Our Lady of Atocha/Our Lady of Long Fields, Madrid, Spain (1261) and Memorials of the Saints – 26 January

Our Lady of Atocha/Our Lady of Long Fields, Madrid, Spain (1261) – 26 January:

For a long time part of Madrid was nothing but a field of matreeds (tules) particularly in the district of Atocha. Here is a shrine to Our Lady of Atocha, a Spanish contraction for “Theotokos”, meaning “Mother of God,” or a simplification of “Antiocha” which, in the 12th Century under this title, was already ancient and beloved. Today the statue stands in a business centre, a dark little Madonna with an enigmatic smile on her face. Nobody knows where she came from but everyone, from gold-braided officer, to the ragged street urchins, pay her the most polite respect and give her most unqualified love.
Our Lady of Atocha was in Madrid when there was only a field of reeds and a hermitage. The Moor and the Moslem came – they respected her and left her alone. When Toledo was sacked in 1170, she remained there calm and accessible, watching over her children. In 1525 Charles V brought her his bride and asked her blessing upon their marriage; Don Juan of Austria, departing for the Battle of Lepanto, knelt at her feet and pledged his sword to her; after his victory, he sent in thanksgiving, his sword to her along with the captured Moorish banners.
Despite all these trappings of the high and wealthy, she still remains Our Lady of all the people, beloved of kings and farmers, such as St Isidore.
Our Lady of Atocha is Madrid’s royal shrine: there is not a Spaniard of public importance for a thousand years who would not kneel to ask her help. Her gowns are made from the bridal gowns of queens; yet no shrine better demonstrates how little it matters where we rank in the world, or what we do for a living. One of her supplicants asks her for victory for his armies, one for rain for his thirsty fields; Our Lady of Atocha answers all, impartially and lovingly.

Artist – Juan Antonio Salvador Carmona

In the year 1554 the Spanish Missionaries brought Our Lady of Atocha to Mexico with them. She was brought to a sanctuary called The Santuario De Plateros, which is a church about 30 minutes from the small town of Fresnillo.
There were many miracles that occurred after the arrival of the famous statue.
After the first miracle was reported, the Infant of Atocha was separated from the rest of the statue. He was seated instead by Himself in a splendid crystal niche on the main altar, and He can still be seen there today.
In His left hand He holds a jug, which for centuries was used by pilgrims to carry their liquids for drinking. In His right hand is a small basket of food. The face of the Infant is dark and bright. He has long curls and wears a small hat trimmed with gold and feathers on the side. His clothing is velvet, with exquisite embroidering and has the initials JHS. Finally, on his feet he wears solid gold sandals.
The Holy Infant is so small and attractive He is like a magnet to everyone. He is actually a figure of admiration to the faithful. He grants them the favours they ask for and gives grace instantly. He usually works during the night visiting the sick and the poor, therefore, He is also known as The Night Walking Infant of Atocha. It is not unusual to see HIs little chair empty while He is out on a mission. In the morning when He returns the sisters dust off His sandals after His all night journeys.
Pilgrimages are daily occurrences at the Santuario De Plateros. Thousands of pilgrims go to the Santuario on their knees, singing and praying. The pilgrims come for miles away on foot carrying flowers. The children come also and the little infants are carried in the mother’s shawl.
It is impossible to count the testimonials that cover the walls. Pictures, wheel chairs, crutches, braids of hair, have been brought in by those who received miraculous cures. All testimonials are framed with a picture of The Little Infant of Atocha, a picture of the moment of the miracle and they also indicate time, date and place.

St Timothy (Memorial)
St Titus (Memorial)

St Alberic of Citreaux O.Cist (Died 1109)
St Robert of Molesme O.Cist (1028-1111)
St Stephen Harding O.Cist (c 1060-1134)

The Story of the 3 Founders of the Cistercian Abbey:

St Alphonsus of Astorga
St Ansurius of Orense
St Athanasius of Sorrento
St Conan of Iona
Bl Eystein Erlandsön
Bl José Gabriel del Rosario Brochero
Bl Marie de la Dive veuve du Verdier de la Sorinière
Bl Michaël Kozal
St Paula of Rome (347-404) Widow, Foundress
St Theofrid of Corbie
St Theogenes of Hippo
St Tortgith of Barking

