heroic witness, however, is a sacred memory and challenge to all of us. How pleased God is to see brothers and sisters helping one another to study and learn about their faith. Like St. Faustinus and St. Jovita, they can encourage each other to love and live for Jesus.
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St. Onesimus -- February 16
Onesimus lived in the first century. He was a slave who robbed his master and ran away to Rome. In Rome he went to see the great apostle, St. Paul, who was a prisoner for his faith. Paul received Onesimus with the kindness and love of a good father. Paul helped the young man realize he had done wrong to steal. But more than that, he led Onesimus to believe in and accept the Christian faith. After Onesimus became a Christian, Paul sent him back to his master, Philemon, who was Paul's friend. But Paul did not send the slave back alone and defenseless. He "armed" Onesimus with a brief, powerful letter. Paul hoped his letter would set everything right for his new friend, Onesimus. Paul wrote to Philemon: "I plead with you for my own son, for Onesimus. I am sending him back to you. Welcome him as though he were my very heart." That touching letter is in the New Testament of the Bible. Philemon accepted Paul's letter and Paul's advice. When Onesimus returned to his master, he was set free. Later, he went back to St. Paul and became his faithful helper. St. Paul made Onesimus a priest and then a bishop. The former slave dedicated the rest of his life to preaching the Good News that had changed his life forever. It is believed that during the persecutions, Onesimus was brought in chains to Rome and stoned to death. If we should ever hurt anyone in any way, let us ask forgiveness right away. God will be pleased to see that we are sorry and he will bless us as he did Onesimus.
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Seven Founders Of The Servite Order -- February 17
These seven saints lived in the thirteenth century. They were all from Florence, Italy. Each had a great love for Mary, the Mother of God. They were active members of a confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The way they came to be founders of the Servite order is remarkable. On the feast of the Assumption, while the seven men were deep in prayer, the Blessed Mother appeared to them. She inspired them to leave the world and to live alone with God. After several years of living as hermits, they went to their bishop. They asked him for a rule of life to follow. The bishop encouraged them to pray and to ask for guidance from Mary. Mary appeared to the men carrying a black habit. At her side was an angel bearing a scroll with the words "Servants of Mary" written on it. In this vision, the Blessed Mother said that she had chosen them to be her servants. She asked them to wear a black habit. This was the habit they started to wear in 1240. They also began to live their religious life according to the rule of St. Augustine. These wonderful men helped each other love and serve God better. Six of them were ordained priests. They were Bonfilius, Amadeus, Hugh, Sostenes, Manettus and Buonagiunta. The seventh founder, Alexis, remained a wonderful religious until death. In his humility, he chose not to be ordained to the priesthood. Many young men came to join these holy founders. They were known as Servants of Mary or Servites. The Servite order was approved by the Vatican in 1259. The seven holy founders were declared saints by Pope Leo XIII in 1888. Like these seven saints, let us love our Blessed Mother and ask her to help us in every need.
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St. Bernadette -- February 18
St. Bernadette was born in Lourdes, France, on January 7, 1844. Her parents were very poor. Bernadette was frail and often sick. On Thursday, February 11, 1859, Bernadette was sent with her younger sister and a friend to gather firewood. A beautiful lady appeared to her above a rosebush in the grotto of Massabielle. The lady was dressed in blue and white. She smiled at Bernadette. Then she made the sign of the cross with a rosary of ivory and gold. Bernadette fell on her knees. She took out her own rosary and began to say it. The beautiful lady was God's Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. She appeared to Bernadette seventeen times and spoke with her. She told Bernadette that she should pray for sinners and do penance. The Lady also told her to have a chapel built there in her honor. Many people did not believe Bernadette when she spoke of her vision. She had to suffer very much. But one day Our Lady told Bernadette to dig in the mud. As she did, a spring of water began to flow. The next day it continued to grow larger and larger. Many miracles happened when people began to use this water. When Bernadette was older, she became a sister. She was always very humble. More than anything else, she desired not to be praised. She did not want to receive special treatment just because she had actually seen the Blessed Virgin. Although her own health was poor, she helped care for the sick and elderly sisters. She died in 1879 at the age of thirty-five. Her last words were: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, a poor sinner." She was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XI on December 8, 1933. We can become close to Mary as Bernadette was by reciting the rosary every day. We could offer the rosary for many intentions, especially for the conversion of people who are caught in sin and addictions.
