June -- The Sacred Heart
Dear Sacred Heart, the Fire of Your Love and Graces from Your Heart overwhelm me as You call me to You in total surrender and consecration to Your Most Precious Heart. Make me Your own and draw me to Your Heart to be forever bound to You in Love, in Sacrifice, and in the Purity of the desire for You alone. You are my heart's desire and my only wish is to become all that you desire in me, to love You as You so desire to be loved. Take me into your Heart and teach me to love You as You so desire to be loved. Take it all and make it Yours. 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 Justin -- June 1
St. Justin was from Samaria. He lived in the second century. His father brought him up without any belief in God. When he was a boy, Justin read poetry, history and science. As he grew up, he kept on studying. His main purpose for studying was to find the truth about God. One day as he was walking along the shore of the sea, Justin met an old man. They began to talk together. Since Justin looked troubled, the man asked him what was on his mind. Justin answered that he was unhappy because he had not found anything certain about God in all the books he had read. The old man told him about Jesus, the Savior. He encouraged Justin to pray so that he would be able to understand the truth about God. St. Justin began to pray and to read the Word of God, the Bible. He grew to love it very much. He was also impressed to see how brave the Christians were who were dying for their belief in and love for Jesus. After learning more about the Christian religion, Justin became a Christian. Then he used his great knowledge to explain and defend the faith with many writings. It was in Rome that St. Justin was arrested for being a Christian. The judge asked him, "Do you think that by dying you will enter heaven and be rewarded?" "I don't just think so," the saint answered. "I am sure of it!" And he died a martyr around the year 166. To keep our faith strong, we can pray an act of faith often. A very short act of faith we might repeat from time to time is: "My God, I believe in you.
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St Marcellinus and St Peter -- June 2
These two saints are mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass. They were widely honored and prayed to by the early Christians. The feast of these two martyrs was included in the Roman calendar of saints by Pope Vigilius in 555. Marcellinus was a priest and Peter assisted Marcellinus in his ministry. Both were very brave in the practice of their Christian faith. They served the Christian community with great self-sacrifice. During the persecution of Diocletian, many Christians were killed. These two men were among them. They were beheaded. It seems that before they died, however, they were forced to dig their own graves. They were taken to a hidden location to perform their difficult task. It was a forest called the Silva Nigra. Some time later, their graves were discovered in that remote spot. Their executioner eventually repented of the killings and became a Christian. He led devout Christians to the remains, which were then buried in the catacomb of St. Tiberius. Pope Gregory IV sent the relics to Frankfurt, Germany, in 827. He believed that the relics of these two saints would bring blessings to the Church in that nation. We can learn from martyrs that our lives have to become mirrors of our belief in Jesus. We can pray to St Marcellinus and St Peter and ask them for the grace to grow in our faith and love.
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St Charles Lwanga and Companions -- June 3
Christianity was still quite new to Uganda, Africa, when a Catholic mission was started in 1879. The priests were members of the Missionaries of Africa. Because of their white religious habit, they became popularly known as the "White Fathers." King Mwanga did not know what Christianity was all about. But he became angry when a Catholic, Joseph Mkasa, corrected him for the way he was living. The king had murdered a group of Christians and their Anglican bishop. The king was also involved in homosexual activity. He was especially interested in his court pages. King Mwanga's anger turned into resentment and hatred for Joseph Mkasa and his religion. A few of the king's ambitious officers fueled his fears with lies. Joseph Mkasa was beheaded on November 18, 1885. The persecution had begun. Before it was over, a hundred people died. Twenty-two of them would be declared saints. With the death of Joseph Mkasa, Charles Lwanga became the chief religion teacher of the king's Catholic pages. On May 26, 1886, the king found out that some of his pages were Catholic. He called in Denis Sebuggwawo. He asked Denis if he had been teaching religion to another page. Denis said yes. The king grabbed his spear and flung it violently through the young man's throat. Then the king shouted that no one was permitted to leave his headquarters. War drums beat throughout the night. In a hidden room, Charles Lwanga secretly baptized four pages. One was St. Kizito, a cheerful, generous thirteen-year-old. He was the youngest of the group. St. Charles Lwanga had often protected Kizito from the king's lust. Most of the twenty-two Uganda martyrs who have been proclaimed saints were killed on June 3, 1886. They were forced to walk thirty-seven miles to the execution site. After a few days in prison, they were thrown into a huge fire. Seventeen of the martyrs were royal pages. One of the martyred boys was St. Mbaga. His own father was the executioner that day. Another of the martyrs, St. Andrew Kagwa, died on January 27, 1887. He was among the twenty-two proclaimed saints in 1964 by Pope Paul VI. St Charles Lwanga is the patron of black African young people. He and his companions greatly appreciated their gift of faith. They were heroes! We all can pray to St Charles and these African martyrs. We can ask them to show us how to witness to Jesus and the Church as they did.
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St Francis Caracciolo -- June 4
Francis was born in the Abruzzi region of Italy on October 13, 1563. His father was a Neapolitan prince. His mother claimed relationship to the Aquino family among whom was the twelfth-century saint, Thomas Aquinas. Francis had a good upbringing. He was active in sports. Then, when he was twenty-two, a disease something like leprosy, brought him close to death. While he was sick, he thought about the emptiness of the pleasures of the world. He realized that real happiness could only be found in something deeper. Francis made a vow that if he got better, he would dedicate his life to God. The disease left him so fast that it seemed like a miracle. Francis kept his promise. He began his studies to become a priest. Later, as a newly ordained priest, Father Francis joined a group who were devoted to prison ministry. They cared for the prisoners and prepared condemned men to die a good death. He and another priest, John Augustine Adorno, started a religious congregation. When Father Adorno died, Francis was chosen superior. He was not comfortable at all with this position. So humble was he that he actually signed his letters, "Francis the sinner." He also took his turn, along with the other priests, sweeping the floors, making beds and washing dishes. Father Francis often spent almost the whole night praying in church. He wanted all the priests to spend at least one hour a day in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. St. Francis spoke so often and so well about God's love for us that he became known as "the preacher of the love of God." St. Francis did not live a long life. He died in 1607 at the age of forty-four. Just before he died, he suddenly cried, "Let's go!" "Where do you want to go?" asked the priest by his bed. "To heaven! To heaven!" came the answer in a clear, happy voice. Soon after, he died. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius VII in 1807. In his second letter to the Corinthians, St Paul reminds us that "God loves the cheerful giver. " This was the kind of person St Francis Caracciolo was. If we need a little help in becoming more generous with our time and energy, we can ask this saint to help us. We can ask him also to make us the cheerful givers that Paul describes.
