Saint of the Day – 21 January – St Anastasius the Persian (Died 628) Martyr, Monk. Born in Persia as Magundat and died by strangulation and beheading in 628 in Persia. Patronages – against headaches, of goldsmiths.
The Roman Martyrology reads: “At Rome, at Aquiae, Salviae, St Anastasius, a Persian Monk, who, after suffering much at Caesarea in Palestine, from imprisonment, stripes and fetters, had to bear many afflictions from Chosroes, King of Persia, who caused him to be beheaded. He had sent before him, to Martyrdom, seventy of his companions, who were precipitated into rivers. His head was brought to Rome, together with his venerable likeness, by the sight of which, the demons are expelled and diseases cured, as is attested by the Acts of the Second Council of Nicacea.”
Anastasius was born in the City of Ray. He was the son of a Magian named Bau. He had a brother whose name is unknown. He was a cavalryman in the army of Khosrow II (590–628) and participated in the capture of the True Cross in Jerusalem which was carried to the Sasanian capital.
The occasion prompted him to ask for information about the Christian religion. He then experienced a conversion of faith, left the army, became a Christian and then a Monk at the Monastery of Saint Savvas (Mar Saba) in Jerusalem.
Anastasius was baptised by St Modestus, the Bishop of Jerusalem, receiving the Christian name Anastasius to honour the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (anástasis” in Greek meaning resurrection).
After seven years of the monastic observance, he was moved by the Holy Ghost to go in quest of Martyrdom and went to Caesarea, then subject to the Sasanians. There he interrupted and ridiculed the pagan priests for their religion and was, as a result, arrested by the local governor, taken prisoner, cruelly tortured to make him deny Christ and finally carried down near the Euphrates river, where his tortures was continued, while at the same time, the highest honours in the service of King Khosrow II, as a Magi, were promised him, if he would renounce Christianity.
Finally, after refusing to renounce Christ, with seventy others, he was strangled to death and decapitated on 22 January 628. His body, which was thrown to the dogs but was left untouched by them, was carried from there to Palestine, then to Constantinople and finally, to Rome, where the relics were venerated at the Tre Fontane Abbey.
A Passio written in Greek, was devoted to the Saint. An adapted Latin translation, possibly by Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury, was available to the Anglo-Saxon Historian, the Venerable St Bede, who criticised the result and took it upon himself to improve it. There are sadly, no surviving manuscripts of St Bede’s revision, although one copy did survive to the 15th Century.
Saint of the Day – 15 October – St Teresa of Jesus of Avila OCD (1515-1582) Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Practical Considerations On the Life of Saint Teresa By Fr Francis Xavier Weninger SJ (1805-1888)
I. Teresa began in early youth, after the teachings of her pious parents, to read devout books. From this, she first drew the spirit of piety. No sooner, however, had she become interested in reading worldly books, than she grew, from day-to-day, more indolent in the service of God and she returned, not to her first fervour, until she had cast aside those works and again resumed her pious reading – a proof of the great benefit we may derive from devout books and of the harm which worldly writings may do us. Oh! that those, who desire to, live piously, may understand this and conform their lives to it. Oh! that all Christians would guide their children, from their early youth, to the reading of devout books!
II. Teresa, after the death of her mother, chose the Blessed Virgin to be another mother to her, and sought and found, in her, comfort and assistance in all her needs. Thrugh her intercession and that of St Joseph, she received the grace of being constant in her reform. Love Mary as your mother – seek, with filial trust, consolation and assistance from her. St Joseph should be one of your principal Patrons, as his intercession is very powerful with the Almighty and, especially, as he has now been solemnly declared the Patron Saint of the Universal Church.
III. The sight of the wounded Jesus, filled the heart of St Teresa with great contrition for her former indifferent life. It inflamed her with true love of God and kept her, until her end, in these sentiments. Consider frequently how your Saviour suffered for your sake and repent of your sins sincerely, as they were the cause of Christ’s bitter Passion. Love your Redeemer with all the strength of your heart and make the resolution to serve Him in future most fervently.
IV. Teresa saw the place in hell which would have been hers, if she had not discontinued her idle discourses and her indifference in the worship of the Most High. Hence, she often gave humble thanks to God that He had not condemned her and she learned, by it, how hurtful even a menial sin can become, since it may lead us gradually to the path of everlasting perdition. You have still more reason to give thanks to God that He did not call you away, from this mortal life, in your sin. How long would you already have been in hell? If idle, empty conversation would have led Teresa gradually into hell, what may you not have to fear, if you do not abstain from so much sinful talking, in which you indulge? Learn also that you should not esteem a venial sin, however small it appears to you, as trifling, for, it may slowly lead you to damnation!