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St. Barbatus -- February 19
Barbatus was born in Benevento, Italy, in 612. He was given a Christian upbringing and was good and devout. He took his faith seriously and especially liked to read the Bible. As soon as he was old enough, he was ordained a priest. Later he was made a pastor. But his life as a pastor was not easy. Some people did not like him to tell them how to live. St. Barbatus was encouraging them to lead better lives. He reminded them to be sorry for their sins. Some of the people were angry. They persecuted him and finally forced him to leave. The young priest felt bad. He went back to Benevento where he had been born. He was received with great joy. There were challenges in that city, too. Many converts to Christianity still kept pagan idols in their homes. They found it hard to destroy their good luck charms. They believed in magic powers. St. Barbatus preached against such superstitions. But the people hung on to their false gods. The saint warned them that because of this sin, their city would be attacked by enemies and it was. Afterwards, the people gave up their error and peace returned. St. Barbatus was made bishop. He continued his work to convert his people. He died on February 29, 682, at the age of seventy. Our parish priests, like St. Barbatus, want us to be good so that we will go to heaven. Let us listen to their advice and follow it.
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St. Eucherius -- February 20
St. Eucherius was born in Orleans, France, in the eighth century. He received a Christian upbringing and education. A sentence from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians made a big impression on him: "This world as we see it is passing away" (1 Corinthians 7:31). It made Eucherius realize that our lives on this earth are very short. He realized that heaven and hell last forever. He decided to seek the joys of heaven by living for God alone. In 714, St. Eucherius left his rich home and entered a Benedictine abbey. There he spent seven years in close union with God. After the death of his uncle, the bishop of Orleans, in 721, Eucherius was chosen to take his place. Eucherius was then only twenty-five and he was very humble. He did not want to leave his beloved abbey. With tears, he begged to be allowed to remain alone with God in the monastery. But finally, he gave in for love of obedience. Eucherius became a holy, wise bishop. He did much good to his priests and people. A powerful political figure, Charles Martel, used to take some of the Church's money to support his wars. Because Bishop Eucherius told him that was wrong, Charles had him taken prisoner. He was exiled first to Cologne, then to a fort near Liege. But the governor in whose charge Martel had placed the bishop was moved by Eucherius' meekness toward his enemies. Some time later, the governor quietly released the bishop from prison and sent him to a monastery. Here the saint spent all his time peacefully in prayer until his death in 743. Let us think about Paul's good advice to the Corinthians that this word of ours is passing away. This will help us to think more of our eternal goal: heaven.
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St. Peter Damian -- February 21
St. Peter Damian was born in 1007, and was left an orphan as a little child. He was taken in by an older brother who abused and starved him. Another brother named Damian became aware of the boy's real situation. He brought him to his own home. It was then that Peter's life took on a whole new direction. He was treated with love, affection and care. So grateful was he that when he became a religious he took the name Damian after his loving brother. Damian educated Peter and encouraged his studies. Peter eventually taught at the university while he was in his twenties. He was thought of as a great teacher. But the Lord was directing him in ways he could never have thought of. Peter lived in times when many in the Church were too influenced by secular goals. Peter realized that the Church is divine and has the grace from Jesus to save all people. He wanted the Church to shine with the holiness of Jesus. After seven years of teaching, he made the decision to become a monk. He wanted to live the rest of his life in prayer and penance. He would pray and sacrifice so that many people in the Church would become holy. He went to a monastery of St. Romuald. Peter Damian wrote a rule for the monks. He also wrote a life of their holy founder, Romuald. Peter wrote many works of theology to help people deepen their faith. Twice his abbot sent him to neighboring monasteries. He helped the monks begin reforms that would encourage them to live closer to God. The monks were grateful because Peter was so kind and respectful. Peter was finally called from the monastery. He became a bishop and a cardinal. He was sent on very important missions for various popes throughout his long life. St. Peter Damian died in 1072 at the age of eighty-three. Because he was a champion of truth and a peacemaker, he was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828. The poet Dante (who lived from 1265 to 1321) recognized the greatness of St. Peter Damian. In his poem, the "Divine Comedy," Dante places Damian in the "seventh heaven." That was his place for holy people who loved to think about or contemplate God. Several years of St. Peter Damian's childhood were sad and unfortunate. But he learned how to find the Lord with childlike trust He used his gifts to make Jesus and his Church more loved and appreciated. We can ask St. Peter Damian to show us how to live generously for God.
