Maria Santissima Scala del Paradiso / Holy Mary, Ladder to Paradise, Noto, Siracusa, Sicily, Italy (1498) and Memorials of the Saints

Finding of the Body of St Stephen, Protomartyr

Maria Santissima Scala del Paradiso / Holy Mary, Ladder to Paradise, Noto, Siracusa, Sicily, Italy (1498) – 3 August:

Local tradition holds that Angels frescoed the image of the Madonna, Ladder to Paradise, on a rock wall in the countryside before St. Corrado di Fuori’s arrival in 1340 and, that it was discovered there on 3 August 1498. However, the Diocese of Noto, of which the Madonna della Scala is the Patron, suggests that an unknown artist created the fresco in the late 1500s or early 1600s, a period more in keeping with its style.

In any case, by the time of the earthquake that destroyed the City of Noto on 11 January 1693, popular devotion had grown around the image, surrounding it with votive lamps, ex votos left in thanksgiving for answered prayers, and eventually, an Oratory. The earthquake demolished the Chapel but the image remained intact.

In 1708, a group of Carmelite Hermits took over the site and undertook the building of another Church, which was blessed the following year. In 1712, Ven. Girolamo Terzo, recently appointed the group’s Superior, hired an expert to detach the fresco from its rock and arranged its spectacular transfer to the church, pulled by a team of untamed oxen. Ven. Girolamo promoted devotion to the Madonna of the Ladder by distributing copies of the image on evangelical visits throughout the region.

With a reputation for cures and other miracles, the Hermitage became a place of pilgrimage, particularly on the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, 8 September.
The Sanctuary suffered damage during World War I. Afterwards it was restored and in 1919 the Catholic Church gave the Madonna, Ladder to Paradise, her own liturgical feast day, 3 August. An annual festa on this date draws the people of Noto to the Shrine seven miles distant, where after Mass in the Carmelite Chapel a statuary version of the image goes in procession through all the neighbouring districts.

The image of the “Ladder to Paradise” echoes the story of Jacob (Genesis 28:12) and St John Climacus’s Ladder of Ascent, a guide to the spiritual life written in Greek in the 600s, which became popular among Western religious after its translation into Latin in the 1500s (Scala Paradisi). Here, the Virgin is identified with the way to heaven because of her role in bringing Christ to humanity and her ongoing help to all who follow Him.

St Abibas
St Aspren (1st Century) Bishop of Naples

Blessed Augustine Gazotich OP (1262-1323) Bishop of Lucera, Croatia, Of the Order of Preachers. He was also noted for being the guide for Dante Alighieri as the poet travelled through Croatia. His reputation for personal holiness remained noted long after his death; this resulted in Pope Innocent XII confirming the late Bishop’s beatification in 1700.

St Dalmatius
St Euphronius of Autun
St Gamaliel
St Gaudentia
Bl Godfrey of Le Mans
Bl Gregory of Nonantula
St Hermellus
St Nicodemus
St Senach of Clonard (Died 6th Century) One of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland
St Trea of Ardtree

St Waltheof of Melrose O.Cist. (c 1095-1159) Monk, Abbot, Apostle of charity, Mystic.
His Life:

Martyrs of Vercelli – 4 saints (below)-

Martyred in the Spanish Civil War:
Biandrés Avelino Gutiérrez Moral
Bl Antonio Isidoro Arrué Peiró
Bl Eleuterio Mancho López
Bl Geronimo Limón Márquez
Bl Patricio Beobide Cendoya
The Story of these around 10000 Martyrs of Spain:


Memorials of the Saints – 3 August

St Abibas
St Anthony the Roman
St Aspren of Naples
Bl Augustine Gazotich OP (1262-1323)
Bl Benno of Metz
St Dalmatius
St Euphronius of Autun
St Gamaliel
St Gaudentia
Bl Godfrey of Le Mans
Bl Gregory of Nonantula
St Hermellus
St Nicodemus
St Senach of Clonard
St Trea of Ardtree
St Waltheof of Melrose O.Cist. (c 1095-1159)

Martyrs of Vercelli – 4 saints (below)-
Martyred in the Spanish Civil War:
BlAndrés Avelino Gutiérrez Moral
Bl Antonio Isidoro Arrué Peiró
Bl Eleuterio Mancho López
Bl Geronimo Limón Márquez
Bl Patricio Beobide Cendoya
The Story of these around 10000 Martyrs:

