Saint of the Day – 24 January – Blessed Paola Gambara Costa TOSF (1463-1515)

Saint of the Day – 24 January – Blessed Paola Gambara Costa TOSF (1463-1515) a Countess and member of the Third Order of St Francis, Laywoman, mother, widow, apostle of the poor and sick – born on 3 March 1463 in Verola Alghise (modern Verolanuova), Brescia, Duchy of Milan (in modern Lombardy, Italy) and died on 24 January 1515 in Binaco, Duchy of Milan (in modern Lombardy, Italy) of a fever.   Patronages – Widows, Married couples, Franciscan tertiaries, difficult marriages, victims of adultery.   Additional memorial – 23 January in paola vision

Paola Gambara Costa was born on 3 March 1463 in Brescia as the first of seven children to the nobles Giampaolo Gambara and Taddea Caterina Martinengo.

In her childhood she delighted in spiritual reading and reflection on the Gospel and harboured an ardent desire to become a nun later in life.   But this dream was cut short when her parents decided to arrange her marriage to Count Lodovico Antonio Costa – the Lord of Benasco – and she saw this as the will of God manifesting itself and so complied with the wishes of her parents.   The marriage came about after Count Bongiovanni Costa visited her parents and was struck with her virtue and so wanted her as his nephew Lodovico Antonio’s wife.   Her decision to become a nun worried the count who sent her to Blessed Angelo Carletti – a Franciscan priest – who persuaded her that marriage was a call from God to embrace a different kind of life still in accordance with Christian values.

The pair married in autumn 1485 and the pair travelled to the small Benasco province for the ensuring celebrations.   She endured her new husband’s expensive tastes, seeing it as her role to be faithful to him, even if she did not live the excessively luxurious life paola costs

Her confessor around this time was Father Crescenzio Morra from Bene though she later reconnected with Carletti who became her friend and spiritual advisor as well as a confessor.   Carletti kept her on the path of virtue and advised her to enrol in the Third Order of Saint Francis, while learning to appreciate the poor and to detest the lavishness of the secular world.   She joined in 1491 with the permission of her husband.   Gambara often deprived herself of food in order to bring it to the sick and on one occasion took off her shoes and gave it to an old woman who was struggling barefoot through the snow.

In 1488 she gave birth to her sole child Giovanni Francesco and named him in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi.   To mark this occasion, she managed to persuade her husband to distribute large amounts of food to the poor of their paola costs almsgiving

But her excessive charitable works and almsgiving soon vexed her husband, who reproached her for her conduct and ridiculed her in front of their servants and the servants followed their master’s example and joined in ridiculing their mistress.

Costa soon acquired a mistress – the daughter of the Podestà of Carrù – and he allowed her to live in the castle in 1494 even though Paola resided there.   In 1495 her son left for Chieri for his education and Father Carletti died on 11 April 1495.   She attended his funeral in Cuneo – he had died at the convent of Sant’Antonio where he had fallen ill.

In 1500 she reunited with her parents and siblings when she returned to her hometown on a brief visit.   In 1504 her late husband’s mistress fell ill with abdominal pains and it was Paola who comforted her and forgave her as she died.   Also in 1504 her son – now a page – returned to his home.

Her husband later repented and approved her good works and also consented to her wearing the habit of her order in public.   Costa became ill in 1504 and she began to tend to him.   The two travelled to Cuneo to ask for the intercession of her former confessor Carletti and when her husband was healed, attributed the healing to him – Costa celebrated a banquet in commemoration of this and undertook a pilgrimage to the priest’s grave in thanksgiving with his wife at his side.   This conversion was short-lived however, for her husband died not long after in paola costs and mary

On 14 January 1515 she was struck with an extreme fever that caused her great pain and she died on 24 January 1515 in the town of Binasco in Milan after having confessed and received the Eucharist for the final time.