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Chair Of St. Peter -- February 22
St. Peter was the prince of the apostles and the first pope. Jesus said to him, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). After Jesus went back to heaven, St. Peter preached the Gospel. He guided the small but growing Christian community. At first, Peter labored in Jerusalem and in Antioch, two big cities of the East. Later, he went to preach the Gospel in Rome, the capital of the world. What chance did Peter have to perform his great task for the Lord? His Master had been crucified but then had risen. Who would believe that? The evils of pagan Rome would drown his voice no matter how dedicated he may be. But the Holy Spirit was alive in Peter. He courageously took up the ministry Jesus had left him. Never again would Peter deny his Lord. Never again would Peter put his own personal well-being before the good of the Church. The feast of St. Peter's Chair at Rome reminds us that St. Peter started the Christian community in that city. The special chair is a symbol of the authority that was given to him by Jesus. Kings of old sat on thrones and ruled. Peter's chair is a symbol of his authority from Jesus to rule the Church. St. Peter was martyred for the faith, but down through the ages there has always been a bishop of Rome. He is the pope. The pope rules the whole Church, as St. Peter did, in Jesus' name. We call the successor of St. Peter the Holy Father. We love and honor the pope. He takes the place of Jesus on earth. Let us always pray for our Holy Father. We ask that God may give him strength, light and comfort.
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St. Polycarp -- February 23
Polycarp was born between the years 75 and 80. He became a Christian when the followers of Jesus were still few. In fact, Polycarp was a disciple of one of the original apostles, St. John. All that Polycarp learned from St. John he taught to others. Polycarp became a priest and then bishop of Smyrna in present-day Turkey. He was Smyrna's bishop for many years. The Christians recognized him as a holy, brave shepherd. Christians in Polycarp's time faced persecution and death under Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Someone betrayed Polycarp to the authorities. When his captors came to arrest him, he invited them first to share a meal with him. Then he asked them to let him pray a while. The judge tried to force Bishop Polycarp to save himself from death by cursing Jesus. "I have served Jesus all my life," answered the saint, "and he has never done me any wrong. How can I curse my King who died for me?" The soldiers tied St. Polycarp's hands behind his back. The old bishop was then placed on a burning pile. But the fire did not harm him. One of the soldiers then stabbed a lance into his heart. And so, in the year 155, Polycarp died a martyr. He went to be forever with the Divine Master he had served so bravely. Polycarp was called upon to stand with Jesus even at the cost of his life. We might not have to give up our lives as martyrs for Jesus. We do know, though, that we will have to make the right daily choices if we want to be the kind of Christian Polycarp was. Our choices will involve the television and videos we watch, the music we listen to, the magazines and books we read. Our choices will also determine the kind of language we use, the way we treat our family, relatives, neighbors and friends. What kind of Christians will we be?
