Posted in ON the SAINTS, SAINT of the DAY

Second Thought for the Day – 30 January – Let us never give up the pursuit of holiness, amen!

Second Thought for the Day – 30 January – The Memorial of Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710)

Blessed Sebastian’s sanctity, under God, arose from his struggles to conform himself to Saint Philip – and that was quite a task.   Whereas Philip was gentle and kind by nature, Sebastian was harsh and prone to outbursts of anger.   Philip had to refrain from extended prayer in public for fear of going into ecstasy.   Sebastian experienced nothing but dryness in prayer and had to keep his mind from wandering.   The thought of death and judgement so tormented him, that he could not sleep at night.
And Sebastian found one of the principal works of the Oratory – the hearing of confessions – so repugnant that the congregation could not prevail upon him to accept faculties until ten years after his ordination.   Yet, he was able to overcome all these difficulties and always to maintain a serene and joyful expression, so that everyone considered him to be another Saint Philip.

Community life presented Sebastian with many opportunities for mortifying his short temper.   When teaching theology to the novices, he had to endure a student who had no interest in the subject and showed his annoyance by constantly arguing and contradicting the professor.
Sebastian patiently answered his objections and did not betray his own displeasure, although, as he confided to one of the fathers, the very sight of the man filled him with repugnance.   The novice subsequently left the congregation; more serious, however and more enduring was Sebastian’s natural antipathy for one of the fathers.   He admitted that there was nothing objectively wrong with the priest but that the dislike was so strong that he had to take a private vow to endure the father’s company.   Sebastian believed that he never once betrayed his feelings and was grateful for the opportunity to mortify his nature which he recognised to be imperfect.

Sebastian had a beautiful plaster Crucifix, over the prie-Dieu in his room, to which he was quite attached.    He once asked a father to get some papers for him which were inside the flap of the prie-Dieu.   In opening the flap, the priest let it slip and it shattered the crucifix into tiny pieces.   Sebastian, although he was in the room when it happened, remained calm, told the father not to trouble himself with it and swept up the pieces himself.

The Congregation of the Oratory derives its name from a place of prayer and Saint Philip used to say that anyone who did not intend to pray should leave the community. Sebastian, although he was intent on praying, found prayer extremely difficult.   He found it dry and God seemed to be very far away from him.   When engaged in mental prayer, Sebastian found it hard to concentrate, although he was careful to prepare his meditations.   The inability to concentrate was especially painful to him when saying his office and he seems to have given in to scruples on occasion, reciting the office more than once.   And at Mass, too, he found it difficult to concentrate, although for a brief time after Communion, his soul found some peace.

Sebastian remained in this state of anguish for many years.   But, although he suffered interiorly, he was able to lead his penitents in the way of Christian joy associated with his spiritual father, Saint Philip.   Sebastian, himself, acknowledged the value of these torments in teaching him perfect detachment from all earthly things.   Others have seen them as protecting his humility from his admiring disciples who were intent on bestowing every honour upon the Saint.

Blessed Sebastian is a model of perseverance and a great source of hope.   He fought against imperfections such as his temper and repugnances and prevailed.   And he persevered in prayer although he did not find any consolation there but, more often than not, spiritual torment.   Yet, God used these means to purify him and present him to the outside world as a great saint full of Christian joy.   His exemplary life of holiness would inspire the Church in Turin for many generations and now, he inspires the faithful in perseverance, hope and humility, knowing that we are all called to be Saints too!   It is comforting and a source of consolation to realise, that the Saints too, experienced the hardships we sometimes do – let us never give up the pursuit of holiness, amen.

Blessed Sebastian Valfrè, Pray for Us!

bl sebastian valfre pray for us no 3


Thought for the Day – 30 January – How to Guard Holy Purity

Thought for the Day – 30 January – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971)

How to Guard Holy Purity

st augustine warns us also in his confessions - on purity - bacci - 30 jan 2020

“Purity of heart is a quality which attracts everybody, even those who are evil themselves.   It makes a man seem like an angel in human form, for it shines from his countenance.
Unfortunately, the virtue of purity, is as difficult as it is beautiful.
It is fatal for anyone to cast himself into the mire.
The first sin of impurity is a disaster, because it is often the first link in a tragic chain, which makes him the salve of his lower impulses and of the tyrannical enemy of souls, the devil.

We must resist the earliest suggestions of the flesh, by every means in our power, both natural and supernatural.

