REFLECTION– “Regarding other ceremonies in vocal prayers and other devotions, one should not become attached to any ceremonies or modes of prayer, other than those Christ taught us. When His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray [Lk 11:1], Christ obviously, as one Who knew so well His Father’s will, would have told them, all that was necessary, in order to obtain an answer from the Eternal Father and, in fact, He only taught them those seven petitions of the Our Father, which include all our spiritual and temporal necessities and He did not teach numerous other kinds of prayers and ceremonies. At another time, rather, He told them, that in praying, they should not desire much speaking because our heavenly Father clearly knows our needs.
He only charged us with great insistence to persevere in prayer – that is, in the Our Father – teaching, in another place, that one should pray and never cease. [Lk.18:1] He did not teach us a quantity of petitions but that these seven be repeated often and with fervour and care. For in these, as I say, are embodied everything that is God’s will and all that is fitting for us. Accordingly, when His Majesty had recourse three times to the Eternal Father, all three times He prayed with the same petition of the Our Father, as the evangelists recount: “Father, if it cannot be but that I drink this chalice, may your will be done.” [Mt. 26:42]
And He taught us only two ceremonies for use in our prayers. Our prayer should be made either in the concealment of our secret chamber [Mt 6:6] where without noise and without telling anyone we can pray with a more perfect and pure heart … Or, if not in one’s chamber, in the solitary wilderness and at the best and most quiet time of night, as He did..” [Lk. 6:12] – St John of the Cross (1542-1591) – Carmelite, Doctor of the Church – The Ascent of Mount Carmel Bk.III, ch.44
PRAYER – Our Father Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread And forgive us our trespasses As we forgive those who trespass against us And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen
Saint of the Day – 23 February – Saint Willigis of Mainz (c 940-1011) Archbishop of Mainz, Reformer, builder of the Cathedral of Mainz and many Churches, bridges and roads throughout his Diocese, de facto Regent of Germany during the minority of Otto III, to whom he was Guardian. Born in c 940 at Schoningen, Germany and died on 23 February 1011 of natural causes. Patronage – Wheelwrights. Also known as Willigisus, Willigus, Willegis.
Willigis was born in the Duchy of Saxony, possibly at Schöningen, the son of simple, free and pious peasants. His father worked as a wheelwright, hence his patronage and attribute – the wheel also occured in his emblem as Bishop. The able and intelligent young man received a good education and was recommended by Bishop Volkold of Meissen to the service of Emperor Otto the Great. Willigis was appointed Chancellor, an office formerly held by the Emperor’s brother Archbishop Bruno of Cologne. He served Otto throughout the last years of his reign and at the height of his power.
In 975 Emperor Otto II appointed him Archbishop of Mainz and Archchancellor for Germany. Being of humble origin, Willigis had to cope with many objections but he immediately received Pope Benedict VII confirmation of his supremacy as metropolitan Bishop.
Soon he started to build the great Cathedral of Mainz. Willigis demanded solid learning in his clergy too. He was known as a good and fluent and zealous Precher. In March 975 he received the Pallium from Pope Benedict VII. In January 976 Willigis Consecrated the first Bishop of Prague, Thietmar (Dětmar) at Brumath in Alsace, whose Diocese was put under his jurisdiction.
In his Diocese, he laboured by building bridges, constructing roads and fostering commerce. In Mainz, he initiated the construction of Cathedral and consecrated it on 29 August 1009, dedicating it in honour of St Martin of Tours but on the same day, disastrously, it was destroyed by fire. Willigis immediately gave orders for reconstruction.
Willigis greatly helped the restoration of the old collegiateCchurch of St Victor and built that of St Stephan. He also built Churches at Brunnen in Nassau and Seesbach. He showed great solicitude for the religious and substantially aided the Monasteries of St Ferrutius at Bleidenstadt, of Disibodenberg and of Jechaburg in Thuringia.
At the 983 Reichstag of Verona, Otto II vested him with large territories in the Rheingau region, thereby laying the foundations for the Prince-Bishopric of Mainz. Upon the Emperor’s death, Willigis as Primas Germaniae (an historical title for the the most important Bishop in the German lands).
On Christmas day in 983 he assisted at the crowning of Otto II’s his three-year-old son Otto III at Aachen. After the Dowager Empress Theophanu died in 991, Willigis became the Guardian of the minor, thus making him, together with Otto’s Grandmother, Adelaide of Italy, de facto Regent of the Empire until Otto III reached his majority in 994.