V. Many other lessons, which the life of St Teresa contains, I leave to yourself to consider. One thing only I request of you. Call to mind frequently the words which the Saint uttered in her ecstasy: “Only one God! Only one death! Only one soul! Love this only God and do not offend Him. Take earnest care of your only, your precious, your immortal soul. ‘Keep thyself, therefore and thy soul, carefully.’ (Deut., iv.)”
Saint of the Day – 13 October – St Simbert of Augsburg (Died c 809) Bishop of Augsburg, Monk, Abbot, Miracle-worker, he restored and built Churches and the Cathedral of Augsburg, as well as, contributed vastly to the reconstruction of the City after the devastation of war. Simbert – name means: on a brilliant path (old high German) Died on 13 October in c 809 of natural causes. Also known as – Simpert, Sintbert, Sinthert. He was Canonised by Pope Nicholas V. Patronages – against headaches, of children and youth of the Diocese of Augsburg and the third Patron of the Diocese.
The Roman Martyrology reads: “In Augsburg in Bavaria in Germany, St Simbert, who was Bishop and Abbot of Murbach.”
Simpert, probably the son of Duke Ambertus of Lorraine and his wife Simphorina, a sister of Charlemagne , was educated in a Monastery. King Karl, with whom he was in close contact throughout his life, appointed him Bishop of Augsburg – probably in 778 – as Bishop Tozzo ‘s successor . In documents from 798 and 799, Simpert was also referred to as Bishop of Neuburg an der Donau , in 800 he became Bishop of Neuburg. It was only between 801 and 807 that the areas of the Diocese east and west of the Lech, which had previously been separated, were united and Augsburg, once again, became the sole Episcopal See – this union was due to the great merit of Simbert.
Augsburg was badly damaged in the fighting between Bavaria and Franconia, at the time, and Simpert contributed greatly to the reconstruction of the City of Augsburg. To renovate his Diocese, he received extensive gifts and goods. In Augsburg, he had the destroyed Church of St Afra – today St. Ulrich and Afra – rebuilt and also completed the new building of the Cathedral, which he accordingly Consecrated in 807. He also founded the Cathedral school.
According to his wishes,, Simpert was buried in the Church of St Afra , which he had renovated and Consecrated. In 1064 his bones were raised and reburied. Numerous miracles occurred at his tomb. Records tell us how a mother asked for the intercession of St Simbert because a wolf had kidnapped her child. The wolf then returned the child and left it, unharmed in the Church. Simper’t’s intercession rescued a man who was about to sink in a swamp. Since the late Middle Ages, Simpert has also been revered as a Miracle-worker and regionally, as a unfailing assistant in all needs. Simpert caps were worn for headaches.
Simpert’s hagiography and reports on the miracles he performed, were written in 1230 by the Abbot of the Monastery in St. Ulrich and Afra. Emperor Maximilian I had a great devotion and veneration for him and included him in his line of ancestors. Emperor Maximillian was present as King when the bones were transferred in 1492. The large marble reclining figure above his grave, dates from 1714. The grave was opened in 1977 and an almost intact skeleton was revealed together with a copy of the biography from 1492 were found. His skull was then transferred to the St Simpert Church , which was newly built in 1978/1979 .
In 2007, Bishop Walter Mixa placed the Youth ministry of the Diocese of Augsburg and all children and young people under Simpert’s special protection and entrusted them to him as Patron Saint and advocate.
In 1450 Pope Nicholas V Canonised St Simbert and allowed Simpert to be venerated as a Saint in his burial Church of St Ulrich and Afra in Augsburg, then in 1622, Pope Gregory XV approved. his veneration in the Diocese of Augsburg and in 1624 he was appointed the third Diocesan Patron.
Saint/s of the Day – 8 August – The Fourteen Holy Helpers. A group of Saints invoked with special confidence because they have proven themselves efficacious helpers in adversity and difficulties, are known and venerated under the name Fourteen Holy Helpers.
The Notable Martyrs Saints within the Group are: Acacius, Barbara, Blaise, Christopher, Cyriacus, Catherine of Alexandria, Denis, Erasmus of Formia, Eustace, George, Giles, Margaret of Antioch, Pantaleon and Vitus.
Devotion to these fourteen ,as a group, spread in response to the Black Plague which devastated Europe from 1346 to 1349. Among its symptoms were the tongue turning black, a parched throat, violent headache, fever, and boils on the abdomen. It attacked without warning, robbed its victims of reason and killed within a few hour. Many died without the last Sacraments.
Brigands roamed the streets, people suspected of contagion were attacked, animals died, people starved, whole villages vanished into the grave, social order and family ties broke down and the disease appeared incurable. The pious turned to Heaven, begging the intervention of the Saints, praying to be spared or cured. This group devotion began in Germany–the Diocese of Wurzburg having been renowned for its observance.
