Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Apostle of England



St. Augustine preaching before King Ethelbert

On May 27th, we honor St. Augustine of Canterbury, an Italian Benedictine monk who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 598. He is not be confused with the earlier St. Augustine of Hippo, the famous author of the Confessions and City of God. St. Augustine of Canterbury (sometimes referred to as “Saint Augustine the Lesser”)  founded the famous See of Canterbury and preached the Catholic faith to the country's Anglo-Saxon pagans during the late sixth and early seventh centuries.

The Catholic faith had already been accepted among England's original Celtic inhabitants, in earlier times; but from the mid-fifth century on, the country was controlled by Anglo-Saxon invaders who did not accept Christianity, and were not converted by the small number of isolated Celtic Christians. Thus, England largely had to be evangelized anew.

Augustine was the prior of a monastery in Rome when Pope Gregory the Great chose him to lead a party of forty monks to travel to south-eastern England to spread the Gospel there. They landed in 597, and were welcomed by the king of Kent, Ethelbert,a pagan married to a Christian, Bertha. On Pentecost Sunday 597, Ethelbert was baptized. Many of his subjects also converted to the faith, The king permitted missionaries to preach freely, providing them with an old church in Canterbury, as well as a place in which to live.

Augustine then went to Arles, in France, where he was consecrated archbishop, and then returned to Canterbury to set up his see. The mission prospered, and he founded two more sees, at London and at Rochester in Kent.

In 603, Augustine rebuilt and reconsecrated the Canterbury church and the house given him by King Ethelbert. These structures formed the nucleus for his metropolitan cathedral. They were destroyed by fire in 1067, and the present cathedral, begun by the great Lanfranc in 1070, stands on their site. A converted temple outside the walls of Canterbury was made into another religious house, which Augustine dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul. After his death, this abbey became known as St. Augustine's.

Shortly before his death on May 26, 604, Augustine consecrated Lawrence of Canterbury as his successor. He was buried in the Abbey Church of SS. Peter and Paul.

St. Augustine has been called "Apostle of England" because of his missionary efforts. He is the patron of England.

Prayer

O God, Who by the preaching and miracles of blessed Augustine, Thy Confessor and Bishop, didst vouchsafe to shed upon the English people the light of the true faith; grant that, through his intercession, the hearts of those that have gone astray may return to the unity of Thy truth, and that we may be of one mind in doing Thy will. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one world without end. Amen.

- From the Collect for the Feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury

Monday, May 25, 2015

St. Philip Neri, Patron Saint of Joy




May 26 is the feast of St. Philip Neri, patron saint of joy. He was born in Florence, Italy on July 22, 1515, one of four children of the notary Francesco Neri. His mother died when he was very young, but a very capable and competent stepmother filled her place. Although they were related to Italian nobility, the family was quite poor. Philip was a cheerful and friendly boy, who was well-liked by all who knew him.

At eighteen, Philip was sent to the town of San Germano, where he lived with a childless relative who had a business there to train as an apprentice and heir. Philip had a strong aptitude for business. Soon after his arrival, Philip began speaking of his conversion, which dramatically changed his life. He left his relative’s home and set out for Rome, as he had a vision that he had a mission to fulfill there. He left without money or a specific plan, trusting in God’s providence.

In Rome, he found shelter in the home of Galeotto Caccia who offered him an attic and a few basic necessities in exchange for tutoring his two sons. During his first two years there, he lived as a recluse, spending time in prayer and eating small meals. Then, for the next three years, he studied philosophy and theology at the Sapienza and St. Augustine’s Monastery, where he was a brilliant student. Quite suddenly, he stopped taking classes, sold all his books and gave his money to the poor. Philip now set about on a new venture – to evangelize the people of Rome.

He started out in a very direct manner, making friends with people on street corners and in the public squares. His warm, friendly manner, his cheerfulness, and his wonderful sense of humor would catch the attention of passersby, and once caught, they found it difficult to escape. He had a magnetic personality and an appeal that drew others to him and held their interest. His usual question, “Well brothers, when shall we begin to do some good?” frequently brought a positive response. Without hesitation, he would take them with him to visit and care for the poor in the hospitals or to pray in the Seven Churches. His days were given up totally for others, but his nights were filled with solitude as he spent them either in a church porch or in the catacombs along the Appian Way.