In 996 he was in the retinue of the King on his journey to Italy. Together with Otto III he pushed the election of Pope Gregory V against the resistance of the Roman nobility led by Crescentius the Younger and was present at the Consecration and at the Synod convened a few days later. In this counsel Willigis strongly urged the return of Bishop Adalbert of Prague, who, unable to bear the conflicts with the Vršovci noble family and the ruling Přemyslid dynasty, had left his Diocese for a second time, to which, after much correspondence between the Holy See and Willigis, he had once already been forced to return in 993. In 997 Pope Gregory V sent the Decrees of a synod at Pavia to Willigis, “his vicar,” for publication.
He was on friendly terms with Rome, though the Papacy was going through a difficult time. These relations were somewhat disturbed by the dispute of Willigis with Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim, about jurisdiction in the house of secular canonesses at Gandersheim Abbey. The immediate monastery established in 852 was originally situated at Brunshausen in the Diocese of Hildesheim but was transferred to nearby Gandersheim within the territorial limits of the Archdiocese of Mainz. Both Bishops claimed jurisdiction, until Pope Sylvester II finally declared in favour of Hildesheim, against Willigis’ initial resistance.
His protégé was the scholarly and just Burchard, who was appointed Bishop of Worms by Emperor Otto III in 1000. Upon the Emperor’s early death, Archbishop Willigis, on 7 June 1002, crowned the Duke of Bavaria Henry IV as King of the Romans at Mainz, after the assassination of his rival Margrave Eckard I of Meissen. Willigis presided at the 1007 Synod at Frankfurt am Main, where thirty-five Bishops signed the bull of Pope John XVIII for the erection of the Diocese of Bamberg.
Though Willigis has never been formally Canonised, Roman Catholics celebrate his feast on 23 February, the day of his death in 1011. Because the rebuilding of the Cathedral had not yet been completed, he was buried in the Church of St Stephan, which he had also built.
Our Lady of the Rock, Pena de Francia, near Salamanca, Spain (1434) – 23 February: The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Roches, near Salamanca, in Spain; an image is there venerated, which was found miraculously, in the year 434, by Simon Vela, who caused a Church to be built there.”
The Simon mentioned above by the Abbot Orsini, was actually born in the year 1401 in Paris, France. The incident that he states had occurred in the year 434 actually occurred in 1434 but that is getting ahead of our story. Simon was born on4 September 1401, in the City of Paris, France, to pious and wealthy parents. Growing up a good Catholic, Simon despised money and luxury, so that when he grew up and inherited his parents’ money and property, he recognised it for the threat to his eternal welfare that it was and gave all that he owned to the Church and to relieve the poor. Once the money was gone, he went to a Franciscan Monastery and took a position as a chamber boy. Simon naturally spent a great deal of time in prayer and was especially devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Sometimes when he prayed he asked the Mother of God if there was anything he might do, that would be especially pleasing to her. On one of these occasions, he fell asleep while praying. He was suddenly awakened when he heard a voice speak to him from the empty Church: “Simon, wake up; be on the watch…From now on, your name will be Simon Vela. Go to Pena de Francia, for there you will find the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Simon travelled for five years over fields and mountains, searching through lonely valleys and gloomy caves, in his quest for this place called Pena de Francia but he could not even find anyone who had ever heard of the place. On the verge of giving up in frustration, he had already begun working his way back home from Spain, when the voice spoke to him from the darkness once again: “Simon, do not give up the search, do not give up what you have begun. Persevere and your labours will be recompensed.” Feeling that it was still the will of God, Simon was determined to continue the search. Simon was passing through the market square in Salamanca on his way to the Church of Santiago, when he observed two men who began shouting in a serious disagreement. Weapons flashed and one of the pair fell wounded at Simon’s feet. The other was restrained from finishing the man, by the crowd, who held him back. Unable to reach his adversary, he shouted: “Had I killed my enemy, I would have escaped to Pena de Francia where no-one, not even the king, could find me!” Simon’s heart leapt for joy when he heard this, for it was the first time he had heard the place spoken of, and now he was certain that his search would not be in vain.