Pope Nicholas V attached Indulgences to devotion of the Fourteen Holy Helpers in the 16th century.
Saint Christopher and Saint Giles are nvoked against the plague itself. Saint Denis is prayed to for relief from headache, Saint Blaise for ills of the throat, Saint Elmo for abdominal maladies, Saint Barbara for fever and Saint Vitus against epilepsy. Saint Pantaleon is the Patron of physicians, Saint Cyriacus invoked against temptation on the deathbed and Saints Christopher, Barbara and Catherine, for protection against a sudden and unprovided death. Saint Giles is prayed to for a good Confession and Saint Eustace as healer of family troubles. Domestic animals were also attacked by the plague and so, Saints George, Elmo, Pantaleon and Vitus are invoked for the protection of these animals. Saint Margaret of Antioch is the Patron of safe childbirth.
The legends of the Fourteen Holy Helpers are replete with the most glorious examples of heroic firmness and invincible courage in the profession of the Faith, which ought to incite us to imitate their fidelity in the performance of the Christian and social duties. If they, with the aid of God’s grace, achieved such victories, why should not we, by the same aid, be able to accomplish the very little which is desired of us? God rewarded His victorious champions with eternal bliss – the same crown is prepared for us, if we but render ourselves worthy of it. God placed the seal of miracles on the intrepid confession of His Servants and a mind imbued with the spirit of faith, sees nothing extraordinary therein because our Divine Saviour, Himself said, “Amen, amen I say to you, he that believes in Me, the works that I do, he also shall do and greater than these shall he do” (John 14:12). In all the miraculous events wrought in and by the Saints, there appears only the victorious omnipotent Power of Jesus Christ and the living faith, in which His Servants operated in virtue of this power.
The histories of the Saints are called Legends. This word is derived from the Latin,and signifies something that is to be read, a passage the reading of which is prescribed. Therefore, the Legends of the Saints are the lives of the holy Martyrs and Confessors of the Faith. Some of them occur in the Roman Breviary which the Catholic Clergy is obliged to read everyday. (The corruption of this word has occurred in modern times, giving it a meaning of either “unprovable story or celebrity.”)
Saint of the Day – 1 April – Saint Hugh of Grenoble (1053-1232) Bishop, Reformer, in the foundation of the Carthusian Order, founded a Monastery at Chalais. Born in 1053 at Chateauneuf, Dauphiné, France and died on 1 April 1132 in Grenoble, France of natural causes. Patronages – against headaches, of Grenoble, France. Also known as – Hugh of Châteauneuf, Ugo, Hughes. Additional Memorial – 22 April (Carthusians).
The Roman Martyrology reads: “In Grenoble in Burgundia, in today’s France, St Hugh, Bishop, who worked for the reform of the customs of the clergy and the people and, during his Episcopate, ardently loving solitude, gave St Bruno at the time, his teacher and to his companions, the hermitage of Chartroux, of which he was also the first Abbot. He ruled his Church for about fifty years with the thoughtful example of his charity.”
Hugh was born at Châteauneuf-sur-Isère, County of Albon., as the son of a soldier named Odilo, a man known for his Christian life,and who later became a Cistercian Monk; his mother was known for her life of prayer and alms-giving. Hugh was the uncle of Saint Hugh of Bonnevaux, who is also celebrated today. He showed piety and theological facility from a young age. and was an exceptional student in all his studies. While still a layman, Hugh was made a Canon of Valence. His piety was such ,that it was said of him, that he only knew one woman by sight.
At the Council of Avignon in 1080, he was elected Bishop of Grenoble, although he was not yet ordained. The See of Grenoble had fallen into a very poor state and Hugh was selected to be its Gregorian renovator. Conducted by a papal legate to Rome, Hugh was Ordained by Pope Gregory VII himself. Upon his return, he immediately set to the task of reforming the abuses in his new Diocese. When he had not succeeded, to his satisfaction, in countering abuse and fostering devotion after two years, he tried to resign his bishopric and enter the Benedictine Monastery at Cluny. However, the Pope ordered him to continue his Episcopal work.
For the rest of the 11th century, his Episcopate was marked by strife with Count Guigues III of Albon over the possession of Ecclesiastic lands. Hugh alleged that the Count had usurped the lands from the Bishopric of Grenoble with the help of Bishop Mallen of Grenoble. Only in 1099. an accord was finally reached between Hugh and Count Guigues The Count agreed to cede the disputed territories while Hugh admitted to the Count’s temporal authority within the vicinity of Grenoble.
Hugh was also instrumental in the foundation of the Carthusian Order. He received Bruno of Cologne, his own teacher and six of his companions in 1084, after seeing them under a banner of seven stars in a vision. Hugh installed the seven in a snowy and rocky Alpine location called Chartreuse. They founded a Monastery and devoted their lives to prayer and study, being often visited by Hugh, who was reported to have adopted much of their way of life. Hugh also founded the nearby Monastery at Chalais, which grew into an independent order.