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St. Montanus, St. Lucius And Companions -- February 24
Emperor Valerian persecuted Christians with vengeance during the days of the early Church. He had permitted St. Cyprian's execution in September 258. The Roman official who had actually sentenced Cyprian died himself soon after. The new official, Solon, was nearly the victim of an uprising which included a plot on his life. It seems he suspected the plot to be in revenge for the death of St. Cyprian. He arrested eight innocent people. All were Christians; most were clergy. Each had been a devoted follower of St. Cyprian. The Christians were taken down into dark dungeons. They found others there whom they knew. The filth and dampness circled the group. They realized that they would soon be facing death and eternity. The Christians were kept many months in the prison. They worked during the day and often were denied food and water without any reason. Somehow in such inhuman conditions, the little Christian community bonded and helped one another. The lay people protected the bishops, priests and deacons who were especially targets of the emperor's cruelty. When the Christians were finally called to the place of execution, each was permitted to speak. Montanus, who was tall and strong, spoke bravely to all the Christian crowd. He told them to be true to Jesus and to die rather than give up the faith. Lucius, who was small and frail, walked quietly to the place of execution. He was weak from the harsh months in prison. In fact, he had to lean on two friends who helped him arrive at the spot where the executioner waited. The people who watched called to him to remember them from paradise. As each of the Christians were beheaded one after another, the crowd became more and more courageous. They wept for those who suffered such injustice. But they were joyful, too. They realized that these martyrs would bless them from heaven. Montanus, Lucius and their companions were martyred in 259. The early Christians were known for the kindness and love they had for one another They put the needs of others before their own and tried with all their hearts to overcome selfishness. We might be able to think of some times in our own lives when we can be more generous and less selfish in imitation of the first Christians.
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St. Caesarius Of Nazianzen -- February 25
Caesarius lived in the fourth century in present-day Turkey. His father was the bishop of Nazianzen. At that time bishops and priests could marry. Caesarius' brother is St. Gregory of Nazianzen, the close friend of St. Basil. Besides being a saint, Gregory is an important writer from the early Church. His books are still read today. Both Caesarius and Gregory received an excellent education. But while Gregory wanted to be a priest, Caesarius wanted to be a medical doctor. Both went to the schools that would help them accomplish their goals. Caesarius completed his studies in medicine at Constantinople. He soon became a well-known and trusted physician. In fact, Emperor Constantius, who lived in Constantinople, wanted Caesarius to be his personal physician. Caesarius thanked the emperor but gently refused. He wanted to go back to Nazianzen, his home city. Some time later, however, Caesarius was again called to serve the emperor at Constantinople. This time it was the man known to history as Julian the apostate. An apostate was someone who gave up his Christian faith. This man had several official orders against the Christians. He was willing to exempt Caesarius, however, since he was such a good doctor. Julian tried to coax the doctor into giving up his faith. Caesarius was offered positions, bribes and privileges. Caesarius' father and brother advised him to refuse the offers. They suggested he return home to practice medicine. In 368, Caesarius was almost killed in an earthquake. He escaped unharmed but was badly shaken by the incident. He felt that God was telling him to live a life of prayer away from the noise and flattery of the court. Caesarius gave away his possessions to the poor. He began to live a quiet, prayerful life. St. Caesarius died shortly after in 369. The homily at his funeral was preached by his brother, St. Gregory. We all have a particular calling in life. God has given us the gifts to perform that calling well. Like St. Caesarius, we need the wisdom to listen to people we trust. We also need to refuse to follow people who want to use our talents or education in wrong ways.
