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Saint of the Day – 29 January – St Francis de Sales (1567-1622) Bishop, Confessor, Doctor

Saint of the Day – 29 January – St Francis de Sales (1567-1622) Bishop, Confessor, Doctor of the Church – Doctor Caritatis (Doctor of Charity) “The Gentle Christ of Geneva” and the “Gentleman Saint.

From the Office of the Church
for the Feast, of St Francis de Sales.

Francis was born of pious and noble parents, in the town of Sales, from which the family took their name. From his earliest years, he gave pledge of his future sanctity by the innocence and gravity of his conduct. Having been instructed in the liberal sciences during his youth, he was sent early to Paris that he might study Philosophy and Theology and, in order that his education might be complete, he was sent to Padua, where he took, with much honour, the degree of Doctor in both Civil and Canon Law. He visited the Sanctuary of Loreto, where he renewed the vow he had already taken in Paris, of perpetual virginity, in which holy resolution he continued till death, in spite of all the temptations of the devil and all the allurements of the flesh.

He refused to accept an honourable position in the Senate of Savoy and entered into the Ecclesiastical state. He was Ordained Priest and was made Provost of the Diocese of Geneva, which charge he so laudably fulfilled that Granier, his Bishop, selected him for the arduous undertaking of labouring, by the preaching of God’s Word, for the conversion of the Calvinists of Chablais and the neighbouring country round about Geneva.

This mission he undertook with much joy. He had to suffer the harshest treatment on the part of the heretics, who frequently sought to take away his life, caluminated him and laid all kinds of plots against him. But, he showed heroic courage in the midst of all these dangers and persecutions and by the Divine assistance, converted, as it is stated, seventy-two thousand heretics to the One True Catholic Faith, among whom were many distinguished by the high position they held in the world and by their learning.

After the death of Granier, who had already made him his Co-adjutor, he was made Bishop of Geneva. Then it was that his sanctity showed itself in every direction, by his zeal for Ecclesiastical discipline, his love of peace, his charity to the poor and every virtue.

From a desire to give more honour to God, he founded a new Order of Nuns, which he called the Visitation, taking for their Rule that of St Augustine, to which he added Constitutions of admirable wisdom and sweetness. He enlightened the children of the Church by the works he wrote, which are full of a heavenly wisdom and pointed out a path, which is at once safe and easy, to christian perfection.

In his fifty-fifth year, whilst returning from France to Annecy, he was taken with his last sickness, immediately after having celebrated Mass, on the Feast of St. John the Evangelist. On the following day, his soul departed this life for Heaven, in the year of our Lord 1622. His body was taken to Annecy and was buried, with great demonstration of honour, in the Church of the Nuns of the above mentioned Order. Immediately after his death, miracles began to be wrought through his intercession, which, being officially authenticated, he was Canonised by Pope Alexander the Seventh and his Feast was appointed to be kept on the twenty ninth day of January.

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Saint of the Day – St Brigid of Ireland/Kildare (c 453-523)

Saint of the Day – 1 February – St Brigid of Ireland/Kildare (c 453-523) Virgin, Abbess, Apostle of Charity and foundress of several Monasteries of Nuns, including that of Kildare in Ireland, which was famous and was greatly revered – born in 453 at Faughart, County Louth, Ireland and died on 1 February 523 at Kildare, Ireland of natural causes.   Patronages – Ireland, babies, blacksmiths, sailors, brewers, cattle, chicken farmers, children whose parents are not married, children with abusive fathers, children born into abusive unions, Clan Douglas, dairy workers, Florida, fugitives, Leinster, midwives, Nuns, poets, the poor, printing presses, students, travellers. st brigid painting.jpg

Next to the glorious St Patrick, St Brigid, whom we may consider his spiritual daughter in Christ, has ever been held in singular veneration in Ireland.