During the Easter season of 1544, while praying in one of the grottos along the Appian Way, he received a vision of a globe of fire, which first entered his mouth and then his chest. He felt a dilation of the chest. He was filled with such strong divine love, that he fell to the ground, crying out in joy, “Enough, enough, Lord, I can bear no more!” When he stood up, he discovered a swelling over his heart, which gave him no pain.In the year 1548, when Philip had been carrying on his mission for ten years, he founded the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity – a group of laymen who met regularly for spiritual growth. He also popularized the devotion of the forty hours – exposing the Blessed Sacrament for forty hours, on three successive days, in honor of the forty hours Christ spent in the tomb. Philip had accomplished much by the time he was thirty-four, but his spiritual director felt he could be even more effective as a priest.

On May 23, 1551, he was ordained. He carried on his mission mainly through the confessional. He started hearing confessions before dawn and continued for hours, while men of women of all ages and social rank flocked to him. In his later years, Philip became weak and suffered from many illnesses, each of which was cured through prayer.

On the feast of Corpus Christi, May 25, 1595, Philip was in a radiantly happy mood. All day he had heard confessions and met with visitors. About midnight, he had a severe hemorrhage and the other priests were called to his bedside. They prayed over him and then he raised his hand in Benediction to bless them one last time. As he raised his hand, he passed to his eternal reward.

Six years later, he was beatified and Pope Gregory XV canonized him in 1622. He was known not only as “The Humorous Saint”, but also as the “Apostle of Rome.”

Quotes From St. Philip Neri

“Bear the cross and do not make the cross bear you.”

“There is no purgatory in this world. Nothing but heaven or hell.”

“Sufferings are a kind of paradise to him who suffers them with patience, while they are a hell to him who has no patience.”

“Men are generally the carpenters of their own crosses.”

"Let me get through today, and I shall not fear tomorrow."

“The greatness of our love for God may be tested by the desire we have of suffering for His sake.”

 “The true servant of God recognizes no other country but Heaven.”

"Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life. Therefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits."

Prayer to St. Philip Neri

O holy St. Philip Neri, patron saint of joy, you who trusted Scripture’s promise that the Lord is always at hand and that we need not have anxiety about anything, in your compassion heal our worries and sorrows and lift the burdens from our hearts. We come to you as one whose heart swells with abundant love for God and all creation. Hear us, we pray, especially in this need (make your request here). Keep us safe through your loving intercession, and may the joy of the Holy Spirit which filled your heart, St. Philip, transform our lives and bring us peace. Amen.


(Excerpted, in part, from Gold in the Furnace, Jean M. Heimann, copyright 2004)

- copyright Jean M. Heimann May 2015

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day: Thanking God for our Military Heroes



What can I say to express my gratitude to our military heroes? Is a simple "thank you" really enough for those who have given their lives to preserve our freedoms? If for just one day, let us honor them and pray for them and for those they have left behind. Let us thank those who have served for all they have done.





A Prayer for Memorial Day

Remember, Lord, the fallen

Who died in fields of war,

In flaming clouds,

in screaming crowds,

On streets that are no more,

That we today might waken

And greet this day in peace

With grateful prayer for those who bear

The storms that never cease.

Remember friends and strangers,

And those forgotten now,

Whose names are known to you alone,

Before whose love we bow

And ask that you surround them

With mercy’s endless light

That they may live,

and we forgive

The foe they went to fight.

Remember, Lord, the living,

Who bear the pain of loss-

A death she died who stood beside

Her Son upon the cross.

Remember all your children

The dead and those who weep,

And make us one beneath the sun

Where love will never sleep.

Text: 7686D; Genevieve Glen, OSB; © 2005, Abbey of St. Walburga, Virginia Dale, CO. Published by OCP Publications.


This post is dedicated to those military heroes in my own family -- my dad, my brother, Michael, my sister, Susan, my brother-in-law, Heinz, and my nephew, Aaron.

Pentecost: The Birthday of the Catholic Church



HAPPY PENTECOST! 

Today is a special anniversary for me.




Saturday, May 23, 2015

Memories of Maureen, my Sister



Losing a sister is like losing an arm or leg. Both are irreplaceable. My sister, Maureen, took her last breath and passed on peacefully to eternal life, surrounded by family in her home, on Saturday, May 16, 2015, due to complications of an aggressive cancer, multiple myeloma.