Blessed Paola was buried in a church outside the walls of convent of Rocchetta that she had helped re-build.  When the church was destroyed in 1536 during a war between Francis I and Charles V, Paola’s body was re-interred in the nearby castle and later enshrined in a chapel built by the Counts of Costa in the Franciscan monastery of Bene paola body

Her Beatification received formal ratification on 14 August 1845 once Pope Gregory XVI issued a decree that recognised that there existed an enduring and longstanding local ‘cultus’.


Memorials of the Saints -23 January

St Marianne Cope TOSF (1838-1918)

Espousal of the Blessed Virgin Mary – 23 January: Feast in honour of the Blessed Virgin’s espousal to Saint Joseph. It is certain that a real matrimony was contracted by Joseph and Mary.   Still Mary is called “espoused” to Joseph (“his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph”, Matthew 1:18) because the matrimony was never consummated. The term spouse is applied to married people until their marriage is consummated.   This feast dates from 1517 when it was granted to the nuns of the Annunciation by Pope Leo X with nine other Masses in honour of Our Lady.   Adopted by many religious orders and dioceses, it was observed for a time by nearly the whole Church but is no longer in the Calendar.mary and joseph - espousal

St Abel the Patriarch
St Agathangelus
St Amasius of Teano
St Andreas Chong Hwa-Gyong
St Aquila the Martyr
St Asclas of Antinoe
Blessed Benedetta Bianchi Porro (1936-1964)
St Clement of Ancyra
St Colman of Lismore
St Dositheus of Gaza
St Emerentiana
St Eusebius of Mount Coryphe
Blessed Henry Suso OP (1295-1366)
Blessed Henry’s Life:
St Ildephonsus (506-667)

Bl Joan Font Taulat
St John the Almoner/the Merciful (Died c 620)
Bl Juan Infante
St Jurmin
St Lufthild
St Maimbod
Bl Margaret of Ravenna
Martyrius of Valeria
St Messalina of Foligno
St Ormond of Mairé
St Parmenas the Deacon
St Severian the Martyr


Saint of the Day – 20 January – St Eustochia Smeraldo Calafato OSC (1434-1485)

Saint of the Day – 20 January – St Eustochia Smeraldo Calafato OSC (1434-1485) Nun of the Second Franciscan Order of the Poor Clares, Reformer, Founder of a reformed monastery, Abbes, Ascetic born of her devotion to the Passion of Christ and the Holy Eucharist  – born on 25 March (Good Friday) 1434 at Annunziata, Messina, Italy as Smerelda Colonna and died on 20 January 1491 at Messina, Sicily, Italy.   Patronage – Messina, Italy.  Additional commemoration – 22 August in Messina.

In Messina, in the ancient monumental Church of the Monastery of Montevergine, lies the body of Santa Eustochia Smeralda.   Her body has remained incorrupt by a miracle of the Lord, for five centuries, burnished by time, with her right hand with her fingers contracted in perpetual blessing, she watches over the city and the flourishing monastery you founded.corpo-mummificato-santa-eustochia-smeralda-calafato-messinac-clarissa-incorrotto

Saint Eustochia was born with the name “Smeralda” (or ‘Esmeralda’ which means ‘emerald’) on 25 March 1434 in Messina, Italy.   She was the fourth of six children. Smeralda’s mother was a fervent Christian and enthusiastic admirer of the Franciscan religious order, particularly of the reformers who insisted on following closely the life of St Francis, especially by embracing poverty.