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St Boniface -- June 5
This great apostle of Germany was born in Wessex, England, between the years 672 and 680. When he was small, some missionaries stayed a while at his home. They told the boy all about their work. They were so happy and excited about bringing the Good News to people. Boniface decided in his heart that he would be just like them when he grew up. While still young, he went to a monastery school to be educated. Some years later, he became a popular teacher. When he was ordained a priest, he was a powerful preacher because he was so full of enthusiasm. Boniface wanted everyone to have the opportunity to know about and love Jesus and his Church. He became a missionary to the western part of Germany. Pope St. Gregory 11 blessed him and sent him on this mission. Boniface preached with great success. He was gentle and kind. He was also a man of great courage. Once, to prove that the pagan gods were false, he did a bold thing. There was a certain huge oak tree called the "oak of Thor." The pagans believed it was sacred to their gods. In front of a large crowd, Boniface struck the tree a few times with an axe. The big tree crashed. The pagans realized that their gods were false when nothing happened to Boniface. Everywhere he preached, new members were received into the Church. In his lifetime, Boniface converted great numbers of people. In place of the statues of the pagan gods, he built churches and monasteries. In 732, the new pope, St. Gregory III made Boniface an archbishop and gave him another mission territory. It was Bavaria, which is part of Germany today. He and some companions went there to teach the people about the true faith. Here, too, the holy bishop was very successful. Then, one day, he was preparing to confirm some converts. A group of fierce warriors swooped down on the camp. Boniface would not let his companions defend him. "Our Lord tells us to repay evil with good," he said. "The day has come for which I have waited so long. Trust in God and he will save us." The Barbarians attacked, and Boniface was the first one killed. He died a martyr on June 5, 754. He was buried at the famous monastery he had started at Fulda, Germany. This was what he wanted. Still today large numbers of people do not know the true God. We can pray for them. If God inspires us to become missionaries, we can ask St. Boniface to help us follow the call.
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St Norbert -- June 6
Norbert was born in Germany around the year 1080. He was good while a child and teenager. Then at the court of Emperor Henry V, Norbert spent all his time on frivolous things. He thought only of acquiring positions of honor. He was the first to arrive at parties and celebrations. He was thoroughly happy with "the good life." One day, however, he was frightened by a flash of lightning. His horse bolted. Norbert was thrown to the ground and knocked unconscious. When he woke, he began to think seriously about the way his life was going. God felt very near. Norbert realized that the Lord was offering him the grace to change for the better. Gradually, he went back to the idea he had once had several years earlier. He had considered becoming a priest. Now he would. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1115. Father Norbert worked hard to make others turn from their worldly ways. He gave a good example by selling all he had to give the money to the poor. St. Norbert became the founder of a congregation for the spreading of the faith. His original group began their religious life as a community of thirteen. They lived in the valley of Premontre. That is why they are called Premonstratensians. They are also called Norbertines, after their founder. St. Norbert was chosen bishop of the city of Magdeburg. He entered the city wearing very poor clothes and no shoes. The porter at the door of the bishop's house did not know him and refused to let him in. He told him to go join the other beggars. "But he is our new bishop!" shouted those who knew the saint. The porter was shocked and very sorry. "Never mind, dear brother," St. Norbert said kindly. "You judge me more correctly than those who brought me here." St. Norbert had to combat a heresy which denied that Jesus is really present in the Holy Eucharist. His beautiful words about Our Lord's presence in the Blessed Sacrament brought the people back to their holy faith. In March, 1133, he and his great friend, St. Bernard (whose feast is celebrated on August 20) walked in an unusual procession. They joined the emperor and his army to accompany the true pope, Innocent II, safely to the Vatican. St. Norbert died in 1134. Pope Gregory XIII proclaimed him a saint in 1582. We can learn many good things from St Norbert, especially to take life seriously. We can also learn to appreciate Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and receive him with faith and love.
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Blessed Anne of St Bartholomew -- June 7
Anne was the daughter of peasants. She took care of sheep until she was twenty. Four miles from her hometown was Avila, the city where St. Teresa and her Carmelite nuns lived. Anne was accepted into the order. She became a lay sister rather than a cloistered nun. Sister Anne could go out on errands and do what was necessary to take care of the community. For the last seven years of her life, St. Teresa chose this sister, Blessed Anne, to be her traveling companion. St. Teresa went around to visit the communities of nuns. Sometimes she started a new convent. Sometimes she helped the nuns become more enthusiastic about the wonderful life they had chosen. St. Teresa thought very highly of Blessed Anne and praised her to the other nuns. Although Blessed Anne did not have the opportunity to go to school, she knew how to read and write. She recorded her adventures with the great St. Teresa. It was Blessed Anne who was with her when she died. Blessed Anne's life continued quite normally for six years after St. Teresa's death. Then the superiors decided to open a new convent in Paris, France. Five nuns were selected to go and Blessed Anne was one of them. While the people of Paris were warmly greeting the nuns, Blessed Anne slipped into the kitchen and prepared a meal for the hungry community. Eventually, four of the five nuns moved on to the Netherlands. Anne remained behind because she had been appointed the prioress. It seems that she reminded the Lord that most of the young French women joining their community were from rich, noble families. She explained to him that she was only a shepherd. Within her heart, Blessed Anne heard the Lord's answer: "With straws I light my fire." Anne was sent to the Netherlands to start more new convents. She went first to Mons and then to Antwerp. The young women who came to join the Carmelites thought of Anne as a saint. Anne died in Antwerp in 1626. She was proclaimed "blessed" by Pope Benedict XV. Blessed Anne loved to be in the background. She was not ambitious. Whenever we find ourselves wanting to be important, we can pray to this holy nun. She will help us concentrate on impressing God rather than people.
