Saint of the Day – 19 February – Blessed Alvarez of Cordova OP (c 1350–c 1430) Priest of the Order of Preachers, Confessor, Ascetic, Royal Advisor and Tutor, founder of many Churches and Convents, miracle-worker – born in c 1350 in either Lisbon, Portugal or Cordova, Spain (sources vary) and died in c1430 at Escalaceli near Cordova, Spain of natural causes, aged around 80 and is buried there. By his preaching and contemplation of the Lord’s Passion he spread the practice of the Way of the Cross, throughout the West.
Blessed Alvarez is claimed by both Spain and Portugal. He received the habit in the Convent of Saint Paul in Cordova in 1368 and had been preaching there for some time in Castile and Andalusia, when Saint Vincent Ferrer began preaching in Catalonia. Having gone to Italy and the Holy Land on a pilgrimage, Alvarez returned to Castile and preached the crusade against the infidels. He was spiritual advisor to the Queen-mother of Spain, Catherine daughter of John of Gaunt and tutor to her son who would become King John II. Alvarez had the work of preparing the people spiritually, for the desperate effort to banish the Moors from Spain. He also opposed the Avignon Pope Peter de Luna nd encouraged all to resist him.
Blessed Alvarez is remembered and honoured as a builder of Churches and Convents, an activity which was symbolic of the work he did in the souls of those among whom he preached. He founded, in one place, a Convent to shelter a famous image of Our Lady, which had been discovered in a miraculous manner. Near Cordova he built the famous Convent of Scala Coeli, a haven of regular observance. It had great influence for many years. His building enterprises were often aided by the angels, who, during the night, carried wood and stones to spots convenient for the workmen.
The austerities of Alvarez were all the more remarkable in that they were not performed by a hermit but by a man of action. He spent the night in prayer, as Saint Dominic had done; he wore a hairshirt and a penitential chain and he begged alms in the streets of Cordova, for the building of his churches, despite the fact, that he had great favour at court and could have obtained all the money he needed from the Queen. He had a deep devotion to the Passion and had scenes of the Lord’s sufferings made into small oratories in the garden of Scala Coeli.
On one occasion, when there was no food for the community but one head of lettuce, left from the night before, Blessed Alvarez called the community together in the refectory, said the customary prayers and sent the porter to the gate. There, the astonished brother found a stranger, leading a mule; the mule was loaded with bread, fish, wine and all things needed for a good meal. The porter turned to thank the benefactor and found that he had disappeared.
At another time, Blessed Alvarez was overcome with pity, at the sight of a dying man who lay untended in the street. Wrapping the man in his mantle, he started home with the sufferer and one of the brothers asked what he was carrying. “A poor sick man,” replied Alvarez. But when they opened the mantle, there was only a large Crucifix in his arms. This Crucifix is still preserved at Scala Coeli.
Blessed Alvarez died and was buried at Scala Coeli. An attempt wads made later to remove the relics to Cordova, but it could not be done because violent storms began each time the journey was resumed and stopped when the body was returned to its original resting place.
Blessed Alvarez founded Escalaceli (Ladder of Heaven), a Dominican house of strict observance in the mountains around Cordova. It became a well known centre of piety and learning. Alvarez spent his days there preaching, teaching, begging alms in the streets and spending his nights in prayer. In the gardens of the house, he set up a series of oratories with images of the Holy Lands and Passion, similar to modern Stations of the Cross.
A bell in the Chapel of Blessed Alvarez, in the Convent of Cordova, rings of itself when anyone in the Convent, or of special note in the Order, is about to die (Benedictines, Dorcy).
Alvarez was Beatified on 22 September 1741 At St Peter’s by Pope Benedict XIV.
Notre Dame-de-Bonne Nouvelle / Our Lady of Good Tidings, Lempdes, France (1500’s) – 18 February:
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Good Tidings, near Rouen, where a great number of people are seen, particularly on Saturdays.”
It was on 23 December 1563, when the Bishop of Lucon, Jean-Baptiste Tiercelin, consecrated the Church under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin, Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle. This first Chapel came into the world in the midst of religious convulsions that were then taking place in Switzerland, Germany and England, by the leaders of the ‘Reformation’ and must necessarily be seen, as an action bravely going against the tide. The religious wars that began raging in France ten years after its erection, began to be another reason for some concern for faithful Catholics but the pilgrimages to the Church of Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle continued undisturbed. From time immemorial, there had been venerated at Notre Dame a Statue of the Blessed Virgin, holding in her arm the Infant Jesus. Many went to her in procession, especially children, who came each year to ask Mary for perseverance after their first Communion. The revolutionary turmoil in France, which was to take the throne and the altar, could not leave behind the parish of Our Lady of Good Tidings. In 1790 the National Assembly decreed a new law in which the Church of Our Lady of Good Tidings was dissolved. As the Priest, Fr M Fabre, had the courage to refuse the oath of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, he was thrown into the street. A short time later, on 22 May 1791, the Abbot Fourquet de Damalis, convened in the Church an assembly of the faithful and there were very many who responded. This occurred under the noses of twelve national guardsmen and so the Police Commissioner, a man named Cafin, responded there quickly. He asked the Abbot why there was such a meeting and the Abbot answered him, that he was explaining to the faithful the decrees of the National Assembly for the public good. The Police Commissioner accepted the explanation and the meeting, having been perfectly peaceful, the police commissioner was obliged to agree to the monthly meetings and record it in his minutes. One might think that the worship would be suspended at Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle during the Terror but we have evidence to the contrary. As at Chartres, a great number of the faithful remained active and opposed the removal of the sacred ornaments of the Church and defended their Priests and eager to fulfil their religious duties, they were not to be intimidated by the fear of imprisonment and even death. From the registry of marriages and baptisms, including a few that date back to 1793, we know that there were religious ceremonies such as baptisms and weddings held there secretly, sometimes in an oratory, sometimes in the Church. In the year 1818, a severe epidemic was ravaging the country. The faithful vowed, with the agreement of their Bishop, to go in procession to Our Lady of Good Tidings and celebrate in perpetuity the feast of the Visitation, which was the feast of the Chapel. The procession took place and God quickly put an end to the scourge of the plague. At about that time, a young boy began making regular visits to the Church of Our Lady of Good Tidings, who was the patroness of the village. He was a poor boy materially, for Lempdes was one of the poorer villages in France and he had been born into a peasant family, that was struggling to eke out a living in the wreck of post-revolutionary France. He kept the faith and when he grew up, Jean Baptiste Lamy was Ordained a Priest, eventually becoming the first Archbishop of Sana Fe, New Mexico.
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