Martyred Family of Constantinople: Saint Mary and Saint Xenophon were married and the parents of Saint John and Saint Arcadius. Theirs was a wealthy family of Senatorial rank in 5th century imperial Constantinople, but were known as a Christians who lived simple lives. To give their sons a good education, Xenophon and Mary sent them to university in Beirut, Phoenicia. However, their ship wrecked, there was no communication from them, and the couple assumed, naturally, that the young men had died at sea. In reality, John and Arcadius had survived and decided that instead of continuing to Beirut, they were going to follow a calling to religious life and became monks, eventually living in a monastery in Jerusalem. Years later, Mary and Xenophon made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem – where they encountered their sons. Grateful to have their family re-united and taking it as a sign, Xenophon and Mary gave up their positions in society in Constantinople, and lived the rest of their lives as a monk and anchoress in Jerusalem. A few years later, the entire family was martyred together.
They were martyred in 5th century Jerusalem.
St Xenophon
St Mary
St John
St Arcadius

Posted in SAINT of the DAY

Saints of the Day – 26 January – The 3 Founders of the Cistercian Order

Saints of the Day – 26 January – St Alberic of Citeaux O.Cist (Died 1109) Monk and Abbot , St Robert of Molesme O.Cist (1028-1111) Abbot and St Stephen Harding O.Cist (c 1060-1134) Monk, Priest and the three are Co-Founders of the Cistercian Order.491px-ordre_cistercien.svg

Robert was born about 1029, a nobleman from Champagne, a younger son, who entered the Benedictine abbey of Montier-la-Celle near Troyes at age fifteen and rose to the office of prior.   He was made the abbot of Saint Michel-de-Tonnerre around the year 1070 but he soon discovered that the monks were quarrelsome and disobedient, so he returned to Montier-la-Celle.saint-robert-of-molesmes-granger

Meanwhile, two hermits from a group of monks that had settled at Collan went to Rome and asked Pope Gregory VII to give them Robert as their superior.   The pope granted their request and as of 1074 Robert served as their leader.   Soon after, Robert moved the small community to Molesme in the valley of Langres in Burgundy.   Initially, the establishment consisted of only huts made of branches surrounding a chapel in the forest, dedicated to the Holy Trinity.   Molesme Abbey quickly became known for its piety and sanctity and Robert’s reputation as a saintly man grew.   It is because of this reputation that in 1082 St Bruno of Cologne (c 1030 -1101) came to Robert seeking advice.   He lived with Robert’s community for a time before going on to found the Grande Chartreuse, the first Carthusian monastery.

In 1098 there were 35 dependent priories of Molesme and other annexes and some priories of nuns.   Donors from the surrounding area vied with one another in helping the monks;  soon they had more than they needed, slackened their way of life and became tepid.   Benefactors sent their children to the abbey for education and other non-monastic activities began to dominate daily life.   The vast land holdings they had acquired required a large number of employees.   As the community grew increasingly wealthy, it began to attract men seeking entry for the wrong reasons.   They caused a division among the brothers, challenging Robert’s severity.   Robert twice tried to leave Molesme but was ordered back by the Pope.

In 1098, Robert and twenty-one of his monks left Molesme with the intention of never returning.   Renaud, the viscount of Beaune, gave this group a desolate valley in a deep forest, there they founded Cîteaux Abbey.   Saints Stephen Harding and Alberic – two of Robert’s monks from Molesme – were pivotal in founding the new house.   The archbishop of Lyons, being persuaded that they could not subsist there without the endorsement of an influential churchman, wrote in their favour to Eudo, duke of Burgundy.   Eudo paid for the construction they had begun, helped the monks finance their operating expenses and gave them much land and cattle.   The bishop of Challons elevated the new monastery to the canonical status of an abbey.

In 1099, the monks of Molesme asked Robert to return and agreed to submit entirely to his interpretation of the Rule of St Benedict, the local bishop also pressured Robert to return.   He agreed and Molesme became a major centre for the Benedictines under his tutelage.   Albéric was made successor abbot at Cîteaux, with Stephen Harding as robert of molesme statue

Robert died on 17 April 1111.   Pope Honorius III Canonised him in 1222.   His feast day in the Roman Catholic Church was at first observed on 17 April, later transferred to April 29 and finally combined with the feast of Alberic and Stephen Harding and is observed in our day on 26 January.