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St William of York -- June 8
William Fitzherbert was born in England in the twelfth century. He was the nephew of King Stephen. As a young man, William was rather easygoing and even a bit lazy. He seems to have given the impression to some that he was not very serious about taking responsibility in life. However, William was very popular with the people of his city of York. Years later, when the archbishop of York died, William was chosen to take his place. In those times, princes used to interfere in the election of the bishops. This is why many priests did not think William had been properly chosen. It was his uncle, the king, who had appointed him. Even the great St. Bernard persuaded the pope to make someone else archbishop of York. William was asked to step aside because they felt his appointment was not valid. He left his bishop's house feeling hurt and humiliated. He went to live with another uncle, a bishop. It seems that William became a much more spiritual person. He would not accept any of the comforts his uncle offered him. He prayed and performed penances. He began to show how much he cared about his faith and about the Church. The people of York were angry at what had happened to their archbishop. They could not understand how something like this could take place. There were street fights between those who wanted William and those who did not. Six years passed. William lived a quiet life of prayer in the home of his uncle, the bishop. He asked the Lord for peace for his archdiocese. It did not matter any more if he had been treated unjustly. What mattered was that his people be taken care of. Finally, his prayers were answered. When the other archbishop died, the pope sent William back to York. He arrived in May, 1154. The people were very happy. But William was an old man by this time, and about a month later, he died. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Honorius III in 1227. Sometimes people say things about us that are untrue or exaggerated. We can ask St William to help us be as forgiving as he was. We can ask him also to show us how to move on with our lives and not to waste time thinking about our hurts.
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St Ephrem -- June 9
Ephrem was born in Mesopotamia around the year 306. He was baptized when he was eighteen. Ephrem eventually went into the hills and became a hermit. He found a cave near the city of Edessa in Syria. His clothes were just patched rags and he ate what the earth provided. Ephrem became angry easily. He gradually gained control over himself. People who met him thought he was just naturally very calm. He often went to preach in Edessa. When he spoke about God's judgment, the people wept. He would tell them that he was a great sinner. He really meant it, too, because although his sins were small, they seemed very big to him. When St. Basil met him, he asked, "Are you Ephrem, the famous servant of Jesus?" Ephrem answered quickly, I am Ephrem who walks unworthily on the way to salvation." Then he asked and received advice from St. Basil on how to grow in the spiritual life. Ephrem spent his time writing spiritual books. He wrote in several languages--Syriac, Greek, Latin and Armenian. These works are so beautiful and spiritual that they have been translated into many languages. They are still read today. Ephrem also wrote hymns for public worship. These hymns became very popular. As the people sang them, they learned much about the faith. That is why he is called "the harp of the Holy Spirit." Because he was such a great teacher through his writings, in 1920 he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church. Ephrem died in June, 373. One way to praise God at the Eucharist is to join in the singing of the hymns. This is what Ephrem would do if he were next to us at Mass.
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Blessed Henry of Treviso -- June 10
Henry was born in Bolzano, Italy. He lived during the last part of the thirteenth and early part of the fourteenth century. Henry's family was very poor, so he had no opportunity to learn to read and write. When he was a teenager, he moved to Treviso to find work. He became a day laborer. Few people realized that he gave away most of his earnings to the poor. He went to Mass daily and received communion as often as was permitted. Henry loved the sacrament of Reconciliation, too, and found this sacrament of a forgiving God very encouraging. People began to notice the kind of Christian Henry was. He made it his penance to be very diligent at his job. And he allowed ample time every day for private prayer, usually at church. Henry was known for his calm and gentle ways. Sometimes people teased him because he seemed like such a simple person. As he grew older, he began to look shabby and stooped. Children would comment at times on his peculiar appearance. But Henry didn't mind. He realized that they did not know they were hurting him. When Henry was too old and frail to work, a friend, James Castagnolis, brought him into his own home. Mr. Castagnolis gave Henry a room, and food when the old man would accept it. Blessed Henry insisted that he live on the alms of the people of Treviso. They were generous in their donations of food because they knew he shared their gifts with many people who were poor and homeless. By the end of his life, Henry could barely walk. People watched with awe as the old man dragged himself to morning Mass. Often he would visit other local churches as well, painfully moving toward each destination. What a mystery this good man was. When he died on June 10, 1315, people crowded into his little room. They wanted a relic, a keepsake. They found his treasures: a prickly hair-shirt, a log of wood that was his pillow, some straw that was the mattress for his bed. His body was moved to the cathedral so that all the people could pay their tribute. Over two hundred miracles were reported within a few days after his death. Henry of Treviso was declared "blessed" by Pope Benedict XIV. Blessed Henry teaches us that we don't have to do great things to become holy. We can ask him to show us how to live fervent Christian lives daily.
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St Barnabas -- June 11
Although not one of the original twelve apostles, Barnabas is called an apostle by St. Luke in his Acts of the Apostles. This is because, like Paul the apostle, Barnabas received a special mission from God. He was a Jew born on the island of Cyprus. His name was Joseph, but the apostles changed it to Barnabas. This name means "son of consolation." As soon as he became a Christian, St. Barnabas sold all he owned and gave the money to the apostles. He was a good, kind-hearted man. He was full of enthusiasm to share his belief in and love for Jesus. He was sent to the city of Antioch to preach the Gospel. Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. Here is where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians. Barnabas realized that he needed help. He thought of Paul of Tarsus. He believed that Paul's conversion had been real. It was Barnabas who convinced St. Peter and the Christian community. He asked Paul to come and work with him. Barnabas was a humble person, and was not afraid of sharing the responsibility and the power. He knew that Paul, too, had a great gift to give and he wanted him to have the chance. Sometime later, the Holy Spirit chose Paul and Barnabas for a special assignment. Not long afterward, the two apostles set off on a daring missionary journey. They had many sufferings to bear and often risked their lives. Despite the hardships, their preaching won many people to Jesus and his Church. Later St. Barnabas went on another missionary journey, this time with his relative, John Mark. They went to Barnabas' own country of Cyprus. So many people became believers through his preaching that Barnabas is called the apostle of Cyprus. It is commonly believed that this great saint was stoned to death in the year 61. Barnabas received a name that symbolized what he was--a good person who encouraged others to love the Lord, too. We can pray to this saint to ask him to make us sons and daughters of "consolation" as he was.