Historians say we know a lot more about St Brigid than we have facts, a polite way of saying that legends swirl about Ireland’s most celebrated woman.   But even legends may have cores of truth.   And some miracle stories are not legends at all but true accounts of God’s interventions.

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St Bride (Brigid) Carried By Angels, a painting by Scottish artist, John Duncan, 1913.

Brigid was the daughter of a slave woman and a chieftain, who liberated her at the urging of his overlord.   As a girl she sensed a call to become a nun and St Mel, bishop of Armagh, received her vows.   Before Brigid, consecrated virgins lived at home with their families.   But the saint, imitating Patrick, began to assemble nuns in communities, a historic move which enriched the church in Ireland.st brigid.jpg

In 471, Brigid founded a monastery for both women and men at Kildare.   This was the first convent in Ireland and Brigid was the abbess.   Under her leadership Kildare became a centre of learning and spirituality.   Her school of art fashioned both lovely utensils for worship and beautifully illustrated manuscripts.   Again following Patrick’s model, Brigid used Kildare as a base and built convents throughout the island.  The renown of Brigid’s unbounded charity drew multitudes of the poor to Kildare, the fame of her piety attracted thither many persons anxious to solicit her prayers or to profit by her holy example.   In course of time the number of these so much increased that it became necessary to provide accommodation for them in the neighbourhood of the new monastery and thus was laid the foundation and origin of the town of Kildare.stbrigid-bigstbrigidglass

Brigid’s hallmark was uninhibited, generous giving to anyone in need.   Many of the saint’s earliest miracles seem to have rescued her from punishment for having given something to the poor that was intended for someone else.   For example, once as a child she gave a piece of bacon to a dog and was glad to find it replaced when she was about to be disciplined.   Brigid exhibited this unbounded charity all her life, giving away valuables, clothing, food—anything close by—to anyone who asked.

One of the most appealing things told of Brigid is her contemporaries’ belief that there was peace in her blessing.   Not merely did contentiousness die out in her presence but just as by the touch of her hand she healed leprosy, so by her very will for peace she healed strife and laid antiseptics on the suppurating bitterness that foments it.

In the ninth century, the country being desolated by the Danes, the remains of St Brigid were removed in order to secure them from irreverence and, being transferred to Down-Patrick, were deposited in the same grave with those of the glorious St Patrick.   Their bodies, together with that of St Columba, were translated afterwards to the cathedral of the same city but their monument was destroyed in the reign of King Henry VIII.   The head of St Brigid is now kept in the church of the Jesuits at Lisbon.brigid-stained-glass

Saint Brigid’s Cross
A special type of cross known as “Saint Brigid’s cross” is popular throughout Ireland. It commemorates a famous story in which Brigid went to the home of a pagan leader when people told her that he was dying and needed to hear the Gospel message quickly.   When Brigid arrived, the man was delirious and upset, unwilling to listen to what Brigid had to say.   So she sat with him and prayed and while she did, she took some of the straw from the floor and began weaving it into the shape of a cross. Gradually the man quieted down and asked Brigid what she was doing.   She then explained the Gospel to him, using her handmade cross as a visual aid.   The man then came to faith in Jesus Christ and Brigid baptised him just before he died.
Today, many Irish people display a Saint Brigid’s cross in their homes, since it is said to help ward off evil and welcome good.  Brigid died in 523 and after her death people began to venerate her as a saint, praying to her for help seeking to heal from God, since many of the miracles during her lifetime related to healing.
brigid-prayer

Blessing of St Brigid’s Crosses

Father of all creation and Lord of Light,
You have given us life and entrusted Your creation to us, to use it and to care for it.
We ask You to bless these crosses made of green rushes in memory of holy Brigid,
who used the cross to recall and to teach Your Son’s life, death and resurrection.
May these crosses be a sign of our sharing in the Paschal Mystery of your Son
and a sign of Your protection of our lives, our land and its creatures,
through Brigid’s intercession, during the coming year and always.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

The crosses are sprinkled with holy water:

May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be on these crosses and on the places where they hang
and on everyone who looks at them.
Amen

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Saint of the Day – 24 January – St Francis de Sales ‘The Gentle Christ of Geneva’

Saint of the Day – 24 January – St Francis de Sales CO, OM, OFM (Cap) (1567-1622) – Doctor of the Church: Doctor caritatis (Doctor of Charity) – ‘The Gentle Christ of Geneva’ and   Patronages – against deafness, authors, writers, Catholic press, confessors, deaf people, journalists, teachers, Champdepraz, Aosta, Italy, 8 Diocese, 7 Cities, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, the Salesians of Don Bosco. His motto ‘Non-excidet’ – (No failure).

Excerpt from Pope Benedict’s

Catechesis on St Francis de Sales

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

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“God is God of the human heart” (The Treatise on the Love of God, I, XV).   These apparently simple words give us an impression of the spirituality of a great teacher of whom I would like to speak to you toda – St Francis de Sales, a Bishop and Doctor of the Church.

Born in 1567, in a French border region, he was the son of the Lord of Boisy, an ancient and noble family of Savoy.   His life straddled two centuries, the 16th and 17th and he summed up in himself the best of the teachings and cultural achievements of the century drawing to a close, reconciling the heritage of humanism striving for the Absolute that is proper to mystical currents.    He received a very careful education, he undertook higher studies in Paris, where he dedicated himself to theology and at the University of Padua, where he studied jurisprudence, complying with his father’s wishes and graduating brilliantly with degrees in utroque iure, in canon law and in civil law.st-francis-de-sales-young.beautiful

In his harmonious youth, reflection on the thought of St Augustine and of St Thomas Aquinas led to a deep crisis.   This prompted him to question his own eternal salvation and the predestination of God concerning himself, he suffered as a true spiritual drama the principal theological issues of his time.   He prayed intensely but was so fiercely tormented by doubt, that for a few weeks he could barely eat or sleep.   At the climax of his trial, he went to the Dominicans’ church in Paris, opened his heart and prayed in these words:   “Whatever happens, Lord, You who hold all things in Your hand and whose ways are justice and truth, whatever You have ordained for me… You who are ever a just judge and a merciful Father, I will love You Lord…. I will love You here, O my God and I will always hope in Your mercy and will always repeat Your praise…. O Lord Jesus You will always be my hope and my salvation in the land of the living” (I Proc. Canon., Vol. I, art. 4).

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The 20-year-old Francis found peace in the radical and liberating love of God – loving Him without asking anything in return and trusting in divine love, no longer asking what will God do with me – I simply love Him, independently of all that He gives me or does not give me.  Thus I find peace and the question of predestination — which was being discussed at that time — was resolved, because he no longer sought what he might receive from God, he simply loved God and abandoned himself to His goodness.   And this was to be the secret of his life which would shine out in his main work – the The Treatise on the Love of God.

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Overcoming his father’s resistance, Francis followed the Lord’s call and was ordained a priest on 18 December 1593.   In 1602, he became Bishop of Geneva, in a period in which the city was the stronghold of Calvinism so that his episcopal see was transferred, “in exile” to Annecy.   As the Pastor of a poor and tormented diocese in a mountainous area whose harshness was as well known as its beauty, he wrote:  “I found [God] sweet and gentle among our loftiest rugged mountains, where many simple souls love Him and worship Him in all truth and sincerity and mountain goats and chamois leap here and there between the fearful frozen peaks to proclaim His praise” (Letter to Mother de Chantal, October 1606, in Oeuvres, éd. Mackey, t. XIII, p. 223).

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Nevertheless the influence of his life and his teaching on Europe in that period and in the following centuries is immense.   He was an apostle, preacher, writer, man of action and of prayer dedicated to implanting the ideals of the Council of Trent, he was involved in controversial issues dialogue with the Protestants, experiencing increasingly, over and above the necessary theological confrontation, the effectiveness of personal relationship and of charity, he was charged with diplomatic missions in Europe and with social duties of mediation and reconciliation.

