Author Archives: joandarc

All Saints Day

Yesterday, October 31, was All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween, that is, the evening before the holy ones.

As explained in “Reclaim Halloween as the holy All Hallows’ Eve!,” the word “hallow” is “to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate,” while the word “e’en” means “evening.”

The word “saint” means holy.

Halloween, therefore, means Holy Evening or the Evening of the Hallowed or Holy Ones, i.e., the Evening of the Saints.

In other words, Halloween is the evening before All Saints Day, which is today!

saints in Heaven1

Then I saw another angel come up from the East, holding the seal of the living God.  He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea, “Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”  I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the Israelites.” Rev. 7:2-4 

After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice:  “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”  All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.  They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen.  Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power and might be to our God forever and ever.  Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”  I said to him, “My Lord, you are the one who knows.”  He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  Rev. 7:9-14.

“For this reason they stand before God’s throne and worship him day and night in his temple.  The one who sits on the throne will shelter them.  They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them.  For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  Rev. 7:15-17.

saints in Heaven

Through the “communion of saints,” a doctrine proclaimed in the Apostle’s Creed, the blessed in heaven assist those of us on earth; we pray with the saints so that they may intercede on our behalf before Our Lord.  Remember, these incredible, courageous and wonderful individuals see God face to face!  How cool is that?

Indeed, they are the ultimate role models, heroes and heroines-people who chose to do extraordinary things and behaved always with serving Our Lord as their first priority in their lives, no matter what the cost.  They were no different as human beings than we are, with faults, talents, proclivities towards temptation and bearing all qualities incident to human beings.  What made them different were their choices, to serve God first above anything and everything.  To put it more eloquently were the words of St. Thomas More on the day he was beheaded, wherein he stated, “I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

saints in Heaven2

In the communion of saints, “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home and those of us who are still pilgrims on earth.”  (CCC 1475)

St. Thomas More said this about the saints.  “We venerate the saints as God’s servants, as we would on earth welcome the servants of a great man we esteemed.  If the goodness we bestow upon our poor brethren is considered by Christ as bestowed upon Himself, as He tells us (Mt 25:40), and if those, as He says, who welcome His apostles and disciples welcome Him (Mt. 10:40), assuredly those who honor the saints are likewise honoring Christ.  Our Lord Himself showed that He would have His saints partake in His glory when He promised the apostles that they would be seated at His side on the final Day of Judgment (Mt. 19:28).  Moreover, He promised that Martha’s sister Mary (whom More identified as Mary Magdalen) would be honored throughout the world for her deed of anointing Him with ointment (Mt. 26:13).”

As to honoring the saints, and our desire to request their advocacy and intercession on our behalf, as to whether or not the saints can either hear us or help us, St. Thomas More provided, “Yet how can we doubt whether they hear us?  Their souls are not dead, and therefore as living souls the love and charity toward their fellowman that characterized them to this world cannot have diminished in the next.  The closer one draws to heaven, the greater is his solicitude toward his brethren here on earth, as was the case with the martyr Saint Stephen, who after seeing heaven opened, prayed for his enemies who were stoning him (Acts 7:55-60).  In view of this, is it conceivable that Saint Stephen would not pray for those who honor him on earth, now that he is in heaven?”  And the question is further posed, how can the saints in heaven help us?  More reasoned that since “the saints were certainly able to assist others while on earth where their human nature was as weak as ours, surely they can do so in heaven.”

More further reasoned that even while Our Lord lived on this earth, He permitted people to come to His apostles rather than directly to Himself for help and allowed the Twelve to work miracles in His stead.  Indeed, on some occasions the apostles assumed the role of intercessors with Christ, presenting the petitions of others to their Master.  “If this was the case when the apostles were with Christ on earth, it must surely be so now that they dwell with Him in heaven.  God is pleased to have us honor and call upon His saints, His especial beloved friends, for it becometh us and well behoveth us to make friends of such as he hath in favour.”

Have not you ever asked someone, “Please pray for my mother, she is very ill,” or “Please pray for me; I am about to make a very important decision that will affect my life.”  Indeed and in fact, we have set forth these petitions to others on FOTM.  Ergo, we pray with the Saints, inhabitants of the Church Triumphant, for their intercession, for their guidance that they receive from Our Lord Himself.  If we ask those we know on earth for their advocacy and prayers, all the more reason to ask the Church Triumphant to enter our lives, to give us direction and to ask through them the Grace from God necessary to live our lives according to the Will of God, to the fullest extent, using all of our talents and gifts given to us by God.  The Saints are with us; we are foolish not to have camaraderie with them and to enjoy intimate and meaningful relationships.

We end this post by honoring the particular Saints in our respective lives who have inspired and helped us:

We love you, we admire you, and we thank you!

May Our Lord Always Be First Served!

Christ with angels

For the Saint posts we’ve published, go to FOTM‘s “Saints and Angels” page!

Sources:

  • Catechism of the Catholic Church.
  • James Monti, The King’s Good Servant but God’s First, The Life and Writings of Saint Thomas More (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997).
  • Sister Mary Raphael is Gone, But Not Forgotten!  Daily Catholic 2000, January 18, 2000, volume 11, no. 12.