She was my youngest sister, the baby of the family, and someone I felt I needed to nurture and protect. However, she was a feisty and independent lady with a bit of rebelliousness in her blood. I remember when my mom, worked the night shift in a nursing home, she asked that we play quietly in our rooms while she slept during the day. Maureen often had difficulty playing quietly. It seemed that her play time frequently required noise. I don’t remember her doing anything quietly. Her music, singing, dancing, talking, arguing, and playing were all loud. She may have been the youngest, but she was bound and determined to get attention one way or another. During mom’s sleeping hours, I usually quietly read books or acted out a play with my collection of plastic dolls and stuffed animals. Maureen, on the other hand, was often moving furniture, stomping on the floor or making some disturbance that woke up my mom, who was fast asleep downstairs. I warned Maureen to stop, but she ignored me. Then, we heard the sound of angry footsteps and upstairs my mom would come. Maureen was nowhere to be found. Guess who got punished for her actions? The one time I tried to hide in the closet with Maureen, mom pulled me out, while Maureen ran away. I was once again the innocent party who was punished. As it turned out, we moved from that house and mom eventually stopped working the night shift, and that problem worked itself out. But remembering it makes me chuckle over her cunning behavior.

Maureen got away with a lot that I wasn’t able to and, at the time; I envied her a little for that. She was an attractive young woman. As a teenager, she had long light brown hair, beautiful big brown eyes and a smile that lit up a room. She had a cute figure and a sweet, sassy personality to match that attracted a collection of admirers. However, the rules in our family prohibited us from dating until we graduated from high school, so Maureen would tell mom and dad that she was going out with her girlfriend, Joanne, and secretly meet a young man for a date. She confided in me that the white men she dated took advantage of her and treated her poorly, but that a black man that she had dated had treated her like a queen and she liked being put on a pedestal, rather than being used by men.

At age 15, she did the unthinkable for a white woman growing up in the 60’s in a small Midwestern city – she became secretly engaged to a black man! This was something that was very much frowned upon in those days. The attitude back then was that a white woman had to be desperate to date a black man, which was considered to be something beneath her dignity. At age 19, when she became pregnant with her first child, she was determined to marry him, despite the protests of my parents. Both my mom and I spoke to her about having the baby as a single parent and reassured her that we would help her care for the child, while she remained living at home. We both tried to dissuade her from the marriage because we believed that she was too young to marry and thought her marriage would end in divorce. However, she was insistent on getting married to him and did. They seemed happy together initially, but two children later, her husband, an alcoholic, was physically abusing her.

Following her divorce, she lived in public housing prior to buying her own home and found a job working as a mental health technician for more than twenty years. She loved being a mom and did the best she could to raise her children. Our family always helped her out when she needed it, so she was never without support. However, she often preferred to do things on her own in her own way.

Like my mom, Maureen was very creative and loved knitting, crocheting, cross-stitching, and making stuffed animals.  She made beautiful t-shirts and sweatshirts embellished with angels for Christmas. Like my dad, she enjoyed sports; especially the Chicago baseball and football teams. Maureen also loved animals and adopted a number of stray dogs and cats over the years. She was an avid reader and a born teacher who read to her children, played games with them, and always provided for their needs. They were a typical middle class family and never went without any of the necessities. When I moved away from the area to return to college after working for seven years, Maureen consistently invited me to her home for Christmas dinner, as my parents had moved out of state. She was the best cook I know, next to my mom. She could cook anything and make it taste good.

Maureen and I seemed to be good friends for many years, and then something happened. I don’t know what it was or what I did to upset her, but whatever it was, it must have been a humdinger, because for several years, I wrote, sent gifts, cards, and phoned her (she had no email) but received no response. I even confronted her face to face one time and asked her, but she remained silent. This was unbelievably painful for me. My spiritual director encouraged me to continue writing her, regardless of her lack of response. Then, I did not see her for several years more when I moved out of state.

In 2007, my husband and I drove to our home state and I contacted everyone in my family telling them we were coming. I met with my brother at his home and I had left messages on her home phone. However, when I went to her house, she was not there. Once again, my heart sunk. I had traveled thousands of miles to see her, but she was not there for me. “Why does she hate me?” I asked myself. I could not figure it out for the life of me. I continued to pray for her daily.

Finally we had a breakthrough. She phoned me a couple of times after that. Just when things seemed to be looking up, all communication ceased. Then, I found her on Facebook and requested her friendship. I was ecstatic when she accepted! Initially, we played games together, which I enjoyed a lot, then we had a couple of chats that seemed to go well. One day, I posted a news article about President Obama stating his position on birth control and she commented that I should not post “political” articles like that on Facebook, told me that it depressed her, and then immediately unfriended me. This cut me to the core. I didn’t understand why she just didn’t delete the feed if she did not like the article, rather than unfriend me, as this was now our only line of communication.

Our relationship reverted to the former mode where I called and wrote, leaving messages on her machine, with no return calls. Then during the Christmas season in 2014, I received a surprise gift of popcorn with her return address, but no note. I wrote and thanked her for it.

