Saint of the Day – 12 July – St John Gualbert (c 985-1073) Abbot, Founder of the Vallumbrosan Order and many monasteries, Apostle of the poor, Reformer – born Giovanni Gualberto in c 985 at Florence, Italy and died in 1073 at Passignano near Florence, Italy of natural causes. Patronages – Forest workers, Foresters, Park rangers, Parks, Badia di Passignano, Vallumbrosan Order, Italian Forest Corps, Brazilian forests.
Giovanni Gualberto was born circa 985 to nobles who hailed from the Visdomini house, he was born in the castle known as Poggio Petroio. His sole sibling was his older brother Ugo. He was also related to the Blessed Pietro Igneo.
He was educated and raised Catholic but in his adolescence cared little for religion. He was instead focused on frivolous things and was concerned with vain amusements and romantic intrigues. When his brother Ugo was murdered, Gualbert set out to avenge his death.
On Good Friday, as he was riding into Florence accompanied by armed men, he encountered his enemy in a place where neither could avoid the other. John would have slain him but his adversary, who was totally unprepared to fight, fell upon his knees with his arms stretched out in the form of a cross and implored him, for the sake of Our Lord’s holy Passion, to spare his life. St John said to his enemy, “I cannot refuse what you ask in Christ’s name. I grant you your life and I give you my friendship. Pray that God may forgive me my sin.” Grace triumphed.
Gualbert entered the nearby Benedictine church at San Miniato al Monte to pray and the figure on the crucifix bowed His head to him in recognition of his generous and merciful act. Gualbert begged pardon for his sins and that week cut off his hair and began to wear an old habit that he had borrowed.
This holy miracle, forms the subject of Edward Burne-Jones’s artwork, “The Merciful Knight” and Joseph Shorthouse, the author, adapted this in his celebrated novel “John Inglesant”. The explanatory inscription provided by Burne-Jones tells the viewer of a knight who forgave his enemy when he might have destroyed him and how the image of Christ kissed him in token that his acts had pleased God.
Gualbert became a Benedictine monk at San Miniato despite his father’s opposition. His father hastened to find his son but gave him his blessing when he heard his son’s arguments and saw that he was resolute in his decision. But he counselled his son to do good. He fought against simoniacal actions of which both his abbot Oberto and the Bishop of Florence Pietro Mezzabarba were accused and their guilt discovered. Unwilling to compromise, he left to find a more solitary and strict life. He often fasted and imposed other strict penances on himself. His attraction was for the cenobitic and not eremitic life so after he spent some time with the monks at Camaldoli but later settled at Vallombrosa where he founded his own convent in 1036. Instead of a traditional garden he opted to have his monks plant trees (firs and pines for the most part), hence his patronage of forests and foresters. He founded additional monasteries for his order in locations such as Rozzuolo and San Salvi.
He became a noted figure for his compassion to the poor and the ill. Pope Leo IX travelled to Vallambrosa to see and talk with St John. Pope Stephen IX and Alexander II held him in the greatest esteem as did Pope Gregory VII who praised Gualbert for the pureness and meekness of his faith as a staunch example of compassion and goodness. Gualbert also admired the teachings of the Church Fathers, in particular Saint Basil and Saint Benedict of Nursia.
He never wished to be ordained to the priesthood and nor did he even wish to receive the minor orders. He fought manfully against simony and in many ways promoted the interest of the Faith in Italy. After a life of great austerity, he died whilst the angels were singing round his bed, on 12 July 1073
The holy lives of the first monks at Vallombrosa attracted considerable attention and brought many requests for new foundations but there were few postulants, since few could endure the extraordinary austerity of the life. Thus only one other monastery, that of San Salvi at Florence, was founded during this period. But when the founder had mitigated his rule somewhat, three more monasteries were founded and three others reformed and united to the order during his lifetime. In the struggle of the popes against simony the early Vallumbrosans took a considerable part, of which the most famous incident is the ordeal by fire undertaken successfully by St Peter Igneus in 1068. Shortly before this the monastery of St Salvi had been burned and the monks ill-treated by the anti-reform party. These events still further increased the repute of Vallombrosa. A Bull of Pope Urban II in 1090, which takes Vallombrosa under the protection of the Holy See, enumerates fifteen monasteries besides the Motherhouse.
St John was Canonised by Pope Celestine III on 24 October 1193.
Pope Pius XII named St John – in 1951 – as the patron saint for the Italian Forest Corps while he was named as the patron for Brazilian forests in 1957.