St Thomas Aquinas tells us that none of the passions dethrones reason so much as sensuality (Summa Theologiae, II-II, q.53, a.6).
St Augustine warns us also in his Confessions, that lust has it’s cause in a perverse will and if anybody surrenders to it, he acquires the evil habit.
If this habit is not resisted, the sin becomes a frightening necessity.
Resist from the beginning, if you wish to avoid ruin and the slavery of the devil, who cunningly uses this passion, to capture souls.
If a man is overcome by violent temptation and falls into sin, however, he should not lose courage.
God is infinitely good and merciful.
He knows our weakness.
When anyone falls, let him rise immediately.
Let him return to God by repenting and making a good confession.
Let him resolve to make any sacrifice, rather than fall again!”

Antonio Cardinal Bacci


Quote/s of the Day – 30 January – Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710)

Quote/s of the Day – 30 January – The Memorial of Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710)

Some of his advice, given to the novices, suffice for us all:

“Live at peace with everyone and to live thus, at peace, it is necessary to make war against yourself, for annoyance with your neighbour invariably proceeds from attachment to yourself.”

live at peace with everyone - make war on youself - bl sebastian valfre 30 jan 2020

“Give yourself to prayer and try by it, to procure, first the amendment of your fault then the practice of Christian virtues and finally a great love of God.”

give yourself to prayer - bl sebastian valfre 30 jan 2020

“Keep careful guard over your tongue, for remember, that much talking is a sign of little spirituality…”

“He who is wise, holds his tongue in his heart and he, who is foolish, carries his heart on his tongue.   He who can keep silence is near to God.”

keep careful guard over your tongue - he who is wise holds his tongue in his heart - bl sebastian valfre 30 jan 2020

He was much in demand as a spiritual father and would advise the Fathers of his Congregation:

“A confessor should above all, give a good example to his penitents, especially by practising the virtues he wishes to impress upon them.   If he exhorts them to humility, let him first be humble; if to devotion, let him be devout himself;  if he is to do this he will more readily be believed and obeyed.   Woe to confessors and preachers who teach virtue without practising it.   Woe to him who counsels, instructs and directs others, if he be not virtuous himself!   Let such a man dread the Judgement!”

woe to him who counsels - bl sebastian valfre 30 jan 2020

Blessed Sebastian speaking of the Shroud of Turin to which he had a great devotion:

“The Cross received the living Jesus and gave Him back to us dead,
the Shroud received the dead Jesus and restored Him to us alive.”

the cros received the living jesus the shroud - bl sebastian valfre 30 jan 2020

“When it is all over,
you will not regret having suffered,
rather, you will regret, having suffered so little
and suffered that little so badly.”

Bl Sebastian Valfre (1629-1710)

when-it-is-all-over-bl-sebastian-valfre-13-dec-2017 and 30 jan 2020


One Minute Reflection – 30 January – ‘…That it may give light.’

One Minute Reflection – 30 January – Thursday of the Third week in Ordinary Time, Year A, Readings: 2 Samuel 7:18-19, 24-29, Psalm 132:1-5, 11-14, Mark 4:21-25 and the Memorial of Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710)

He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?” … Mark 4:21

REFLECTION – “A well, when pumped regularly, produces purer water.   If neglected, and no-one uses it, it changes into a source of pollution.   Use, keeps metal brighter but disuse produces rust.   For, in a word, exercise produces a healthy condition both in souls and bodies.   So “No-one lights a candle and puts it under a bowl but upon a candlestick, that it may give light.”   For of what use is wisdom, if it fails to make those who hear it wise.” … St Clement of Alexandria (150-215) Father of the Doctormark 4 21 is a lamp brought in - for of what use is wisdom - st clement of alexandria 30 jan 2020

PRAYER – Lord God, in Your wisdom You created us, by Your providence You rule us, You have planted us, penetrate our inmost being Your holy Light, so that our way of life may always be one of faithful service to You.  Grant us the grace and love to walk in Your ways and to radiate Your Light by our lives.   May the prayers of all the angels and saints and of Blessed Sebastian Valfrè be unfailing assistance to us.   Through Jesus Christ our Lord, with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever, sebastian valfre pray for us 30 jan 2020 no 2

Posted in PRAYERS of the SAINTS, SAINT of the DAY

Our Morning Offering – 30 January – I am wholly Thine!