St Hugh served his See for 52 years, although he had earnestly solicited Pope Innocent II for leave to resign his bishopric, that he might die in solitude but was never able to obtain his request. For the last forty years of his life, he was afflicted with almost continual headaches and pains in the stomach God was pleased to purify his soul by a lingering illness before He called him to Himself.
Some time before his death ,his memory became vague and cloudy for everything but his prayers; the psalter and the Lord’s Prayer, which he recited with great devotion, almost without intermission and he was said to have repeated the latter, three hundred times in one night. Being told that so constant an attention would increase his fever he said, “It is quite otherwise; by prayer I always find myself stronger.”
Hugh was Canonised on 22 April 1134 by Pope Innocent II, only two years after his death. During the French Wars of Religion the Huguenots burned his body.
Saint of the Day – 15 January – Saint Romedius of Nonsberg/theologians Hermit, Penitent., Pilgrim. Born in Thaur, Tyrol, Austria and died in the 4th Century in Salzburg, Austria of natural causes. Also known as – Romedio of Hohenwart, Romedio of Salzburg, Romedio of Sanzeno, Romedio of Thaur. Romedio. Additional Memorial – 1st Sunday in October (translation of relics). Patronages – against accidents, against bone diseases, against danger at sea, against fever, against fire, against floods, against hail, against headaches, against toothaches, of prisoners, theology students/theologians, travellers/pilgrims. Canonised on 24 July 1907 by Pope Pius X (cultus confirmation).
The Roman Martyrology states: “In the Val di Non in Trentino, St Romedius, an anchorite, who, having given his possessions to the Church, led a life of penance in the hermitage that still bears his name today.”
Romedius was the son and heir of the wealthy Count of Thaur, the lord of a castle near Innsbruck and owner of salt pans in the valley of the River Inn. After a pilgrimage to Rome, Romedius gave all his possessions to the Church, withdrawing into a hermitage in grottoes in the Val di Non. he was accompanied by two companions, Abraham and David.
A later date emerges from the history of his works and extensive research. It is most likely that Romedius came from the family of the Counts of Andechs , lived in the 11th century, gave up his fortune in Thaur and joined the then spreading mendicant movement. After a visit to the Bishop of Trento , he visited the Martyrs’ graves of Alexander , Martyrius and Sisinniusin Sanzeno. It is believed that he died at the age of 74.
Romedius is often depicted alongside or astride a bear. According to his hagiography he wanted to visit the friend of his youth, St Vigilius, Bishop of Trento (who died in 405) but his horse was torn to pieces by a wild bear. Romedius, however, had the bear bridled by his disciple David. The bear became docile and carried Romedius on its back to Trento.
Upon Romedius’ death, his body was laid to rest in a small tomb above his cave in the mountains, a site that was soon visited by pilgrims. The Sanctuary of San Romedio grew from the little Church that was built to venerate him, to a popular pilgrimage site. The Santuario di San Romedio is across the lake from Cles at the head of the Val di Non, above the village of Sanzeno. The Sanctuary where Romedius lived with his bear companion, is now a complex of several Churches, from the Romanesque period to the 20th century beyond a gateway on the forested slopes. Votive offerings of crutches line the walls of the narrow stone stairwell up to the highest chapel, said to mark the site of the Saint’s retreat.
His local cult, which consolidated itself in the course of the 11th century, was officially recognised in the twelfth by the Bishop of Trento. In 1795, permission was given for special offices in his name in the Diocese of Brixen, which at that time, included the Northern Tyrol. His cult remains popular in Trentino, Bavaria, and the Tyrol.
Romedius’ Bear In remembrance of this legend, in 1958 Italian Senator G. G. Gallarati Scotti, honorary member of the committee for the foundation of the World Wildlife Fund in Italy, purchased Charlie, a bear intended to be killed and donated it to the Sanctuary of San Romedius, in the Valle di Non.
Today, the Province of Trentino protects the last brown bears of the Alps in the Adamello-Brenta National Park and, near the Sanctuary, takes care of young bears born in captivity in Trentino.
In the work known as Illustrissimi, a collection of letters written by Pope John Paul I when he was Patriarch of Venice, Romedius’ bear is one of the “recipients” of the letters.
Saint of the Day – 3 August – St Aspren (1st Century) the first Bishop of Naples, Consecrated by St Peter as Bishop. Patronages – Archdiocese of Naples, Italy, against migraine. Also known as – Asprenato, Aspronas, Aspremo.
The Roman Martyrology states of him today: “At Naples, in Campania, St Aspren, Bishop, who was cured of a sickness by the Apostle St Peter and after being Baptised, was Consecrated as Bishop of that City.”