The reform’s first monastery was established in Messina by Blessed Matthew of Agrigento.   He inspired a renewal of faith in the people of Messina by his ardent preaching and way of life.   Smeralda’s mother had attended one of Blessed Matthew’s sermon’s as an eighteen-year-old bride and devoted her life to prayer, penance and helping those in need.   Thus, Smeralda was raised from childhood to exercise Christian piety and virtue, eventually exceeding her mother’s greatest hopes and expectations for her _eustochia_smeraldo_calafato

Smeralda was beautiful both inside and out, she is thought to be the model for the painting The Virgin of the Annunciation by Antonello da Messina (seen here on the below).   When she was fourteen years old, Smeralda wanted to become a Poor Clare nun but her father arranged marriage for her to an older, wealthy widower.   Smeralda kept her hope in religious life and the widower died before the wedding.   Her father again arranged a marriage for his daughter but that man also died, followed by Smeralda’s father himself.   When she entered the convent of Santa Maria di Basico, her brothers threatened to burn it down if she did not return home, which she did.   But seeing her great desire, they experienced a change of heart.   She finally entered and took her vows, with the name Eustochia, at fifteen-and-a-half years old.Antonello_da_Messina_-_Virgin_Annunciate_-_Galleria_Regionale_della_Sicilia,_Palermo

Unfortunately, Eustochia came to discover that the convent had drifted away from the poverty lived by their foundress, St Clare of Assisi.   For more than a decade, Eustochia struggled to be an authentic Franciscan in the materialistic atmosphere.   She received papal permission to establish a new convent but found resistance to her reforms.    Some friars refused to say Mass at the convent, believing that the sisters’ lifestyle was too strict. Eustochia appealed directly to Church authorities in Rome, who approved of Mother Eustochia’s renewal of Franciscan asceticism and poverty.   The friars who had refused to assist at the convent were threatened with excommunication should they continue to resist.

Eustochia’s holiness drew many women to her community – so many that they soon outgrew the building and moved to Montevergine, near Messina, where their convent still stands.   The local people considered Eustochia their patron and protector and the cloister to be a place of refuge—especially during the earthquakes that rocked the area.

Eustochia was a spiritual mother to her daughters, instructing, educating and training them in the Franciscan life, encouraging them to meditate on the Passion of Christ.   She often led them in two-hour Scripture study sessions.   Eustochia conveyed to her nuns the fruits of asceticism and lovingly infused into their hearts the virtues which she herself practised with admirable constancy and heroism. She taught them to permeate their whole lives with a simple and generous Franciscan spirituality, focusing on their Beloved Suffering Christ, to devote themselves to the Eucharist and to draw all necessary strength and nourishment for daily meditation from an intense, liturgical eustochia undoctored

Eustochia’s love of Jesus in poverty and penance was outstanding.   She wrote a treatise on the Passion, which, unfortunately, is now lost.   Though she never visited the Holy Land, Eustochia had a devotion to the holy places that is reminiscent of Saint Bridget of Sweden  . In fact, she had one of the first sets of the Stations of the Cross (as we know them today) constructed within her convent.

As she lay on her deathbed, Eustochia spoke to her daughters, who had gathered around her, about the Passion of Christ.   She spoke for an hour before passing to her final rest on 20 January 1485.

A few days after her burial, Eustochia’s tomb and body manifested extraordinary phenomena and many people received powerful graces through her intercession.   The sisters wrote a biography of their revered mother and founder.   She was Beatified on 22 June 1987 and Canonised on 11 June 1988 by St Pope John Paul II.canonisation st eustochia

Her incorrupt body rests in the Sanctuary of Montevergine in Messina, the monastery which she established and can be visited twice a week.

In his homily, John Paul II said of St Eustochia:

“Learning assiduously in the school of Christ Crucified, she grew in knowledge of Him and, meditating on the splendid mysteries of grace, she conceived a faithful love for Him.   For our saint, the cloistered life was not a mere flight from the world in order to take refuge in God.   Through the severe penance which she imposed upon herself, she certainly wanted to be united to Christ, gradually eliminating whatever in her, as in every human person, was fallen, at the same time, she felt united to all.   From her cell in the monastery of Montevergine she extended her prayer and the value of her penances to the whole world.   In such a way she wanted to be near to each brother and sister, alleviate every suffering, ask pardon for the sins of all.”