A couple months ago, I learned through Facebook that Maureen had multiple myeloma. I had heard from family members in 2013 that she had had an operation on a cancerous tumor a day or two prior to the surgery and had prayed for her.  I was tactfully informed that she wanted no phone calls.

Now, the cancer had returned. A day later, I learned that her heart had stopped beating for four minutes and that she had been resuscitated.  I wanted to go see her so badly, but we had neither the money nor the time to do so.  Then, one day, I received a phone message from her daughter, saying, “Mom insisted that I call you. She wants you to know that she’s sorry for what happened between you two.” I contacted her daughter and told her, “Tell your mom that I forgive her and love her.” I cried tears of joy and told my husband, “I have to see her. I may not get another chance.” At this point in time, she was unconscious and had already received Last Rites (which was the answer to prayer, as she had been away from the Church for over 40 years.) She was being kept alive by machines. Nevertheless, I knew that hearing is the last thing to go and that she would still be able to listen to my words. We learned quite unexpectedly that my husband had two days off from work before and after the weekend. Exhausting the last bit of our savings, we made the thirteen hour drive to the hospital.

When I met with Maureen in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital, she was conscious, but had a breathing tube and was unable to speak. She was hooked up to many tubes and wires and was on dialysis. I held her hand and told her I loved her and we had a beautiful visit, reminiscing on times past as we looked at old photos of the two of us and our family. She smiled, laughed, and squeezed my hand. That was a little over one month ago. Now she has passed onto eternal life, and I pray that she is resting peacefully, enjoying the ecstasy of the beatific vision along with my sister, Mary, my parents, and all the heavenly saints who have preceded her.

~ Copyright Jean M. Heimann May 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Saint Rita of Cascia: patron of impossible causes



The saint of the day for May 22 is Saint Rita of Cascia, religious, patron of impossible, desperate causes and situations. She is also the patron saint of abuse victims, difficult marriages, infertility, parenthood, sterility, and widows.

St. Rita was born at Rocca Porena, Italy, in 1386 to Antonio and Amata Lotti, who were quite advanced in years. Rita’s birth was an answer to their prayers. The family was well-known for their charity, which merited them the surname of "Peacemakers of Jesus Christ."

Rita brought much joy to her parents. She was a cheerful, amiable, pious and devout child who spent much of her time in prayer. At the age of twelve, she desired to consecrate herself to God in the religious state. Pious though her parents were, they refused her pleas, but instead gave her away in marriage, at the age of eighteen, to an ill-tempered young man who was the town watchman. The couple had two sons, who inherited their father's temperament. After 18 years of marriage, Rita’s husband was stabbed to death by an old enemy. Her sons swore vengeance on their father’s killers, but through Rita's intercessory prayers, they forgave the offenders. Both of her sons died shortly afterwards.

Rita's former desire to consecrate herself to God in the religious life returned. On three separate occasions, she asked to be admitted to the Augustinian Nuns, but her request was refused each time, and she returned home to Rocca Porrena.

One night, as Rita was praying, she heard someone call her name and a knock on the door. Miraculously she was instantly transported to the Augustinian monastery. Astonished at the miracle, the nuns received Rita, and accepted her as one of their own.

St. Rita lived a very austere life and performed many severe penances. After hearing a homily on the Passion of Christ she returned to her cell; kneeling before her crucifix, she prayed: "Let me, my Jesus share in Thy suffering, at least of one of Thy thorns". Her prayer was answered. Suddenly one of the thorns detached itself from Christ’s crown of thorns and fastened itself on her forehead so deeply that she could not remove it. The wound became worse, and gangrene set in. Because of the foul odor emanating from the wound, she was denied the companionship of the other Sisters for fifteen years.

As St. Rita was dying, she requested a relative to bring her a rose from her old home at Rocca Porrena. Although it was not the season for roses, the relative went and found a rose in full bloom. For this reason roses are blessed in the Saint's honor. She died May 22, 1456, and both in life and after death has worked many miracles. After St. Rita's death, her face became beautifully radiant, while the odor from her wound was as fragrant as that of the roses she loved so much. The sweet odor spread through the convent and into the church, where it has continued ever since. Her body has remained incorrupt to this day; the face is beautiful and well preserved.

 When St. Rita died her cell was aglow with heavenly light, while the great bell of the monastery rang on its own. A relative with a paralyzed arm, upon touching her sacred remains, was cured. A carpenter, who had known the Saint, offered to make the coffin. Immediately, he recovered the use of his long stiffened hands.St. Rita of Cascia was the first woman to be canonized in the Great Jubilee at the beginning of the 20th century, on May 24, 1900.