Art Dei – 18 June – The Memorial of Blessed Osanna Andreasi OP (1449-1505) – Her House in Mantua, Italy
This beautiful painting was donated to the Andreasi House in 2002 by private collectors, it is a replica of a painting made in the late 16th century, the original is also part of a private collection, attributed to Luigi Costa the Elder. This versions differs from the original in that it lacks the plate at the bottom and also because in the background we can see a large writing in gold letters and the figure of a swan, the symbol of the Andreasi family. Though the original is more intense, this version also is very interesting, with the large cross and the lily around it, indicating the woman’s condition of virgin. The crown of thorns she is holding evidently creates a direct relationship with the suffering of Jesus Christ. In the course of time, a specific physical type representing the Blessed took shape – she is both severe and beautiful, conveying a sense of quiet prayer but also the charisma of a benefactor.
This painting below, is another portrait of the Blessed, evidently from a series beginning with the work that is part of the private collection attributed to Costa the Elder. The low quality of this canvas does not, however, prevent the viewer from recognising her typical features, here particularly severe and lacking many of the usual symbols. Here, in fact, we see only the cross, long and slender, that the Blessed holds as usual in her right hand, showing it to the worshippers.
Blessed Osanna and the Mysteries of the Rosary
In this devotional composition, the Blessed Osanna is painted standing on the left, while invoking the Virgin Mary who appears above, surrounded by clouds, carrying Baby Jesus in her arms. Next to Osanna we see Saint Dominic, who is in turn admiring the celestial vision. The peculiarity of this painting is, however, the presence of a total of fifteen tondos on the two sides and in the upper part of the painting, depicting the Mysteries of the Rosary. On the right we have the Joyful Mysteries – Annunciation, the Visitation of Mary to saint Elizabeth, the Nativity, the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. On the left the Sorrowful Mysteries – the Agony in the Garden, the Scourging at the Pillar, the Crowning with Thorns, the Carrying of the Cross and the Crucifixion. Above the Glorious Mysteries – the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Assumption of Mary and the Coronation of the Virgin. Finally, it must be noted that between the Blessed and Saint Dominic, we can make out the outline of the city of Mantua seen from San Giorgio. This detail allows to identify with certainty the female figure as being the Blessed Osanna.
The home of the Blessed Osanna Andreasi
In between two floors is a small consecrated chapel and a study with painted cupboards. On the main floor are four rooms of which one is entirely fresh with trompe l’oeil architecture depicting columns, balustrades and Latin proverbs recorded on scrolls. The room of relics of the Blessed Osanna Andreasi (1449-1505) – Set among hydrangeas, roses and officinal plants in the courtyard is a delightful porch with 15th century pink marble columns bearing the Andreasi coat of arms. The interior frescoes date from the 15th, 16th and, above a fireplace, 17th centuries – the decoration on the wooden coffered ceilings is still visible in parts, while the floors and stairs are made of terracotta and the doors of wood. It was purchased by nobleman Niccolò Andreasi in the mid 15th century as his family home. The house underwent minor changes in the early 16th century when Andreasi’s daughter Osanna was beatified.
Property of the Andreasi family for centuries, the house passed in 1780 into the hands of the Magnaguti family by marriage. Conte Alessandro Magnaguti (1887 – 1966) bequeathed it to the Dominican Province Utriusque Lombardiae to perpetuate the memory and cult of Blessed Osanna, who was a Tertiary of the Order and whose home it was.
Since 1935 it has been home to the Dominican Fraternity, who restored it and created a cultural centre for the circulation of Dominican spirituality and for the study of Thomistic philosophy. They established the Association for Dominican Monuments in 1993. The house, which still preserves its vocation for philosophy, culture and mysticism, hosts courses on philosophy and art, comparative religion, conferences, book launches and exhibitions and is the home to countless amazing holy artworks, mostly depicting Dominican Saints but not exclusively.
St Gertrude Caterina Comensoli
St Helladius of Toledo
St Ioannes Chen Xianheng
St Ioannes Zhang Tianshen
St Jean-François-Régis Clet
St Jean-Pierre Néel
Bl Jerzy Kaszyra
Bl John Pibush – one of the Martyrs of Douai
St Leo of Patera
St Martinus Wu Xuesheng
Bl Matthew Malaventino
St Paregorius of Patara
St Sadoth of Seleucia
St Tarasius of Constantinople
Bl William Harrington
Martyrs of North Africa – 7 saints: Group of Christians who were martyred together, date unknown. We know nothing else but seven of their names – Classicus, Fructulus, Lucius, Maximus, Rutulus, Secundinus and Silvanus.
They were born and martyred in North Africa.
Martyrs of Rome – 5 saints: A group of Christians martyred together in the persecutions of Diocletian. We know nothing else but their names – Alexander, Claudius, Cutias, Maximus and Praepedigna. They were martyred in 295 in Rome, Italy.
One Minute Reflection – 19 July – Thursday of the Fifteenth week in Ordinary Time, Year B – Today’s Gospel: Matthew 11:28-30.
