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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #420 on: December 25, 2009, 04:28:54 PM »
Christmas Day

 
On this day the Church focuses especially on the newborn Child, God become human, who embodies for us all the hope and peace we seek. We need no other special saint today to lead us to Christ in the manger, although his mother Mary and Joseph, caring for his foster-Son, help round out the scene.
But if we were to select a patron for today, perhaps it might be appropriate for us to imagine an anonymous shepherd, summoned to the birthplace by a wondrous and even disturbing vision in the night, a summons from an angelic choir, promising peace and goodwill. A shepherd willing to seek out something that might just be too unbelievable to chase after, and yet compelling enough to leave behind the flocks in the field and search for a mystery.

On the day of the Lord’s birth, let’s let an unnamed, “un-celebrity” at the edge of the crowd model for us the way to discover Christ in our own hearts—somewhere between skepticism and wonder, between mystery and faith. And, like Mary and the shepherds, let us treasure that discovery in our hearts.



Comment:

The precise dating in this passage sounds like a textbook on creationism. If we focus on the time frame, however, we miss the point. It lays out the story of a love affair: creation, the deliveranceof the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, the rise of Israel under David. It climaxes with the birth of Jesus. From the beginning, some scholars insist, God intended to enter the world as one of us, the beloved people. Praise God!

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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #421 on: December 26, 2009, 04:52:56 PM »
St. Stephen
(d. 36 A.D.?)

Listen to Audio
All we know of Stephen is found in Acts of the Apostles, chapters Six and Seven. It is enough to tell us what kind of man he was:

At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenist (Greek-speaking) Christians complained about the Hebrew-speaking Christians, saying that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit.... (Acts 6:1-5)

Acts says that Stephen was a man filled with grace and power, who worked great wonders among the people. Certain Jews, members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen, debated with Stephen but proved no match for the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke. They persuaded others to make the charge of blasphemy against him. He was seized and carried before the Sanhedrin.

In his speech, Stephen recalled God’s guidance through Israel’s history, as well as Israel’s idolatry and disobedience. He then claimed that his persecutors were showing this same spirit. “[Y]ou always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors” (Acts 7:51b).

His speech brought anger from the crowd. “But [Stephen], filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God....’ They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him....As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit....Lord, do not hold this sin against them’” (Acts 7:55-56, 58a, 59, 60b).


Comment:

Stephen died as Jesus did: falsely accused, brought to unjust condemnation because he spoke the truth fearlessly. He died with his eyes trustfully fixed on God, and with a prayer of forgiveness on his lips. A “happy” death is one that finds us in the same spirit, whether our dying is as quiet as Joseph’s or as violent as Stephen’s: dying with courage, total trust and forgiving love.

Patron Saint of:

Bricklayers
Deacons
Hungary

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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #422 on: December 27, 2009, 06:54:55 PM »
St. John the Apostle


 
It is God who calls; human beings answer. The vocation of John and his brother James is stated very simply in the Gospels, along with that of Peter and his brother Andrew: Jesus called them; they followed. The absoluteness of their response is indicated by the account. James and John “were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him” (Matthew 4:21b-22).
For the three former fishermen—Peter, James and John—that faith was to be rewarded by a special friendship with Jesus. They alone were privileged to be present at the Transfiguration, the raising of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemane. But John’s friendship was even more special. Tradition assigns to him the Fourth Gospel, although most modern Scripture scholars think it unlikely that the apostle and the evangelist are the same person.

John’s own Gospel refers to him as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (see John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2), the one who reclined next to Jesus at the Last Supper, and the one to whom he gave the exquisite honor, as he stood beneath the cross, of caring for his mother. “Woman, behold your son....Behold, your mother” (John 19:26b, 27b).

Because of the depth of his Gospel, John is usually thought of as the eagle of theology, soaring in high regions that other writers did not enter. But the ever-frank Gospels reveal some very human traits. Jesus gave James and John the nickname, “sons of thunder.” While it is difficult to know exactly what this meant, a clue is given in two incidents.

In the first, as Matthew tells it, their mother asked that they might sit in the places of honor in Jesus’ kingdom—one on his right hand, one on his left. When Jesus asked them if they could drink the cup he would drink and be baptized with his baptism of pain, they blithely answered, “We can!” Jesus said that they would indeed share his cup, but that sitting at his right hand was not his to give. It was for those to whom it had been reserved by the Father. The other apostles were indignant at the mistaken ambition of the brothers, and Jesus took the occasion to teach them the true nature of authority: “...[W]hoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28).