~Joan & Eowyn

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St. Valentine

St Valentine

Did you know that there is indeed a history to the celebration of Valentine’s Day?  From the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website (usccb.org):

“Today is the feast day of St. Valentine.  Did you know St. Valentine was a real person?  Well, actually there are at least 2 St. Valentines in the ancient martyrology of the Church.  While very little is known about Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni, we do know that Pope Gelasius declared February 14th his feast day in 496.  He is the patron saint of happy marriages, engaged couples and young people….

It is believed that Valentine was a priest arrested by the Emperor Claudius for marrying Christian couples secretly during a time of persecution in the Church.  Legend has it that while he was imprisoned and waiting for his martyrdom, he sent letters to his fellow Christians signing them, “From Your Valentine.”

Matthew Bunson, an apologist at EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), tells us that not only was St. Valentine a Roman priest and martyr, executed on February 14th, but that he was also a physician, that he was probably flogged and/or beheaded and that he was buried on the Via Flaminia, with a basilica erected on the spot where he was buried in the year 350.  However, there is mention of another Valentine who was the bishop of Terni near Riome, although these two Valentines may be the same individual.

Going back to the tradition of sending missives, the Catholic Encyclopedia provides us with a history of this practice:

“The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine’s Day undoubtedly had their origin in a conventional belief generally received in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on 14 February, i.e. half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair.  Thus, in Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules we read: ‘For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.’  For this reason the day was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lovers’ tokens.  Both the French and English literatures of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries contain allusions to the practice.”

We know for sure that St. Valentine was a martyr and that he gave his life for Jesus with great love and loyalty.  Could we be that brave as to give our lives for our Faith, for Jesus?  I have asked myself that question and I believe that because I am such a determined and stubborn individual, and because I love Jesus so much, that I would be able to do so, although I would need unending help from Him.  Accordingly, it is most appropriate to concentrate on the Gospel today from St. Luke 9:22-25:

Jesus said to His disciples:

“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”

Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

With love and respect,

Joan

Sources:

Usccb.org (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops); ewtn.com (Eternal Word Television Network)

St. Nicholas, model for Santa Claus

Did you know that the legend of Santa Claus actually is based on a saint?

Saint Nicholas (270-343) was a bishop of Myra in modern day Turkey, who had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in shoes, and thus became the model for Santa Claus.

In fact, Santa Claus is the modern name of the Dutch Sinterklaas, which is a corruption of the transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos”.

st-nicholas

On December 6, the Universal Church celebrates the Feast of St. Nicholas, from whom Santa Claus evolved. St. Nicholas is highly honored throughout the world, with many churches dedicated in memory to his holiness and his effective advocacy.

Nicholas was born at Patara in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor in modern-day Turkey. Nicholas’ parents were well off and they died when he was a young man, leaving him many assets. Nicholas, filled with generosity and goodness, with empathy for his fellow brothers and sisters, devoted himself to works of charity and the needy he found in his community. For example, a citizen of Patara, with three daughters, lost all of his money. Because of this circumstance of poverty, the three ladies could not find husbands, wherein they were destined to become prostitutes. Nicholas discovered their horrible upcoming fate. He then took a bag of gold and under cover in the dark, threw the money into the window of the man’s home. Therefore, the oldest daughter now had a dowry and she was soon married. Nicholas did the same act of charity for the other two daughters. The father recognized and thanked Nicholas as his benefactor.

At the beginning of the fourth century, Nicholas went to the city of Myra, the capital of Patara in Lycia. It so happened that the Catholic clergy in this episcopal see were electing a new bishop and the clergy chose Nicholas for his reputation had preceded him.

“As he was the chief priest of the Christians of this town and preached the truths of faith with a holy liberty, Nicholas was seized by the magistrates, tortured, then chained and thrown into prison with many other Christians.  But when the great and religious Constantine, chosen by God, assumed the imperial diadem of the Romans, the prisoners were released from their bonds and with them the illustrious Nicholas, who when he was set at liberty returned to Myra.”

Nicholas continued on with his works of charity, taking strong measures against paganism, setting free prisoners who had been falsely accused, and caring for his people in Myra. It is believed that he was present at the Council of Nicea which arose the Nicene Creed that we say today. Additionally, Nicholas condemned one of the heresies of his time, Arianism, which denied the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Trinity. St. Methodius states that “thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas the metropolies of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy.”

St. Nicholas died and was buried in Myra. He is honored as the patron saint of sailors and children. It is said that during his lifetime, Nicholas had appeared to storm-tossed mariners who asked for his assistance wherein they were brought safely to port. As the patron saint of children, Nicholas is particularly associated with the giving of gifts at Christmas time. With St. Andrew, he is patron of Russia, Greece, Apulia, Sicily and Lorraine.

Let us during this Christmas Season remember this dear saint, be generous to others, giving our love with joy and happiness, always remembering the true meaning of Christmas (Christ’s Mass), the birth of Our Dear Savior, Jesus Christ, coming into the world through the Blessed Virgin, God Incarnate, and being protected and cared for by the wonderful St. Joseph.  LOVE was born to the world.  Come Lord Jesus, Come!

