Thought for the Day – 25 April – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971)
Word and Example
“There is great power in the spoken word. It can act like a ray of light upon the mind of a man groping about in the darkness of error. It can present a moving appeal to a sinner, to return to God. It can comfort the soul in affliction and in loneliness. Good example, however, is even more powerful than speech. At times, it can be irresistible. A man can remain deaf to good advice but, it is difficult for him, to remain unaffected by the virtuous behaviour and spirit of sacrifice of someone, who is trying to lead him towards goodness. The sermons of the Saints, were effective, not only because they were inspired by love for God and for souls but, also, because they were reinforced by the holiness of the preachers. St Augustine was converted by the pleadings and prayers of St Monica but, apart from the grace of God, it was the example of his mother’s sanctity, which made her exhortations so convincing. It was as much by the example of his untiring zeal, as by the simplicity of his sermons, that the Cure d’Ars converted thousands upon thousands of people. St Francis de Sales would never have converted so many heretics, if his apostolic personality had not possessed such a quality of supernatural attractiveness. Let us do as much good as we can by means of speech whenever the opportunity arises but, above all, let us make sure, that our lives reflect faithfully, the principles which we proclaim. This is the only way in which we shall be able to lead our fellow-men to God.”
Quote/s of the Day – 25 April – the Memorial St Pedro de San Jose de Betancur OFB (1626-1667) “St Francis of Assisi of the Americas” – “The Man Who was Made Charity”
Father Manuel Lobo, a Jesuit who was Brother Pedro de Betancur’s spiritual director for fifteen years, wrote:
“It was because of the great devotion he professed to the mystery of the birth of the Son of God, that, inspired from Heaven, he gave his establishment the name of Our Lady of Bethlehem. Bethlehem means ‘house of bread’—here it was that the humble shepherds found the Son of God incarnate. Likewise, in this new Bethlehem, the poor must find not only bread but the Lord God and, with bodily food, spiritual food for the nourishment of their souls.”
Father Manuel Lobo
“Already in the land of his birth, as in every phase of his life, Brother Pedro was a deeply prayerful man, especially here where, at the hermitage of Calvary, he diligently sought God’s will at every moment.
Thus, he is an outstanding example for Christians today, whom he reminds, that training in holiness “calls for a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer” (Novo millennio ineunte, 32). I, therefore, renew my exhortation to all the Christian communities of Guatemala and other countries, to be authentic schools of prayer where all activity is centred on prayer. An intensely devout life always bears abundant fruit.
Brother Pedro modelled his spirituality in this way, particularly in contemplation of the mysteries of Bethlehem and of the Cross. If, in the birth and childhood of Jesus, he immersed himself deeply in the fundamental event of the Incarnation of the Word — which led him to discover spontaneously, as it were, the face of God in man — then, in meditating on the Cross, he found the strength to practise mercy heroically with the lowliest and the most deprived.
… Pedro de Betancurt was distinguished precisely by the humble spirit and austere life with which he practised mercy. The Apostle Paul’s recommendation went straight to his servant’s heart: “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men” (Col 3:23). Thus he was truly a brother to all, who lived in misfortune and gave himself with tenderness and immense love, to their salvation. In this way, throughout his life, his deeds showed his dedication to the sick at the little hospital of Our Lady of Bethlehem, the cradle of the Bethlehemite Order.
Brother Pedro is a legacy that cannot be lost. He must be the subject of continuous gratitude; he must be imitated with renewed purpose. This legacy must inspire among Christians and among all citizens, the desire to transform the human community into a large family, where social, political and economic relations are worthy of man and within which, the dignity of the person is promoted through effective recognition of his inalienable rights.
I would like to conclude by recalling that devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin was always present in Brother Pedro’s life of piety and mercy. May she also guide us so that, illuminated by the examples of ‘the man who was made charity,’ as Pedro de Betancur is known, we might come to her Son Jesus!”
St John Paul II (1920-2005)
Guatemala City, Tuesday 30 July 2002
One Minute Reflection – 25 April – Saturday of the Second Week of Easter, Readings: 1 Peter 5:5-14, Psalm 89(88):2-3,6-7,16-17, Mark 16:15-20 and the Memorial of St Mark the Evangelist and St Pedro de San Jose de Betancur OFB (1626-1667) “St Francis of Assisi of the Americas”
Jesus said to the Eleven, “go out to the whole world and the proclaim the gospel to all creation.”…Mark 16:15
REFLECTION – “Lift up the hands which hang down and the feeble knees” (Heb 12:12; Is 35:3). The chief points of Saint Mark’s history are these—first, that he was … taken with Saint Barnabus and Saint Paul on their first apostolic journey; next, that after a short time he deserted them and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 15:38); then, that after an interval, he was Saint Peter’s assistant at Rome (1 Pt 5:13) and composed his Gospel there principally from the accounts which he received from that Apostle; lastly, that he was sent by Peter to Alexandria, in Egypt, …. here he proved himself, not merely an ordinary Christian but a most resolute and exact servant of God, founding and ruling that strictest Church of Alexandria … And the instrument of this change was, as it appears the influence of Saint Peter, a fit restorer of a timid and backsliding disciple.