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St John of Sahagun -- June 12
St. John was born at Sahagun, Spain, in the fifteenth century. He received his education from the Benedictine monks of his town. Then John became a parish priest. He could have lived a very comfortable life in the cathedral parish or in other wealthy parishes. However, John felt attracted to the poverty and simple lifestyle that Jesus had lived. Father John chose to keep charge only of a small chapel. There he celebrated Mass, preached and taught catechism. Father John realized that he needed to know theology better. He enrolled in classes at the great Catholic University of Salamanca. After four years of hard study, he became famous as a preacher. Nine years later, he joined a community of Augustinian friars. They were very impressed by the way he practiced the Christian virtues. He was obedient to his superiors and humble, too. He also continued his preaching. His beautiful homilies or sermons brought about a change in the people of Salamanca. They had been quarreling violently among themselves. Often young noblemen fought each other in revenge. St. John succeeded in ending many of these bitter fights. He even persuaded people to forgive one another. He was not afraid to correct evils, even when the evildoers were powerful people who could take revenge. Once he corrected a duke for the way he was making the poor people suffer. What the priest said was true! In anger, the duke sent two of his men to kill St. John. The two men found the priest and approached him. Father John was so calm and kind. Both men were overcome with sorrow and asked his pardon. Then the duke became sick. Through the prayers of St. John, he repented of his sins and recovered. It was the graces he received from prayer and from the Mass that gave St. John his special power as a preacher. He celebrated the Mass with great devotion. St. John of Sahagun died on June 11, 1479. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Alexander VIII in 1690. We will be so much more effective Christians if we can be calm and peaceful in our whole manner of speaking and acting. We will never spread the Good News if we are overbearing and rude. We can ask St. John of Sahagun to show us how to be as peace-loving and kind as he was.
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St Anthony of Padua -- June 13
This very popular saint was born in Portugal in 1195. He was baptized "Ferdinand." He received an excellent education from the Augustinian friars and joined the order. When he was twenty-five, his life took an exciting turn. He heard about some Franciscans who had been martyred by the Moors in Morocco. These friars were St. Berard and companions. We celebrate their feast on January 16. From then on, Ferdinand felt a strong desire to die for Christ. He joined the Franciscans. This order was very new. St. Francis himself was still alive. Ferdinand took the name "Anthony." He went off to Africa to preach to the Moors. But he soon became so sick that he had to return to Italy. No one in his new religious order realized how brilliant and talented he was. They were not aware of how much education he had received. He never spoke about himself. So the Franciscan superiors assigned him to a quiet friary in Italy. There he washed pots and pans. One day, at a large gathering of priests, Anthony preached a marvelous sermon. From then on, until he died nine years later, St. Anthony preached all over Italy. He was so popular that people even closed their stores to go to hear him. St. Anthony is frequently called on in times of physical as well as spiritual needs. Many miracles have taken place through the intercession of St. Anthony. Large numbers of people have obtained favors by praying to him. That is why he is called the "wonder-worker." The statue of St. Anthony shows him with Baby Jesus because Baby Jesus appeared to him. Other pictures show St. Anthony holding a bible. This is because he knew, loved and preached the Word of God so well. In fact, St. Anthony was so well educated especially in Sacred Scripture that Pope Pius X11 proclaimed him the "Evangelical Doctor," or Doctor of Sacred Scripture. St. Anthony died at Arcella, near Padua, Italy, on June 13, 1231. He was thirty-six. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Gregory IX one year later. Sometimes we want to be recognized for the good things we do or know how to do. It could be that we won't always receive much attention. That is when we can ask St. Anthony to teach us how to be satisfied. We can ask him to help us concentrate on what we can give in this life, not just what we can get.
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St Methodius I -- June 14
St. Methodius lived in the ninth century. He was born and raised in Sicily. Methodius had received an excellent education and he wanted a position worthy of it. He decided to sail to Constantinople to seek an important job at the emperor's court. Somewhere in his travels, he met a holy monk who shared with him long, deep conversations. All of the questions about God and eternity came to Methodius' mind. The monk helped him see that to find real joy in life he should give himself to God in religious life. So when Methodius arrived in Constantinople, he passed up the palace and went to a monastery instead. The Christians were having serious difficulties in Constantinople. Some felt that it was wrong to have religious pictures and icons. They mistakenly thought that people were praying to the picture or statue, not to the person it represented. There were bitter fights and the emperor was involved. He agreed with the people who thought that pictures and statues were evil. St. Methodius, on the other hand, did not agree with the emperor. He understood why Christians needed pictures and statues. He was chosen to go to Rome and ask the pope to straighten out the situation. When he returned, the emperor punished him with a prison term of seven years. Methodius suffered in a dark, damp prison but he wouldn't let his spirit be crushed. He knew that Jesus would use his sufferings to help the Church. Finally, in 842 the emperor died. His wife, Theodora, ruled because her son was a baby. Theodora had a different opinion than her husband, the emperor had. She felt that people should be free to have statues, icons and sacred pictures if they wanted them. Methodius and those who had suffered for a long time were so happy. Now they were free. One of the people who had made St. Methodius suffer the most was sent into exile by the empress. Then Methodius became the patriarch of of Constantinople. The people loved him very much. St. Methodius wrote beautiful essays about theology and the spiritual life. He also wrote lives of saints and poetry. Four years after becoming patriarch, Methodius died. It was June 14, 847. St. Methodius started out his career looking for positions and wealth. He listened to a holy monk and chose a much harder life. When we are offered-two choices even in smaller things, we can say a little prayer to St Methodius. He will give us the wisdom to choose what is the best for us for this life and for our life in eternity with God.
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St Germaine of Pibrac -- June 15
Pibrac is the little village in France where Germaine was born around 1579. It was there that she spent her life. She was always a sickly girl and not pretty. In fact, her right hand was deformed and helpless. Her father paid little attention to her. Her stepmother did not want her around her own healthy children. So Germaine slept with the sheep in the barn, even in cold weather. She dressed in rags and was laughed at by other children. She spent all day tending the sheep out in the fields. When she came home at night, her stepmother often screamed at her and beat her. Yet this poor girl learned to talk with God and to remember that he was with her all the time. She always managed to get to daily Mass. She left her sheep in care of her guardian angel. Never once did one wander away from her shepherd's staff she planted in the ground. Germaine often gathered young children around her to teach them about the faith. She wanted their hearts to be full of God's love. She tried her best to help the poor, too. She shared with beggars the little bit of food she was given to eat. One winter day, her stepmother accused her of stealing bread. The woman chased her with a stick. But what fell from Germaine's apron was not bread. It was summer flowers. By now people no longer made fun of Germaine. In fact, they loved and admired her. She could have begun to live in her father's house, but she chose to keep on sleeping in the barn. Then, one morning in 1601, when she was twenty-two, she was found dead on her straw mattress. Her life of great suffering was over. God worked miracles to show that she was a saint. The main virtue of this saint was patience. She carried her big cross well, because she received Holy Communion often. In our little sufferings, let us turn to Our Lord in Holy Communion and ask his help.