Joan

Sources:

  • Wikipedia
  • Lives of the Saints, Edited by Michael Walsh.
  • One Hundred Saints, Fulfinch Press, AOL Time Warner Book Group.

St. Charles Borromeo, Patron Saint of Catechists and Seminarians

St. Charles Borromeo

If we wish to make any progress in the service of God, we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness.  We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor.

The profound and significant communication above is from St. Charles Borromeo, whose Feast Day we celebrate today, November 4th.  Clearly, if we would simply use his life map as our every day goal, we would never be lost and we would always have joy, even in spite of suffering.

St. Charles Borromeo lead the universal Church in the Counter-Reformation in the troubled but dynamic 16th century, and therefore, is associated with reform.  He sought the correction of abuses and evil, addressing the excuses made for the destructive and false reformation which was spreading and creating confusion in Europe.  Indeed and in fact, he is one of the great Counter-Reformers, along with Pope St. Pius V, St. Philip Neri and St. Ignatius Loyola.

He was born on October 2, 1538 in a castle of Arona on Lake Maggiore, Italy, the second of two sons in a family of six.  His father was Count Gilbert Borromeo and his mother was Margaret, a member of the Medici family.  Even at the age of 12, he showed his serious and holy disposition, receiving the clerical tonsure, with another of his uncles resigning him to the Benedictine abbey of Sts. Gratinian and Felinus at Arona.  At his young age, he reminded his father that the revenue, with the exception for what was spent on his necessary education for the service of the Church, was to be given to the poor and could not be applied to other more worldly uses.  He learned Latin at Milan and thereafter attended the University of Pavia, and after the death of his parents, at the age of 22 he earned his doctor’s degree.

In 1559, his uncle was chosen as Pope Pius IV, wherein Charles used all of his influence to reopen the Council of Trent  in 1562, since it had been suspended in 1552.  He accomplished this reopening under most difficult ecclesiastical and political climates.

In 1563, Charles was ordained a priest and two months thereafter, was consecrated as a bishop.  In this capacity, he drafted the Catechism of the Council of Trent and the reform of liturgical books and music.

Milan failed to have an in-house bishop for some eighty years.  Accordingly, Charles arrived in Milan in April of 1566 and vigorously worked for the reformation of this diocese.  He sold property in the amount of thirty thousand crowns and applied the entire amount to distressed families.  Charles allotted most of his income to charity, forbade himself all luxury and imposed severe penances upon himself.  During the horrible plague and famine of 1576, he tired to feed sixty to seventy thousand people daily, borrowing large sums of money that required years to repay.  Civil authorities fled at the height of the plague, abandoning the populace; but Charles stayed in the city where he ministered to the sick and the dying.  Charles assembled the superiors of the religious communities, wherein a number of religious right away volunteered to help the stricken victims of the plague, wherein he lodged these clerics in his house.  The hospital of St. Gregory looked deplorable, bringing Charles to tears, overflowing with dead, dying, sick and others suspected of being struck by the plague.  St. Charles literally exhausted all his resources in relief.  Indeed, houses for the sick were formed as well as temporary shelters, and lay people were organized for the clergy and a score of altars set up in the streets so that the sick could assist at public worship from their windows.  He personally ministered to the dying, waited on the sick and helped those in need.  The plague lasted from 1576 through 1578.

Charles endured of all things, a speech impediment, a difficult handicap for his preaching.  A friend of Charles, Achille Gagliardi, said, “I have often wondered how it was that, without any natural eloquence or anything attractive in his manner, he was able to work such changes in the hearts of his hearers.  He spoke but little, gravely, and in a voice barely audible – but his words always had effect.”

St. Charles proclaimed that children should be properly instructed in Christian doctrine and therefore, established the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.  These schools at that time numbered 740, with approximately 3,000 catechists and 40,000 pupils.  And so, Charles originated “Sunday-schools.”

No love was lost in the religious order called, “Humiliati”, being reduced to few members, but still maintaining many monasteries and great possessions.  They allegedly submitted to the reform, but this was done only in form, not in substance.  They tried to have the pope annul the new regulations, but those attempts were refused and they failed.  So, they hatched a plot to assassinate Charles.  One of the priests agreed to do so for the sum of forty gold pieces (much like Judas Iscariot if you ask me).  On October 26, 1569, this priest, Jerome Donati Farina, put himself at the door of the chapel in the archbishop’s house  while Charles was at evening prayers with his household.  While an anthem was being sung, Charles being on his knees before the altar, this cowardly assassin discharged a gun at him, wherein Farina escaped during the confusion, but the bullet struck Charles’ clothes in the back raising a bruise.  Thus, they failed to murder him.

Nevertheless, Charles directed his energies to maintain a capable and virtuous clergy.  On one occasion when an exemplary priest was sick and on death’s door, Archbishop Borromeo said, “Ah, you do not realize the worth of the life of one good priest.”  Charles was indefatigable in parochial visitations

Charles worked so hard and in 1584, his health became poor.  On October 24th, while on a retreat, he became very ill.  On October 29th, he started off for Milan, his diocese, wherein he arrived there on All Souls Day, November 2nd, having celebrated Mass for the last time on the previous day at his birth place, Arona.  He went to bed, asking for the final sacrament of the sick, with his last words being, “Behold, I come.”  He died on the 4th of November, only 46 years of age.