On another occasion the “sons of thunder” asked Jesus if they should not call down fire from heaven upon the inhospitable Samaritans, who would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. But Jesus “turned and rebuked them” (see Luke 9:51-55).

On the first Easter, Mary Magdalene “ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him’” (John 20:2). John recalls, perhaps with a smile, that he and Peter ran side by side, but then “the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first” (John 20:4b). He did not enter, but waited for Peter and let him go in first. “Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed” (John 20:8).

John was with Peter when the first great miracle after the Resurrection took place—the cure of the man crippled from birth—which led to their spending the night in jail together. The mysterious experience of the Resurrection is perhaps best contained in the words of Acts: “Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, they [the questioners] were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The Apostle John is traditionally considered the author of the Fourth Gospel, three New Testament letters and the Book of Revelation. His Gospel is a very personal account. He sees the glorious and divine Jesus already in the incidents of his mortal life. At the Last Supper, John’s Jesus speaks as if he were already in heaven. It is the Gospel of Jesus’ glory.




Comment:

It is a long way from being eager to sit on a throne of power or to call down fire from heaven to becoming the man who could write: “The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).


Quote:

A persistent story has it that John's "parishioners" grew tired of his one sermon, which relentlessly emphasized: "Love one another." Whether the story is true or not, it has basis in John's writing. He wrote what may be called a summary of the Bible: "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him" (1 John 4:16).


Patron Saint of:

Turkey

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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #423 on: December 28, 2009, 03:42:52 PM »
Feast of the Holy Innocents

 
Herod “the Great,” king of Judea, was unpopular with his people because of his connections with the Romans and his religious indifference. Hence he was insecure and fearful of any threat to his throne. He was a master politician and a tyrant capable of extreme brutality. He killed his wife, his brother and his sister’s two husbands, to name only a few.
Matthew 2:1-18 tells this story: Herod was “greatly troubled” when astrologers from the east came asking the whereabouts of “the newborn king of the Jews,” whose star they had seen. They were told that the Jewish Scriptures named Bethlehem as the place where the Messiah would be born. Herod cunningly told them to report back to him so that he could also “do him homage.” They found Jesus, offered him their gifts and, warned by an angel, avoided Herod on their way home. Jesus escaped to Egypt.

Herod became furious and “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.” The horror of the massacre and the devastation of the mothers and fathers led Matthew to quote Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah,/sobbing and loud lamentation;/Rachel weeping for her children...” (Matthew 2:18). Rachel was the wife of Jacob/Israel. She is pictured as weeping at the place where the Israelites were herded together by the conquering Assyrians for their march into captivity.




Comment:

The Holy Innocents are few, in comparison to the genocide and abortion of our day. But even if there had been only one, we recognize the greatest treasure God put on the earth—a human person, destined for eternity and graced by Jesus’ death and resurrection.


Quote:

"Lord, you give us life even before we understand" (Prayer Over the Gifts, Feast of the Holy Innocents).


Patron Saint of:

Babies

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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #424 on: December 29, 2009, 03:36:31 PM »
St. Thomas Becket
(1118-1170)

 
A strong man who wavered for a moment, but then learned one cannot come to terms with evil and so became a strong churchman, a martyr and a saint—that was Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in his cathedral on December 29, 1170.
His career had been a stormy one. While archdeacon of Canterbury, he was made chancellor of England at the age of 36 by his friend King Henry II. When Henry felt it advantageous to make his chancellor the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas gave him fair warning: he might not accept all of Henry’s intrusions into Church affairs. Nevertheless, he was made archbishop (1162), resigned his chancellorship and reformed his whole way of life!

Troubles began. Henry insisted upon usurping Church rights. At one time, supposing some conciliatory action possible, Thomas came close to compromise. He momentarily approved the Constitutions of Clarendon, which would have denied the clergy the right of trial by a Church court and prevented them from making direct appeal to Rome. But Thomas rejected the Constitutions, fled to France for safety and remained in exile for seven years. When he returned to England, he suspected it would mean certain death. Because Thomas refused to remit censures he had placed upon bishops favored by the king, Henry cried out in a rage, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest!” Four knights, taking his words as his wish, slew Thomas in the Canterbury cathedral.

Thomas Becket remains a hero-saint down to our own times.