Yet above all St Francis de Sales was a director, from his encounter with a young woman, Madame de Charmoisy, he was to draw the inspiration to write one of the most widely read books of the modern age, The Introduction to a Devout Life.   A new religious family was to come into being from his profound spiritual communion with an exceptional figure, St Jane Frances de Chantal -The Foundation of the Visitation, as the Saint wished, was characterised by total consecration to God lived in simplicity and humility, in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well – “I want my Daughters”, he wrote, not to have any other ideal than that of glorifying [Our Lord] with their humility” (Letter to Bishop de Marquemond, June 1615).

He died in 1622, at the age of 55, after a life marked by the hardness of the times and by his apostolic effort.”

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Saint of the Day – 21 December – St Peter Canisius SJ (1521-1397) The “Second Apostle of Germany” – Doctor of the Church

Saint of the Day – 21 December – St Peter Canisius SJ. (1521-1397) The “Second Apostle of Germany” – Doctor of the Church

Catechesis of Pope Benedict XVI – 9 February 2011saint-peter-canisius glass lg

He was born on 8 May 1521 in Wijmegen, Holland.   His father was Burgomaster of the town.   While he was a student at the University of Cologne he regularly visited the Carthusian monks of St Barbara, a driving force of Catholic life and other devout men who cultivated the spirituality of the so-called devotio moderna [modern devotion].

He entered the Society of Jesus on 8 May 1543 in Mainz (Rhineland — Palatinate), after taking a course of spiritual exercises under the guidance of Bl (now Saint) Pierre Favre, Petrus [Peter] Faber, one of St Ignatius of Loyola’s first companions.   He was ordained a priest in Cologne.   Already the following year, in June 1546, he attended the Council of Trent, as the theologian of Cardinal Otto Truchsess von Waldburg, Bishop of Augsberg, where he worked with two confreres, Diego Laínez and Alfonso Salmerón.   In 1548, St Ignatius had him complete his spiritual formation in Rome and then sent him to the College of Messina to carry out humble domestic duties.

He earned a doctorate in theology at Bologna on 4 October 1549 and St Ignatius assigned him to carry out the apostolate in Germany.   On 2 September of that same year he visited Pope Paul III at Castel Gandolfo and then went to St Peter’s Basilica to pray.   Here he implored the great Holy Apostles Peter and Paul for help to make the Apostolic Blessing permanently effective for the future of his important new mission.   He noted several words of this prayer in his spiritual journal.

He said:  “There I felt that a great consolation and the presence of grace had been granted to me through these intercessors [Peter and Paul].   They confirmed my mission in Germany and seemed to transmit to me, as an apostle of Germany, the support of their benevolence.   You know, Lord, in how many ways and how often on that same day you entrusted Germany to me, which I was later to continue to be concerned about and for which I would have liked to live and die”.Canisius_smlframe

We must bear in mind that we are dealing with the time of the Lutheran Reformation, at the moment when the Catholic faith in the German-speaking countries seemed to be dying out in the face of the fascination of the Reformation.   The task of Canisius — charged with revitalising or renewing the Catholic faith in the Germanic countries — was almost impossible.   It was possible only by virtue of prayer.   It was possible only from the centre, namely, a profound personal friendship with Jesus Christ, a friendship with Christ in His Body, the Church, which must be nourished by the Eucharist, His Real Presence.

