Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Pope Francis asks for the role of women to be assessed in his May prayer intention video

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ prayer intention for May is for the Respect for Women: That in every country of the world, women may be honored and respected and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed.

Saints Philip and James, Apostles

(left: St. James and right: St. Philip) 

Today is the feast of two Apostles, Saints Philip and James.

Philip, a fisherman, came from the same town as Peter and Andrew, Bethsaida in Galilee and was one of the twelve apostles Jesus called. On the way from Judea to Galilee Our Lord found Philip, and said, "Follow Me".  Philip obeyed Jesus and immediately began to convert others, finding his friend Nathaniel and telling him that Jesus was the one whom Moses and the other prophets had foretold. Philip was among those who attended the wedding at Cana. He was martyred in the first century.

He is the patron saint of hatters and pastry chefs.

St. James was also one of the twelve. He is called the “Less” because he was younger than the other apostle by the same name, who was known as James the Great. St. James the Less, a brother of the Apostle Jude, was from Cana of Galilee. He is the author of one of the Epistles in the New Testament. St. Paul tells us that James was favored by a special apparition of the Risen Christ (I Cor. 15:7). After Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, he became the first bishop of Jerusalem. He was martyred in 62.

He is the patron saint of dying people, milliners, and pharmacists.

Their relics are housed in what is now known as the Church of the Apostles.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Saint Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor

Today, May 2, is the memorial of St. Athanasius, bishop and doctor of the Church.

St. Athanasius (295 - 373) was the Church's greatest hero in the battle against Arianism (a heresy that denied Christ's divinity),which, in his lifetime, earned him the title "Father of Orthodoxy". Athanasius was born into a Christian family in Alexandria, Egypt, where he received a classical education. He was ordained a deacon and later became a priest. Athanasius served as secretary to Bishop Alexander and accompanied him to the Council of Nicea, which officially condemned Arianism. When Bishop Alexander died, Athanasius succeeded him.

The next 46 years were filled with constant conflict. Anthanasius was exiled on five different occasions under five different emperors. However, his loyalty to the Church never wavered, his courage never weakened even in the face of cruel persecution. For five years he hid in a deep, dry cistern to be safe from their wrath of the Arians and their attempts to assassinate him. The place was known only to one trusted friend who secretly supplied him with food.

Throughout these trials, Athanasius consistently experienced God's constant protection. On one occasion when the emperor's assassins were pursuing him, he ordered the ship on which he was fleeing to double-back and sail upstream so that he might meet and by-pass his persecutors. Not recognizing the boat upon meeting in semi-darkness, they naively asked whether the ship carrying Athanasius was still far ahead. Calmly and truthfully Athanasius called back, "He is not far from here." So his persecutors kept sailing on in the same direction, allowing the saint to complete his escape.

Preserved by Divine Providence through a lifetime of trial and danger, he finally died peacefully in his home in Alexandria in 373.

Saint Quote

"You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress. "

~Saint Athanasius

Prayer to Mary, Mother of Grace

It becomes you to be mindful of us, as you stand near him who granted you all graces, for you are the Mother of God and our Queen. Help us for the sake of the King, the Lord God and Master who was born of you. For this reason, you are called full of grace. Remember us, most holy Virgin, and bestow on us gifts from the riches of your graces, Virgin full of graces.

~St Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor

Sunday, May 01, 2016

May, the Month of Mary

May is the month of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. As a child, I remember attending a Catholic parochial school named in honor of Mary taught by the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame. Each May, we celebrated the Blessed Mother’s month with a procession in which we crowned her statue with a beautiful wreath of roses.

One year, when my older sister was in the eighth grade, she received the special honor of crowning the statue of Our Lady. She was so excited and so happy to have been selected for this task. She wore a pink lace taffeta gown with a full skirt and a beautiful wreath of matching flowers on her head. After we prayed the Rosary, with white gloved hands, she placed the crown of roses on Our Lady's head. Then, as a school we sang the traditional hymn "Queen of the May."

Since my sister had an amazing lyric soprano voice, she also had the privilege of singing "Ave Maria", a hymn which has always stirred something deep within me -- a unique love for my heavenly Mother. It reminds of her fiat – her “Yes” to the will of God. As the Mother of God, Mary is radiantly beautifully. She is totally pure, modest, chaste, humble, and obedient. Her soul is immaculate -- free from the stain of original sin. Mary is often referred to as the "New Eve." Through her fiat, she opened the doors of redemption and salvation to all her children which had been closed by Eve in her disobedience to the will of God. Because of God's eternal design, she became a necessary element for our redemption from the bondage of sin.

Some have asked, "Why is May Mary's month?"

We know that in classic western culture, May was acknowledged as the season of the beginning of new life. It is the month of motherhood, when new life, fertility, and Mother's Day are celebrated. It is the month when the spring flowers blossom.  As the flowers reappear we honor Mary whom we call the "Mystical Rose."