The encouragement which we drive from these circumstances in St Mark’s history is, that the feeblest among us, may, through God’s grace become strong.
And the warning to be drawn from it is, to distrust ourselves and again, not to despise weak brethren, or to despair of them but to bear their burdens and help them forward if so be, we may restore them.” …
The history of Moses supplies us with an instance of a proud and rash spirit, tamed down to an extreme gentleness of deportment … “the meekest of men on earth “ (Nb 12:3). St Mark’s history affords a specimen of the other and still rarer change, from timidity to boldness. … St Mark’s change, therefore, may be considered even more astonishing in its nature, than that of Moses. “By faith,” he was “out of weakness made strong,” (cf. Heb 11:34).” … St John Henry Newman (1801-1890) PPS, vol 2, no 16
PRAYER – Almighty God, You chose the Evangelist St Mark and ennobled him with grace, to preach the Gospel. Let his teaching so improve our lives and his prayers so support us, that we may walk faithfully in his footsteps, which are the footsteps of Christ our Lord. We beg too for the intercession of St Pedro de San Jose de Betancur (1626-1667), Your faithful servant. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, in union with the Holy Spirit, one God forever, amen.
Our Morning Offering – 25 April – Saturday of the Second Week of Easter
Blessed Virgin Mary, Holy Mary! By St Augustine (354-430) Father & Doctor of the Church
Blessed Virgin Mary,
who can worthily repay you
with praise and thanks
for having rescued a fallen world
by your generous consent!
Receive our gratitude and by your prayers
obtain the pardon of our sins.
Take our prayers into the sanctuary of heaven
and enable them to make our peace with God.
help the miserable,
strengthen the discouraged,
comfort the sorrowful,
pray for your people,
plead for the clergy,
intercede for all women consecrated to God.
May all who venerate you feel now, your help and protection.
Be ready to help us when we pray
and bring back to us, the answers to our prayers.
Make it your continual concern to pray for the people of God,
for you were blessed by God and were made worthy to bear
the Redeemer of the world,
who lives and reigns forever.
Saint of the Day – 25 April – Saint Pedro de San Jose de Betancur OFB (1626-1667) called “St Francis of Assisi of the Americas” and “Apostle of Guatemala,” Religious Tertiary of the Franciscan Order and Founder of the Order of Our Lady of Bethlehem “the Bethlemites” – which belongs to the Franciscan community,” Missionary, Apostle of Mercy, of the sick, of the poor, prisoners, Catechist – born as Pedro de Betancur y Gonzáles, on 16 May 1619 at Villaflores, Tenerife Island, Canary Islands, Spain and died on 25 April 1667 at Guatemala City, Guatemala of natural causes, just before his 48th birthday. Patronages – Canary Islands, Guatemala, Central America, Catechists of Guatemala, Honorary Mayor of Municipalities in the south of Tenerife and Honorary Mayor of Antigua Guatemala, of the homeless. Although his Feast is today, it is sometimes moved to the 24 April to accommodate the Feast of St Mark on the 25th. In Tenerife his memory is celebrated on 29 June. He is also known under the names of Santo Hermano Pedro ( Saint Brother Peter ) and San Pedro de Vilaflor ( Saint Peter of Vilaflor ) Peter de Betancurt.
St Pedro de Betancur was born on 19 March 1626 at Chasna de Vilaflor on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. He died on 25 April 1667 in Guatemala City, Guatemala. His life, marked by a heroic holiness, is a shining testimony of faithfulness to the Gospel. Pedro was a descendant of Juan de Betancurt, one of the Norman conquerors of the Canary Islands. His immediate family, he was one of the five children, however, was very poor and he started work as the shepherd of the small family flock. His parents raised him soundly in the faith and his contact with nature nurtured his deeply contemplative soul. As a young boy, Pedro learned to see God in everything around him.
When Pedro heard about the miserable living conditions of the people of the “West Indies” (present-day America), he felt called to take the Christian message to this land. In 1650 when he was 23 years old, he left for Guatemala where a relative had already gone to become secretary of the Governor General. His funds ran out in Havana so Pedro had to pay for his passage from that point, by working on a ship which docked at Honduras from where he walked to Guatemala City.