In obedience to the mission received from Ignatius and from Pope Paul III, Canisius left for Germany.   He went first to the Duchy of Bavaria, which for several years was the place where he exercised his ministry.   As dean, rector and vice chancellor of the University of Ingolstadt, he supervised the academic life of the Institute and the religious and moral reform of the people.   In Vienna, where for a brief time he was diocesan administrator, he carried out his pastoral ministry in hospitals and prisons, both in the city and in the countryside and prepared the publication of his Catechism.   In 1556 he founded the College of Prague and, until 1569, was the first superior of the Jesuit Province of Upper Germany.   In this office he established a dense network of communities of his Order in the Germanic countries, especially colleges, that were starting points for the Catholic Reformation, for the renewal of the Catholic faith.st peter canisius engraving

At that time he also took part in the Colloquy of Worms with Protestant divines, including Philip Melanchthon (1557);  He served as Papal Nuncio in Poland (1558);  he took part in the two Diets of Augsberg (1559 and 1565); he accompanied Cardinal Stanislaw Hozjusz, Legate of Pope Pius IV, to Emperor Ferdinand (1560);  and he took part in the last session of the Council of Trent where he spoke on the issue of Communion under both Species and on the Index of Prohibited Books (1562).

In 1580 he withdrew to Fribourg, Switzerland, where he devoted himself entirely to preaching and writing.   He died there on 21 December 1597.   Bl Pius IX Beatified him in 1864 and in 1897 Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him the “Second Apostle of Germany”. Pope Pius XI Canonised him and proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church in 1925.

St Peter Canisius spent a large part of his life in touch with the most important people of his time and exercised a special influence with his writings.   He edited the complete works of Cyril of Alexandria and of St Leo the Great, the Letters of St Jerome and the Orations of St Nicholas of Flüe.   He published devotional books in various languages, biographies of several Swiss Saints and numerous homiletic texts.peter-canisius

However, his most widely disseminated writings were the three Catechisms he compiled between 1555 and 1558.   The first Catechism was addressed to students who could grasp the elementary notions of theology;  the second, to young people of the populace for an initial religious instruction;  the third, to youth with a scholastic formation of middle and high school levels.   He explained Catholic doctrine with questions and answers, concisely, in biblical terms, with great clarity and with no polemical overtones.

There were at least 200 editions of this Catechism in his lifetime alone!   And hundreds of editions succeeded one another until the 20th century.   So it was, that still in my father’s generation people in Germany were calling the Catechism simply “the Canisius”.   He really was the Catechist of Germany for centuries, he formed people’s faith for centuries.   This was a characteristic of St Peter Canisius – his ability to combine harmoniously fidelity to dogmatic principles with the respect that is due to every person. St Canisius distinguished between a conscious, blameworthy apostosy from faith and a blameless loss of faith through circumstances.106_Canisius

Moreover, he declared to Rome that the majority of Germans who switched to Protestantism were blameless.   In a historical period of strong confessional differences, Canisius avoided — and this is something quite extraordinary — the harshness and rhetoric of anger — something rare, as I said, in the discussions between Christians in those times — and aimed only at presenting the spiritual roots and at reviving the faith in the Church.   His vast and penetrating knowledge of Sacred Scripture and of the Fathers of the Church served this cause, the same knowledge that supported his personal relationship with God and the austere spirituality that he derived from the Devotio Moderna and Rhenish mysticism.

Characteristic of St Canisius’ spirituality was his profound personal friendship with Jesus.   For example, on 4 September 1549 he wrote in his journal, speaking with the Lord:  “In the end, as if You were opening to me the heart of the Most Sacred Body, which it seemed to me I saw before me, You commanded me to drink from that source, inviting me, as it were, to draw the waters of my salvation from Your founts, O my Saviour”.

Then he saw that the Saviour was giving him a garment with three pieces that were called peace, love and perseverance.   And with this garment, made up of peace, love and perseverance, Canisius carried out his work of renewing Catholicism.   His friendship with Jesus — which was the core of his personality — nourished by love of the Bible, by love of the Blessed Sacrament and by love of the Fathers, this friendship was clearly united with the awareness of being a perpetuator of the Apostles’ mission in the Church. And this reminds us that every genuine evangeliser is always an instrument united with Jesus and with His Church and is fruitful for this very reason.