The Body of the Holy Founder is venerated by crowds of devotees, who rely on her intercession to obtain the graces they dream of, while the valid protection of the Saint for the city, especially during public calamities, is officially recognised.   The highest city authorities, still today, in fact, meet in the Church of Montevergine on the occasion of the festivities of 22 August of each year, in fulfilment of an ancient vote of the Senate of Messina, to attend the Divine Sacrifice, pay homage to the illustrious Eustachia.papa-giovanni-paolo-ii-santo-beato-santa-eustochia-calafato-smeralda-messina-1988-canonizzazione-chiesa-barocca-terremoto

One of the miracles in the history of the Saint is linked to this particular protection.   It was the year 1615 and the city was struck, night and day, by appalling earthquakes, so much so that the authorities and the people implored the intercession of the Saint in Montevergine, inviting the nuns to pray for this purpose.   The Poor Clares removed the Body from the oratory, where they keep it and placed it in the choir, in its old stall.

As the evening prayers were about to begin, the body which has been incorrupt for almost two centuries suddenly parted its lips, intoning the first line of a psalm from the Office, which the nuns, terrified and moved, continued crying, especially when the body intoned the “Gloria Patri.”   From that moment the earthquakes ended.

To the constant protection of the city, is added her uninterrupted presence among her spiritual Daughters, who receive clear and unequivocal signs, with which the Saint manifests her will, warns them about what is about to happen.   So it can be said that, even after her death, she continues to be the abbess of the monastery.


Memorials of the Saints – 16 January

St Berard and Companions (Peter, Adjute, Accurs, Odo and Vitalis)
St Dana of Leuca
St Dunchaid O’Braoin
St Fulgentius of Ecija
St Fursey of Peronne
Blessed Gonzalo de Amarante OP (1187-1259)
Blessed Giuseppe Tovini OFS (1841-1897)
Blessed Giuseppe’s Life:
St Henry of Coquet
St Honoratus of Arles
St Honoratus of Fondi
Bl James of Luino
St James of Tarentaise
Bl Joan of Bagno di Romagna

St Joseph Vaz CO (1651-1711) Apostle of Sri Lanka
About St Joseph:

St Juana Maria Condesa Lluch
Bl Konrad II of Mondsee
St Leobazio
St Liberata of Pavia
St Pope Marcellus I
St Melas of Rhinocolura
St Priscilla of Rome
St Sigeberht of East Anglia
St Titian of Oderzo
St Triverius
St Valerius of Sorrento


The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord and Memorials of the Saints – 6 January

The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord – Epiphany celebrates the visit of the three kings or wise men to the Christ Child, signifying the extension of salvation to the Gentiles. The date of Epiphany, one of the oldest Christian feasts, is 6 January the 12th day after Christmas. However, in most countries, the celebration of Epiphany is transferred to the Sunday that falls between January 2 and January 8 (inclusive). Greece, Ireland, Italy and Poland continue to observe Epiphany on 6 January as do some dioceses in Germany.
Because Epiphany is one of the most important Christian feasts, it is a Holy Day of Obligation in most countries.

Epiphany 2018:
Epiphany 2019:

St Andre Bessette CSC (1845-1937) (7 January in Canada)

St Andrew Corsini
St Antoninus
St Basillisa of Antinoë
St Charles of Sezze OFM (1613-1670)

About St Charles:

St Demetrius of Philadelphia
St Diman Dubh of Connor
St Edeyrn
St Eigrad
St Erminold of Prüfening
St Felix of Nantes
Bl Frederick of Saint-Vanne
Bl Gertrud of Traunkirchen
Bl Gertrude van Oosten
St Guarinus of Sion
St Guy of Auxerre
St Honorius
St Hywyn of Aberdaron
St John de Ribera
St Julian of Antinoë
St Julius
Bl Luc of Roucy
Bl Macarius the Scot
St Macra of Rheims
St Merinus
St Nilammon of Geris
St St Petran of Landévennec
St Peter of Canterbury
Bl Peter Thomas
St Pia of Quedlinburg
St Pompejanus
St Rafaela Porras y Ayllón
Bl Raymond de Blanes
Bl Rita Amada de Jesus
St Schotin
St Wiltrudis of Bergen

Martyrs in Africa: Unknown number of Christian men and women who were martyred in the persecutions of Septimus Severus. They were burned to death c 210.