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St John Francis Regis -- June 16
This French saint was born in 1597. When he was eighteen, he entered the Jesuit order. In the seminary, John's love for God and his vocation showed in the way he prayed. He was also eager to teach catechism in the parishes when he could. After he was ordained a priest, St. John Francis began his work as a missionary preacher. He gave very simple talks that came right from his heart. He especially spoke to the poor, ordinary folks. They came in great crowds to hear him. He spent his mornings praying, performing the sacrament of Reconciliation and preaching. In the afternoon, he would visit prisons and hospitals. To someone who said that the prisoners and bad women he converted would not stay good for long, the saint answered: "If my efforts stop just one sin from being committed, I shall consider them worthwhile." St. John Francis journeyed to wild mountain parishes even on the coldest days of winter to preach his missions. "I have seen him stand all day on a heap of snow at the top of a mountain preaching," one priest said, "and then spend the whole night hearing confessions." Sometimes he would start off for a far-away town at three o'clock in the morning with a few apples in his pocket for his day's food. Once, on his way to a village, St. John Francis fell and broke his leg. But he kept on going, leaning on a stick and on his companion's shoulder. When he reached the village, he went at once to hear confessions. He did not have his leg taken care of. At the end of the day, when the doctor looked at it, his leg was already completely healed. St. John Francis died on one of his preaching missions. He became very ill while lost at night in the woods. Just before he died, he exclaimed: "I see Our Lord and his mother opening heaven for me." He died on December 31, 1640. In 1806, a pilgrim joined the crowds going to pray at the shrine of St. John Francis Regis. The pilgrim believed all his life that this saint obtained his vocation to the priesthood. That man was St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars. His feast is celebrated on August 4. The life of St. John Francis reminds us that God has many blessings and graces for us if we are willing to forget our own wants sometimes. This way we can help our parents, family and friends in their needs.
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St Emily De Vialar -- June 17
Emily de Vialar was an only child. She was born in France in 1797. Her wealthy parents sent her to school in Paris. She returned to her small town of Gaillac when her mother died. Fifteen-year-old Emily would be good company for her father. Mr. de Vialar was interested in finding a suitable husband for his daughter. He became angry when Emily flatly refused to marry. He started arguments frequently and shouted his frustrations at her. Emily knew that she wanted to be a religious sister and give her life to God. When Emily was twenty-one, a new priest arrived in Gaillac. His name was Father Mercier. He directed Emily in her vocation. She wanted to help the poor and the sick. Father Mercier helped her set up an out-patient service right on the terrace of the de Vialar home. Emily's father was upset by all the bother. This tense situation between Emily and her father existed for fifteen years. Then Emily's grandfather, the Baron de Portal, died. He left her a fortune and at last she could have the independence she needed to begin her great work for God. With the help of Father Mercier, Emily bought a large house in her hometown. She and three other women began a religious order. They designed a habit and chose a name. They called themselves the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition. (in Matthew's Gospel, an angel had appeared to Joseph to tell him that Mary's child was from God.) The archbishop blessed their congregation and ministry. These sisters would be dedicated to the care of the sick and poor, and to the education of children. Twelve young women joined the group within three months. Sister Emily pronounced her vows in 1835 along with seventeen other sisters. The archbishop approved the rule of the sisters. The Sisters of St. Joseph started branch convents. In 1847, the sisters went to Burma and in 1854, to Australia. In forty years, Mother Emily saw her congregation grow from the patio of her home in Gaillac, France, to some forty foundations around the world. Mother Emily wrote many letters which revealed her tremendous love for God, for his Church and for people. She cared about everybody. She saw in her heart people everywhere who needed the truth of the Gospel and the love that Christianity brings. She asked Jesus for the strength she needed to continue on. Mother Emily's health began to fail around 1850. She died on August 24, 1856. Pope Pius XII proclaimed her a saint in 1951. Instead of quitting when things get hard, we can ask St. Emily de Vialar to make us strong and patient as she was.
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Blessed Gregory Barbarigo -- June 18
Blessed Gregory was born in 1625. He was raised and educated in his native city of Venice, Italy. While still in his twenties, he was chosen by the officials of Venice to represent them in Muenster, Germany, at an important event. Leaders were meeting to sign the Treaty of Westphalia on October 24, 1648. This treaty would bring to an end the Thirty Year War. This war, begun in 1618, was fought in Germany. It involved local, Swedish and French troops and was basically caused by Catholic-Protestant misunderstanding. At Muenster, Blessed Gregory met the pope's representative. This man was to become Pope Alexander VII in 1655. He realized the goodness and spiritual qualities of Father Gregory. He made him a bishop and assigned him to the diocese of Bergamo, Italy. In 1660, the pope called him to Rome again. This time he made Blessed Gregory a cardinal and assigned him to Padua. Blessed Gregory was to spend the rest of his life in that city already made famous by St. Anthony. People often said that Cardinal Barbarigo was like a second Cardinal Borromeo. We celebrate the feast of St. Charles Borromeo on November 4. Cardinal Barbarigo lived a plain, self-sacrificing life. He gave large sums of money for charitable needs. He kept his door open and was always available when people were in trouble. He started an excellent college and seminary for the training of men to be priests. He gave the seminary a first-rate library with many books by the early Church fathers and books about Sacred Scripture. He even equipped the seminary with a printing press. Blessed Gregory Barbarigo died on June 15, 1697, at the age of seventy-two. He was proclaimed "blessed" in 1761 by Pope Clement XIII. When we pray, it is a good idea to ask the Lord for the grace to know and recognize his plan for our lives. When we find something hard or tiresome, we might want to spend time thinking about the way Blessed Gregory Barbarigo used his time. He became a generous, loving person who brought many people closer to God by his good example.