Charles was formally canonized by Pope Paul V in 1610.

Charles lived the instruction of Our Lord Jesus Christ:  “…I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”  (Mt 25:35-36)  St. Charles saw Jesus in his neighbor and he was always able to recognize “Jesus in Disguise.”  Let us follow his example.

Joan

Sources:

One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press.

Saint of the Day, edited by Leonard Foley, O.F.M., revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

St. Peter, the Rock


~Jesus saves Peter from drowning~

St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles

Everything that I have learned about St. Peter, who was previously known as Simon, reveals a very genuine and passionate individual — rough, blunt and outspoken, energetic and full of enthusiasm. More importantly, Peter was flawed and weak, just as you and I are flawed and weak. But Peter’s saving grace is that, despite all his very human flaws, he loved Our Lord, Jesus, with his whole being.

Born Simon, St. Peter was born in Bethsaida. He was married and lived in Capernaum with his mother-in-law in his home (Matthew 8:14; Luke 4:38). He was a fisherman in Lake Genesareth with his brother, Andrew (the first Apostle), and owned a boat.

One day, Andrew told Simon that they had found the Messiah and brought him to meet Jesus. Simon remained with Jesus for some time, accompanying Him to Galilee, Judaea and Jerusalem, and through Samaria back to Galilee (John 2-4). In Galilee, Simon and Andrew resumed their occupation as fishermen, until Jesus formally called the two brothers, as well as the sons of Zebedee, James and John, to be “fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11). Thereafter, Simon remained with Jesus and heard the Sermon on the Mount and was present (the legal term is “percipient witness“!) during miracles that Jesus performed.

As we discussed in another post, “Do This In Remembrance of Me,” after Jesus spoke of the mystery of receiving His Body and Blood (John 6), many of Jesus’ disciples left Him, and so, Jesus asked his Apostles if they too were going to leave Him and Simon said straight away, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known that you are the Holy One of God.”

Jesus gave a special place to Simon among the Apostles. Along with James and John, Simon was with Jesus during certain important events — the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51), the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:28) and the Agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33). Jesus entered Simon’s boat on Lake Genesareth to preach to the multitude on the shore (Luke 5:3), and when Jesus was miraculously walking upon the waters, Jesus called Simon to come to Him across the waters (Matthew 14:28).

While Jesus was journeying with his apostles, Jesus asked his apostles, “Whom do men say that the Son of man is?

The apostles answered, “Some John the Baptist, and others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Jesus then made his question specific for His apostles, “But whom do you say that I am?

Simon answered, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus said to him, Blessed are thou, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter (Kipha, a rock), and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.”

Then Jesus commanded his apostles that they should not tell anyone that he was Jesus the Christ (Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21).

Jesus made Peter the head of the community of believers, and that through this foundation of Peter, the Kingdom of Christ could not be conquered, that the spiritual guidance of the faithful was placed in the hands of Peter as the special representative of Jesus Christ. The words, “bind and loose” are not metaphors, but Jewish juridical terms. The position of Peter among the other Apostles and in the Christian community was the basis for the Church of Christ. Therefore, Jesus personally installed Peter as Head of the Apostles and of His Church. The language that is used by Jesus clearly communicates that this foundation created for the Church by Jesus could not disappear with the person of Peter, but was intended to continue and did continue, as history shows, in the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church and its bishops, apostolic succession.

During the Last Supper, Jesus washed the feet of his apostles but Peter did not want Our Lord to do so as he opined it would be beneath Jesus. But Jesus said that if He did not wash his feet, he would have no part with Him when Peter said, “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” (John 13:1-10).

At the same time, however, Peter was not clear about the mission and work of Jesus our Savior, especially His Passion and suffering, as he opined that this could not be happening to the Messiah. So Jesus rebuked him, telling Peter that Satan had desired him that he might sift him as wheat. But Jesus prayed for him that his faith would not fail (Luke 22:31-32). Peter very enthusiastically said that he was ready to accompany his Master to prison and to death, only to be told he would deny Jesus three times: “’Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all the disciples spoke likewise.(Matthew 26:30-35; Mark 14-26-32; Luke 22:31-34; John 13:33-38).

After the agony in the garden, Jesus’ Passion began. He was taken by the Roman soldiers. Frightened by what was happening, the apostles fled, except Peter who stealthily followed his Master to the courtyard of the High Priest. There, overcome by fear and weakness, Peter indeed denied Jesus three times, swearing that he did not know Him (Matthew 26:58-75; Mark 14:54-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-27). At the sound of the cock crowing a third time, Peter realized what he had done remembering Jesus’ prediction, and was distraught with sorrow and remorse for his actions.

How hurtful Peter’s denial must have been for our Lord! — to have a friend and follower deny that he knew Him. Peter’s denial perhaps was even more hurtful than Judas Iscariot’s betrayal….