Martyrs of Sirmium – 8 saints: A group of Christians martyred together for their faith. The only surviving details are the names of eight of them – Anastasius VIII, Florianus, Florus, Jucundus, Peter, Ratites, Tatia and Tilis. They were martyred in the 4th century at Syrmium, Pannonia (modern Sremska Mitrovica, Vojvodina, Serbia).

Twelve Apostles Saints of Ireland: Twelve 6th century Irish monks who studied under Saint Finian at Clonard Abbey and then spread the faith throughout Ireland. Each has his own commemoration but on this day they and their good work are considered and celebrated together. Though Saint Finian is sometimes included, most ancient writers list them as –
• Brendan of Birr
• Brendan the Navigator
• Columba of Iona
• Columba of Terryglass
• Keiran of Saighir
• Kieran of Clonmacnois
• Canice of Aghaboe
• Lasserian of Leighlin
• Mobhí of Glasnevin
• Ninnidh the Saintly of Loch Erne
• Ruadh´n of Lorrha
• Senan of Iniscathay


Saint of the Day – 4 January – Saint Angela of Foligno TOSF (1248-1309)

Saint of the Day – 4 January – Saint Angela of Foligno TOSF (1248-1309) known as the “Mistress of Theologians” – Wife, Mother, Widow, Religious, Mystic, Writer, Third Order Franciscan, Foundress of a religious community, which refused to become an enclosed religious order, so that it might continue her vision of caring for those in need.   It is still active.  Patronages – against sexual temptation, against temptations, assistance with the death of children, people ridiculed for their piety, widows.509px st angela foligno-Domenico_Beccafumi_026.jpg

Angela’s birth date, which is not known with certainty, is often listed as 1248.   She was born into a wealthy family at Foligno, in Umbria.   Married, perhaps at an early age, she had several children.   Angela reports that she loved the world and its pleasures.   Around the age of 40, she reportedly had a vision of St Francis and recognised the emptiness of her life.   From that time, she began to lead a life devoted to higher perfection.

Angela of Foligno is a model for people who want to simplify their lifestyle. As a young adult she reveled in luxury and sensuality. She married a rich man of Foligno, Italy, and used his wealth to indulge herself in possessions. And her impetuous temperament nudged her into sinful behaviour.

However in 1285, Angela experienced a surprising conversion.  st Angela_of_Foligno_1One day she wept bitterly and confessed a serious sin to a friar, who absolved her.   Then she embarked on a life of prayer and penance.   Over the next six years, step-by-step she divested herself of her attachments to people and things.

In 1288 her mother, husband and sons died of a plague.   As a widow, Angela was free to concentrate on her pursuit of holiness  . She modelled herself on St Francis of Assisi and joined the Franciscan Third Order in 1291.   Like Francis, Angela expected to meet Christ in the poor.   For instance, on Holy Thursday, 1292, she and a companion went to care for lepers at the hospital in Foligno.   After they had washed a man who was badly decomposed, they drank some of the bathwater.   The experience so moved Angela that she says all the way home she felt “as if we had received Holy Communion.”