Naples boasts the Basilica of Saint Peter in Aram, which, according to tradition, was founded on the place where St.Peter baptised St Aspren,, the first Bishop of Naples. It also houses the Ara Petri, the Altar on which the Prince of the Apostles prayed and celebrated the Eucharist before going to Rome. The famous Basilica, which, over the centuries, has undergone various renovations, is so antique that Pope Clement VII (1523-1534) granted it the privilege of celebrating and hosting the Jubilee one year after that of Rome: this custom was maintained throughout the 16th century (1526, 1551, 1576). Inside, there is also a Chapel dedicated to Aspren, considered the founder of the primitive place of worship from which the present Basilica originated.
But under what circumstances did the Saint celebrated today become a Christian? Hagiography links his name to that of Candida la Vecchia, a Jewish woman who, during Saint Peter’s stay in Naples, begged him to cure her of a serious illness, promising to convert to Christianity. The Apostle healed her. And Candida, venerated as a Saint, decided to bring him a sick friend, our Aspren, who was in turn cured and converted. It is handed down that Peter himself Consecrated him Bishop and that among the acts of his episcopate there was the foundation of another paleo-Christian place of worship, dedicated to Santa Maria del Principio, later incorporated in today’s Basilica of Saint Restituta.
Among the documents of the first millennium that attest to his episcopal ministry is the Marmoreal Calendar of Naples, engraved in the 9th century. Aspren is invoked against migraine and venerated as the second Patron Saint of the capital of Campania, after Saint Januarius (and remembering that Santa Maria Assunta, Our Lady of the Assumption, to whom the Cathedral is dedicated, is officially the first Patroness of the City). Two historic Neapolitan Churches are named after him, namely Sant’Aspreno ai Crociferi (begun in 1633) and the older Sant’Aspreno al Porto, built where, according to tradition, the Saint’s dwelling was located: in a cave.
After Aspren’s death, numerous miracles were attributed to him and his sepulcher rested in the oratory of Santa Maria del Principio. John IV, Bishop of Naples translated Aspren’s relics to the Basilica of Santa Restituta, in the Chapel dedicated to Aspren . A silver bust of Aspren is found in Naples Cathedral.
Saint of the Day – 9 October – Saint Denis of Paris (Died c 258) and Companions, the First Bishop of Paris, Martyr, Missionary, Confessor. St Denis was Bishop of Paris (then Lutetia) in the third century and, together with his companions the Priest Rusticus and Deacon Eleutherius, was Martyred for his faith by decapitation. He is also known as Denis of France, Dennis, Denys, Dionysius. Patronages – against frenzy, against headaches, against hydrophobia or rabies, against strife, France, Paris, possessed people. The feast of Saint Denis was added to the Roman Calendar in the year 1568 by Pope Pius V, although it had been celebrated since at least the year 800. St Denis was for a time, confused with the writer St Dionysuis the Areopagite, now called Pseudo-Dionysius.
Denis is the most famous cephalophore in Christianiaty (a cephalophore [from the Greek for “head-carrier”] is a saint who is generally depicted carrying their own severed head. The decapitated Bishop picked up his head and walked several miles while preaching a sermon on repentance.
St Gregory of Tours states that Denis was Bishop of the Paris and was Martyred by being beheaded by a sword. The earliest document giving an account of his life and Martyrdom, the “Passio SS. Dionysii Rustici et Eleutherii” dates from c 600, is mistakenly attributed to the poet Venantius Fortunatus and is legendary.
Nevertheless, it appears from the Passio that Denis was sent from Italy to convert Gaul in the third century, forging a link with the “apostles to the Gauls” reputed to have been sent out with six other Missionary Bishops under the direction of Pope Fabian. There Denis was appointed first Bishop of Paris. The persecutions under Emperor Decius had all but dissolved the small Christian community at Lutetia (Paris). Denis, with his inseparable companions Rusticus and Eleutherius, who were Martyred with him, settled on the Île de la Cité in the River Seine. Roman Paris lay on the higher ground of the Left Bank, away from the river.
Denis and his companions were so effective in converting people that the pagan priests became alarmed over their loss of followers. At their instigation, the Roman Governor arrested the Missionaries. After a long imprisonment, Denis and two of his clergy were executed by beheading on the highest hill in Paris (now Montmartre), which was likely to have been a druidic holy place.
The Martyrdom of Denis and his companions is popularly believed to have given the site its current name, derived from the Latin Mons Martyrum “The Martyrs’ Mountain.”
After he was decapitated, Denis picked his head up and walked several miles from the summit of the hill, preaching a sermon on repentance the entire way, making him the most renowned cephalophores in hagiology. Of the many accounts of this Martyrdom, this is noted in detail in the Golden Legend and in Butler’s Lives Of The Saints.