Posted in MORNING Prayers

One Minute Reflection – 3 August

One Minute Reflection – 3 August

“Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”…..Matthew 13:49-50

REFLECTION – “Never forget that there are only two philosophies to rule your life:  the one of the cross, which starts with the fast and ends with the feast.   The other of Satan, which starts with the feast and ends with the headache.” ..― Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

never forget - ven fulon sheen

PRAYER – Help me Lord, to listen to Your word and live by it, so that I may be counted among the good ones whom Your angels will choose for eternal happiness.   Let me accept the reality of good and evil living side by side in this world.   And let me not be scandalised if the situation is not different also within Your Church in this world.   Holy Martyrs of Spain , pray for us!  Amen

holy martyrs of the spanish civil war - pray for us

Posted in MARTYRS, SAINT of the DAY

Saints of the Day – 3 August – The Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War 1931-1939

Saints of the Day – 3 August – The Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War 1931-1939

Fifty thousand Spanish people attended the Beatification ceremony of 498 Martyrs, victims of religious persecution in 1930’s Spain. These 498 people were killed only for their faith in Jesus Christ and their ideals, their killing being part of the anti-Catholic plan of the Republican government in power since 1931. The figures of this persecution are beyond comprehension and a complete and hate-filled attack on all Catholics whilst the world watched the violence: 13 Bishops, 4,154 Priests and Seminarians, 2,365 Religious, 283 Nuns and about 4,000 Laymen killed for helping or hiding Nuns or Priests.


As Monsignor Vicente Carcel Orti, the Spanish historian who has been living in Rome for forty years and who worked for the Curia, points out, the Spanish Church did not seek any confrontation with the Republic, but was persecuted in spite of her neutrality. The government persecuted the Church in legislative terms, while Republican extremists used violence against people and things. Anti-clerical violence was unleashed by Freemasons and Communists. Persecution started long before the civil war. According to Monsignor Carcel Orti, the shameful history of the Spanish Republic, a puppet in the hands of the Stalinist regime, has been concealed on account of its follow-up: the long winter of Franco’s dictatorship has, in a way, justified a distorted and mythicized reading of those tragic years.

This not too-long and highly informative interview with the Spanish historian is meant to throw light on this dramatic period in the history of the Spanish Church in order to achieve a better understanding of what is going on in present-day Spain.

Twentieth-century Spain was a nation of Martyrs.   What was the political and ideological context in which the persecution of the Church and the martyrdom of believers occurred?

MONSIGNOR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:  It was a slow process which began with a great anticlerical movement in the 19th century.   In 19th century Spain the Church was closely linked to the monarchy by means of concordats.   Catholicism was, in practice, the state religion, like the Orthodox religion in Greece and Romania and Anglicanism in England. In the 1920’s King Alphonse XIII handed power over to Primo de Rivera, who set up a military dictatorship (we are talking about the age of dictatorships: there was Mussolini in Italy, Stalin in Russia and Hitler in Germany).   The military regime, on the one hand, dissolved parliament, trade unions and political parties;  on the other hand it ushered in a period of security and economic growth, through public works amongst other things. Unfortunately economic growth came to a sudden halt with the 1929 world crisis.   The following year the Republicans won the municipal elections.   Thus General Primo de Rivera relinquished his power while the king left the country, though without abdicating. It was under these circumstances that the Republicans seized power on April 14th, 1931, and proclaimed the Republic.

Why did the Republic persecute the Church and Catholic believers?

MSGR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:  The Republicans had built up so much hatred for the monarchy and everything relating to it, the Church included, that, once they seized power, they began to hit their enemies.   Their first and easiest target was the Church, being defenseless.    The new regime made laws against the Church; in the meantime anarchists, socialists and Communists began to use violence against people and things.

What was the role of Freemasonry in this anti-Catholic campaign?

MSGR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:  Freemasonry played a key role in the anti-Catholic campaign since Freemasons were present in political institutions, in the government and the “Cortes” (the Spanish parliament), where they had at least 183 deputies.   Spanish Freemasonry, therefore, played a major role in the making of anti-Catholic laws and in the defamatory campaign against the Church.

What kind of persecution was the Church faced with from 1931 to 1936?