Comment:

No one becomes a saint without struggle, especially with himself. Thomas knew he must stand firm in defense of truth and right, even at the cost of his life. We also must take a stand in the face of pressures—against dishonesty, deceit, destruction of life—at the cost of popularity, convenience, promotion and even greater goods.


Quote:

In T.S. Eliot's powerful drama, Murder in the Cathedral, Becket faces a final temptation to seek martyrdom for earthly glory and revenge. With real insight into his life situation, Thomas responds: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."



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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #425 on: December 30, 2009, 03:30:19 PM »
St. Egwin
(d. 717)
 
You say you’re not familiar with today’s saint? Chances are you aren’t—unless you’re especially informed about Benedictine bishops who established monasteries in medieval England.
Born of royal blood in the 7th century, Egwin entered a monastery and was enthusiastically received by royalty, clergy and the people as the bishop of Worcester, England. As a bishop he was known as a protector of orphans and the widowed and a fair judge. Who could argue with that?

His popularity didn’t hold up among members of the clergy, however. They saw him as overly strict, while he felt he was simply trying to correct abuses and impose appropriate disciplines. Bitter resentments arose, and Egwin made his way to Rome to present his case to Pope Constantine. The case against Egwin was examined and annulled.

Upon his return to England, he founded Evesham Abbey, which became one of the great Benedictine houses of medieval England. It was dedicated to Mary, who had reportedly made it known to Egwin just where a church should be built in her honor.

He died at the abbey on December 30, in the year 717. Following his burial many miracles were attributed to him: The blind could see, the deaf could hear, the sick were healed.


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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #426 on: December 31, 2009, 03:50:34 PM »
St. Sylvester I
(d. 335)

When you think of this pope, you think of the Edict of Milan, the emergence of the Church from the catacombs, the building of the great basilicas, Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter’s and others, the Council of Nicaea and other critical events. But for the most part, these events were planned or brought about by Emperor Constantine.
A great store of legends has grown up around the man who was pope at this most important time, but very little can be established historically. We know for sure that his papacy lasted from 314 until his death in 335. Reading between the lines of history, we are assured that only a very strong and wise man could have preserved the essential independence of the Church in the face of the overpowering figure of the Emperor Constantine. The bishops in general remained loyal to the Holy See and at times expressed apologies to Sylvester for undertaking important ecclesiastical projects at the urging of Constantine.



Comment:

It takes deep humility and courage in the face of criticism for a leader to stand aside and let events take their course, when asserting one’s authority would only lead to useless tension and strife. Sylvester teaches a valuable lesson for Church leaders, politicians, parents and others in authority.


Quote:

To emphasize the continuity of Holy Orders, the recent Roman breviary in its biographies of popes ends with important statistics. On the feast of Saint Sylvester it recounts: "He presided at seven December ordinations at which he created 42 priests, 25 deacons and 65 bishops for various sees." The Holy Father is indeed the heart of the Church's sacramental system, an essential element of its unity.



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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #427 on: January 01, 2010, 03:36:04 PM »
Please light a candle for her today!

Mary, Mother of God


 
Mary’s divine motherhood broadens the Christmas spotlight. Mary has an important role to play in the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. She consents to God’s invitation conveyed by the angel (Luke 1:26-38). Elizabeth proclaims: “Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43, emphasis added). Mary’s role as mother of God places her in a unique position in God’s redemptive plan.
Without naming Mary, Paul asserts that “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). Paul’s further statement that “God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out ‘Abba, Father!’“ helps us realize that Mary is mother to all the brothers and sisters of Jesus.

Some theologians also insist that Mary’s motherhood of Jesus is an important element in God’s creative plan. God’s “first” thought in creating was Jesus. Jesus, the incarnate Word, is the one who could give God perfect love and worship on behalf of all creation. As Jesus was “first” in God’s mind, Mary was “second” insofar as she was chosen from all eternity to be his mother.

The precise title “Mother of God” goes back at least to the third or fourth century. In the Greek form Theotokos (God-bearer), it became the touchstone of the Church’s teaching about the Incarnation. The Council of Ephesus in 431 insisted that the holy Fathers were right in calling the holy virgin Theotokos. At the end of this particular session, crowds of people marched through the street shouting: “Praised be the Theotokos!” The tradition reaches to our own day. In its chapter on Mary’s role in the Church, Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church calls Mary “Mother of God” 12 times.




