The Memorial of Saint Benedict

Today is the Memorial of Saint Benedict.

Benedict was born the son of a Roman nobleman in the city of Nursia (Norcia), Italy; and had a twin sister named Scholastica.  When he was young, Benedict's family relocated to Rome, where he was well educated. 

Around the year 500 AD, upset over the immoral environment of the city, Benedict left Rome, leaving behind both the wealth and status of his family. He had a strong desire to focus on God alone.  Benedict settled about forty miles from the city of Rome in the town of Enfide (today, Affile).  There, he joined with a group of very devout men.  While in Enfide, Benedict miraculously restored an important wheat-sifter which one of his servants had accidentally broken.  The people of the town saw this act as a genuine miracle and much attention fell upon Benedict, something he desperately sought to avoid. 

Benedict fled Enfide and settled in a more remote part of Italy.  There, he was determined to live in poverty and to provide for himself by the work of own hands.  

One day Benedict met a monk named Romanus.  Due to this monk's influence, Benedict became a hermit and committed himself to living a life of solitude in a nearby cave.  Benedict lived three years of complete solitude in that cave, a solitude broken only by the occasional visits of Romanus.  During these years of solitude, Benedict grew in great wisdom and godliness. 

It is said that one day, while Benedict was living in this environment of holy seclusion, the Devil brought to Benedict's mind the picture of a beautiful woman he had once known.  At this, his heart began to burn with a great desire for this woman.  To conquer the temptation, Benedict took off his clothes and threw himself into a thorn bush; an act that effectively overcame his passion.

Eventually, a group of monks came to Benedict asking that he become the abbot of their monastery. Benedict agreed. Those monks, however, tried to kill Benedict by poisoning his drink.  But it was not to be; for as Benedict prayed a blessing over the cup it shattered.  Benedict, understanding the situation, departed the company of these wayward monks and returned to his cave.  Another attempt on his life occurred when a nearby priest named Florentius, a man filled with great envy of Benedict, tried to kill the saint by sending him poisoned bread.  Again, it was not to be; for as Benedict prayed a blessing over the bread a raven swept in and stole the loaf away!

About this time God began working great miracles through Benedict, something which attracted the attention of many people.  And many men came to Benedict seeking to become monks under his leadership.  Benedict received them and built twelve monasteries, in which he—in the pattern of Jesus and His disciples—placed in each one a superior with twelve monks.  He then built another monastery where he himself lived with a group of monks (Monte Cassino, on a hilltop between Rome and Naples).  Benedict, however, acted as the abbot over all thirteen monasteries.  These monasteries, among performing other ministries, became schools for the children of the region. 

Over the years, Benedict developed an order, or rule, for his monks to follow.  And this Rule of Benedict had a tremendous influence on monasteries throughout the known world.  His Rule had a spirit of balance, graciousness, moderation, and sound judgment, and thousands of religious communities founded throughout the Middle Ages adopted it.  In fact, The Rule of St. Benedict is the most common Rule used by monasteries and monks today.

Benedict died at Monte Cassino in 543 AD. He was canonized in 1220 AD by Pope Honorius III, named patron protector of Europe by Pope Paul VI in 1964, and declared co-patron of Europe (with Saints Cyril and Methodius) in 1980 by Pope John Paul II.

St. Benedict, pray for us.  St. Benedict, pray for Europe!

Christo et Ecclesiae,
Ken

The Memorial of Saint Irenaeus

Today is the Memorial of Saint Irenaeus.

Irenaeus was born in the 2nd Century AD in Smyrna, Asia Minor (current day Izmir, Turkey).  He was reared in a Christian family, and became a student of St. Polycarp, who himself had been a disciple of the Apostle John.  

Eventually, Irenaeus was ordained into the priesthood, and served as a priest in Lugdunum, Gaul (now Lyon, France).  He eventually became the bishop of that city. 

Irenaeus wrote many books explaining the Catholic Faith, while also defending it against heresy.  He especially went to war against the errant philosophy of Gnosticism.  Gnosticism held that the material world had been created by an evil god, and that men must seek to escape the material world by obtaining a certain secret knowledge (that only the Gnostics had).  Irenaeus showed, in his preaching and writings, how much the ideas of Gnosticism contradicted the teaching of Scripture.

Scripture states that there is only one God; and He is a good God.  This good God created all things visible and invisible, material and immaterial, and both the body and the soul.  However, due to man’s disobedience, sin entered human nature and has severely affected it.  The eternal Christ, in the 1st Century AD, took on flesh and became a man (a true physical man), Jesus of Nazareth.  He did this to redeem and renew all things, material and immaterial.   