But, unlike Judas who also belatedly realized the magnitude of his deed, Peter was remorseful and sought forgiveness. And so though Peter’s “sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow….” (Isaiah 1:18)

How absolutely incredible and indescribable it must have been when the Resurrected Jesus appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5). The time that the transfigured Christ spent with Peter and the remaining ten apostles must have been wonderful beyond all imagination and expectation!

Most importantly is when the Resurrected Christ appeared at the the Sea of Tiberias and asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Peter becoming frustrated with this question told Jesus each time that He knew that he loved Him. Jesus then instructed Peter to feed and defend His flock as he said to Peter, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).

And then, Jesus prophetically tells Peter how the apostle would die for Him:

“Amen, amen, I say to thee, when thou wast younger thou didst gird thyself and didst walk where thou wouldst. But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee and lead thee whither thou wouldst not. And this, He said signifying by what death Peter should glorify God” (John 21:20-23).

After Jesus ascended into heaven from Mount Olivet, Peter and the apostles returned to Jerusalem to await the receipt of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised. Peter, as Christ’s designated leader, appointed Matthias to replace the fallen Judas. (Acts 1:15-26) This was the first appointment to the Apostolic College. And, after the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles, Peter delivered the first public sermon, proclaiming the life, death, resurrection and teachings of Our Lord, and won large numbers of converts to the early Church (Acts 2:14-41).

Peter continued to lead the Apostles and the Church, preached the Gospel, performed miracles by the power he had received from God, communicated with the far-flung early Church communities, worked with St. Paul who recognized Peter as the authorized head of the nascent Christian Church. We learn about Peter in the New Testament‘s Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles of St. Paul, and in the first and second Letters of Peter. The First Council of Jerusalem set forth a definitive decision concerning the obligations of converted pagans, and between Peter and Paul there was no dogmatic difference in their conception of salvation for both Jewish and Gentile Christians, that these converts were Christian brothers and sisters on an equal footing, that Jewish and Gentile Christians formed a single Kingdom of Christ.

Peter worked and labored in Rome during the last part of his life. He was martyred in Rome during the reign of Nero (A.D. 54-68). Tertullian said Peter was crucified. Eusebius the historian cited the authority of Origen that Peter was crucified upside down.

Peter had requested it, as he thought himself not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as his beloved Jesus the Christ.

And so, we end this with a prayer:

O God, who hast given unto Thy blessed Apostle Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and the power to bind and loose; grant that we may be delivered, through the help of this intercession, from the slavery of our sins. Amen.

Sources:

  • The New American Bible-New Testament
  • Catholic Encyclopedia
  • One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press
  • Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI, St. Peter’s Basilica, June 29, 2005

To my husband whose patron saint is St. Peter: “Happy Feast Day!”

~Joan

In 1968, Pope Paul VI made an announcement that the bones of St. Peter had been discovered below the Vatican, something that had already been known to a few for over two decades. Read the fascinating account of the discovery in The Bones of St. Peter: The First Full Account of the Discovery of the Apostle’s Tomb, by John Evangelist Walsh.

~Eowyn

Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher

Yesterday, June 23rd, was the Feast Day of St. John Fisher. The day before that, June 22nd, was the Feast Day of St. Thomas More. More and Fisher were two very brave men who died for the Truth, for their Faith, and for Christ.

Their joint feast day is a timely reminder to Christians in America that we, too, are called to defend our Faith against the Obama administration’s assault on Catholic institutions, under the guise of Obamacare’s contraceptives mandate. Today, it’s Catholics; tomorrow, it will be Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, Evangelicals….

St. Thomas More

Thomas was born in 1478 in England. His father, John, was a barrister and a judge and his mother was Agnes. He received his childhood education at St. Anthony’s school and, at age 13, was received into the household of Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury who was impressed with the lad. Thomas was then sent to Oxford, where he studied at Canterbury College.

Thomas thought he might have a calling to the priesthood and for four years he lived with the London Carthusian monks. However, he did not find a calling to the priesthood. Thomas then studied law and was called to the Bar in 1501 and in 1504 he entered Parliament. In 1505 he married Jane Colt and they had four children, Margaret, Elizabeth, Cecilia and John. Thomas was adamant that his daughters received a scholarly education just like his son. Many religious and learned people of London visited Thomas and his family in their home which was known as a congenial center of learning. In 1510 Jane died, but he later married Alice Middleton, a widow. In 1516, Thomas wrote Utopia, a work of fiction and political philosophy.

Thomas was brought to King Henry VIII’s court and in October of 1529, appointed Lord Chancellor of England, the highest office in England under the King. Thomas became a friend and confidant of Henry VIII, as the King had great respect for Thomas, admiring his intellect, wit, good judgment and holiness.

Henry VIII desired to obtain an annulment from the Pope to his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. Pope Clement VII refused to grant an annulment, finding no valid grounds. Henry was enraged at this denial and forced the English clergy to acknowledge him as “Protector and Supreme Head of the Church of England.”

At this, Thomas resigned as Chancellor; his property confiscated by the King. Thomas and his family became poverty stricken. For 18 months he lived in quiet austerity, engaging himself in writing and with the needs of the household. After King Henry married Anne Boleyn, Thomas refused to attend her coronation.