Comment:

Other themes come together at today’s celebration. It is the Octave of Christmas: Our remembrance of Mary’s divine motherhood injects a further note of Christmas joy. It is a day of prayer for world peace: Mary is the mother of the Prince of Peace. It is the first day of a new year: Mary continues to bring new life to her children—who are also God’s children.


Quote:

“The Blessed Virgin was eternally predestined, in conjunction with the incarnation of the divine Word, to be the Mother of God. By decree of divine Providence, she served on earth as the loving mother of the divine Redeemer, an associate of unique nobility, and the Lord’s humble handmaid. She conceived, brought forth, and nourished Christ” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 61).



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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #428 on: January 01, 2010, 07:20:22 PM »
On Mama Mary ps;

As the model of Christian trust we turn to our Blessed Mother. We can only speculate as to how much she did or did not understand of the mysterious and wondrous life she was to lead as the Mother of God. Of this we are certain: Mary understood the meanings of suffering, trust, and Providence. From that moment the angel Gabriel announced "Hail, favored one!" (Lk. 1:28), to that eve in the cave at Bethlehem, to that heart-piercing agony she experienced at the foot of the Cross, the Virgin Mary was and is the exemplar of trust. She never attempted to remove herself from whatever God presented. Rather, her answer was: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Lk. 1:38).

When some cross presents itself in our life, let us not fear; for the All-Powerful Child has plans for those whom he loves; plans of such unfathomable beauty and wonder that we would die of joy should we experience them too soon. Look beyond the surface. Gaze into eternity. See the Christ Child. Give yourself to him entirely that you may see what he is doing for you.

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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #429 on: January 02, 2010, 03:58:03 PM »
St. Basil the Great
and Gregory Nazianzen
(329-379)

 
Basil was on his way to becoming a famous teacher when he decided to begin a religious life of gospel poverty. After studying various modes of religious life, he founded what was probably the first monastery in Asia Minor. He is to monks of the East what St. Benedict is to the West, and his principles influence Eastern monasticism today.
He was ordained a priest, assisted the archbishop of Caesarea (now southeastern Turkey), and ultimately became archbishop himself, in spite of opposition from some of his suffragan bishops, probably because they foresaw coming reforms.

One of the most damaging heresies in the history of the Church, Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ, was at its height. Emperor Valens persecuted orthodox believers, and put great pressure on Basil to remain silent and admit the heretics to communion. Basil remained firm, and Valens backed down. But trouble remained. When the great St. Athanasius (May 2) died, the mantle of defender of the faith against Arianism fell upon Basil. He strove mightily to unite and rally his fellow Catholics who were crushed by tyranny and torn by internal dissension. He was misunderstood, misrepresented, accused of heresy and ambition. Even appeals to the pope brought no response. “For my sins I seem to be unsuccessful in everything.”

He was tireless in pastoral care. He preached twice a day to huge crowds, built a hospital that was called a wonder of the world (as a youth he had organized famine relief and worked in a soup kitchen himself) and fought the prostitution business.

Basil was best known as an orator. His writings, though not recognized greatly in his lifetime, rightly place him among the great teachers of the Church. Seventy-two years after his death, the Council of Chalcedon described him as “the great Basil, minister of grace who has expounded the truth to the whole earth.”




Comment:

As the French say, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Basil faced the same problems as modern Christians. Sainthood meant trying to preserve the spirit of Christ in such perplexing and painful problems as reform, organization, fighting for the poor, maintaining balance and peace in misunderstanding.


Quote:


St. Basil said: “The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”

Gregory Nazianzen (329-390). After his baptism at 30, Gregory gladly accepted his friend Basil’s invitation to join him in a newly founded monastery. The solitude was broken when Gregory’s father, a bishop, needed help in his diocese and estate. It seems that Gregory was ordained a priest practically by force, and only reluctantly accepted the responsibility. He skillfully avoided a schism that threatened when his own father made compromises with Arianism. At 41, Gregory was chosen as bishop of a diocese near Caesarea and at once came into conflict with Valens, the emperor, who supported the Arians. An unfortunate by-product of the battle was the cooling of the friendship of two saints. Basil, his archbishop, sent him to a miserable and unhealthy town on the border of unjustly created divisions in his diocese. Basil reproached Gregory for not going to his see.

