Martyrs of Cilicia – 12 Saints: A group of Christians who ministered to other Christians who were condemned to work the mines of Cilicia in the persecutions of Maximus. They were arrested, tortured and martryed by order of the governor Firmilian. • Daniel • Elias • Isaias • Jeremy • Samuel The group also includes the three known have been sentenced to the mines – • Pamphilus • Paul of Jamnia • Valens of Jerusalem and those who were exposed as Christians as a result of these murders – • Julian of Cappadocia • Porphyrius of Caesarea • Seleucius of Caesarea • Theodule the Servant They were martyred in 309 in Cilicia, Asia Minor (in modern Turkey).
“Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened?” – Mark 8:17
REFLECTION – “I know, O Lord God Almighty, that I owe You, as the chief duty of my life, the devotion of all my words and thoughts, to Yourself… In our want we shall pray for the things we need. We shall bring an untiring energy to the study of Your prophets and apostles and we shall knock for entrance at every gate of hidden knowledge. But it is Yours to answer the prayer, to grant the thing we seek, to open the door on which we beat (Lk 11,9). Our minds are born with dull and clouded vision, our feeble intellect is penned within the barriers of an impassable ignorance concerning Your mysteries. But the study of Your revelation, elevates our soul to the comprehension of sacred truth and submission to the faith, is the path to a certainty beyond the reach of unassisted reason. And, therefore, we look to Your support for the first trembling steps of this undertaking, to Your aid, that it may gain strength and prosper. We look to You, to give us the fellowship of that Spirit who guided the prophets and apostles, that we may take their words in the sense in which they spoke and assign its right shade of meaning, to every utterance… Grant us, therefore, precision of language, soundness of argument, grace of style, loyalty to truth. Enable us to utter the things that we believe.” – St Hilary (315-368) Bishop of Poitiers, Father and Doctor of the Church – The Trinity, I, 37-38
PRAYER – God of mercy, teach us to live as You have ordained. Help us to follow Your commandments with courage and steadfast devotion. Let our Saviour, true Light of the world, be our master. Fill us with the fire of the Holy Spirit, that we grow in holiness. Grant blessed Trinity, that by the prayers of Bl Philippa Mareri, we may strive towards our heavenly home. Through Jesus our Lord, in unity with the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen
Saint of the Day – 16 February – Blessed Philippa Mareri OSC (c 1195-1236) Religious Nun of the Poor Clares, foundress of the monastery of Franciscan Sisters of Saint Philippa Mareri of the Poor Clares, Penitent and disciple of the teachings of St Francis of Assisi. Born in c 1195 in Mareri, Rieti, Italy and died on 16 February 1236 in Borgo San Pietro, Rieti, Italy of natural causes aged 41. Also known as Filippa Mareria. Patronage – Sulmona, Italy. Her heart is incorrupt.
Blessed Philippa Mareri, who belonged to the illustrious family of the Mareri, saw the light of day at the castle of her parents near Rieti in Italy, toward the close of the twelfth century. At a very early age she was the favourite of all who knew her, not only because of her natural gifts but principally because of her steady advancement in perfection. As a young woman she lived quietly at home, devoted to prayer and the cultivation of her high mental endowments. She took particular pleasure in reading the Holy Scriptures and studying the Latin language, in which she became very proficient.
About this time, St Francis often visited the valley of Rieti, where he established several convents and sometimes called at the home of the devout Mareri. His forceful admonitions, filled with holy simplicity and unction and his severe life of penance, made a deep impression on Philippa.
It was not long before Blessed Philippa Mareri resolved to imitate our holy Father, foregoing wealth and consecrating herself entirely to God. She rejected a proposal to marry with the words:
“I already have a spouse, the noblest and the greatest, Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Neither the remonstrances of her parents, nor the ridicule of her brother Thomas, had any effect in changing her mind. She cut off her hair, donned a very coarse garmen, and with several companions withdrew to a cave in the rocks of a nearby mountain.
Her austere life of penance and intimate union with God changed the resentment and mockery of her family into admiration. Thomas visited the mountain recess to ask Philippa’s forgiveness and placed at her disposal, the Church of St Peter and an adjacent convent once occupied by the Benedictines, over which he was the patron. Full of joy, the young community took up its abode there, accepting the place as a gift from heaven. They lived according to the rule of St Clare under the direction of Blessed Roger of Todi, to whom St Francis had entrusted the care of their souls.
The new foundation flourished remarkably and many of the noblest young women joined their ranks. Philippa’s excellent example and loving manner were particularly instrumental in bringing about these results. Although she filled the capacity of Superior, she was the humblest member of the community. She had no equal in zeal for prayer and mortification, and, like St Francis and Blessed Roger, she held poverty in the highest esteem. Blessed Philippa Mareri exhorted her sisters to have no care for the morrow and more than once, in times of need, her trust in God was signally rewarded with miraculous assistance.