Irenaeus claimed that his Apostolic connection (he was a disciple of Polycarp, and Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John, and the Apostle John was a disciple of Jesus) gave him authority over the Gnostics.  Since he could trace the authority of his message directly back to Christ, his teaching on the Faith was valid while the teaching of the Gnostics was heretical.

Irenaeus taught that the Catholic bishops of the cities of the Roman Empire could easily be traced in succession from the Apostles, and, therefore, provided the only correct interpretation of Scripture (i.e., Tradition). His writings also testify to the Catholic view of the Eucharist, the primacy of the Roman Church; and provide the earliest (2nd Century AD) mention that all four gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—were viewed by the Church as canonical Scripture.

Irenaeus was buried under the Church of St. John (later became the Church of St. Irenaeus) in Lyon. Unfortunately, his tomb and remains were destroyed by the Huguenots in the 16th Century.  

Christo et Ecclesiae,
Ken

 

Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

Today, June 21, is the Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga.

Aloysius de Gonzaga, the oldest of seven children, was raised in an aristocratic Italian  family.  Since he was the eldest son, he was in line to inherit both his father’s titles and vast properties. 

Gonzaga’s early education took place in a military school, but he also received instruction in the liberal arts.  As a young boy, he was sent to serve at the court of a Grand Duke in Milan.  While there, Aloysius fell ill.  During his recuperation Gonzaga read books about the saints of the Catholic Church.  The lives of these saints greatly affected him.  Later, after reading a book about Jesuit missionaries in India, Aloysius felt sure that he himself was called to religious life. 

Aloysius soon experienced a desire to join a religious order and become a priest.  He specifically felt called to the Jesuit Order.  While his mother very much liked the idea, his father was completely against it.  Aloysius, however, would not relent; and in 1585 he set aside all rights to his inheritance, traveled to Rome, had an audience with the Pope (Sixtus V), and was accepted into the Society of Jesus (age 18).  

In 1591 a terrible plague broke out in Italy, and the Jesuits opened a hospital to help those affected.  There, Father Gonzaga gave himself to working with the sick and dying.  He would walk the streets looking for those who were sick.  When he found someone, he would pick them up and carry them back to the hospital.  There, he would wash and feed them, and administer the Holy Sacraments to them. 

Shortly before his 23rd birthday, Father Gonzaga himself became infected with the disease of the plague.  He became bedridden, and his health became increasingly worse.  At that time Father Gonzaga said that he had been given a vision that he would die that very year on the Octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi (June 21, 1591). 

When that day arrived, Father Gonzaga seemed to be in stable condition.  However, he continued to assert that he would indeed die before the day was through.  Late in the day, Father Gonzaga took a turn for the work, and his confessor, Father Robert Bellarmine administered last rites.  Father Gonzaga died shortly before midnight on June 21, 1591, the Octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi.  Father Tylenda, who was at Gonzaga’s side, said that the good priest died with his eyes fixed on the crucifix as he spoke the name of Jesus. 

Shortly before his death, Father Gonzaga’s name was changed from Aloysius to Robert, in honor of his confessor.  He was buried in the Church of the Most Holy Annunciation in Rome (today, the Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola).

Almost immediately after his death, many began to consider Gonzaga to be a saint.  The mystic, St. Maria Magdalena de Pazzi, said that in a vision she had on April 4, 1600 she saw Gonzaga immersed in radiant glory, this a result of his godly “interior works.”  In 1605, only fourteen years after his death, Gonzaga was beatified by Pope Paul V.  And, in 1726, he was canonized (Saint Aloysius Gonzaga) by Pope Benedict XIII.  He is the patron saint of young students, Christian youth, and plague victims. 

Christo et Ecclesiae,
Ken

 

 

Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest & Doctor of the Church

June 13th is the Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua.

Born Fernando Martins de Bulhões in 1195, St. Anthony of Padua was a Portuguese Catholic Priest and friar of the Franciscan Order.  He adopted the name Anthony after St. Anthony of Egypt (St. Anthony the Great).

Anthony set out to minster in Morocco, but fell ill along the way and attempted a return to Portugal.  In the providence of God, his ship was blown off course and landed in Sicily.  He then made his way to Tuscany, and eventually to northern Italy.  He was eventually appointed provincial superior of northern Italy and chose the city of Padua as his home. 