When protection for Arianism ended with the death of Valens, Gregory was called to rebuild the faith in the great see of Constantinople, which had been under Arian teachers for three decades. Retiring and sensitive, he dreaded being drawn into the whirlpool of corruption and violence. He first stayed at a friend’s home, which became the only orthodox church in the city. In such surroundings, he began giving the great sermons on the Trinity for which he is famous. In time, Gregory did rebuild the faith in the city, but at the cost of great suffering, slander, insults and even personal violence. An interloper even tried to take over his archdiocese.

His last days were spent in solitude and austerity. He wrote religious poetry, some of it autobiographical, of great depth and beauty. He was acclaimed simply as “the Theologian.”

COMMENT: It may be small comfort, but turmoil in the Church today is a mild storm compared to the devastation caused by the Arian heresy, a trauma the Church has never forgotten. Christ did not promise the kind of peace we would love to have—no problems, no opposition, no pain. In one way or another, holiness is always the way of the cross.

QUOTE: “God accepts our desires as though they were a great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests; nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God’s greatness.”

 




Patron Saint of:

Russia

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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #430 on: January 11, 2010, 03:04:12 PM »
Blessed William Carter
(d. 1584)
 
Born in London, William Carter entered the printing business at an early age. For many years he served as apprentice to well-known Catholic printers, one of whom served a prison sentence for persisting in the Catholic faith. William himself served time in prison following his arrest for "printing lewd [i.e., Catholic] pamphlets" as well as possessing books upholding Catholicism.
But even more, he offended public officials by publishing works that aimed to keep Catholics firm in their faith. Officials who searched his house found various vestments and suspect books, and even managed to extract information from William's distraught wife. Over the next 18 months William remained in prison, suffering torture and learning of his wife's death.

He was eventually charged with printing and publishing the Treatise of Schisme, which allegedly incited violence by Catholics and which was said to have been written by a traitor and addressed to traitors. While William calmly placed his trust in God, the jury met for only 15 minutes before reaching a verdict of "guilty." William, who made his final confession to a priest who was being tried alongside him, was hanged, drawn and quartered the following day: January 11, 1584.

He was beatified in 1987.


Comment:

It didn’t pay to be Catholic in Elizabeth I’s realm. In an age when religious diversity did not yet seem possible, it was high treason, and practicing the faith was dangerous. William gave his life for his efforts to encourage his brothers and sisters to keep up the struggle. These days, our brothers and sisters also need encouragement—not because their lives are at risk, but because many other factors besiege their faith. They look to us.

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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #431 on: January 12, 2010, 03:41:00 PM »
St. Marguerite Bourgeoys
(1620-1700)
 
“God closes a door and then opens a window,” people sometimes say when dealing with their own disappointment or someone else’s. That was certainly true in Marguerite’s case. Children from European as well as Native American backgrounds in seventeenth-century Canada benefited from her great zeal and unshakable trust in God’s providence.
Born the sixth of 12 children in Troyes, France, Marguerite at the age of 20 believed that she was called to religious life. Her applications to the Carmelites and Poor Clares were unsuccessful. A priest friend suggested that perhaps God had other plans for her.

In 1654, the governor of the French settlement in Canada visited his sister, an Augustinian canoness in Troyes. Marguerite belonged to a sodality connected to that convent. The governor invited her to come to Canada and start a school in Ville-Marie (eventually the city of Montreal). When she arrived, the colony numbered 200 people with a hospital and a Jesuit mission chapel.

Soon after starting a school, she realized her need for coworkers. Returning to Troyes, she recruited a friend, Catherine Crolo, and two other young women. In 1667 they added classes at their school for Indian children. A second trip to France three years later resulted in six more young women and a letter from King Louis XIV, authorizing the school. The Congregation of Notre Dame was established in 1676 but its members did not make formal religious profession until 1698 when their Rule and constitutions were approved.

Marguerite established a school for Indian girls in Montreal. At the age of 69, she walked from Montreal to Quebec in response to the bishop’s request to establish a community of her sisters in that city. By the time she died, she was referred to as the “Mother of the Colony.” Marguerite was canonized in 1982.




Comment:

It’s easy to become discouraged when plans that we think that God must endorse are frustrated. Marguerite was called not to be a cloistered nun but to be a foundress and an educator. God had not ignored her after all.