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St. Porphyry -- February 26
Porphyry was born in the fifth century to wealthy, noble parents. He left his family when he was twenty-five. Porphyry went to Egypt to enter a monastery. After five years, he made a trip to Jerusalem. He wanted to visit the places where Jesus had actually been while he was on earth. Porphyry was very impressed by the Holy Land. His love for Jesus made him more deeply aware of the sufferings of the poor. At home in Thessalonica he had never known what it was like to be poor. Now he still owned all that his parents had left him. But not for long. He asked his friend Mark to go to Thessalonica and sell everything for him. After three months, Mark returned with the money. Porphyry then gave it away to those who really needed it. At the age of forty he became a priest and was given care of the relics of the true cross of Jesus. Porphyry was then made bishop of Gaza. He worked generously to lead the people to believe in Jesus and to accept the faith. But his labors were slow and required heroic patience. The majority of inhabitants at that time were locked into pagan practices and superstitions. Although Porphyry was able to stop many of these practices, he had enemies who made him suffer greatly. Others who were Christians loved and admired him deeply. They prayed and sacrificed for him. They begged the Lord to preserve him. Bishop Porphyry spent many years strengthening the Christian community. He proclaimed all that Christianity stood for. He died in 420. This saint's example challenges us to have nothing to do with foolish superstitions. There is no such thing as good luck from charms and other such things. God watches over us and gives us a// the help we need, if we ask him.
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St. Gabriel Of Our Lady Of Sorrows -- February 27
This lovable saint was born in Assisi, Italy, in 1838. He received the name Francis at Baptism, in honor of the great St. Francis of Assisi. His mother died when he was only four. Francis' father sent for a governess to raise him and the other children. Francis grew to be very handsome and likable. He was often the most popular person at a party. He loved to have fun but there was another side to him, too. Even while having good times, he was sometimes bored. He couldn't explain why. He seemed to feel in his heart a strong desire for God and the deeper things of life. Twice he became so sick he nearly died. Each time he promised Our Lady that if she would obtain his cure, he would become a religious. He did get better both times, but he did not keep his promise. One day, he saw a picture of the Sorrowful Mother that was being carried in a procession. It seemed that the Blessed Mother was looking straight at him. At the same time, he heard a voice in his heart telling him, "Francis, the world is not for you anymore." That did it. Francis entered the Passionist monastery. He was eighteen. The name he took was Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother. Gabriel's great loves became the Holy Eucharist and Mary, the Sorrowful Mother. He loved to spend time thinking about the passion of Jesus and how much the Lord had suffered for him. Gabriel also learned to practice two virtues in a special way: humility and obedience. His special trademark was joy. He was always happy and spread that happiness to those around him. After only four years in the Passionist order, Gabriel died on February 27, 1862. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XV in 1920. We should not think only of having good times. We can ask St. Gabriel to help us find real joy and meaning in our life.
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St. Romanus And St. Lupicinus -- February 28
These French saints were brothers who lived in the fifth century. As a youth, St. Romanus was admired by everyone for his goodness. He had a great desire to become a saint. Since he saw that in the world it was too easy to forget about God, Romanus decided to live as a hermit. First, he asked the advice of a holy monk, and then he started off. He took a book with him. It was The Lives of the Fathers of the Desert by Cassian. He also took seeds to plant and a few tools. With these supplies, he went into the forests of the Jura mountains between Switzerland and France. Romanus found a huge fir tree and settled beneath it. He spent his time praying and reading his book. He also planted and cared for his garden, quietly enjoying nature. Soon afterward, his brother Lupicinus joined him. Romanus and Lupicinus were very different. Romanus was hard on himself. However, he was kind and gentle and full of understanding with others. Lupicinus was hard and severe with himself and usually the same with others. Yet he meant well. The two brothers understood each other and got along fine. Many men came to join them. They wanted to be monks, too, so they built two monasteries. Romanus was the abbot of one and Lupicinus was the abbot of the other. The monks lived simple, hard lives. They prayed much and made sacrifices cheerfully. They performed penances to strengthen themselves in their vocation. They worked very hard farming to grow their food and kept silent all the time. They chose to live like this because their main concern was growing close to God. Their lifestyle helped them toward their spiritual goal. St. Romanus died in 460. His younger brother, St. Lupicinus, died in 480. St. Romanus and St. Lupicinus were both saints, even though they had different personalities. We can learn from these two saints that we all have gifts and qualities that we can use to bring people closer to God. What the Lord looks for is our willingness.
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