The Life of Saint Robert de Molesme was written by Guy, his immediate successor as abbot of Molesme.

St Robert of Molesme, 15th Cent statue

Alberic was a hermit in the forest of Collan in France who, along with five other hermits, invited Abbot Robert of Molesme to begin a new monastery with them that would operate under the Rule of St Benedict.

Alberic is credited with attaining the Cistercian Order’s legal foundation.   Pope Pascal II granted this legitimacy with his Bull Desiderium quod (around 1100).   Albéric also decided to move the monastery’s buildings a kilometer to the north and initiated construction on the first abbey church.   The Church was consecrated less than six years later.   Alberic also introduced the use of the white Cistercian cowl.   It was given to him for the monks, according to legend, by the Virgin Mary as they were at choir praying vigils.   Accordingly, the white cowl is one of Alberic’s attributes in hagiographical paintings.

Alberic’s feast day, together with that of Robert of Molesme and Stephen Harding, is celebrated on 26 January.755px-alberic_receives_habit_01

Harding was born in Sherborne, Dorset, in the Kingdom of England and spoke English, Norman, French and Latin.   He was placed in Sherborne Abbey at a young age but eventually left the monastery and became a travelling scholar, journeying with one devout companion into Scotland and afterwards to Paris and then to Rome.   He eventually moved to Molesme Abbey in Burgundy, under the Abbot Robert of Molesme (c. 1027-1111).   During his time at Molesme abbey he seemed to have assumed the name Stephen.

When Robert left Molesme to avoid what he perceived to be the abbey’s increasing wealth and overly strong connections to the aristocracy, Harding and Alberic of Cîteaux went with him.   Seeing no hope of a sufficient reformation in Molesme, Robert appointed another abbot for the abbey and then, with Alberic, Harding and twenty-one other monks, received permission from Hugh, the Archbishop of Lyons and legate of the Holy See, to found a new monastery in Citeaux, a marshy wilderness five leagues from Dijon.   There, they formed a new, more austere monastery.   Eudes, afterwards Duke of Burgundy, built them a little church which was placed under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin, as all the churches of the Cistercians from that time have been.

Stephen became the third abbot of Cîteaux.   However, very few were joining the community and the monks were suffering from hunger and sickness.   In 1112, Bernard of Clairvaux entered the community, bringing with him thirty companions.   Between 1112 and 1119, a dozen new Cistercian houses were founded to accommodate those joining the young order.   Harding’s organisational skills were exceptional, he instituted the system of general chapters and regular visitations.   In 1119, he received official approbation for the Carta Caritatis (Charter of Charity), an important document for the Cistercian Order, establishing its unifying principles.

st robert of molesme welcomes bernard-thumb-285x420-9015
St Stephen receives St Bernard

Stephen Harding served Cîteaux Abbey as abbot for twenty-five years.   While no single person is considered the founder of the Cistercian Order, the shape of Cistercian thought and its rapid growth in the 12th century were arguably due to Harding’s leadership. Insisting on simplicity in all aspects of monastic life, he was largely responsible for the severity of Cistercian architecture and the simple beauty of the Order’s liturgy and music.   He was an accomplished scribe for the monastery’s scriptorium, his highest achievement is considered to be the Harding Bible, famous among medieval manuscripts.   In 1133, he resigned as head of the order because of age and infirmity.   He died on 28 March 1134 and was buried in the tomb of Alberic, his predecessor, in the cloisters at Cîteaux.  Stephen was largely responsible for the severity of Cistercian architecture because he was an adherer of simplicity in all aspects of monastic life.

An illumination by St Stephen Harding presenting a model of his church to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Municipal Library, Dijon). Cîteaux, c 1125.   At this period Cistercian illumination was the most advanced in France but within 25 years it was abandoned altogether under the influence of St Bernard of Clairvaux.

In a joint commemoration with Robert of Molesme and Alberic, the first two abbots of Cîteaux, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates Stephen Harding’s feast day on 26 January.    There is a Catholic Baroque Church established by 1785, the patron saint of which is Stephen Harding, it is located in Hungary, in the village Apátistvánfalva.

The north aisle of the Church of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in London was formerly a chapel dedicated to him (it became the Musicians’ Chapel in the 20th century).

He was Canonised by the Catholic church in 1623.768px-sv._stevan_harding,_stevanovska_cirkev