This Christian custom of dedicating the month of May to the Blessed Virgin began at the end of the 13th century. The practice became particularly popular among the members of the Jesuit Order — by 1700 it took hold among their students at the Roman College and shortly thereafter, it was publicly practiced in the Gesu Church in Rome. From there it spread to the entire Church.

 This Irish hymn dates back to the 13th Century, though in 1883, Mary E. Walsh modified it:

Queen of the May (Bring Flowers of the Rarest)

Bring flowers of the rarest
From garden and woodland
And hillside and vale
Our full hearts are swelling
Our Glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Rose of the vale

Our voices ascending,
In harmony blending
Oh! Thus may our hearts turn
Dear Mother, to thee
Oh! Thus shall we prove thee
How truly we love thee
How dark without Mary
Life’s journey would be

O Virgin most tender
Our homage we render
Thy love and protection
Sweet Mother, to win
In danger defend us
In sorrow befriend us
And shield our hearts
From contagion and sin

Of Mothers the dearest
Oh, wilt thou be nearest
When life with temptation
Is darkly replete
Forsake us, O never
Our hearts be they ever
As Pure as the lilies
We lay at thy feet

REFRAIN: O Mary! We crown thee with blossoms today
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May
O Mary! We crown thee with blossoms today
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May!

~ copyright Jean M. Heimann 2016.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church

April 29th is the feast of my Confirmation saint, St. Catherine of Siena, Caterina di Giacomo di Benicasa (1347 - 1380). As a mystic, activist, reformer, contemplative, and Doctor of the Church, she is one of the most prominent figures in Christian history.

Catherine, the youngest of twenty-six children, was born in Siena on March 25, 1347. During her youth she had to contend with great difficulties on the part of her parents. They were planning marriage for their favorite daughter; but Catherine, who at the age of seven had already taken a vow of virginity, refused. To break her resistance, her beautiful golden brown tresses were shorn to the very skin and she was forced to do the most menial tasks. Undone by her patience, her mother and father finally relented and their child entered the Third Order of St. Dominic -- a lay order.

Catherine managed a large household of followers, all of whom called her "Mama". She served as spiritual director to royalty and religious. She lived in poverty and fasted severely (living only on the Eucharist) but always seeing to it that her friends were well fed. She prayed for several hours at a time and often went into ecstasy. She routinely cared for the sick in hospitals and visited those in prisons. Even the most hardened criminals embraced the faith when she visited them. She read the thoughts and knew the temptations of her companions, even at long distances. She saw people's secret sins and confronted these people, urging them to repent. She touched hearts so effectively that the Friars Preachers had to assign three priests to handle the confessions of her penitents.

As time went on, her influence reached out to secular and ecclesiastical matters. She made peace between worldly princes. The heads of Church and State bowed to her words. She weaned Italy away from an anti-pope, and made cardinals and princes promise allegiance to the rightful pontiff. She fought hard to defend the liberty and rights of the Popes and did much for the renewal of religious life. She also dictated books full of sound doctrine and spiritual inspiration. She died on April 29, 1380. In 1970, Pope Paul VI declared her a Doctor of the Church.

Against fire; bodily ills; Europe; fire prevention; firefighters; illness; Italy; miscarriages; nurses; nursing services; people ridiculed for their piety; sexual temptation; sick people; sickness; Siena, Italy; temptations.

St. Catherine of Siena Quotes

"Love is the most necessary of all virtues. Love in the person who preaches the word of God is like fire in a musket. If a person were to throw a bullet with his hands, he would hardly make a dent in anything; but if the person takes the same bullet and ignites some gunpowder behind it, it can kill. It is much the same with the word of God. If it is spoken by someone who is filled with the fire of charity- the fire of love of God and neighbor- it will work wonders."

"Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind."

"Merit consists in the virtue of love alone, flavored with the light of true discretion without which the soul is worth nothing."

"Strange that so much suffering is caused because of the misunderstandings of God's true nature. God's heart is more gentle than the Virgin's first kiss upon the Christ. And God's forgiveness to all, to any thought or act, is more certain than our own being."


Holy Spirit, come into my heart, by your power I journey to You, God, and grant me charity with fear. Protect me, o Christ, from every evil thought, warm me with Your sweet love, so that each burden seems light to me. My holy Father and my sweet Lord, help me always in all my endeavors, Christ love, Christ love.

~Composed and written by St. Catherine at Rocca d'Orcia in 1377, after miraculously having learned to write.

St. Catherine of Siena: My Nature is Fire

St. Louis de Montfort

Today is the feast of St. Louis de Montfort, a French priest and confessor. He was a renowned preacher and missionary, who founded the Missionaries of the Company of Mary (for priests and brothers) and the Daughters of Wisdom.