On March 30, 1534, the Act of Succession provided that the King’s subjects take an oath, which required all English subjects to agree to three clauses: that any heir or offspring of Henry and Anne was a legitimate heir to the throne; that the marriage between Henry and Catherine was null and void; and that the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, had no more authority or power in England than any other bishop. Anyone who refused to sign the oath was guilty of high treason punishable by death.

On April 13, 1534, Thomas and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, were given the oath to sign, but they both refused to sign it because of the latter two clauses. Consequently, on April 17, 1534, both Thomas and Fisher were imprisoned in the Tower of London. During this time, Thomas suffered greatly, separated from his family whom he loved so much. But it was also during his incarceration that Thomas began to write the Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation, the best of his spiritual works, and The Sadness of Christ.

Toward the man who put him in prison, Thomas not only prayed daily for Henry, he thanked the King for his imprisonment, which Thomas called “the very greatest” of “all the great benefits” the king “has heaped so thickly upon me.” With prescience, Thomas wrote to his daughter Margaret that “no matter how bad it seems,” great good would come from his death.

On February 1, 1535, the Act of Supremacy came into operation, giving the title of “only supreme head of the Church of England” to the king and made it treason to deny it. Thomas was asked while he was in the Tower his opinion of the Act, but he refused to give his opinion. On June 22nd, now-Cardinal John Fisher was beheaded on Tower Hill. Nine days after, on July 1, 1535, Thomas was indicted and tried in Westminster Hall for opposing the Act of Supremacy, with false testimony from Richard Rich, the Solicitor General of Wales.

At the trial, Thomas broke his long silence and defended himself with competence, brilliance, and holiness, which intimidated his accusers and judges. He argued that, just as London lacked authority to annul an act of Parliament for the whole of England, so Parliament lacked authority to transfer governance of the Church to the king, since the Church had been entrusted by God to the bishops and the Pope. Thomas noted that this was codified in the Magna Carta 200 years earlier and affirmed in the king’s coronation oath.

Intimidated by King Henry, the jury convicted Thomas of treason. On July 6, 1535, Thomas was taken to be beheaded at Tower Hill. Weak and emaciated, he asked the Lord Lieutenant of the Tower to help him up the steps of the scaffold, but still managed wryly to quip, “As for my coming down, let me shift for myself.” A Paris newsletter published this description by an eye-witness:

“He spoke little before his execution. Only he asked that bystanders to pray for him in this world, and he would pray for them elsewhere. He then begged them earnestly to pray for the King, that it might please God to give him good counsel, protesting that he dies the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

The husband of Thomas’ daughter, Margaret, recorded that Thomas asked those present “to pray for him, and to bear witness with him that he should now there suffer death, in and for the faith of the Holy Catholic Church.”

400 years after his martyrdom, on May 19, 1935, the bells in St. Peter’s Basilica rang with joy as Thomas More was canonized a saint, along with St. John Fisher. In November of 2000, Pope John Paul II proclaimed St. Thomas More the patron saint of politicians “for proclaiming the truth in season and out.”

St. John Fisher

John was born in 1469 in Beverly, Yorkshire, the eldest of four children of Robert and Agnes Fisher. Robert Fisher died when John was only 8; his mother remarried and had five more children. John attended Beverly grammar school and later, Cambridge University. He became Proctor of Cambridge in or about 1494, and was appointed Master Debator three years later. On July 5, 1501, he became a doctor of sacred theology; 10 days later, he was elected Vice Chancellor of the University. From 1505 to 1508, John served as the president of Queens’ College: He created scholarships, introduced Greek and Hebrew into the university curriculum, and brought in the world-famous Erasmus as Professor of Divinity and Greek. John was known as a great theologian through his writings in defense of the Sacraments, especially the priesthood and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In 1504, he became both Bishop of Rochester, the poorest diocese in England, as well as Chancellor of Cambridge. As Chancellor, he tutored then Prince Henry, who later became King Henry VIII. John loved his flock in Rochester as they also loved him, tending especially to the poor and the children.

From 1527 on forward, Bishop Fisher resolutely opposed Henry VIII’s divorce proceedings against Queen Catherine. Unlike all of the other bishops, John Fisher refused to take the Oath of Succession for the same reasons as Thomas More. Therefore, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in April of 1534. That very next year while he remained in prison, the Pope made him a Cardinal. Angered by this, Henry VIII retaliated by beheading Cardinal Fisher.

A half hour before his execution on June 22, 1535, Cardinal Fisher opened his New Testament to this passage in the Gospel of John:

“Eternal life is this: to know You, the only true God, and Him Whom You have sent, Jesus Christ. I have given You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave me to do. Do you now, Father, give me glory at Your side.”

Fisher then closed his New Testament and said, “There is enough learning in that to last me the rest of my life.”

William Rastell, Thomas More’s nephew, witnessed the martyrdom of Cardinal Fisher. He said that Fisher in a strong and very loud voice spoke to the large crowd, “Christian people, I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ’s Catholic Church.” He asked for their prayers and prayed, “God save the king and the realm, and hold His holy hand over it, and send the king a good counsel.” He then knelt, said the hymn of praise, Te Deum, and some short prayers, laid his neck upon the block, and was executed.