Quote:

In his homily at her canonization, Pope John Paul II said, “...in particular, she [Marguerite] contributed to building up that new country [Canada], realizing the determining role of women, and she diligently strove toward their formation in a deeply Christian spirit.” He noted that she watched over her students with affection and confidence “in order to prepare them to become wives and worthy mothers, Christians, cultured, hardworking, radiant mothers.”



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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #432 on: January 13, 2010, 06:39:19 PM »
St. Hilary
(315?-368)
This staunch defender of the divinity of Christ was a gentle and courteous man, devoted to writing some of the greatest theology on the Trinity, and was like his Master in being labeled a “disturber of the peace.” In a very troubled period in the Church, his holiness was lived out in both scholarship and controversy.
Raised a pagan, he was converted to Christianity when he met his God of nature in the Scriptures. His wife was still living when he was chosen, against his will, to be the bishop of Poitiers in France. He was soon taken up with battling what became the scourge of the fourth century, Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ.

The heresy spread rapidly. St. Jerome said “The world groaned and marveled to find that it was Arian.” When Emperor Constantius ordered all the bishops of the West to sign a condemnation of Athanasius, the great defender of the faith in the East, Hilary refused and was banished from France to far off Phrygia (in modern-day Turkey). Eventually he was called the “Athanasius of the West.” While writing in exile, he was invited by some semi-Arians (hoping for reconciliation) to a council the emperor called to counteract the Council of Nicea. But Hilary predictably defended the Church, and when he sought public debate with the heretical bishop who had exiled him, the Arians, dreading the meeting and its outcome, pleaded with the emperor to send this troublemaker back home. Hilary was welcomed by his people.




Comment:

Christ said his coming would bring not peace but a sword (see Matthew 10:34). The Gospels offer no support for us if we fantasize about a sunlit holiness that knows no problems. Christ did not escape at the last moment, though he did live happily ever after—after a life of controversy, problems, pain and frustration. Hilary, like all saints, simply had more of the same.



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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #433 on: January 14, 2010, 06:01:02 PM »
Servant of God John the Gardener
(d. 1501)
 
John was born of poor parents in Portugal. Orphaned early in life, he spent some years begging from door to door. After finding work in Spain as a shepherd, he shared the little he earned with those even more needy than himself.
One day two Franciscans encountered him on a journey. Engaging him in conversation, they took a liking to the simple man and invited him to come and work at their friary in Salamanca. He readily accepted and was assigned to the task of assisting the brother with gardening duties. A short time later John himself entered the Franciscan Order and lived a life of prayer and meditation, fasting constantly, spending the nights in prayer, still helping the poor. Because of his work in the garden and the flowers he produced for the altar, he became known as "the gardener."

God favored John with the gift of prophecy and the ability to read hearts. Important persons, including princes, came to the humble, ever-obedient friar for advice. He was so loving towards all that he never wanted to take offense at anything. His advice was that to forgive offenses is an act of penance most pleasing to God.

He predicted the day of his own death: January 11, 1501.



Comment:

A monastery garden was tended well to feed the community, not to make the grounds pretty. John saw to it that the refectory table was well supplied. But he also added a bit of beauty, growing flowers to enhance the chapel. God is surely pleased when we add a bit of beauty to the world—especially when we warm it with an act of forgiveness. For, as John insisted, forgiveness is the loveliest thing in God’s eyes.

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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #434 on: January 15, 2010, 06:02:18 PM »
St. Paul the Hermit
(c. 233-345)
It is unclear what we really know of Paul's life, how much is fable, how much fact.
Paul was reportedly born in Egypt, where he was orphaned by age 15. He was also a learned and devout young man. During the persecution of Decius in Egypt in the year 250, Paul was forced to hide in the home of a friend. Fearing a brother-in-law would betray him, he fled in a cave in the desert. His plan was to return once the persecution ended, but the sweetness of solitude and heavenly contemplation convinced him to stay.

He went on to live in that cave for the next 90 years. A nearby spring gave him drink, a palm tree furnished him clothing and nourishment. After 21 years of solitude a bird began bringing him half of a loaf of bread each day. Without knowing what was happening in the world, Paul prayed that the world would become a better place.

St. Anthony attests to his holy life and death. Tempted by the thought that no one had served God in the wilderness longer than he, Anthony was led by God to find Paul and acknowledge him as a man more perfect than himself. The raven that day brought a whole loaf of bread instead of the usual half. As Paul predicted, Anthony would return to bury his new friend.

Thought to have been about 112 when he died, Paul is known as the "First Hermit." His feast day is celebrated in the East; he is also commemorated in the Coptic and Armenian rites of the Mass.