The site where he stopped preaching and actually died was marked by a small shrine that developed into the Saint Denis Cathedral Basilica, which became the burial place for the Kings of France.
Montmartre’s heritage pays tribute in it’s own way to Saint Denis and you will find many famous landmarks commemorating the saint around the hill. You can marvel at the statue of Saint Denis, holding his head in the quiet square Suzanne Buisson. Or even walk in his steps on rue Mont-Saint Denis), which is said to follow the same route the Saint took after being decapitated.
Since at least the ninth century, the legends of Dionysius the Areopagite and Denis of Paris have often been confused. Around 814, Louis the Pious brought certain writings attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite to France and since then it became common among the French legendary writers to argue that Denis of Paris was the same Dionysius who was a famous convert and disciple of Saint Paul.
Saint of the Day – 15 October – Saint Teresa of Avila OCD (1515-1582) Doctor of the Church “Doctor of Prayer” Seraphic Virgin, Reverend Mother, Prioress.
St Teresa of Jesus, honoured by the Church as the “seraphic virgin,” virgo seraphica and reformer of the Carmelite Order, ranks first among women for wisdom and learning. She is called doctrix mystica, doctor of mystical theology; in a report to Pope Paul V the Roman Rota declared: “Teresa has been given to the Church by God as a teacher of the spiritual life. The mysteries of the inner mystical life which the holy Fathers propounded unsystematically and without orderly sequence, she has presented with unparalleled clarity.” Her writings are still the classic works on mysticism and from her, all later teachers have drawn, e.g., Francis de Sales, Alphonsus Liguori. Characteristic of her mysticism is the subjective-individualistic approach; there is little integration with the liturgy and social piety and thus, she reflects the spirit of the sixteenth and following centuries.
Teresa was born at Avila, Spain, in the year 1515. At the age of seven she set out for Africa to die for Christ but was brought back by her uncle. When she lost her mother at twelve, she implored Mary for her maternal protection. In 1533 she entered the Carmelite Order; for eighteen years she suffered physical pain and spiritual dryness. Under divine inspiration and with the approval of Pope Pius IV, she began the work of reforming the Carmelite Order. In spite of heavy opposition and constant difficulties, she founded thirty-two reformed convents.
Truly wonderful were the exterior and interior manifestations of her mystical union with God, especially during the last decade of her life. These graces reached a climax when her heart was transfixed (transverberatio cordis), an event that is commemorated in the Carmelite Order by a special feast on 27 August.
Indeed, Teresa was said to have been observed levitating during Mass on more than one occasion.
Teresa is regarded as one of the foremost writers on mental prayer, and her position among writers on mystical theology as unique. Her writings on this theme, stem from her personal experiences, thereby manifesting considerable insight and analytical gifts. Her definitions have been used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Teresa states: “Contemplative prayer, in my opinion is nothing other than a close sharing between friends. It means frequently taking time to be alone with Him whom we know loves us.” Throughout her writings, Teresa returns to the image of watering one’s garden as a metaphor for mystical prayer.
She practised great devotion to the foster-father of Jesus, whose cult was greatly furthered throughout the Church through her efforts. When dying, she often repeated the words: “Lord, I am a daughter of the Church!” Her holy body rests upon the high altar of the Carmelite church in Ala, Spain, her heart with its mysterious wound is reserved in a precious reliquary on the Epistle side of the altar.
Below are the statues of St Teresa at the Vatican, the first on the Colonnade and the second inside St Peter’s.
Saint of the Day – 26 December – St Stephen, the ProtoMartyr (c 05-c 34) – 26 December the Second Day in the Octave of Christmas
“As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Greek-speaking Christians complained about the Hebrew-speaking Christians, saying that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 6:1-5).
Acts of the Apostles says that Stephen was a man filled with grace and power, who worked great wonders among the people. Certain Jews, members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen, debated with Stephen but proved no match for the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke. They persuaded others to make the charge of blasphemy against him. He was seized and carried before the Sanhedrin.
In his speech, Stephen recalled God’s guidance through Israel’s history, as well as Israel’s idolatry and disobedience. He then claimed that his persecutors were showing this same spirit. “…you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors” (Acts 7:51b).
Stephen’s speech brought anger from the crowd. “But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ …They threw him out of the city and began to stone him. …As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ …’Lord, do not hold this sin against them’” (Acts 7:55-56, 58a, 59, 60b).
Saint of the Day – St Stephen, The First Martyr (c 05-c 34) – 26 December – Deacon, Preacher. the name “Stephen” – Stéphanos, meaning “wreath, crown” and by extension “reward, honour,” often given as a title rather than as a name. Patronages – against headaches, of brick layers, casket makers, coffin makers, deacons, altar servers, horses, masons, stone masons, Metz, France, Diocese of• Owensboro, Kentucky, Archdiocese of Toulouse, France, 92 cities. Attributes – stones, dalmatic, censer, miniature church, Gospel Book, martyr’s palm frond.