Our Morning Offering – 30 January – Thursday of the Third week in Ordinary Time, Year A and the Memorial of Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710)

I am wholly Thine!
St John Henry Newman CO (1801-1890)

Thou, O my God,
have a claim on me
and I am wholly Thine!
Thou are the Almighty Creator
and I am Thou workmanship.
I am the work of Thou Hands
and Thou are my owner.
As well might the axe or the hammer
exalt itself against it’s framer, as I against Thee.
Thou owe me nothing,
I have no rights in respect to Thee, I have only duties.
I depend on Thee for life and health
and every blessing every moment.
If Thou withdraw Thy breath from me
for a moment, I die, I am wholly and entirely Thy property
and Thy work and my one duty is to serve Thee.
AmenI am wholly thine - st john-henry-newman-12-nov-2019 and 30 jan 2020

Posted in SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 30 January – Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710) Apostle of Turin

Saint of the Day – 30 January – Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710) Oratorian Priest, Apostle of the poor, the ill, widows and orphans, prisoners, Confessor with deep insight, Writer – known as the Apostle of Turin and St Philip of Turin, Marian devotee.   Born on 9 March 1629 in Verduno, Duchy of Savoy (in modern Italy) and died on 30 January 1711 in Turin, Duchy of Savoy of natural causes.   Blessed Sebastian is known for his service to the poor during the famine of 1678-80 and the 17-week siege of Turin during the war between Piemonte and Louis XIV.   He is still invoked as patron of Military Chaplains for his ministry to soldiers during the war.   Patronage – Turin, the Oratory in Turin and Military Chaplains and soldiers.   His body is incorrupt.Blessed-Sebastian-Valfre-1000x1000-1

Sebastian Valfrè was born on 9 March 1629 at Verduno in the southern Alps.   His background was humble – his mother and father were poor farmers and the dull routine of work in the fields with his parents and seven siblings took up much of his childhood. He felt a call to the priesthood at an early age but ran into difficulties with his family, who were loathe to lose his assistance with the farm work, however, he persevered and eventually won them over.   He left Verduno to begin his studies in 1641 at the age of twelve and again, these days were not easy for him – at one stage he had to stay up most nights copying out books, to pay for his education, which took him, in its later stages, to Turin for studies with the Jesuits.

Also at Turin was the Oratory, which had in earlier years been influential, particularly on the youth of the city but by 1650 was rather down-at-heel – only one priest, Fr Cambiani, remained and he is described as ‘ragged and eccentric’.   It can hardly have been an enticing prospect in human terms but Sebastian nonetheless joined, on St Philip’s Day, 26 May 1651, being Ordained Deacon only a week later.   By the end of the year, the community had been bolstered by the arrival of three new priests, so by the time Sebastian was Ordained Priest in February 1652, the Oratory showed signs of life once more.

st philip neri and bl sebastian valfre
St Philip Neri, left and Bl Sebastian

Turin soon began to benefit from his presence as a priest.   In common with many cities of that and other ages, it had its share of poverty, which Sebastian did much to alleviate. He was not afraid to ask the rich for alms to give to the poor but he took care to be as discreet as possible, doing much of the distribution at night when it was easier to remain anonymous.   These activities took on heightened importance from 1678 to 1680, when famine struck Piedmont and again, during the war between Piedmont and Louis XIV, which culminated for Turin in a seventeen-week siege which caused great hardship as well as anxiety — and which Sebastian’s prayers are said to have been efficacious in bringing to a successful end for the inhabitants.Blessed-Sebastian-Valfre-Priest

Sebastian’s interests and influence were not limited to the duchy. He helped to found the Pontifical Academy of Ecclesiastical Nobles in Rome in 1701, which was established to train diplomats for the Papal States. Under its current name of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, it still fulfils that function for the Vatican City State.