Comment:

The will and direction of God are seen in the circumstances of our lives. Led by the grace of God, we are free to respond with choices that bring us closer to and make us more dependent upon the God who created us. Those choices might at times seem to lead us away from our neighbor. But ultimately they lead us back both in prayer and in fellowship to one another.

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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #435 on: January 16, 2010, 03:38:29 PM »
St. Berard and Companions
(d. 1220)

 
Preaching the gospel is often dangerous work. Leaving one’s homeland and adjusting to new cultures, governments and languages is difficult enough; but martyrdom sometimes caps all the other sacrifices.
In 1219 with the blessing of St. Francis, Berard left Italy with Peter, Adjute, Accurs, Odo and Vitalis to preach in Morocco. En route in Spain Vitalis became sick and commanded the other friars to continue their mission without him.

They tried preaching in Seville, then in Muslim hands, but made no converts. They went on to Morocco where they preached in the marketplace. The friars were immediately apprehended and ordered to leave the country; they refused. When they began preaching again, an exasperated sultan ordered them executed. After enduring severe beatings and declining various bribes to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ, the friars were beheaded by the sultan himself on January 16, 1220.

These were the first Franciscan martyrs. When Francis heard of their deaths, he exclaimed, "Now I can truly say that I have five Friars Minor!" Their relics were brought to Portugal where they prompted a young Augustinian canon to join the Franciscans and set off for Morocco the next year. That young man was Anthony of Padua. These five martyrs were canonized in 1481.



Comment:

The deaths of Berard and his companions sparked a missionary vocation in Anthony of Padua and others. There have been many, many Franciscans who have responded to Francis’ challenge. Proclaiming the gospel can be fatal, but that has not stopped the Franciscan men and women who even today risk their lives in many countries throughout the world.


Quote:

Before St. Francis, the Rules of religious orders made no mention of preaching to the Muslims. In the Rule of 1223, Francis wrote: "Those brothers who, by divine inspiration, desire to go among the Saracens and other nonbelievers should ask permission from their ministers provincial. But the ministers should not grant permission except to those whom they consider fit to be sent" (Chapter 12).



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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #436 on: January 17, 2010, 04:30:36 PM »
St. Anthony of Egypt
(251-356)

 
The life of Anthony will remind many people of St. Francis of Assisi. At 20, Anthony was so moved by the Gospel message, “Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor” (Mark 10:21b), that he actually did just that with his large inheritance. He is different from Francis in that most of Anthony’s life was spent in solitude. He saw the world completely covered with snares, and gave the Church and the world the witness of solitary asceticism, great personal mortification and prayer. But no saint is antisocial, and Anthony drew many people to himself for spiritual healing and guidance.
At 54, he responded to many requests and founded a sort of monastery of scattered cells. Again like Francis, he had great fear of “stately buildings and well-laden tables.”

At 60, he hoped to be a martyr in the renewed Roman persecution of 311, fearlessly exposing himself to danger while giving moral and material support to those in prison. At 88, he was fighting the Arian heresy, that massive trauma from which it took the Church centuries to recover. “The mule kicking over the altar” denied the divinity of Christ.

Anthony is associated in art with a T-shaped cross, a pig and a book. The pig and the cross are symbols of his valiant warfare with the devil—the cross his constant means of power over evil spirits, the pig a symbol of the devil himself. The book recalls his preference for “the book of nature” over the printed word. Anthony died in solitude at 105.



Comment:

In an age that smiles at the notion of devils and angels, a person known for having power over evil spirits must at least make us pause. And in a day when people speak of life as a “rat race,” one who devotes a whole life to solitude and prayer points to an essential of the Christian life in all ages. Anthony’s hermit life reminds us of the absoluteness of our break with sin and the totality of our commitment to Christ. Even in God’s good world, there is another world whose false values constantly tempt us.



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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #437 on: January 18, 2010, 03:18:33 PM »
St. Charles of Sezze
(1613-1670)

 
Charles thought that God was calling him to be a missionary in India, but he never got there. God had something better for this 17th-century successor to Brother Juniper.
Born in Sezze, southeast of Rome, Charles was inspired by the lives of Salvator Horta and Paschal Baylon to become a Franciscan; he did that in 1635. Charles tells us in his autobiography, "Our Lord put in my heart a determination to become a lay brother with a great desire to be poor and to beg alms for his love."