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St Romuald -- June 19
Romuald, an Italian nobleman, was born around 951 in Ravenna, Italy. When he was twenty, he was shocked to see his father kill a man in a duel. Romuald went to a Benedictine monastery. He wanted to set his own life straight. He also wanted to do penance for his father's drastic deed. The monastery surroundings and lifestyle were new to Romuald. He was used to luxury and laziness until then. The nobleman was impressed by the good example of many of the monks. He decided to become a monk. He asked a good hermit named Marinus to teach him how to become holy. Both Marinus and Romuald tried to spend each day praising and loving God. Romuald's own father Sergius came to observe his son's new way of life. The man was struck by the simplicity and spirit of self-sacrifice. Sergius realized that there had to be great happiness in the monastery because his son freely chose to stay there. That was all Sergius needed. He gave up his wealth and followed his son to spend the rest of his life as a monk too. Eventually, Romuald began the Camaldolese Benedictine order. He traveled around Italy starting hermitages and monasteries. Wherever he went, he gave his monks a wonderful example of penance. For a whole year, all he ate each day was a bit of boiled beans. Then for three years, he ate only the little food he grew himself. Through these sacrifices Romuald grew closer to God. Romuald died on June 19, 1027, at the monastery of Valdi-Castro. He was alone in his cell and passed away quietly, no doubt whispering his favorite prayer: "Oh, my sweet Jesus! God of my heart! Delight of pure souls! The object of all my desires!" Let us ask St Romuald to help us value prayer and the life of Jesus within us. We can also ask Romuald to obtain for us the grace to keep our priorities straight. He knows how challenging that can be.
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Blessed Michelina -- June 20
Michelina was born in 1300, in Pesaro, Italy. Her family was wealthy and she married a rich man. Michelina was a happy person by nature. She seemed always like she did not have a problem in the world. But when she was just twenty, her husband died. All of a sudden, Michelina found herself alone with a little son to raise. The young mother seemed anxious to find happiness in the things around her. Her life became a stream of parties and fun and fancy meals. She couldn't seem to have enough of the good things that life offered. After a while, she realized that she had to be with her child more. She also had to be accountable for how she used her money and time. She felt so empty inside. Michelina finally settled down and became a responsible adult. A holy Franciscan lay woman lived in Pesaro. Her name was Syriaca. Syriaca realized that Michelina was really a wonderful person who needed direction and help to be more spiritual. Syriaca and Michelina became friends and the holy woman greatly influenced her. Michelina became prayerful. She took care of her child and home with diligence. She spent her free time serving the poor and needy. She visited the lonely and took care of those too sick or too old to look after themselves. Eventually, she became a lay Franciscan. At first, her relatives were concerned when she gave away her fancy clothes and started to eat plain food. But after a while, they became convinced that Michelina was truly a spiritual woman. Michelina lived her whole life in the same house in Pesaro. She died in 1356 at the age of fifty-six. In her memory, the people of her town kept a lamp always lit in her home. In 1590, Blessed Michelina's house was made into a church. Michelina had the choice to live a selfish, easy life or to be a self-sacrificing and loving Christian. It was through the example of Syriaca that Michelina became holy. We can ask Blessed Michelina to help us have the courage to imitate people we know who are good examples.
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St Aloysius Gonzaga -- June 21
Aloysius, the patron of Catholic youth, was born on March 9, 1568. Since he was so full of life, his father planned to make a great soldier out of him. When Aloysius was just five, his father took him to the army camp. There little Aloysius marched in parade. He even managed to load and fire a gun one day while the army was at rest. He learned rough language from the soldiers, too. When he found out what the words meant, he felt very bad that he used them. As he grew, Aloysius was sent to the courts of dukes and princes. Dishonesty, hatred and impurity were common. But the only effect it all had on St. Aloysius was to make him more careful to live his own Christian commitment. He became sick. That gave him an excuse to spend some time praying and reading good books. When Aloysius was sixteen, he decided to become a Jesuit priest. His father refused his consent. However, after three years, he finally gave in. Once Aloysius had joined the order, he asked to do hard and humble tasks. He served in the kitchen and washed the dishes. He used to say, "I am a crooked piece of iron. I came to religion to be made straight by the hammer of mortification and penance." When the plague broke out in Rome, Aloysius asked to be allowed to care for the sick. He who had always had servants to wait on him gladly washed the sick and made their beds. He served them until he caught the sickness himself. St. Aloysius was only twenty-three when he died. It was the night of June 20, 1591. He said simply, "I am going to heaven." The body of St. Aloysius Gonzaga is buried in the Church of St. Ignatius in Rome. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. If we know that peer pressure can make us say and do things we shouldn't, we can ask St. Aloysius for the courage to do what is right.
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St Thomas More -- June 22
Thomas More was a famous lawyer and writer. Thomas' wife, Jane, died very young. More was left with four small children. He was married again, to a widow who could not even read or write. Thomas made home life enjoyable for his family because he was so pleasant to be with. During meals, one of the children would read from the Bible. Then they would have fun and tell jokes. St. Thomas often asked poorer neighbors in to dinner, too. He always helped the poor as much as he could. He loved to delight his guests with surprises. He even kept some playful monkeys as pets. Yet few could have imagined how deeply spiritual St. Thomas really was. He prayed long hours into the night and performed penances, too. He was very much aware that being a true Christian took the grace and help of God. Thomas held important government positions. For three years he was lord chancellor, another name for prime minister. But when the king tried to make him disobey God's law, Thomas refused. King Henry wanted everyone to recognize him as the head of the Church in England. Thomas could not do that. He chose to remain faithful to the Catholic faith and to God. He was condemned to death for that, yet he forgave his judges. He even said he hoped he would see them in heaven. He really meant it, too. This saint is universally admired because he believed so much in the truth of his faith that he was willing to die for it. Thomas More risked losing everything: his fortune, his position, his own security and the safety of the individuals he loved most But he held fast to the faith, even to the point of sacrificing his life. He makes us ask ourselves what we might do in a similar situation.
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St Joseph Cafasso -- June 23
Joseph Cafasso was born in 1811, in northern Italy, near the city of Turin. Four years later, in 1815, one of his most famous students was born in the same town, St. John Bosco. We celebrate his feast on January 31. Joseph had loving parents who were willing to sacrifice for his education. He went to Turin to study to become a priest. Joseph met John Bosco in 1827 when Bosco was twelve. He talked to Seminarian Cafasso at the church and ran all the way home. "Mom, Mom," John called, "I met him, I met him!" "Who?" his mother asked. "Joseph Cafasso, mother. He's a saint, I tell you." Mrs. Bosco smiled and nodded gently. In 1833, Joseph was ordained a priest. He began his priestly work and went to an excellent school of theology for priests. When Father Cafasso graduated, he became a theology professor. He taught many young priests over the years. They could tell that he really loved them. Father Cafasso became known as the priest who believed in the gentle and loving mercy of God. Because he was so kind himself, he gave people courage and hope. He guided many priests, religious and lay people. He helped John Bosco begin his great priestly ministry with boys. He also guided Father Bosco in starting his religious order known as the Salesians. Father Cafasso directed other founders, too. There were many social needs in Father Cafasso's time. One of the most urgent was the prison system. Prison conditions were disgusting. But what most moved Father Cafasso was the custom of hanging in public prisoners sentenced to death. Father Cafasso went to them and heard their confessions. He stayed with them, telling them of God's love and mercy until they died. He helped over sixty convicted men. All repented and died in the peace of Jesus. Father Cafasso called them his "hanged saints." Father Cafasso also became the pastor of St. Francis Church in 1848. No one could ever measure his great influence on people and works in the Church. Father Cafasso died on June 23, 1860. His devoted friend, St. John Bosco, preached the homily at his funeral. Pope Pius XII proclaimed him a saint in 1947. We can never be too kind and understanding with people. If we should be tempted to take others for granted, or just look after ourselves, we can pray to St Joseph Cafasso. He will help us to become "bighearted" like he was.
