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St. Thomas More(1478-1535)Size: A AListen to AudioHis belief that no lay ruler has jurisdiction over the Church of Christ cost Thomas More his life.Beheaded on Tower Hill, London, July 6, 1535, he steadfastly refused to approve Henry VIII’s divorce and remarriage and establishment of the Church of England.Described as “a man for all seasons,” More was a literary scholar, eminent lawyer, gentleman, father of four children and chancellor of England. An intensely spiritual man, he would not support the king’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Nor would he acknowledge Henry as supreme head of the Church in England, breaking with Rome and denying the pope as head.More was committed to the Tower of London to await trial for treason: not swearing to the Act of Succession and the Oath of Supremacy. Upon conviction, More declared he had all the councils of Christendom and not just the council of one realm to support him in the decision of his conscience.Comment:Four hundred years later, in 1935, Thomas More was canonized a saint of God. Few saints are more relevant to our time. The supreme diplomat and counselor, he did not compromise his own moral values in order to please the king, knowing that true allegiance to authority is not blind acceptance of everything that authority wants. King Henry himself realized this and tried desperately to win his chancellor to his side because he knew More was a man whose approval counted, a man whose personal integrity no one questioned. But when Thomas resigned as chancellor, unable to approve the two matters that meant most to Henry, the king had to get rid of Thomas More.Patron Saint of:AttorneysCivil servantsCourt clerksLawyersPoliticians, public servants
St. Aloysius Gonzaga(1568-1591)Size: A AListen to AudioThe Lord can make saints anywhere, even amid the brutality and license of Renaissance life. Florence was the “mother of piety” for Aloysius Gonzaga despite his exposure to a “society of fraud, dagger, poison and lust.” As a son of a princely family, he grew up in royal courts and army camps. His father wanted Aloysius to be a military hero.At age seven he experienced a profound spiritual quickening. His prayers included the Office of Mary, the psalms and other devotions. At age nine he came from his hometown of Castiglione to Florence to be educated; by age 11 he was teaching catechism to poor children, fasting three days a week and practicing great austerities. When he was 13 years old he traveled with his parents and the Empress of Austria to Spain and acted as a page in the court of Philip II. The more Aloysius saw of court life, the more disillusioned he became, seeking relief in learning about the lives of saints.A book about the experience of Jesuit missionaries in India suggested to him the idea of entering the Society of Jesus, and in Spain his decision became final. Now began a four-year contest with his father. Eminent churchmen and laypeople were pressed into service to persuade him to remain in his “normal” vocation. Finally he prevailed, was allowed to renounce his right to succession and was received into the Jesuit novitiate.Like other seminarians, Aloysius was faced with a new kind of penance—that of accepting different ideas about the exact nature of penance. He was obliged to eat more, to take recreation with the other students. He was forbidden to pray except at stated times. He spent four years in the study of philosophy and had St. Robert Bellarmine (September 17) as his spiritual adviser.In 1591, a plague struck Rome. The Jesuits opened a hospital of their own. The general himself and many other Jesuits rendered personal service. Because he nursed patients, washing them and making their beds, Aloysius caught the disease himself. A fever persisted after his recovery and he was so weak he could scarcely rise from bed. Yet, he maintained his great discipline of prayer, knowing that he would die within the octave of Corpus Christi, three months later, at the age of 23.Comment:As a saint who fasted, scourged himself, sought solitude and prayer and did not look on the faces of women, Aloysius seems an unlikely patron of youth in a society where asceticism is confined to training camps of football teams and boxers, and sexual permissiveness has little left to permit. Can an overweight and air-conditioned society deprive itself of anything? It will when it discovers a reason, as Aloysius did. The motivation for letting God purify us is the experience of God loving us, in prayer.Quote:"When we stand praying, beloved brethren, we ought to be watchful and earnest with our whole heart, intent on our prayers. Let all carnal and worldly thoughts pass away, nor let the soul at that time think on anything except the object of its prayer" (St. Cyprian, On the Lord's Prayer, 31).Patron Saint of:Catholic youthTeenagersYouth
St. Romuald(950?-1027)Size: A AListen to AudioAfter a wasted youth, Romuald saw his father kill a relative in a duel over property. In horror he fled to a monastery near Ravenna in Italy. After three years some of the monks found him to be uncomfortably holy and eased him out.He spent the next 30 years going about Italy, founding monasteries and hermitages. He longed to give his life to Christ in martyrdom, and got the pope’s permission to preach the gospel in Hungary. But he was struck with illness as soon as he arrived, and the illness recurred as often as he tried to proceed.During another period of his life, he suffered great spiritual dryness. One day as he was praying Psalm 31 (“I will give you understanding and I will instruct you”), he was given an extraordinary light and spirit which never left him.At the next monastery where he stayed, he was accused of a scandalous crime by a young nobleman he had rebuked for a dissolute life. Amazingly, his fellow monks believed the accusation. He was given a severe penance, forbidden to offer Mass and excommunicated, an unjust sentence he endured in silence for six months.The most famous of the monasteries he founded was that of the Camaldoli (Campus Maldoli, name of the owner) in Tuscany. Here he founded the Order of the Camaldolese Benedictines, uniting a monastic and hermit life.His father later became a monk, wavered and was kept faithful by the encouragement of his son.Comment:Christ is a gentle leader, but he calls us to total holiness. Now and then men and women are raised up to challenge us by the absoluteness of their dedication, the vigor of their spirit, the depth of their conversion. The fact that we cannot duplicate their lives does not change the call to us to be totally open to God in our own particular circumstances.