Quote 

The saint of Cascia belongs to the great host of Christian women who "have had a significant impact on the life of the Church as well as of society" (Mulieris dignitatem, 27). Rita well interpreted the "feminine genius" by living it intensely in both physical and spiritual motherhood. ~ Pope St. John Paul II


 Prayer to Saint Rita

 Holy Patroness of those in need, Saint Rita, you were humble, pure and patient. Your pleadings with your divine Spouse are irresistible, so please obtain for me from our risen Jesus the request I make of you: {mention your petition}. Be kind to me for the greater glory of God, and I shall honor you and sing your praises forever. Glorious Saint Rita, you miraculously participated in the sorrowful passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Obtain for me now the grace to suffer with resignation the troubles of this life, and protect me in all my needs. Amen.




Wednesday, May 20, 2015

St. Christopher Magallanes and Companions, Mexican Martyrs



Today we honor St. Christopher Magallanes, priest and martyr, and his companions, martyrs.

Christopher and his twenty-four companion martyrs were members of the Cristero movement, a response to  anti-Catholic government in Mexico in the 1920s.  The government was determined to weaken the Catholic faith of its people. Churches, schools and seminaries were closed; foreign clergy were expelled. Under the Cristero movement, members pledged their allegiance to Christ and to the church that he established to spread the Good News in society—even if Mexico's leaders had made it a crime to receive baptism or celebrate the Mass.

Christopher's last words were: "I am innocent and I die innocent. I forgive with all my heart those responsible for my death, and I ask God that the shedding of my blood serve the peace of our divided Mexico".

These martyrs were beatified in 1992 and canonized eight years later.

A major motion picture depicts the story of these martyrs. It is entitled 'For Greater Glory.' If you have not seen this film yet, I highly recommend it. It is excellent!


Prayer for the Intercession of St. Christopher Magallanes and Companions

Almighty and eternal God,
who made the Priest Saint Christopher Magallanes
and his companions
faithful to Christ the King even to the point
of martyrdom,
grant us, through their intercession,
that, persevering in confession of the true faith,
we may always hold fast to the commandments
of your love.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

St. Bernardine of Siena: "Apostle of Italy"



May 20 is the feast of St. Bernardine of Siena, a Franciscan priest and missionary, who popularized the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. He is known as “the Apostle of Italy” for his efforts to revive the country's Catholic faith during the 15th century.

Born in 1380 in Tuscany, Bernardine’s parents died when he was seven years old. He was raised by a pious aunt as her own child.

As a youth, he loved the Blessed Virgin Mary and spoke to her as a child speaks to his mother. She kept him chaste and virtuous. He had a special devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and later wrote that the Immaculate Heart of Mary was "a fiery furnace of Holy Love."

While still a student at the University of Siena, he took charge of the hospital there when an epidemic killed most of the staff. Afterwards, he cared for a bedridden aunt until her death. He then prayed and fasted to discern God's will for his vocation in life.

At the age of 22, Bernardine entered the Franciscan Order and was ordained two years later. He spent nearly a dozen years in prayer and solitude before he was sent out to preach. He was a zealous preacher full of energy and joy, who spent years travelling on foot throughout Italy speaking to enormous audiences, converting countless numbers of pagans.He preached against superstition, gambling, and usury. He promoted peace among the warring Italian cities, and worked diligently for the reform of the Franciscan order and for church unity. He encouraged devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus and is known for his use of the monogram IHS.

Bernardine died on May 20, 1444, at the age of sixty-four in Aquila, Italy. In 1450, Pope Nicholas V declared Bernardine a saint.  He is the patron of advertising and communications, and chest, respiratory, and lung problems. He is also patron against hoarseness and against compulsive gambling.

Saint Quote

"Jesus, Name full of glory, grace, love and strength! You are the refuge of those who repent, our banner of warfare in this life, the medicine of souls, the comfort of those who morn, the delight of those who believe, the light of those who preach the true faith, the wages of those who toil, the healing of the sick. To You our devotion aspires; by You our prayers are received; we delight in contemplating You. O Name of Jesus, You are the glory of all the saints for eternity. Amen."
- St. Bernardine of Siena

Prayer

Saint Bernardine of Siena, words were very important to you. You spent most of your life speaking the golden words of Jesus' mercy and his Holy Name. And you abhorred words that were shameful. Pray for us that we may always choose to speak Jesus' name with reverence and choose words of love over words of shame. Amen.