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The Birth of St John the Baptist -- June 24
John's parents were Zachary and Elizabeth. Elizabeth was a cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary went to visit and help when Elizabeth was old and about to become a mother. St. Elizabeth had her baby. Zachary named him John, as the angel had requested. John had a special calling. He was going to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus. So when he was still young, he went into the desert to prepare himself with silence, prayer and penance. Soon crowds started to come to him. They realized he was a holy man. He warned them to be sorry for their sins. He told them to change their lives, and he gave them the baptism of repentance. One day, Jesus himself came to John. He wanted to be baptized with John's baptism to begin making up for our sins. On that day, John told the crowds that Jesus was the Messiah, the one they had been waiting for. He told them and everyone else to follow him. Later on, St. John learned that King Herod had married a woman who already had a husband and a daughter. This king was the son of the King Herod who had murdered all those little boys in Bethlehem. St. John told him that it was wrong for him to live with that woman. King Herod was angry and humiliated. He locked John up in prison. John remained in a dark, damp dungeon until Herod had him killed. St. John's motto was, "Jesus must become more and more. I must become less and less." He said that he was not even worthy to loosen the strap of Jesus' sandal. John the Baptist was a great prophet. Chapter eleven of Matthew's Gospel praises him in the words of Jesus himself. When we want to be "number one, " we can ask St. John the Baptist to teach us how to be humble. We can ask him also to help us realize the value of being humble.
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St William of Monte Vergine -- June 25
William was born in Vercelli, Italy, in 1085. His parents died when he was a baby. Relatives raised him. When William grew up, he became a hermit. He worked a miracle, curing a blind man, and found himself famous. William was too humble to be happy with the people's admiration. He really wanted to remain a hermit so that he could concentrate on God. He went away to live alone on a high, wild mountain. No one would bother him now. But even there he was not to remain alone. Men gathered around the saint and they built a monastery dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. Because of William's monastery, people gave the mountain a new name. They called it the Mountain of the Virgin. After a while, some of the monks began to complain that the lifestyle was too hard. They wanted better food and an easier schedule. William would not relax the rule for himself. Instead, he chose a prior for the monks. Then he and five faithful followers set out to start another monastery, as strict as they were used to. One of his companions was St. John of Mantua. Both William and John of Mantua were leaders. They realized as time went on that they would do better if they split up, each to start a monastery. They were great friends, but they saw things differently. John went east and William went west. Both did very well. In fact, both became saints. Later, King Roger of Naples helped St. William. William's good influence on the king angered some evil men of the court. They tried to prove to the king that William was really evil, that he was hiding behind a holy habit. They paid a woman to try tempt him, but she was unsuccessful. It seems that she repented and gave up her life of sin. St. William died on June 25, 1142. If you have trouble getting along with someone or liking someone, just ask St William to show you the good in that person. He will inspire you to know how to become friends with that person.
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St Pelagius -- June 26
This boy martyr of Spain lived in the days when the Moors ruled part of his homeland. The Moors were fighting the Spanish Christians. Pelagius was only ten when his uncle had to leave him as a hostage with the Moors in the city of Cordova. He would not be allowed to go free until his uncle sent him what the Moors demanded. Three years passed and still the young Christian remained a prisoner. By this time, he was a handsome, lively boy of thirteen. Although many of his fellow prisoners were men who had acquired evil habits, Pelagius would not imitate their example. Even though he was young, he had a strong will and knew how to keep himself good. The ruler of the Moors heard good reports about Pelagius. He sent for the boy. Pelagius was handsome and well-behaved. The ruler felt generous and wanted to get him out of prison. After all, he was only a boy. Pelagius was offered his freedom, plus fine clothes to wear. Not only that, he would receive beautiful horses and money. All of these would be his if he would give up his faith and become a Muslim like his captors. "All those things you named mean nothing to me," answered the boy firmly. "I have been a Christian. I am a Christian now. I shall continue to be a Christian." The ruler was surprised. He changed his approach. Instead of promises came threats, but none had any effect. Thirteen-year-old Pelagius died a martyr in the year 925. Pelagius reminds us that our commitment to Christ is serious and has consequences in our daily lives. When we find ourselves weakening, unable to withstand peer pressure, we can ask St Pelagius to make us as strong and mature in our faith as he was.
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St Cyril of Alexandria -- June 27
Cyril was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 370. His uncle, Theophilus, was the patriarch or archbishop. His uncle meant well, but he had a bad temper and could be stubborn at times. He couldn't have known, as we do, that the famous John Chrysostom would be a saint some day. We celebrate St. John Chrysostom's feast on September 13. Archbishop Theophilus was responsible for sending John into exile in 403. But the emperor brought the famous bishop back to his archdiocese of Constantinople. It seems that Cyril was influenced by his uncle's prejudice of John, and agreed when he was sent into exile. When his uncle died in 412, Cyril became the archbishop. He was very clear about his love for the Church and for Jesus. He was a brave man in confusing times and preached what the Church taught. He was honest and straightforward. He was not looking for praise or positions. However, Cyril could be impulsive and stubborn at times. He wanted to express the truths of the Church with his preaching and writing, and he did. But when he became upset, what he said was not always easy to follow. Of course, he was not concerned about saying things in a gentle way, so he blurted out angrily at times. This must have caused him sorrow. Yet Christians were grateful for his many wonderful qualities. For example, he was not afraid to defend the Church and what we believe. St. Cyril was the representative of Pope St. Celestine I at the Council of Ephesus in 431. This was an official Church meeting of over two hundred bishops. They had to study the teachings of a priest named Nestorius. The Council explained clearly that Nestorius was wrong about some important truths we believe. The pope gave him ten days to say he would not keep preaching his mistakes. But Nestorius would not give in. The Council explained to the people of God that we could not accept the mistakes. The bishops were so clear in their explanation that these false teachings would never again be a major threat. The people were very grateful to St. Cyril of Alexandria who led the Council meetings. Nestorius went quietly back to his monastery and stopped confusing people. Cyril went back to his archdiocese and worked hard for the Church until he died in 444. Pope Leo XIII proclaimed St. Cyril a Doctor of the Church in 1883. It doesn't pay to become discouraged when we don't perform as well as we should. We can pray to St Cyril and ask him to help us five with our limitations.