Charles served as cook, porter, sacristan, gardener and beggar at various friaries in Italy. In some ways, he was "an accident waiting to happen." He once started a huge fire in the kitchen when the oil in which he was frying onions burst into flames.

One story shows how thoroughly Charles adopted the spirit of St. Francis. The superior ordered Charles — then porter — to give food only to traveling friars who came to the door. Charles obeyed this direction; simultaneously the alms to the friars decreased. Charles convinced the superior the two facts were related. When the friars resumed giving goods to all who asked at the door, alms to the friars increased also.

At the direction of his confessor Charles wrote his autobiography, The Grandeurs of the Mercies of God. He also wrote several other spiritual books. He made good use of his various spiritual directors throughout the years; they helped him discern which of Charles’ ideas or ambitions were from God. Charles himself was sought out for spiritual advice. The dying Pope Clement IX called Charles to his bedside for a blessing.

Charles had a firm sense of God’s providence. Father Severino Gori has said, "By word and example he recalled in all the need of pursuing only that which is eternal" (Leonard Perotti, St. Charles of Sezze: An Autobiography, page 215).

He died at San Francesco a Ripa in Rome and was buried there. Pope John XXIII canonized him in 1959.



Comment:

The drama in the lives of the saints is mostly interior. Charles’ life was spectacular only in his cooperation with God’s grace. He was captivated by God’s majesty and great mercy to all of us.


Quote:

Father Gori says that the autobiography of Charles "stands as a very strong refutation of the opinion, quite common among religious people, that saints are born saints, that they are privileged right from their first appearance on this earth. This is not so. Saints become saints in the usual way, due to the generous fidelity of their correspondence to divine grace. They had to fight just as we do, and more so, against their passions, the world and the devil" (St. Charles of Sezze: An Autobiography, page viii).

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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #438 on: January 19, 2010, 03:39:48 PM »
St. Fabian
(c. 250)

Fabian was a Roman layman who came into the city from his farm one day as clergy and people were preparing to elect a new pope. Eusebius, a Church historian, says a dove flew in and settled on the head of Fabian. This sign united the votes of clergy and laity and he was chosen unanimously.

He led the Church for 14 years and died a martyr’s death during the persecution of Decius in a.d. 250. St. Cyprian wrote to his successor that Fabian was an “incomparable” man whose glory in death matched the holiness and purity of his life.

In the catacombs of St. Callistus, the stone that covered Fabian’s grave may still be seen, broken into four pieces, bearing the Greek words, “Fabian, bishop, martyr.”


Comment:

We can go confidently into the future and accept the change that growth demands only if we have firm roots in the past, in a living tradition. A few pieces of stone in Rome are a reminder to us that we are bearers of more than 20 centuries of a living tradition of faith and courage in living the life of Christ and showing it to the world. We have brothers and sisters who have “gone before us marked with the sign of faith,” as the First Eucharistic Prayer puts it, to light the way for us.

Quote:

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Tertullian).

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Re: Saints Of The Day
« Reply #439 on: January 20, 2010, 06:12:43 PM »
St. Sebastian
(257?-288?)

 
Nothing is historically certain about St. Sebastian except that he was a Roman martyr, was venerated in Milan even in the time of St. Ambrose and was buried on the Appian Way, probably near the present Basilica of St. Sebastian. Devotion to him spread rapidly, and he is mentioned in several martyrologies as early as a.d. 350.
The legend of St. Sebastian is important in art, and there is a vast iconography. Scholars now agree that a pious fable has Sebastian entering the Roman army because only there could he assist the martyrs without arousing suspicion. Finally he was found out, brought before Emperor Diocletian and delivered to Mauritanian archers to be shot to death. His body was pierced with arrows, and he was left for dead. But he was found still alive by those who came to bury him. He recovered, but refused to flee. One day he took up a position near where the emperor was to pass. He accosted the emperor, denouncing him for his cruelty to Christians. This time the sentence of death was carried out. Sebastian was beaten to death with clubs. HE was buried on the Appian Way, close to the catacombs that bear his name.




Comment:

The fact that many of the early saints made such a tremendous impression on the Church—awakening widespread devotion and great praise from the greatest writers of the Church—is proof of the heroism of their lives. As has been said, legends may not be literally true. Yet they may express the very substance of the faith and courage evident in the lives of these heroes and heroines of Christ.


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