Blessed Philippa Mareri had lived and laboured and made sacrifices for God for many a year, when it was revealed to her that the time of her death was at hand. She was seized with a fatal illness. Gathering her sisters around her deathbed, she bade them farewell and exhorted them to persevere in their efforts toward perfection and to remain united in sisterly love. Having received the last sacraments at the hands of Blessed Roger, she addressed to her sisters the words of the Apostle:
“The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
She then expired quietly and went home, on 16 February 1236.
Striking miracles occurred on the very day of her burial and many more have occurred since then throughout the years. Shortly after her death Pope Innocent IV approved the veneration paid to her and on 30 April 1806 by Pope Pius VII (cultus confirmation; decree of heroic virtues) -renewed the approbation. Blessed Philippa’s incorrupt heart is preserved today in a silver reliquary, while her other remains are preserved in the Monastery of Borgo San Pietro in the Valle del Salto. Today, nearly eight centuries after her death, the devotion to the Saint and the Pilgrimage Site has kept on growing, not only in her homeland but also in many other countries and other continents.
The Grotta di Santa Philippa is the place where the noble woman, belonging to the important Mareri family, took refuge, when she abandoned luxury and comfort to follow her faith. Located near Petrella Salto, it is immersed in the green nature of the Valley. Here Philippa Mareri took refuge in the thirteenth century with some companions, to escape the pressures of family members who opposed her choice of religious life. Today the cave has been transformed into a graceful and simple rock church, the destination of many faithful and reachable via the pilgrim’s path. Inside there is a statue of the saint and a marble altar covered by a wooden canopy.
Notre-Dame de l’ Epine / Our Lady of the Thorn, Chalons-sur-Marne, France (1400) – 16 February:
On the night of the Feast of the Annunciation, 24 March in the year 1400, some shepherds tending their flocks were attracted by a bright light coming from the Chapel of Saint John the Baptist near Chalons, France. As they approached the light, they saw that it was actually a thorn bush fully engulfed in flames and they discovered a statue of the Blessed Virgin standing unharmed in the midst of the flames. In fact, though the fire burned brightly, the branches and leaves of the thorn bush were unaffected by the flames. The miracle continued all that night and into the next day and news of the miracle spread quickly. Mobs of people crowded around the burning bush that was so reminiscent of the one witnessed by Moses on Mount Horeb. The Bishop of Chalons, Charles of Poiters, also witnessed the burning bush and the miraculous statue – both still unaffected by the fire. When the flames finally did die down, the bishop reverently took the statue and carried it in his own hands to the nearby Chapel of Saint John. On the very site of the miracle, construction of a Church was begun for the enshrinement of the miraculous statue. Since the Church was built so rapidly – in a little over 24 years – a charming local legend claims that angels continued the work at night after the labourers had left for home. Our Lady of the Thorn (Notre Dame de l’ Epine) became a place of pilgrimage very rapidly. Today, a minor Basilica, the Shrine proved to be so beautiful that the people considered it a worthy place to venerate the Blessed Virgin. The flamboyant Gothic church boasts majestic great doors, a splendid rosette decorating the principle entrance and two chiselled stone spires, rise high and imposing on the plain in Champagne. During the terrible French Revolution, the statue of Our Lady of Thorns was removed from the main altar and hidden for safekeeping. After it had ended, the statue was brought back out for veneration. Many miracles have also been reported at the Shrine, many verified by physicians. The beautiful Basilica of Our Lady of the Thorn has been recognised by several Popes, including Pope Calixtis III, Pius II and Gregory XV. Pope Leo XIII ordered the solemn coronation of the miraculous statue, saying, “Yes, Our Lady of the Thorn will be crowned in my name. Prepare for her a diadem worthy of the Mother of God and the people whom she protects…”
It is a place of grandeur where Christian souls can expand in adoration of the Son of God and many are the pilgrims of all descriptions, who have visited the Shrine over the years, including Saint Joan of Arc in 1429.
Martyrs of Cilicia – 12 saints: A group of Christians who ministered to other Christians who were condemned to work the mines of Cilicia in the persecutions of Maximus. They were arrested, tortured and martryed by order of the governor Firmilian. • Daniel • Elias • Isaias • Jeremy • Samuel The group also includes the three known have been sentenced to the mines – • Pamphilus • Paul of Jamnia • Valens of Jerusalem and those who were exposed as Christians as a result of these murders – • Julian of Cappadocia • Porphyrius of Caesarea • Seleucius of Caesarea • Theodule the Servant They were martyred in 309 in Cilicia, Asia Minor (in modern Turkey).