MSGR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:  As historians have ascertained, a growing number of measures against the Catholic Church and religious practice were taken between 1931 and 1936. These oppressive laws aimed at a radical and antidemocratic conception of the separation between Church and State.   Numberless examples could be quoted:  the Jesuits were dissolved in January 1932;  in May 1933 a law against ecclesiastical property deprived the Church of all her possessions, which were handed over to civil authorities; a law was passed against the teaching of religion in schools, and the clergy was forbidden to teach. Violent persecution proper began in 1934 with the “Turon martyrs,” who have already been canonised and many other believers murdered during the Communist Revolution of the Asturias, when priests, religious and seminarians, 37 in all, were killed and 58 churches were burned.   After 1936 in all the main cities, cathedrals, religious communities and parish churches were attacked, ransacked and burned.   These persecutions aimed at erasing all traces of Catholic tradition in Spain.   Hatred for the faith went even beyond murders and found expression in thousands of sacrilegious acts: tabernacles were emptied, consecrated particles were eaten, shot at, strewn in the streets and trodden on; churches were used as stables, altars were demolished, priests and nuns were held at gunpoint in the attempt to force them to recant their faith.   Let us remember that persecutions started years before the beginning of the civil war, and the Church could be accused of supporting Franco’s Falangists, referred to as “rebels.”

But wasn’t the Church hostile to the Republican government?

MSGR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:  Spanish bishops recognised the legitimate Republican government from the start.   The problem, however, was that the Republican authorities had always been openly hostile to Catholics.   After the events of the Asturias, in the summer of 1936, socialists, Communists and anarchists started the most violent persecution in the history of Spain, aimed at the physical elimination of the Church, of both people and things; this persecution lasted until 1939.

Could you quote any figures?

MSGR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:  Albeit incomplete, the figures are impressive:  18 bishops, 4,184 between priests and seminarians, 283 nuns and about 4,000 laymen were killed for helping or hiding priests or nuns. It must be emphasized that in the part of the country occupied by Franco’s troops, no harm was done to the clergy nor were the churches destroyed.

Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War

Some critics of Franco say that he had 16 Basque Priests executed?

MSGR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:  It is true that when the nationalist troops entered Bilbao, 16 priests were shot, not because they were priests but for political reasons with other people.   I have found the documentary evidence of this along with the witness of the bishop who had asked those priests to refrain from being involved in political activities. Such political activities triggered off Franco’s repression, which also involved 16 priests. When the Pope learned about this, he immediately sent a telegram to Franco, who promised that events like that would never happen again.   The martyrdom of priests, however, only occurred in the “red” areas.   In addition, the Republicans destroyed churches and monasteries (in my diocese, the diocese of Valencia, over 1000 churches and other sacred buildings were destroyed).


When did the Beatification causes of the Spanish Martyrs begin?

MSGR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:  At the end of the civil war in 1939, the Holy See demanded that all information about the persecution available to parishes and dioceses be collected. Once all the necessary material had been collected, bishops gradually started the diocesan phase of the beatification cases.   These cases began in the 1940’s and continued into the 1950’s.   At the end of the diocesan phase, all documents were sent to Rome for the “Roman” phase, to be held by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.   Yet Paul VI stopped the cases, as he thought it would be best to wait until fifty years had passed from those dramatic events.   Also, he posed a condition:  Spain was to have a democratic government (the military regime was still in power in 1960’s Spain).   At the beginning of John Paul II’s pontificate Spain was already a democracy;  the Spaniards therefore asked the Pope to proceed with the beatification cases but he did not comply with their request, since fewer than fifty years had passed since the end of the civil war.  John Paul II waited until 1987 to celebrate the first beatification case of martyrs who were victims of religious persecution (three Carmelite nuns from Guadalajara).   This marked the beginning of the beatifications of our martyrs.   On October 18th we celebrated sixteen beatifications, raising 979 martyrs to the altars.   As far as I know, the Congregation is now examining another 2000 cases so that 2000 martyrs will probably be beatified in six or seven years’ time.

The Church has sometimes been accused of opening up an old sore with the Beatification of the Martyrs of the civil wa?

MSGR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:  It is a specious dispute with a strong ideological and political orientation.  The victims beatified and canoniSed have never been referred to as “martyrs of the civil war,” but victims of religious persecution;  the Church has always paid tribute to martyrs of faith and always will.   Civil and military institutions commemorate “soldiers killed in war” or “victims of political repression,” both on the Republican and on the Nationalist sides but this doesn’t mean opening up an old sore, even though political parties sometimes clearly exploit past events.

How can these Martyrs become a mark of reconciliation?

MSGR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:   Nowadays the word “martyr” is abused; in common speech it is used in several senses, but its original and most proper use refers to someone suffering or dying for God’s sake, bearing witness to their faith, forgiving and praying for their executioners, as Jesus Christ did on the cross. Others can be called “heroes” or “victims” for various causes, sometimes questionable, but are referred to as “martyrs,” since this word is abused, being extended to those suffering for somebody or something.