If Sebastian was esteemed by the less well-off, he was also on good terms with those who were more fortunate.   In particular, he maintained good relations with the Dukes of Savoy, one of whom, Victor Amadeus II, he had helped to form, from the age of nine, into the just ruler he later became.   Sebastian was the spiritual director to the entire court of the Duke and such was the esteem in which he was held, that at one stage the Duke did his best to procure the Archbishopric of Turin for Sebastian.   His cause was furthered by the good reputation which he had in the Vatican but Sebastian’s humility led him to dread this ecclesiastical dignity and was profoundly grateful to be able to avoid accepting it.  Additionally, through his devotion to the Blessed Mother, he inspired the duke to erect the Basilica of Superga.1280px-Basilica_di_Superga_(Turin)

Sebastian’s corporal works of mercy went hand- in-hand with the spiritual.   He was very reluctant at first to start taking on the special responsibility for souls involved in hearing confessions — again, his humility is evident — but, once he did, his reputation spread throughout the city.   He also searched out penitents far and wide — hospitals, schools, convents, barracks, prisons, galleys all benefited from his concern for spiritual well-being.   His success in this field, as well as in his approach to life in the Oratory in general, was probably due, above all else, to his blending of careful attention to detail with a genuine compassion and, his penances reflected this.   His penitents told of his ability to read souls  . Sebastian’s work in the confessional was, at the very least, instrumental in sparking something of a revival of religious observance in Turin – like St Philip, it was said that he had the gift of discernment of spirits.xsebastian-valfre-large.jpg.pagespeed.ic.NjpONhjC0W

The life of Sebastian Valfrè was not one of extravagant and heroic deeds done for God but of the sanctification of an existence of regular routine, year in, year out and of service to God in the circumstances of ordinary life.   His cheerful and attractive manner were an example to all and he also had his fair share of difficulties which he had to work hard to overcome.   He was, for example, rather petulant and sensitive by nature, being easily offended – he remedied this by trying to be unfailingly polite even to those who hurt him.   He also knew what it was to suffer from spiritual darkness, finding prayer a real struggle at times and study even more unattractive.   But his perseverance, which manifested itself from his earliest years, stood him in good stead.Valfre

The Father who had Paradise in his eyes, Blessed Sebastian, died early in the morning of 30 January 1710.   Miracles began even before he could be buried and he was Beatified by Pope Gregory XVI in 1834.  His incorrupt body is now preserved in a silver urn in the Oratory Church of sebastian valpre incorruptible body

When Father Sebastian died and his body was laid out in the church, Turin’s citizens wanted to say goodbye to the priest who walked with them, through all the joys and difficulties in life, for sixty years.   Father Sebastian’s legacy was the extroversion of the faith preached by Christ for the dignity of all people, the witness of Christian charity knew no boundaries.

The Archives of the Turin Oratory possess some 22 volumes of his writings.   One of his most important works was his ‘Compendium of Christian Doctrine’, a Catechism organised on a question and answer basis.   This rapidly became a well-used teaching aid and lasted until the introduction of the Catechism of Pope Pius X.30-Beato Sebastian Valfre-30

In 1835, a year after Sebastian was Beatified, there was a solemn translation of his relics.
Overshadowed at the time by royalty and ecclesiastical dignitaries, there were three future saints in the crowd.   There was Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo (1786-1842) – known as “The Labourer of Divine Providence”, who devoted himself to the care of the destitute sick;  Saint Joseph Cafasso (1811-1860) “The Priest of the Gallows”, whose work with prisoners caught the imagination of all Turin and Saint John Bosco (1815-1888), whose work with children is known to the whole world and whose feast day we celebrate tomorrow.   All of these could draw their spiritual lineage both by inspiration and imitation to Blessed Sebastian Valfrè .

Grant us, we beseech You, O Lord, that, as You did wonderfully raise Your priest, Blessed Sebastian, for the salvation of many, so we may persevere in Your love, for the sake of helping souls.   Through Christ our Lord. sebastian valfre

Posted in SAINT of the DAY

Memorials of the Saints – 30 January

St Aldegundis
St Alexander of Edessa
St Amnichad of Fulda
St Armentarius of Antibes
St Armentarius of Pavia
St Barsen
St Barsimaeus of Edessa
St Bathilde
Bl Bronislaw Markiewicz SDB (1842-1912)

Bl Carmen Marie Anne García Moyon
St David Galván-Bermúdez (1881-1915) Martyr of the Mexican Revolution
Biography here: Felician of Africa
St Felix IV, Pope
Bl Francis Taylor
Bl Haberilla
St Hippolytus of Antioch
St Hyacintha of Mariscotti
Bl Margaret Ball
Bl Maria Bolognesi
St Martina of Rome
St Matthias of Jerusalem
St Mutien Marie Wiaux
St Paul Ho Hyob
St Philippian of Africa
St Savina of Milan
Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710)
St Theophilus the Younger
St Tôma Khuông
St Tudclyd
Bl Zygmunt Pisarski