In 1231, after years of fruitful ministry, Anthony fell ill on his way back to Padua.  On June 13 of that same year he died at the Poor Clare monastery at Arcella.  He was 35.  Anthony is buried in, what is today, the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua (il Santo).

St. Anthony was known for his expert knowledge of Scripture and his powerful preaching.  His preaching and teaching was said to have explained the beautiful allegories, symbolisms, and foreshadowings of Scripture. In fact, Pope Gregory IX described St. Anthony as the "Ark of the Testament.” 

Anthony was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on January 16, 1946 by Pope Pius XII (a title conferred on only a select few). Specifically, Pope Pius XII proclaimed Anthony Doctor Evangelicus because his preaching and writing so well described the beauty and power of the Gospel.

St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things, and is invoked by Catholics the world over for the recovery of lost items.  On that note, I want to tell you about an experience I had in 2015:  I was only two months into my teaching position at St. John Paul II Catholic High School when I lost the keys I had been issued to the school.  These two keys had been attached to my key ring, and I have no idea how they came loose.  I spent the day searching everywhere – my home, my truck, and everywhere at the school.  I had others looking for them as well – double checking each of these areas.  However, no luck.  And the idea of having to inform the school’s administration of this loss was quite an embarrassing one. 

Finally, at the close of the day, one of the other teachers at the school asked me if I had sought out St. Anthony’s help, something I had never done before.  I told her, however, that I would give it a shot. So, as I walked down the empty hallway of the school, I invoked the saint.  Shortly thereafter, as I entered my truck and pulled on the seat-belt strap, something I had already done several times that day, but this time I heard a little tingle.  I thought, surely not!  But I set my focus upon the source of the sound, the small slit in the plastic box into which the seat-belt strap withdrew, and carefully popped it open; and there they were, my missing keys.  This was no coincidence.  And since then, I’ve had a few other amazing experiences where I've received this saint’s merciful assistance.

I’ve also recently discovered that the hospital in which I was born, St. Anthony’s in St. Louis, MO, a hospital founded by Franciscan Sisters (Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary), was named after St. Anthony of Padua.  I guess you could say that St. Anthony first assisted me in finding my way into the world.

St. Anthony, pray for us.

Christo et Ecclesiae,
Ken

Memorial of Saint Boniface, Bishop and Martyr

Today, June 5th, is the Memorial of Saint Boniface (Apostle of Germany).

Born to a respected noble family in England, Winfrid (later named Boniface) entered a monastery where he received strong theological training.  He eventually became a priest and teacher of the Faith. Winfrid, however, had his heart set on becoming a missionary to Germany.

In 718 AD, Winfrid traveled to Rome, where Pope Gregory II officially appointed him missionary to and bishop of Germany, giving him full authority to preach the Gospel to the heathens of Germany.  The Pope also gave Winfred the name Boniface. 

In Germany, Boniface and his companions chopped down Donar’s Oak (aka: Jupiter’s Oak, Thor’s Oak, Jove’s Oak) a tree very sacred to the German pagans.  When the people of region saw that Boniface was not struck dead for the act, they believed Boniface’s God to be greater than their pagan gods and converted to Christianity. With the wood from the sacred oak Boniface constructed a chapel dedicated to St. Peter.  Later, this chapel was enlarged into a church with an attached monastery.

Boniface and his companions worked hard to spread the Gospel of Christ throughout the region, and they saw many Germans converted to the Catholic Faith.

In 732 AD Boniface journeyed to Rome to give a report of his missionary activity to Pope Gregory III.  The Pope heard Boniface’s report and conferred on him the title of Archbishop, giving him jurisdiction over all of Germany. Boniface returned to Germany and continued his work of preaching and teaching the Catholic Faith, seeing thousands converted.

In 737-738 AD Boniface journeyed again to Rome where he was made papal legate for all Germany. After returning to Germany, Boniface, working with the great Christian ruler, Charles Martel, established many Roman Catholic dioceses, and appointed faithful Catholic men as Bishops and priests.

On June 5th, 754 AD, Boniface, along with many of his companions, was killed by a group of heathen robbers.  The robbers, however, were disappointed; for when they broke open Boniface’s chests they found only manuscripts of sacred Christian texts.

The remains of the martyred Boniface were eventually buried in the abbey church of Fulda, and are entombed within a shrine under the altar of, what is now, Fulda Cathedral.

Christo et Ecclesiae,
Ken