Louis de Montfort is one of the most prominent promoters of Marian devotion. Totus tuus ("I am all yours.") was Louis's personal motto; Karol Wojtyla (Pope St. John Paul II) chose it as his episcopal motto.

Born to a poor family in 1673 in the Breton village of Montfort, as an adult, Louis identified himself by the place of his baptism instead of his family name, Grignion. After being educated by the Jesuits and the Sulpicians, he was ordained as a diocesan priest in 1700.

He preached parish missions throughout western France, walking from city to city. His years of ministering to the poor prompted him to travel and live very simply, sometimes getting him into trouble with church authorities. In his preaching, which attracted thousands of people back to the faith, Father Louis recommended frequent, even daily, Holy Communion (not the custom then!) and imitation of the Virgin Mary's ongoing acceptance of God's will for her life.

Louis founded the Missionaries of the Company of Mary (for priests and brothers) and the Daughters of Wisdom, who cared especially for the sick. His book, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, has become a classic explanation of Marian devotion. He also wrote The Secret of the Rosary, which is the first work to describe the method by which the Rosary is prayed today. Louis died in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre, where a basilica has been erected in his honor. He was canonized in 1947.

A Few of My Favorite St. St. Louis de Montfort Quotes

"Pray with great confidence, with confidence based on the goodness and infinite generosity of God and upon the promises of Jesus Christ. God is a spring of living water which flows unceasingly into the hearts of those who pray."

“We fasten our souls to Your hope, as to an abiding anchor. It is to Her that the saints who have saved themselves have been the most attached and have done their best to attach others, in order to persevere in virtue. Happy, then, a thousand times happy, are the Christians who are now fastened faithfully and entirely to Her, as to a firm anchor!” (Treatise on True Devotion, n. 175).

"The cross is the greatest gift God could bestow on His Elect on earth. There is nothing so necessary, so beneficial, so sweet, or so glorious as to suffer something for Jesus. If you suffer as you ought, the cross will become a precious yoke that Jesus will carry with you."

"Mary alone gives to the unfortunate children of unfaithful Eve entry into that earthly paradise where they may walk pleasantly with God and be safely hidden from their enemies. There they can feed without fear of death on the delicious fruit of the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They can drink copiously the heavenly waters of that beauteous fountain which gushes forth in such abundance."

"She [Mother Mary] is an echo of God, speaking and repeating only God. If you say "Mary" she says 'God'."

"If you put all the love of all the mothers into one heart it still would not equal the love of the Heart of Mary for her children."

“Never will anyone who says his Rosary every day be led astray. This is a statement that I would gladly sign with my blood.”

Hymns in the Life and Writings of Montfort 

Litany to St. Louis de Montfort

Why St. Louis Marie de Montfort is so Special to me

About fifteen years ago on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes I made my Consecration to Jesus through Mary via the St. Louis de Montfort method. I can't even begin to tell you about all the graces I have received since then. A few years later, when I renewed my Consecration, my husband Bill, also made his Consecration via this method. When I presented a talk to our parish on the Blessed Virgin Mary and her various apparitions, I shared the deep love Karol Wojtyla had for our dear Mother as a result of consecrating himself to her as a young factory worker in Krakow during World War II and how this love and devotion affected him his entire life and his teachings as Pope John Paul II. In my research for this presentation, I also discovered that St. Louis preached in the same area of France where my ancestors lived, and, although I don't know how he interacted with them, I would like to think that his teachings and his great love and devotion for Our Blessed Mother impacted them in a powerful way and that they, too, shared this love of Our Lady, surrendering their hearts totally to her.

During this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, I renewed my Consecration to Jesus through the Blessed Virgin Mary, following Fr. Michael Gaitley's 33 Days to Morning Glory, in which he shares some interesting insights on St. Louis de Montfort and his devotion to Mary.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Saint Zita of Lucca

April 27 is the feast of St. Zita of Lucca (1212-72), the patron saint of housekeepers, domestic servants, and waitresses. She is also invoked to help find lost keys.

She was born in Tuscany, Italy in the village of Monsagrati. Zita came from a poor, but deeply devotional family. To help support the family, she became a maid of a wealthy family, Fatinelli, in the nearby Tuscan city of Lucca, serving them loyally for 48 years.

A member of the Third Order of St. Francis, Zita considered her work as an employment assigned to her by God and obeyed her master and mistress in all things as being placed over her by God. She always rose several hours before the rest of the family and spent time in prayer while they slept. She started each day with Holy Mass before she began performing her duties.

She visited the sick and those in prison, giving them hope and spreading the gospel message. She was well - known for all her works of charity and her sweet, joyful disposition.

Zita had a great love for the poor and donated her own food or that of her master to the poor. At first, her employers were upset by her generous gifts of food to the poor, but in time, they were completely won over by her patience and goodness.