Angela of Foligno was a visionary who, like St Catherine of Siena, regularly fell into  trances.   From 1292 to 1296 she dictated her revelations to Brother Arnold, her confessor.   Angela recorded 30 steps of her tortured spiritual journey, which always seemed to blend awareness and absence of God, certitude and doubt and joy and angela-of-foligno.jpg

A small band of disciples gathered around the saint.   She led them wisely, instructing them in basic Christian living.   This excerpt from her Instructions, advocates prayer and meditation on Scripture:

“No-one can be saved without divine light.   Divine light causes us to begin and to make progress and it leads us to the summit of perfection.   Therefore, if you want to begin and to receive this divine light, pray.   If you have begun to make progress, pray.   And if you have reached the summit of perfection and want to be super-illumined so as to remain in that state, pray.   If you want faith, pray.   If you want hope, pray.   If you want charity, pray.   If you want poverty, pray.   If you want obedience, pray.   If you want chastity, pray. If you want humility, pray.   If you want meekness, pray.   If you want fortitude, pray.   If you want any virtue, pray.”

And pray in this fashion – always reading the Book of Life, that is, the life of the God-man, Jesus Christ, whose life consisted of poverty, pain, contempt and true angela of foligno.jpg

At Christmas, 1308, Angela told her companions she would die shortly.   A few days later Christ appeared to her, promising to come personally to take her to heaven.   She died in her sleep on 3 January 1309, surrounded by her community.   Her remains repose in the Church of St Francis at Foligno and many miracles have been recorded there.shrine st angela foligno.jpg

Considered a “great medieval mystic,” Angela is said to have received mystical revelations, which she dictated to a scribe in the late 13th century.   These accounts are contained in a compilation of two works, her Book of Visions and Instructions.

Pope Clement XI approved the veneration paid to her over the centuries in his Beatification of her on 11 July 1701 and Pope Francis extended the veneration to all the Church on 9 October 2013, declaring her a saint by equipollent Canonisation, recognising the validity of the long-standing veneration of her.

Her feast day is celebrated by the Third Order of Saint Francis, both Secular and Regular, on 4 January (7 January in the United States).   Although the community she founded was not recognised as a religious institute until the 20th-century, she is honoured as a angela foligno statue.jpg


Thought for the Day – 29 December – Bless Your Children!

Thought for the Day – 29 December – Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the Fifth Day of the Christmas Octave

I am most grateful for my upbringing in a truly Catholic family, not one exit was made by the children without a blessing by our parents.   This is such an important and vital element in our daily lives as Catholic families.   And you too, parents, as you exit and enter your homes, bless yourselves with the Sign of the Cross – have a Holy Water Font at your doors – habits are formed by action – start today!bless your children - pope francis - 29 dec 2019.jpg

Bless Your Children
Pope Francis

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
27 December 2015

“How important it is for our families to journey together towards a single goal!   We know that we have a road to travel together, a road along which we encounter difficulties but also enjoy moments of joy and consolation.   And on this pilgrimage of life we also share in moments of prayer.

What can be more beautiful, than for a father and mother, to bless their children at the beginning and end of each day, to trace on their forehead the Sign of the Cross, as they did on the day of their Baptism?   Is this not the simplest prayer which parents can offer for their children?   To bless them, that is, to entrust them to the Lord, just like Elkanah and Anna, Joseph and Mary, so that He can be their protection and support throughout the day.

In the same way, it is important for families to join in a brief prayer before meals, in order to thank the Lord for these gifts and to learn how to share what we have received with those in greater need.   These are all little gestures, yet they point to the great formative role played by the family in the pilgrimage of everyday life.”

grace before meals - 29 dec 2019 - holy family feast .jpg

The Grace before Meals

Bless us, O Lord
and these Thy gifts,
which we are about to receive
from Thy bounty,
through Christ our Lord.

grace after meals - 29 dec 2019 - holy family feast.jpg

The Grace After Meals

We give Thee thanks,
Almighty God,
for all Thy gifts,
almighty God,
living and reigning
now and forever.

I learnt this Capuchin Grace Before a Meal from Fr Raneiro Cantalamessa, the Preacher to the Papal Household:

Lord, bless this food
that we are about to receive
from Your bounty.
Help us to provide
for those who do not have any
and make us partakers one day
in Your heavenly banquet,
through Christ, our Lord,