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St Irenaeus -- June 28
Irenaeus was a Greek who was born between the years 120 and 140. He had the great privilege of being taught by St. Polycarp, who had been a disciple of St. John the Apostle. Irenaeus once told a friend: "I listened to St. Polycarp's instructions very carefully. I wrote down his actions and his words, not on paper, but on my heart." After he became a priest, Irenaeus was sent to the French city of Lyons. It was in this city that the bishop, St. Pothinius, was martyred along with a great many other saints. Irenaeus was not martyred at that time because he was asked by his brother priests to take an important message from them to the pope in Rome. In that letter they spoke of Irenaeus as a man full of zeal for the faith. When Irenaeus returned to be the bishop of Lyons, the persecution was over. But there was another danger: a heresy called Gnosticism. This false religion attracted some people by its promise to teach them secret mysteries. Irenaeus studied all its teachings and then in five books showed how wrong they were. He wrote with politeness, because he wanted to win people to Jesus. However, sometimes his words were strong, such as when he said: "As soon as a man has been won over to the Gnostics, he becomes puffed up with conceit and self-importance. He has the majestic air of a rooster who goes strutting about." St. Irenaeus' books were read by many people. Before too long, the whole heresy began to die out. St. Irenaeus died around the year 202. Many believe he was martyred. St. Irenaeus always remembered what he had been taught by St. Polycarp. We, too, can form the habit of being grateful to those who have taught us many good things. We can try to put what we have learned into practice. We can also pray for those who have taught us.
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St Peter and St Paul -- June 29 St Peter
Peter, the first pope, was a fisherman from Galilee. Jesus invited him to follow him, saying: "I will make you a fisher of men." Peter was a simple, hard-working man. He was generous, honest and very attached to Jesus. This great apostle's name was Simon, but Jesus changed it to Peter, which means "rock." "You are Peter," Jesus said, "and on this rock I will build my Church." Peter was the chief or prince of the apostles. When Jesus was arrested, Peter became afraid. It was then that he committed the sin of denying Our Lord three times. Fear for his safety got the best of him. But Peter repented totally. He wept over his denials for the rest of his life. Jesus forgave Peter. After his resurrection he asked Peter three times: "Do you love me?" "Lord," Peter answered, "you know all things. You know that I love you." Jesus truly did know! Peter was so right. Jesus said kindly: "Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep." He was telling Peter to take care of his Church because he would be ascending into heaven. Jesus left Peter as the leader of his followers. Peter eventually went to Rome to live. Rome was the center of the whole Roman Empire. Peter converted many nonbelievers there. When the fierce persecution of Christians began, they begged Peter to leave Rome and save himself. It is said that he actually started out. On the road he met Jesus. Peter asked him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered, "I am coming to be crucified a second time." Then St. Peter turned around and went back. He realized that this vision meant that he was to suffer and die for Jesus. Soon after, he was taken prisoner and condemned to death. Because he was not a Roman citizen, he, like Jesus, could be crucified. This time he did not deny the Lord. This time he was ready to die for him. Peter asked to be crucified with his head downward since he was not worthy to suffer as Jesus had. The Roman soldiers did not find this unusual because slaves were crucified in the same manner. St. Peter was martyred on Vatican Hill. It was around the year 67. Emperor Constantine built a large church over that sacred location in the fourth century. Recent archaeological findings confirm these facts. We can learn from St Peter that when we make Jesus the center of our hearts and our lives, everything else will work out.
Paul is the great apostle who first persecuted the Christians. Then he was converted. We celebrate Paul's conversion on January 25. At the time of his conversion, Jesus had said: "I will show him how much he must suffer for me." St. Paul loved Jesus very much, so much, in fact, that he became a living copy of our Savior. All his life, during his many missionary trips, St. Paul met troubles and went through dangers of every kind. He was whipped, stoned, shipwrecked, and lost at sea. Many, many times he was hungry, thirsty and cold. Yet he always trusted in God. He never stopped preaching. "The love of Jesus presses me onward," he said. In reward, God gave him great comfort and joy in spite of every suffering. We read about his marvelous adventures for Christ in Luke's Acts of the Apostles, beginning with chapter nine. But St. Luke's story ends when Paul arrives in Rome. He is under house arrest, waiting to be tried by Emperor Nero. A famous early Christian writer, Tertullian, tells us that Paul was freed after his first trial. But then he was put in prison again. This time he was sentenced to death. He died around the year 67, during Nero's terrible persecution of the Christians. Paul called himself the apostle of the Gentiles. He preached the Gospel to the non-Jews. That took him to the whole known world. Because of Paul, we, too, have received the Christian faith. Sometimes we realize that our faith is not strong enough. It is then that we can pray to St Paul. He will help us believe in and love Jesus as he did.
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First Martyrs of the Church of Rome -- June 30
The people we honor today had one thing in common: they gave up their lives for Christ. They were martyred because they were followers of the Lord Jesus. By the year 64, Emperor Nero's human rights violations had reached proportions beyond description. When a fire broke out in Rome on July 16, it was commonly believed that the emperor himself was responsible. As two-thirds of Rome lay in ruin, resentment grew. Nero became fearful. He needed a scapegoat and blamed the fire on the Christians. Tacitus, a well-known historian, recorded that the Christians suffered cruel deaths. Some were fed to wild beasts. Others were tied to posts and became human torches that lit the Roman streets. The exact number of heroes is not known, but their gift of witness and their lives made a lasting impact on the people. Nero's was the first persecution by a Roman emperor, but not the last. And the more the Church was persecuted, the more it grew. The martyrs had paid the price so that all who would come after them could have the opportunity to embrace the faith. We can pray to the martyrs of Rome for the courage to be true to what our Church teaches. These martyrs remind us, too, that we should seriously study our faith and read good Catholic books.
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