On one morning, Zita left her chore of baking bread to tend to someone in need. Some of the other servants made sure the Fatinelli family was aware of what happened. When they went to investigate, they claimed to have found angels in the Fatinelli kitchen, baking the bread for her.

On another occasion, Zita had given away the family's supply of beans to the townsfolk during a severe famine. Upon suspecting this, the Fatinelli family went to the cupboard to find it full - the beans hand been miraculously replaced.

Another recorded event was just as dramatic, if not more so. On Christmas Eve, Zita had given away a prized and treasured family cloak to a shivering man at the doorway of St. Fredaino, the local church. While the elder Fatinelli was in the midst of a fit of fury, an elderly man came to the door and returned the heirloom. When townsfolk heard of the event, they decided that the man must have been an angel. From that point on, the doorway of the St. Fredaino church in Lucca has been called the "Angel Portal".

With the passage of the years Zita’s fellow servants and the Fatinellis came to realize that she was a genuine saint. The family made her mistress of the household and eventually governess of the Fatinelli children.

St. Zita died peacefully in the Fatinelli house on April 27, 1272 at the age of 60. It is said that a star appeared above the attic where she slept at the moment of her death. Zita was canonized in 1696.

In 1580, Zita’s body was found incorrupt. It is kept enshrined in St. Frediano’s Church in Lucca, Italy, near the Fatinelli house where she worked. Pope Leo X granted an office in her honor, and the city of Lucca pays special tribute and veneration to her memory on her feast day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

St. Franca of Piacenza: Cisterican Nun and Foundress

The saint of the day for April 26 is St. Franca of Piacenza, a Cistercian nun and foundress.  She was placed in the Benedictine convent of Saint Syrus at Piacenza, Italy in 1177 at age seven and entered the Order at age 14.  She was elected abbess as a young nun, but was removed from office due to her rigid interpretation of the Rule.

Nevertheless, one of the nuns, Sister Carentia, agreed with her discipline. When Carentia entered the Cistercian novitiate at Rapallo, Italy, she convinced her parents to build a Cistercian house at Montelana, Italy. Franca became abbess of the community, to which both she and Franca had entered. The community later moved to Pittoli, Italy. Franca consistently maintained the severe penances she imposed on herself, even in the face of poor health. She spent most nights in the chapel, praying for hours.  She was canonized by Pope Gregory X.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist

St. Mark, the Evangelist, the author of the second Gospel, is commonly identified as “John Mark” in the Acts of the Apostles (12:12, 25; 15:37). He is the patron saint of: attorneys, notaries, prisoners, and stained glass workers.

Born a Jew, he was baptized and instructed in the faith by St. Peter the Apostle and traveled with him to Rome. He had a close relationship with St. Peter, who referred to him as “my son Mark” (1 Peter 5:13).

Mark traveled with his cousin St. Barnabas and with St. Paul on their first missionary journey in Cyprus (Acts 13:5).  Mark is also said to have evangelized in Alexandria, Egypt and founded the Church there.

Like Luke, Mark was not one of the twelve apostles. Some scholars believe him to be the young man who ran away when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51-52).  He is also considered to be the first bishop of Alexandria, Egypt.

According to Eusebius, the Christian historian, Mark died at Alexandria and was martyred for his faith. In the 9th century, Mark’s body was brought to Venice, where he is patron of the city.

Mark’s gospel reads with the immediacy of an eyewitness account. It is the oldest and shortest Gospel in the Bible. It was written in Rome around 65-70 AD for a Gentile audience. The winged Lion is his symbol. This symbol originates from St. Mark's description of John the Baptist's voice "crying out in the wilderness" upon hearing the Word of God (Mark 1:3). His voice is said to have sounded like that of a roaring lion. In addition, the lion signifies the power of the Evangelist's word and the wings signify spiritual elevation.  This lion imagery also appears in a vision of the Prophet Ezekiel, in which four winged creatures represent the four evangelists (Ezekiel 1:10). Matthew is depicted as a human, Mark as a lion, Luke as a bull, and John as an eagle.

Lesson: St. Mark achieved in his life what every Catholic is called to do by virtue of their Baptism: proclaim to the whole world the Good News that is the source of our salvation. There are many ways we can evangelize today – through preaching or teaching or our writing, as Mark did, or through other gifts that we have been given by God: our hospitality, our prayers,  our artistry, our musical talents, etc. Each one of us has the ability and the grace to evangelize, which we received at Baptism and Confirmation.

"Go out into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature." -- Mark 16:15

Collect: O God, who raised up Saint Mark, your Evangelist, and endowed him with the grace to preach the Gospel, grant, we pray, that we may so profit from his teaching as to follow faithfully in the footsteps of Christ. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

~copyright Jean M. Heimann 2016