Friendship with Jesus had been inculcated in St Peter Canisius in the spiritual environment of the Charterhouse of Cologne, in which he had been in close contact with two Carthusian mystics – Johannes Lansperger, whose name has been Latinized as “Lanspergius” and Nikolaus van Esche, Latinized as “Eschius”.

He subsequently deepened the experience of this friendship, familiaritas stupenda nimis, through contemplation of the mysteries of Jesus’ life, which form a large part of St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.   This is the foundation of his intense devotion to the Heart of the Lord, which culminated in his consecration to the apostolic ministry in the Vatican Basilica.

The Christocentric spirituality of St Peter Canisius is rooted in a profound conviction – no soul anxious for perfection fails to practice prayer daily, mental prayer, an ordinary means that enables the disciple of Jesus to live in intimacy with the divine Teacher.

For this reason in his writings for the spiritual education of the people, our Saint insists on the importance of the Liturgy with his comments on the Gospels, on Feasts, on the Rite of Holy Mass and on the sacraments;  yet, at the same time, he is careful to show the faithful the need for and beauty of personal daily prayer, which should accompany and permeate participation in the public worship of the Church.   This exhortation and method have kept their value intact, especially after being authoritatively proposed anew by the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, Christian life does not develop unless it is nourished by participation in the Liturgy — particularly at Sunday Mass — and by personal daily prayer, by personal contact with God.x20150427_1canisius.jpgqitokakfklhqp.pagespeed.ic.pv_ky19fua

Among the thousands of activities and multiple distractions that surround us, we must find moments for recollection before the Lord every day, in order to listen to Him and speak with Him.

At the same time, the example that St Peter Canisius has bequeathed to us, not only in his works but especially with his life, is ever timely and of lasting value.   He teaches clearly that the apostolic ministry is effective and produces fruits of salvation in hearts only if the preacher is a personal witness of Jesus and an instrument at His disposal, bound to Him closely by faith in His Gospel and in His Church, by a morally consistent life and by prayer as ceaseless as love.   And this is true for every Christian who wishes to live his adherence to Christ with commitment and fidelity.

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Saint of the Day – 24 January – St Francis de Sales (1567-1622) – Doctor of the Church: Doctor caritatis (Doctor of Charity)

Saint of the Day – 24 January – St Francis de Sales  CO, OM, OFM (Cap) (1567-1622) – Doctor of the Church: Doctor caritatis (Doctor of Charity), Bishop of Geneva, Doctor of Law and Theology, Writer, Theologian, Mystic, Teacher, Preacher, Founder along with St Jane Frances de Chantal, founded the women’s Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary (Visitandines).  Born 21 August 1567 at Château de Thorens, Savoy (part of modern France) – 28 December 1622 at Lyon, France of natural causes.   St Francis is known as:  the Gentle Christ of Geneva and the Gentleman Saint.   Patronages –  against deafness, authors, writers (proclaimed on 26 April 1923 by Pope Pius XI), Catholic press, Confessors, journalists (proclaimed on 26 April 1923 by Pope Pius XI), teachers, Champdepraz, Aosta, Italy, 8 Dioceses.  His motto ‘Non-excidet’ – (No failure).   St Francis became noted for his deep faith and his gentle approach to the religious divisions in his land resulting from the Protestant Reformation.  He is known also for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the Devout Life and the Treatise on the Love of God.Cheader - st francis de salescoa_francis_de_sales-svgSOD-0124-SaintFrancisdeSales-790x480

Francis, the eldest of 13 children, was born into a family of nobility in France in 1567.   His father sent him to study at the University of Paris.   After six years, Francis was intellectually competent in many areas.   Francis was also a skilled swordsman who enjoyed fencing, an expert horseman and a superb dancer.  Then Francis studied at the University of Padua and received a doctorate in civil and canon law.   His father wanted him to marry but Francis desired to be a priest.    His father strongly opposed Francis in this and only after much patient persuasiveness on the part of the gentle Francis did his father finally consent.   Francis was ordained and elected provost of the Diocese of Geneva, then a centre for the Calvinists.   Francis set out to convert them, especially in the district of Chablais.   By preaching and distributing the little pamphlets he wrote to explain true Catholic doctrine, he had remarkable success, the majority of the Chablais inhabitants accepted the Catholic faith.st francis de sales - young - no 2

At 35, he became bishop of Geneva.  While administering his diocese he continued to preach, hear confessions and catechise the children.  His gentle character was a great asset in winning souls  . He practised his own axiom, “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.”