St Stephen was according to the Acts of the Apostles a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings. Accused of blasphemy, at his trial he made a long speech denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgement against him and was then stoned to death. His martyrdom was witnessed by Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee who would later himself become a follower of Jesus and known as Paul the Apostle.
The only primary source for information about Stephen is the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles. Stephen is mentioned in Acts 6 as one of the Greek-speaking Hellenistic Jews selected to participate as a deacon in the early Church by the eleven – before the twelfth was elected.
“Good King Wenceslaus went out, on the Feast of Stephen”. This is the Feast of St Stephen, the day after Christmas, when we commemorate the first disciple to die for Jesus.
In the Acts of the Apostles, St Luke praises St Stephen as “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit,” who “did great wonders and signs among the people” during the earliest days of the Church. Luke’s history of the period also includes the moving scene of Stephen’s death – witnessed by St Paul before his conversion – at the hands of those who refused to accept Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Stephen himself was a Jew who most likely came to believe in Jesus during the Lord’s ministry on earth. He may have been among the 70 disciples whom Christ sent out as missionaries, who preached the coming of God’s kingdom while travelling with almost no possessions. This spirit of detachment from material things continued in the early Church, in which St Luke says believers “had all things in common” and “would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” But such radical charity ran up against the cultural conflict between Jews and Gentiles, when a group of Greek widows felt neglected in their needs as compared to those of a Jewish background.
Stephen’s reputation for holiness led the Apostles to choose him, along with six other men, to assist them in an official and unique way as this dispute arose. Through the sacramental power given to them by Christ, the Apostles ordained the seven men as deacons and set them to work helping the widows.
As a deacon, Stephen also preached about Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament law and prophets. Unable to refute his message, some members of local synagogues brought him before their religious authorities, charging him with seeking to destroy their traditions. Stephen responded with a discourse recorded in the seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. He described Israel’s resistance to God’s grace in the past and accused the present religious authorities of “opposing the Holy Spirit” and rejecting the Messiah.
Before he was put to death, Stephen had a vision of Christ in glory. “Look,” he told the court, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
The council, however, dragged the deacon away and stoned him to death. “While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,’ records St. Luke in Acts 7. “Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Saint of the Day – 15 October – St Teresa of Jesus/of Avila (1515-1582) Virgin, Mystic, Ecstatic, Reformer, Apostle of Prayer, Writer, Doctor of the Church. Born as Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada at Avila, Old Castile, on 28 March 1515 – died at Alba de Tormes, 4 October 1582 of natural causes in the arms of her secretary and close friend Blessed Anne of Saint Bartholomew. Her relics are preserved at Alba – her heart shows signs of Transverberation (piercing of the heart), and is displayed, too. Her Body is incorrupt. Patronages: • sick people; against bodily ills or sickness • against headaches • against the death of parents • lace makers or lace workers • people in need of grace • people in religious orders • people ridiculed for their piety • World Youth Day 2011 • Amos, Canada, diocese of • Avellaneda-Lanús, Argentina, diocese of • Berzano di Tortona, Italy • Pozega, Croatia • Spain. Attributes – Habit of the Discalced Carmelites, Book and Quill, arrow-pierced heart. St Teresa was Beatified on 24 April 1614 by Pope Paul V and Canonised on 12 March 1622, only forty years after her death, by Pope Gregory XV. Tradition associate Saint Teresa with the Infant Jesus of Prague with claims of former ownership and devotion. On 27 September 1970 St Teresa, was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. Her books, which include her autobiography (The Life of Teresa of Jesus) and her seminal work El Castillo Interior (trans.: The Interior Castle), are an integral part of Spanish Renaissance literature as well as Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practices. She also wrote Camino de Perfección (trans.: The Way of Perfection).
The third child of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda by his second wife, Doña Beatriz Davila y Ahumada, who died when the Teresa was in her fourteenth year, Teresa was brought up by her saintly father, a lover of serious books and a tender and pious mother. After her death and the marriage of her eldest sister, Teresa was sent for her to the Augustinian nuns at Avila but owing to illness she left at the end of eighteen months and for some years remained with her father and occasionally with other relatives, notably an uncle who made her acquainted with the Letters of St Jerome, which determined her to adopt the religious life, not so much through any attraction towards it, as through a desire of choosing the safest course. Unable to obtain her father’s consent she left his house unknown to him to enter the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at Avila, which then counted 140 nuns. The wrench from her family caused her a pain which she ever afterwards compared to that of death. However, her father at once yielded and Teresa took the habit.
Teresa lived in an age of exploration as well as political, social and religious upheaval. It was the 16th century, a time of turmoil and reform. She was born before the Protestant Reformation and died almost 20 years after the closing of the Council of Trent.