On May 19, 1935, along with Thomas More, John Fisher was canonized a saint.

In his Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, St. Thomas More urges us to have the courage and conviction to “die for the truth” with Christ.

We live in a time in America of a culture war against Christ and Christianity. The culture war is now a political war because of the Obama administration’s assault on religious autonomy and liberty. Against the tide of false political correctness and the threat of punishment and sanctions, will we stand firm and remain true to Christ and to our Faith?

St. Thomas and St. John so loved Jesus, they willingly died for Him. May we find inspiration in their examples as we live our faith with courage, integrity, honor and steadfastness.

We are not servants of Obama or any ruler. We are God’s servants, first and last!

~Joan

Sources:

Butler’s Lives of the Saints, edited by Michael Walsh
The King’s Good Servant But God’s First, by James Monti
Catholic Insight
Catholic Online
Catholic Wisdom, edited by John A. Hardon, S.J.

St. Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc2Today, May 30th, is the Feast Day of St. Joan of Arc, my favorite saint.

St. Jeanne La Pucelle was born in Domremy, a small village of Champagne, on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1412, to Jacques d’Arc, her father, a peasant farmer who was a leader in his community, and to Isabelle, her devout mother.  Isabelle taught Joan her Catholic Faith and her prayers.  Joan was a pious young person, who loved to pray and receive the Sacraments, Penance and the Holy Eucharist.  She was very kind, having cared for individuals who were sick and helping people who were wanderers, offering them her bed so that they might rest.  She enjoyed her childhood and was most proficient with the household chores, wherein she loved to sew and spin.  Joan said, “I fear no woman in Rouen at sewing and spinning.”

Joan lived in the throes of the Hundred Years War.  King Henry V of England invaded France, took over Normandy and claimed the crown of Charles VI of France.  To make matters worse, there was also a civil war between the Duke of Burgundy and his allies and Orleans.  The Duke was murdered and thereafter, the Burgundians allied themselves with the English.  France was literally falling apart, with town after town falling to the English and/or the Burgundians.  In the meantime, the new individual who should be king, was Charles VII, known as the Dauphin; he did little to help France’s dire situation.

Joan of Arc1

When Joan was 13 years of age, Joan saw St. Michael the Archangel, who comforted her and told her not to be afraid.  She then saw Sts. Catherine and Margaret, telling her about her mission from the King of Heaven, to save France advising her that she must lead the army of France.  Joan stated in testimony:

“When I was thirteen, I had a voice from God to help me to govern myself. The first time, I was terrified. The voice came to me about noon: it was summer, and I was in my father’s garden. I had not fasted the day before. I heard the voice on my right hand, towards the church. There was a great light all about.

I vowed then to keep my virginity for as long as it should please God.

I saw it many times before I knew that it was Saint Michael. Afterwards, he taught me and showed me such things that I knew that it was he.

He was not alone, but duly attended by heavenly angels. I saw them with the eyes of my body as well as I see you. And when they left me, I wept,and I wished that they might have taken me with them. And I kissed the ground where they had stood, to do them reverence.

Above all, St. Michael told me that I must be a good child, and that God would help me.  He taught me to behave rightly and to go often to church.  He said that I would have to go into France.

He told me that St. Catherine and St. Margaret would come to me, and that I must follow their counsel; that they were appointed to guide and counsel me in what I had to do, and that I must believe what they would tell me, for it was at Our Lord’s command.

He told me the pitiful state of the Kingdom of France.  And he told me that I must go to succour the King of France.

St. Catherine and St. Margaret had rich crowns on their heads.  They spoke well and fairly, and their voices are beautiful-sweet and soft.

The name by which they often named me was Jehanne the Maid, child of God.

They told me that my King would be restored to his Kingdom, despite his enemies.  They promised to lead me to Paradise, for that was what I asked of them.

Twice and thrice a week the voice told met hat I must depart and go into France.

And the voice said that I would raise the siege before Orleans.  And it told me to go to Vaucouleurs, to Robert de Baudricourt, captain of the town, who would give me men to go with me.

And I answered the voice that I was a poor girl who knew nothing of riding and warfare.”

Joan went three times to speak to Robert de Baudricourt about the instructions she received from the King of Heaven.  On the third occasion, Baudricourt listened to Joan, as a previous prediction she had made to him regarding a defeat for the French army came true.  Accordingly, Baudricourt gave Joan an escort of three soldiers to protect her, to present herself to Charles VII.  Joan travelled wearing the clothing of men and reached Chinon on March 6, 1429.  The Dauphin disguised himself to see if Joan would be able to point him out amongst the other individuals in his Court.  Of course, Joan identified the real Dauphin.  She spoke with him in private and gave him a secret message told to her by her heavenly messengers, which convinced Chales that what Joan said was true.  He gave her soldiers so that she could lead them towards the relief of Orleans.  However, this decision came with opposition from some of the members of Charle’s court.  Therefore, she was sent to Poitiers to be examined by a learned body of theologians.  After extensive questions and a thorough investigation, these theologians found Joan to be pure and true, finding no fault with her.  Indeed, they advised Charles to use this pure human being for the good of France.