It was a short time later when Simon received a second bit of good news. He was on his way to the Church of Saint Martin when he happened upon a travelling merchant. Simon asked the man where he had come from and he answered, Pena de Francia. Thrilled to hear the name, he felt his search was nearly over but when he asked the man to take him there, he refused. He did not want to go back the way he had come, no matter how much Simon begged him. All he would do was point out the general direction. Simon went down the road from which he had seen the merchant approach, hoping he was not too far from his destination. The road led him to a villa named San Martin de Castanar, which he reached on 14 May 1434. He found a Church there and after Mass, he asked if anyone knew of a place called Pena de Francis. One man knew of it and when Simon kindly asked him to show him where it was, the man walked with him a good distance from the Church and then pointed out a hill in the far distance. That, he said, was Pena de Francia. Simon was elated, thanking God and the man for revealing to him the place that meant the end of his quest.
The place was far off but Simon went off at once, thinking the years he had spent in seeking, were nearly at an end. He gave no thought to his provisions and as the journey was long and arduous, he was far from any help when he realised how weakened his fast had made him. Suffering intense pangs of hunger, Simon did not despair, for he felt certain that God would not forsake him. He continued on his way and soon came across an abandoned pack that contained a loaf of bread and a piece of meat. Refreshed, he turned his attention to finding shelter as the night approached. Finding a suitable cave, he went inside and prayed for guidance until he dropped off into welcome slumber. Waking early in the morning, Simon began to search the area for the Shrine and quickly found that there were caves all over the hill where he had slept. He naturally became discouraged when it became apparent that it could take him weeks or even months to find what he sought and so, feeling that it was almost as if his quest had started all over again, he fell to his knees and prayed for the grace of perseverance. His prayer was quickly answered, as the now familiar voice said: “Simon, be awake: do not sleep.” Simon got up at once and continued his search, awakening with renewed enthusiasm the following morning. As he prepared to leave his cave a brilliant light struck his eyes, the source of which was a spot some distance away on a rocky hill. Trembling with joy, Simon approached the source of that light and found the Blessed Virgin Mary sitting on a golden throne with the Child Jesus in her arms. His heart overflowing with inexpressible joy, he knelt and said: “Oh, Lady, dream of my soul and inspiration of men and women! My labours are now ended. Many years have I travelled far and wide to seek you and to drink in the beauty of your eyes! Do not forsake me but be my protection.”
Our Lady answered sympathetically: “Simon, rejoice! Your constancy will be rewarded. Your dream will be realised. Your labours are now ended. Take heed and keep in your heart what I wish you to do. Dig in this spot and take what you can see and place it on the summit of this rocky hill. Build on this hill a beautiful Shrine. You are to begin it and others will come to finish it. This must come to pass as it has been the wish of my Child.” When the vision ended, Simon remained alone for some time, filled with wonder and awe. On the spot where the apparition of the Holy Virgin had appeared, Simon began the work of excavating. He had barely begun digging when he heard the same voice once again saying: “Simon, do not attempt to undertake this large of a task alone. Undertake it in the presence and with the help of two, three, or more persons.” Evidently this demand was made to ward off any suspicion about the veracity of the coming miracle, as well as Simon’s credibility. So Simon went back to San Martin de Castanar and asked five men to help him, and all of them agreed. Even though Simon told them the truth, these men believed that they were digging for hidden treasure. Simon repeated that they were after an objective worthier than merely worldly goods and that it was something their hearts would forever cherish. They dug for some time, until finally, on 19 May 1434, they removing a huge stone that was barring their way. They found beneath it, sheltered among several smaller rocks, the most coveted image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Divine Child in her arms, now known as Our Lady of Rocks.
St Alexander Akimetes St Boswell St Dositheus of Egypt St Felix of Brescia St Florentius of Seville St Giovanni Theristi (1049–1129) Monk Bl Giovannina Franchi Bl John of Hungary St Josephine Vannini (1859-1911) Bl Juan Lucas Manzanares Bl Ludwik Mzyk St Martha of Astorga St Medrald St Milburga Bl Nicolas Tabouillot St Ordonius St Polycarp of Rome Bl Rafaela Ybarra de Villalongo St Romana St Serenus the Gardener (Died 307) Martyr His story: https://anastpaul.com/2019/02/23/saint-of-the-day-23-february-st-serenus-the-gardener-died-307-martyr/ Bl Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski St Willigis of Mainz (c 940-1011) Bishop St Zebinus of Syria — Martyrs of Syrmium – 73 Christians who were martyred together in the persecutions of Diocletian. We know no details about them, and only six of their names – Antigonus, Libius, Rogatianus, Rutilus, Senerotas and Syncrotas.