“Christian martyrs” have no ideological or political motivation except their faith in God and love of their neighbors.   These martyrs never waged or fomented any war; they were never involved in party strife.   They brought an everlasting message of peace and love, which lightens our faith and feeds our hope.

The Beatification of these martyrs coincides with the Spanish Parliament’s decision to commemorate the victims of Franco’s regime.  Who were they?

MSGR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:  They were people killed in the civil war and in the ensuing wave of repression.   This involved the winners’ ideological enemies.   Franco’s reaction was violent but did not last too long.   Republicans were tried, though by court-martials and documents of these trials have come down to us.

A point must be made:  those who fought for the Republic at that time did not fight for freedom or democracy but to set up a regime like the one in power in the Soviet Union. Franco was therefore right when he said that he was making war on Communism.   If he had not won, there would have been the Spanish Soviet Union.

All over the world left-wing parties have always idealised the Spanish Republicans and depicted Franco as the incarnation of evil.

MSGR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:  Franco saved the Church from total destruction. Without his intervention the Church would probably have been blotted out. Yet no one knew at the time that he would become a dictator.

Franco also saved Spain from the Second World War.

MSGR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:   This is another very important element. At the end of the civil war, Hitler paid a visit to Franco and asked his permission for the German army to cross Spain as far as Gibraltar (he intended to conquer North Africa and occupy the whole Mediterranean).   Franco did not give his consent on the grounds that the country had been devastated by the civil war and could not afford to be involved in another conflict.

Pius XI, who was in contact with Franco, warned him against Hitler (Franco declared himself a Catholic, Hitler was a pagan).

At the end of the Second World War Franco established relations with the U.S.A. and brought his country into the U.N. Spain was recognised by all states.   When certain circles demand that the Spanish Church apologise for her relations with Franco’s regime, I therefore ask myself: “What do we have to apologize for?   For having ten thousand martyrs?”   Such requests are made by the ideological heirs of those who persecuted the Church.   They do everything to erase all memories of her martyrdom.

MSGR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:   These requests are only demagogical.   In addition, the Spanish Church produced a document many years ago, recognising that mistakes had been made and forgiving her persecutors.   In this document it was also pointed out that no other course of action was possible under those circumstances.

Why is the struggle against Franco still a myth to the whole of the Left, a symbol of the fight for democracy against dictatorship?

MSGR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:  Most of the European Left was and is Communist. Since Franco was the only one to defeat Communists on the battlefield, these have reacted by presenting the fight of the International Brigades as the fight for freedom against dictatorship.   Unfortunately Communist organizations are the most backward and the most conservative ones nowadays; they are unable to revise their past or make any self-criticism.

Socialist, Communist and Masonic parties are in power in Spain nowadays. They see the Church in the same way as the Republicans who tried to destroy her 70 years ago. Needless to say, nobody kills priests and nuns or burns religious buildings but the Church is perceived as a hindrance to the real progress of Spain and the whole of mankind, as an institution to marginalize and reduce to silence, being the holder of a conservative vision of man, an ideological adversary.   Zapatero seems to be willing to create a new world, a new man in Spain.

MSGR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI:  This is typical of all left-wing totalitarian regimes.   Stalin too intended to create a new man;  so did Pol Pot.   Freedom is at risk in Spain, as the state is trying to interfere with people’s private lives, to impose a given way of life, to decide how they must bring up their children, etc.   It is not enough for laws to be passed by a parliament to be right.   As there is only one voice to defend man’s good, attempts are being made to hush it.   Yet, whilst politicians are voted into and out of power, the Church remains.

© Urbi et Orbi Communications

Born Various
Died 1934, 1936-1939
Venerated in Roman Catholicism
Beatified 29 March 1987
1 October 1989
29 April 1990
25 October 1992
10 October 1993
1 October 1995
4 May 1997
10 May 1998
7 March 1999
11 March 2001 by Pope John Paul II
29 October 2005
28 October 2007
23 January 2010
17 December 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI[1]
13 October 2013
1 November 2014
5 September 2015
3 October 2015
21 November 2015
23 April 2016
8 October 2016
29 October 2016
25 March 2017
6 May 2017
21 October 2017
11 November 2017 by Pope Francis
4 May 2003 in Madrid by Pope John Paul II
Feasts – Various