Besides his two well-known books, the Introduction to the Devout Life and A Treatise on the Love of God, he wrote other marvellous spiritual aid as well as many pamphlets and carried on a vast correspondence  . For his writings, he has been named patron of the Catholic Press.   His writings, filled with his characteristic gentle spirit, are addressed to lay people.   He wants to make them understand that they too are called to be saints.   As he wrote in The Introduction to the Devout Life: “It is an error, or rather a heresy, to say devotion is incompatible with the life of a soldier, a tradesman, a prince, or a married woman…. It has happened that many have lost perfection in the desert who had preserved it in the world. ”

In spite of his busy and comparatively short life, he had time to collaborate with another saint, Jane Frances de Chantal, in the work of establishing the Sisters of the Visitation. These women were to practice the virtues exemplified in Mary’s visit to Elizabeth: humility, piety, and mutual charity.   They at first engaged to a limited degree in works of mercy for the poor and the sick.   Today, while some communities conduct schools, others live a strictly contemplative life.124-st-francis-de-sales-eglise-d-hannevillestfrancois4 T

St Francis is buried at the Basilica of the Visitation, Annecy, France -below.   His heart was preserved as a Relic at Lyon but during the French Revolution his heart was was moved to Venice, Italy.   The Altar below is the High Altar of St Francis at the Cathedral in St Louis, USA.

St. François de Sales. La Basilique de La Visitation. Annecy, Fran
The High Altar at Saint Francis de Sale, St Louis
Posted in ADVENT, DOCTORS of the Church, JESUIT SJ, PATRONAGE - CATECHISTS, PATRONAGE - CATHOLIC PRESS, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 21 December – St Peter Canisius S.J. (1521-1397) – Doctor of the Church

Saint of the Day – 21 December – St Peter Canisius S.J. (1521-1397) – Priest, Religious, Doctor of the Church, Reformer, Teacher, Confessor, Writer, Apostle of Charity –  (Born as Pieter Kanis on 8 May 1521 at Niemguen, Netherlands – 21 December 1597 at Fribourg, Switzerland of natural causes).   Patronages – Catholic Press, Germany, Catechists.   Known as the Hammer of Protestantism and the Second Apostle of Germany.   St Peter  became known for his strong support for the Catholic faith during the Protestant Reformation in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia and Switzerland.   The restoration of the Catholic Church in Germany after the Protestant Reformation is largely attributed to the work there of the Society of Jesus, which he led.   “Peter Canisius was the first publisher, the first author, the first editor of the Society of Jesus.   By now, Jesuits have followed in his footsteps to the tune of having published in 400 years, thousands of books.   From the time of Canisius, and his name is first in the bibliography of Jesuit writers, from Peter Canisius to the end of the l9th century, that is to 1900, there are about twenty volumes of bibliography, each volume about two inches thick, stands about eighteen inches high, filled just with authors and titles, thousands and thousands and thousands, no other religious institute in the Church publishes as much as members of the Society.   It was all started by Peter Canisius.” (Ven Servan of God Fr John A Hardon S.J.)

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St Peter Canisius was born in 1521 in what is now the Netherlands.   His father was the local mayor and his mother died shortly of his birth.  Peter studied at the University of Cologne and earned a Master’s degree in 1540 at the age of 19.   While there, he met St Peter Faber, one of the first Jesuits.   Through him, Canisius became the first Dutchman to join the Society of Jesus in 1543.   St Peter Canisius’ preaching and writings, led him to become one of the most influential Catholics of his time.   He supervised the founding and maintenance of the first German-speaking Jesuit colleges and was known as the Second Apostle of Germany.