The gift of God to Teresa in and through which she became holy and left her mark on the Church and the world is threefold: she was a woman; she was a contemplative; she was an active reformer.
As a woman, Teresa stood on her own two feet, even in the man’s world of her time. She was “her own woman,” entering the Carmelites despite strong opposition from her father. She is a person wrapped not so much in silence as in mystery. Beautiful, talented, outgoing, adaptable, affectionate, courageous, enthusiastic, she was totally human. Like Jesus, she was a mystery of paradoxes: wise, yet practical; intelligent, yet much in tune with her experience; a mystic, yet an energetic reformer; a holy woman, a womanly woman.
On St Peter’s Day in 1559, Teresa became firmly convinced that Jesus Christ presented Himself to her in bodily form, though invisible. These visions lasted almost uninterrupted for more than two years. In another vision, a seraph drove the fiery point of a golden lance repeatedly through her heart, causing an ineffable spiritual-bodily pain.
I saw in his hand a long spear of gold and at the point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it…
This vision was the inspiration for one of Bernini’s most famous works, the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa at Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome.
The memory of this episode served as an inspiration throughout the rest of her life and motivated her lifelong imitation of the life and suffering of Jesus, epitomised in the motto usually associated with her: Lord, either let me suffer or let me die.
Teresa was a woman “for God,” a woman of prayer, discipline and compassion. Her heart belonged to God. Her ongoing conversion was an arduous lifelong struggle, involving ongoing purification and suffering. She was misunderstood, misjudged and opposed in her efforts at reform. Yet she struggled on, courageous and faithful; she struggled with her own mediocrity, her illness, her opposition. And in the midst of all this she clung to God in life and in prayer. Her writings on prayer and contemplation are drawn from her experience: powerful, practical and graceful. She was a woman of prayer; a woman for God.
Teresa was a woman “for others.” Though a contemplative, she spent much of her time and energy seeking to reform herself and the Carmelites, to lead them back to the full observance of the primitive Rule. She founded over a half-dozen new monasteries. She traveled, wrote, fought—always to renew, to reform. In her self, in her prayer, in her life, in her efforts to reform, in all the people she touched, she was a woman for others, a woman who inspired and gave life.
Her final illness overtook her on one of her journeys from Burgos to Alba de Tormes. She died in 1582, just as Catholic nations were making the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, which required the removal of 5–14 October from the calendar. She died either before midnight of 4 October or early in the morning of 15 October which is celebrated as her feast day. Her last words were: “My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may your will be done. O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another.”
Her writings, especially the Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, have helped generations of believers. She and St Catherine of Siena were the first women so honoured as Doctors of the Church.
Interesting fact – her Spiritual Director was St Francis Borgia whose Feast Day we celebrated on 10 October.
Saint of the Day – 2 December – St Bibiana (Died c 361) also known as Vivian/Viviana (4th century died c361) Virgin, Martyr. Patronages – of parishes, epilepsy, epileptics, hangovers, headaches, insanity, mentally ill people, single laywomen, torture/abuse victims.
According to legend, Bibiana was the daughter of a former prefect, Flavianus, who was banished by Julian the Apostate. His wife Dafrosa, and two daughters, Demetria and Bibiana, were also persecuted by Julian. Dafrosa and Demetria died a natural death and were buried by Bibiana in their own house but Bibiana was tortured and died as a result of her sufferings. Two days after her death a priest named John buried Bibiana near her mother and sister in her home, the house being later turned into a church. It is evident that the legend seeks to explain in this way the origin of the church and the presence in it of the bodies of the above-mentioned confessors.
An alternate account says that in the year 363, Emperor Julian made Apronianus Governor of Rome. Bibiana suffered in the persecution started by him. She was the daughter of Christians, Flavian, a Roman knight, and Dafrosa, his wife. Flavian was tortured and sent into exile, where he died of his wounds. Dafrosa was beheaded, and their two daughters, Bibiana and Demetria, were stripped of their possessions and left to suffer poverty. However, they remained in their house, spending their time in fasting and prayer. Apronianus, seeing that hunger and want had no effect upon them, summoned them. Demetria, after confessing her faith, fell dead at the feet of the tyrant. Bibiana was reserved for greater sufferings. She was placed in the hands of a wicked woman called Rufina, who in vain endeavored to seduce her. She used blows as well as persuasion, but the Christian virgin remained faithful. Enraged at the constancy of this saintly virgin, Apronianus ordered her to be tied to a pillar and beaten with scourges, laden with lead plummets, until she expired. The saint endured the torments with joy, and died under the blows inflicted by the hands of the executioner. Her body was then put in the open air to be torn apart by wild animals, yet none would touch it. After two days she was buried.