“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”…Matthew 11:28-30
REFLECTION – “Jesus asks us to go to Him, for He is true Wisdom, to Him who is “gentle and lowly in heart”. He offers us “his yoke”, the way of the wisdom of the Gospel which is neither a doctrine to be learned, nor an ethical system but rather a Person to follow: He Himself, the Only Begotten Son, in perfect communion with the Father.”…Pope Benedict, XVI, General Audience, 7 December 2011
PRAYER – “Holy God, our Father, we turn to You in confidence as children and pray, give us meekness of heart, make us “poor in spirit” that we may recognise that we are not self-sufficient, that we are unable to build our lives on our own but need You, we need to encounter You, to listen to You, to speak to You. Help us to understand that we need Your gift, Your wisdom, which is Jesus Himself, in order to do the Your will in our lives and thus to find rest in the hardships of our journey.” Blessed Jozef Puchala, Holy Martyr for Christ, Pray for us, amen. (Adapted from the same homily above.)
NOTE: The Image used for the Reflection above is called “Christ the Consolator” by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890). You would be mistaken in believing that this great Artist was a Mormon but of course, he was a Danish Artist of a Christian leaning (Mormons are NOT Christians and were begun by Joseph Smith in the 1820s in New York), studied and was inspired and drawn to Catholicism (but did not convert) in Rome and was vastly influenced by Rembrandt (a protestant) in Holland. The Mormons have used his artworks endlessly – in their temples, advertising and media, he would be highly indignant I believe, without a doubt!
Thought for the Day – 18 February – The Memorial of Blessed John of Fiesole/Fra Angelico O.P. (1387-1455)
One of the greatest Christian artists is Giovanni Fiesole, better known to the world as Blessed Fra Angelico, the “Angelic Brother.” Fra Angelico is a patron saint for Catholic artists. His style of painting beautifully bridges the iconographic and gothic traditions. Giorgio Vasari, author of “Lives of the Artists,” referred to Angelico as a “rare and perfect talent.”
Very little of his writings have survived the centuries but one phrase still resonates, more than 400 years after his death. “He who does Christ’s work, must stay with Christ always.”
Saint Paul, in his letter to the Galatians said something similar. “I live; yet now, it is not I, but truly Christ, who lives in me. And though I live now in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and who delivered himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
What does it mean when Paul tells us it is no longer he who lives but Christ who lives in him? What does it mean to stay with Christ always?
In Paul’s time it was believed that the only way to have a right relationship with God was to follow the law, the Ten Commandments and all the thousands of rules that derive from them. But Paul rejected this idea and preached that the only road to justification, to having that right relationship with God, is through faith in Jesus Christ.
It is not enough to simply “follow the rules” and stay out of trouble. If that is all we do then we are trying to achieve heaven by our own merits. God wants more from us than that. God invites us into a relationship of friends and family, a relationship of love. This type of relationship is a living, dynamic one. To love Christ and to want to be near Him is to be crucified with Him.
It means standing up for the Truth even when it is unpopular. It means finding time to pray. It means that we stay faithful to the teachings of Jesus. And it means that when we fail, we humbly confess our sins as we would apologise to a friend we have hurt, so that that relationship can be restored. It means that we must reflect Christ to the whole world, so that when people look at us they do not see us, they see Christ.
For the Artist this means we must deeply consider our vocation, St John Paul described it as a vocation of beauty. Do we work to bring beauty to the world? Do we use our gifts to lift peoples hearts and minds to God? Does our work reflect His splendour and bring hope and joy to our brothers and sisters? This does not mean that every artist must confine themselves to religious art but it does mean that we may be called to sacrifice lucrative opportunities. or turn away from work that does not suit our vocation. But in the end that is what it means to live for Christ and not for ourselves. (Deacon Lawrence Klimecki – Speaker, Writer, Artist)
One Minute Reflection – 18 February – The Memorial of Blessed John of Fiesole/Fra Angelico O.P. (1387-1455)
Well done you are an industrious and reliable servant…… Come share your master’s joy…………Matthew 25:21
REFLECTION – “In God’s house we must try to accept whatever job he gives us – cook, kitchen boy, waiter, stable boy or baker. For we know that our reward depends not on the job itself but on the faithfulness with which we serve God.”… Pope John Paul I
“Fra Angelico’s painting was the fruit of the great harmony between a holy life and the creative power with which he had been endowed.”… St Pope John Paul II
PRAYER – O God, in Your providence You inspired blessed Fra Angelico to portray the beauty and sweetness of heaven. By his prayers and the example of his virtues, grant that we may manifest this splendour to our brothers and sisters. Blessed Angelico, pray for us! Through Christ our Lord, amen.