If you have too much to do, with God’s help you will find time to do it all – St Peter Canisius

For a half-century he led the Catholic Reformation in Austria, Bavaria and Bohemia.   For that reason he is reckoned an apostle to Germany, second only to St. Boniface.   With stupendous energy he preached and taught in parishes, reformed and founded universities, wrote many books including popular catechisms, restored lapsed Catholics, converted Protestants, preached retreats and found time to care for the sick.   In his last 30 years travelling more than 20,000 miles on foot or horseback, St Peter Canisius spearheaded the renewal of the Catholic faith in southern Germany.Saint_Petrus_Canisius

Peter Canisius revitalised Catholic life and teaching at universities in Ingolstadt and Augsburg.   He founded new ones at Prague and Fribourg.   In all four cities his preaching and catechising won the hearts of Catholics and attracted nominal Protestants to the church.   In Vienna his personal care for plague victims made him a most popular figure.  Thus, when appointed diocesan administrator, he was in a position to revive the city’s long decadent Catholic community.

After 1555, Peter Canisius published his famous Summary of Christian Doctrine and two smaller catechisms.   These books generated the Catholic Reformation as Luther’s catechism had spread Protestantism.   Canisius’s catechisms also helped launch the Catholic press.    The Three Catechisms he compiled between 1555 and 1558.   The first Catechism was addressed to students who could grasp the elementary notions of theology;  the second, to young people of the populace for an initial religious instruction;  the third, to youth with a scholastic formation of middle and high school levels.   He explained Catholic doctrine with questions and answers, concisely, in biblical terms, with great clarity and with no polemical overtones.   “There were at least 200 editions of this Catechism in his lifetime alone, translated into 15 languages!   And hundreds of editions succeeded one another until the 20th century.   So it was that still in my father’s generation people in Germany were calling the Catechism simply “the Canisius”.   He really was the Catechist of Germany for centuries, he formed people’s faith for centuries.” (Pope Benedict XVI).

He was offered the post of Bishop of Vienna in 1554 but declined in to continue his travelling and teachings.

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In the late 16th century, when open hostility typified relations between Catholics and Protestants, Peter Canisius advised charity and moderation. He opposed theological debates with Protestant leaders and in general, discouraged discussion of Catholic distinctives such as indulgences, purgatory and monastic vows with Protestants.   He believed such efforts only heightened division and embittered relations.   He articulated his views in this letter to his Jesuit superior:

“It is plainly wrong to meet non-Catholics with bitterness or to treat them with discourtesy.   For this is nothing else than the reverse of Christ’s example because it breaks the bruised reed and quenches the smoking flax.   We ought to instruct with meekness those whom heresy has made bitter and suspicious and has estranged from orthodox Catholics, especially from our fellow Jesuits.   Thus, by whole-hearted charity and good will we may win them over to us in the Lord.

Again, it is a mistaken policy to behave in a contentious fashion and to start disputes about matters of belief with argumentative people who are disposed by their very natures to wrangling.   Indeed, the fact of their being so constituted is a reason the more why such people should be attracted and won to the simplicity of the faith as much by example as by argument.”

In 1591, Peter Canisius suffered a stroke that nearly killed him.   But he recovered and devoted himself to writing for six more years until his death in 1597.   His body was interred before the high altar of the Church of Saint Nicholas in Fribourg and his relics were translated to the Church of Saint Michael at the Jesuit College in Fribourg in 1625. He was Canonised 21 May 1925 by Pope Pius XI and was added to the now 36 Doctors of the Church, by Pope Pius XI in 1925.SOD-1221-SaintPeterCanisius-790x480Petrus Canisius / Gemaelde - Petrus Canisius / Painting -