After Joan returned to Chinon from Poitiers, she was equipped with an expeditionary force, and she was provided with white armor and other supplies, with a banner or standard which was Joan’s favorite possession.  Upon the banner was a representation of God the Father to whom two kneeling angels were presenting a fleur-de-lis, with the writing upon it, “Jesus:Maria”.

Joan of Arc3On April 27, the army left Blois with Joan in her white armor and banner, leading the French army.  They entered Orleans on April 29th, and Joan’s presence in the city gave hope to the people.  And by May 8th, the English forts which surrounded Orleans were captured and the siege raised.

Joan the Maid was then allowed to lead the French army in yet another campaign on the Loire with the Duc d’ Alencon, one of her dearest friends.  This campaign was successful, and she ended with another victory at Patay in which the English forces suffered yet another defeat.

On July 17, 1429, Charles VII, the Dauphin, was crowned with Joan beside him holding her treasured banner.  Joan was successful in this important campaign.  Nevertheless, troubles ensued and she went to the relief of Compiegne which was holding out against the Burgundians.  On May 23, 1430, because of some miscalculation, the drawbridge over which her company was retiring was raised too soon, leaving Joan and some of her men outside at the mercy of the Burgundians.  She was taken by the enemy and remained the prisoner of the Duke of Burgundy.  Charles, the Dauphin, did not come to Joan’s aid during the entire time of her imprisonment.  Clearly, he betrayed her.  On  November 21st she was sold to the English.  They knew that they could not condemn her for her defeat of them in war, but contrived that they could harm her if she was tried as a sorceress and a heretic.

Joan was in prison in the castle of Rouen.  On February 21, 1431, she appeared before Peter Cauchon, who was Bishop of Beauvais, who hoped that through English influence he could become the Archbishop of Rouen. This Tribunal consisted of Cauchon, dignitaries and doctors carefully selected by Cauchon, as well as of the ordinary officials of an ecclesiastical court.  During the course of her sessions, Joan was examined and cross-examined as to her visions and her voices, her assumption of male attire, her faith and her willingness to submit to the Church.  Joan answered their questions boldly.  Her answers were not only cogent, but logical and embarrassing for her inquisitors.  For example, when Joan was asked whether she would refer herself to the determination of the Church, she stated:

“I refer myself to Our Lord who sent me, to Our Lady, and to all the blessed saints in Paradise.  It seems to me that Our Lord and the Church are one and the same, and that no one shold make difficulties about that.  Why do you make difficulties about its not being one and the same?”   

Joan further reiterated this comment stating her allegiance to the Church and also stating, “Our Lord first served!”

This alleged unfair tribunal summed up her answers as revelations from the devil wherein these misrepresentations were submitted to the judges and then to the University of Paris.  Joan was denounced.

The tribunal decided that she must be handed over to the secular arm as a heretic if she refused to retract.    In a final attempt  to obtain her admission and retraction, Joan was threatened with torture.  She, out of extreme fear, made a retraction of her testimony.  She was taken back to prison.  Joan knew that her retraction was wrong, and again put on the male attire that she wore as a soldier for France even though she was expected to discard this dress.  Cauchon and his assistants visited Joan in her cell and saw what she had done, noticing that she had recovered from her previous weakness.  Therefore, Joan again declared that she was sent by the King of Heaven and that the voices of the saints she heard came from Heaven also.

On May 29, 1431, the judges heard Cauchon’s report, condemning Joan as a relapsed heretic to be delivered over to the secular arm.

On May 30, 1431, the 19-year-0ld Joan was fastened to a stake being prepared to be burned upon it.  A Dominican friar at her request held up a cross in front of her eyes, and as the flames lept upon her, she cried, “Jesus, Jesus”.  Some of the people cried that they had burned a saint.  Her ashes were hurled into the Seine.

Twenty-three years later, Joan’s mother and her two brothers appealed to Pope Callistus II to have her case reviewed.  The Pope granted this request and appointed a commission to review what happened, to examine the witnesses and review the written testimony.  On July 7, 1456, the trial was declared biased and unfair, quashing the trial and its verdict, completely exonerating dear Joan.

Four-hundred and fifty years later, on May 16, 1920, Joan was canonized as a saint with all solemnity, by the Catholic Church.  She is the Patron Saint of France, soldiers, military personnel and prisoners.  And finally, St. Joan is also the Patron Saint of individuals who are ridiculed for their Faith.

St. Joan is very dear to me as she has helped me so much in my life.  It is my hope that I will also live my life with kindness, courage, bravery and loyalty, and putting my Faith first above all things, loving Our Triune God with great passion and zeal.  She is an example of a pure young lady, full of love for God, for His Church and for his people.  Yes, dear brave Joan, may Our Lord always be first served! 

With love, reverence and respect for St. Joan,

Joan

Sources:

Butler’s Lives of the Saints, Edited by Michael Walsh

One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press AOL Time Warner Book Group

Joan of Arc In Her Own Words, Compiled and Translated by Willard Trask; Afterword by Sir Edward S. Creasy

St. Joan of Arc:  Maid for God, EWTN, May 30, 2013