Pedro was now so poor that he had to stand in line for his daily bread at the Franciscan friary and it was here, that he met Friar Fernando Espino, a famous missionary, who befriended him and remained his lifelong counsellor. He found Pedro a job in a local textile factory. In 1653 Pedro realised his ambition to enter the local Jesuit college in the hope of becoming a priest. He showed little aptitude for study, however, which led him to withdraw. Here Providence once again helped him as he met Fr Manuel Lobo, SJ, who became his confessor. After holding the position of Sacristan for a while in a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, he rented a house in a suburb of the city called Calvary and there taught reading and Catechism to poor children.
Friar Fernando invited Pedro to join the Franciscan Order as a lay brother but Pedro felt that God wanted him to remain in the world and in 1655, he joined the Third Order of St Francis. From then on, Pedro dedicated his time to alleviating the sufferings of the less fortunate in the midst of inexpressible toil and difficulty. He became the Apostle to African-American slaves, the Indios subjected to inhuman labour, the emigrants and abandoned children, with ever-expanding generosity and deep humility, in total abandonment to God’s will. Inspired by the charity of Christ, he became everything to everyone . In 1658 Pedro was given a hut which he converted into a hospital for the poor who had been discharged from the city hospital but still needed to convalesce.
It was called “Our Lady of Bethlehem.” He also founded a hostel for the homeless, a school for poor and abandoned children and an oratory. Pedro received help for these foundations from both the civil and religious authorities. He begged for alms to endow the Masses celebrated by poor priests and also endowed Masses, to be celebrated in the early hours, so that the poor might not miss Mass.
He had small chapels erected in the poor sectors, where instruction was also given to children. Prisoners also excited Pedro’s compassion. Every Thursday he begged for them through the city and visited them in their cells. Every year, on 18 August, he would gather the children and sing the Seven Joys of the Franciscan Rosary in honour of the Blessed Mother, a custom still continued today in Guatemala. The neglected souls in purgatory were also the objects of his solicitude. He would travel the streets at night, ringing a bell and recommending these souls to be prayed for.
He was joined by men and women, who became the Bethlemite Brothers and the Bethlemite Sisters and formulated a Rule that included the active apostolate of working with the poor, the sick and the less fortunate, based on a life rich in prayer, fasting and penance. The Bethlemite Congregation was thus established.
Pedro died on 25 April 1667, at 47 years of age exhausted by labour and penance. At the request of the Capuchin Friars he was buried in their church in Antigua, Guatemala, where, ever since, his remains are held in veneration.
Throughout his life, the Child of Bethlehem was the focus of Pedro’s spiritual meditation. He was always able to see in the poor the face of “the Child Jesus,” and to serve them devoutly. He is known as the “St Francis of the Americas.” … Vatican.va
Pedro is considered the great evangelist of the Guatemala. His dedication to the social problems of his time are comparable to that effected, centuries later, by St Mother Teresa in Calcutta, serving the most vulnerable and needy.
He is credited with introducing to the Americas, the Christmas Eve Novena ‘posadas’ procession, in which people representing Mary and Joseph, seek a night’s lodging from their neighbours. The custom soon spread to Mexico and other Central American countries.
Pedro was known to work miracles also, including healing the sick. Among other facets of his life, his defence of the Immaculate Conception stands out – two centuries before the declaration of the Dogma. His great devotion to prayer for the Souls in Purgatory and the penance he practised, for the sins of the world.
St Pedro de Betancur was distinguished by the humble spirit and austere life with which he practised mercy. He was Beatified on 22 June 1980, at St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City by St Pope John Paul II and Canonised on 30 July 2002, in Guatemala City, Guatemala by St Pope John Paul II.
During his homily at the Canonisation St John Paul called Pedro the “first Tenerifean and Guatemalan saint” and he “… personifies “a heritage which must not be lost; we should always be thankful for it and we should renew our resolve to imitate it”
St Heribaldus of Auxerre
St Hermogenes of Syracuse
Bl José Trinidad Rangel y Montaño
St Mario Borzaga
St Pasicrate of Mesia
St Paul Thoj Xyooj St Pedro de San Jose Betancur/ St Peter of St Joseph de Betancurt OFB (1626-1667) “St Francis of Assisi of the Americas”
St Phaebadius of Agen
St Philo of Antioch
St Robert of Syracuse
Bl Robert Anderton
Stefano of Antioch
St Valenzio of Mesia
Bl William Marsden
Martyrs of Yeoju – 3 saints: Three Christian laymen martyred together in the apostolic vicariate of Korea. 25 April 1801 in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
They were Beatified15 August 2014 by Pope Francis
• Ioannes Won Gyeong-do
• Marcellinus Choe Chang-ju
• Martinus Yi Jung-bae