Category Archives: Saints

Saint John Bosco

The kingdom of heaven is
like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest
of all the seeds but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and
becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.

St John Bosco.jpg

Because today is a Sunday, the Church does not observe the feast of Saint John Bosco, known also as Don Bosco. However, in the Salesian family, Don Bosco’s it is a feast day. My encounters with members of the Salesian family have been few so I’ve poked around their website to learn a little more of the spirit of Don Bosco. The
paragraphs are excerpts of a May 10, 1884 letter by Saint John Bosco,
considered by some to be the “Magna Carta” of Salesian Education. It
is included as an appendix to the Constitutions of the Salesian Society, and
given to members of the Salesian Family. In the USA the Salesians are not as
known as in other parts of the world. Here, their educational system was
perceived to be competing with the Jesuits, and Salesians could not compete.
The Jesuits have about 47 high schools in all the major cities. Be that as it
may, Saint John Bosco provides for us an insight into effective pastoral
ministry. The Salesians of Don Bosco are influential in various sectors of the
Church, primarily in education and with the youth. The reasons for this fact are evident in the letter below. If you are interested in the Salesian priests and sisters, visit their website.

From the letter of Don Bosco

a friendly informal relationship with the boys, especially in recreation
. You
cannot have love without this familiarity, and where this is not evident there
can be no confidence. If you want to be loved, you must make it clear that you
. Jesus Christ made himself little with the little ones and bore our
weaknesses. He is our master in the matter of the friendly approach. The
teacher who is seen only in the classroom is a teacher and nothing more; but if
he joins in the pupils’ recreation he becomes their brother. If someone is only
seen preaching from the pulpit it will be said that he is doing no more and no
less than his duty, whereas if he says a good word in recreation it is heard as
the word of one who loves.

How many conversions have been brought about by a
few words whispered in the ear of a youngster while he is playing
. One who
knows he is loved loves in return, and one who loves can obtain anything,
especially from the young. This confidence creates an electric current between
youngsters and their superiors. Hearts are opened, needs and weaknesses made
known. This love enables superiors to put up with the weariness, the annoyance,
the ingratitude, the troubles that youngsters cause. Jesus Christ did not crush
the bruised reed nor quench the smouldering flax. He is your model
. Then you
will no longer see anyone working for his own glory; you will no longer see
anyone punishing out of wounded self-love; you will not see anyone neglecting
the work of supervision through jealousy of another’s popularity; you won’t
hear people running others down so as to be looked up to by the boys: those who
exclude all other superiors and earn for themselves nothing but contempt and
hypocritical flattery; people who let their hearts be stolen by one individual
and neglect all the other boys to cultivate that particular one. No one will
neglect his strict duty of supervision for the sake of his own ease and
comfort; no one will fail through human respect to reprimand those who need
reprimanding. If we have this true love, we shall not seek anything other than
the glory of God and the good of souls. When this love languishes, things no
longer go well. Why do people want to replace love with cold rules? Why do the
superiors move away from the observance of the rules Don Bosco has given them?
Why the replacement little by little of loving and watchful prevention by a
system which consists in framing laws? Such laws either have to be sustained
through punishment and so create hatred and cause unhappiness or, if they are
not enforced, cause the superiors to be despised and bring about serious
disorders. This is sure to happen if there is no friendly relationship. So if
you want the Oratory to return to the happiness of old, then bring back the old
system: let the superior be all things to all, always ready to listen to any
boy’s complaints or doubts, always alert to keep a paternal eye on their
conduct, all heart to seek the spiritual and temporal good of those Divine
Providence has entrusted to him. Then hearts will no longer be closed and
deadly subterfuge will no longer hold sway
. The superiors should be unbending
only in the case of immoral conduct. It is better to run the risk of expelling
someone who is innocent than to keep someone who causes others to sin.
Assistants should make it a strict duty in conscience to refer to the superiors
whatever they know to be an offence against God.

Saint Angela Merici

St Angela Merici.jpgBorn in northern Italy in 1474, Angela Merici was orphaned by
the age of 10, she was soon alone in this world without her nuclear family
since her older sister suddenly died. Called to a life committed to the Lord,
Angela was a Franciscan tertiary (today known as Secular Franciscan) who
devoted herself to as much time in prayer as possible. She was particularly
devoted to Christ crucified because it is “the book from which the soul
learns,” having spent hours in prayer before the crucifix. On pilgrimage to the
Holy Land she went blind but was miraculously healed after prayer before the

In a vision from the Lord, Angela formed a group of women who would care
for families and the education of children. The group was called the Company of
Saint Ursula and in some places it is referred to the Institute of Saint
Ursula. Marcocchi’s 1986 biography of the saint he said, “In 1535 Angela Merici
founded at Brescia the Company of St Ursula. Its members observed the
evangelical counsels without being bound by vows; they wore no particular
habit; they did not lead a common life as in a monastic community, but lived
with their own families and earned their own living. This initiative, aimed at
inserting consecrated virgins into the world, introduced a feature of great innovation,
as it took shape outside a monastery, in other words, outside the structure
which for centuries had channeled religious life for women (XV).” At this time
in the Church, the Company of Saint Ursula was a completely new form of
religious life that many churchmen had problems with it because it challenged
every sort of preconceived notion of what and how women acted in church and
society. The only form of religious life offered to women was the cloister or
the hospital. An apostolic life like that of the Franciscan and later of the Society
of Jesus for women was unknown. Angela lived under the spiritual influence of Saints
Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Genoa, and later those who followed the converted
solider of Manresa. Angela would not only heed the spiritual doctrines of the Franciscan
but keenly the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Angela died in 1540, the year the Jesuits were approved by Pope Paul III for the Church universal.

Saint Angela
Merici was canonized by Pope Pius VII and is the patron saint of physically
challenged people, sick people, and orphans. Her body remains incorrupt.

My hope is that a revival of the Company of Saint Ursula (the Ursulines) would happen…we need their witness today. Pray for this grace.

Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops

Titus ordained by Paul

The icon of Titus being ordained by the Apostle Paul is an intriguing piece since most of us just presume that the Apostles of Paul’s stature ordained others. Rather than presume, the Church offers this sacred image to us for our prayer.

This hymn captures poetically the vocation of these two saints.

For your servants and your bishops,
God, this day our thanks we bring.
Timothy and Titus, teachers
Of your word: their praise we sing.
In the church’s youngest days
They were faithful to your ways;
With Saint Paul the gospel preaching,
Each day saw them new souls reaching.

With such witnesses surrounded,
Let us run in faith our race
That, with Jesus as our leader,
Buoyed up with Spirit’s grace
We may reach our heav’nly goal,
True in body and in soul.
Praise the Father, Son, and Spirit!
We are saved through Jesus’ merit!

J. Michael Thompson
Copyright © 2009, World Library Publications
87 87 77 88;  FREU DICH SEHR

Saint Francis de Sales & World Communications Sunday

St Francis de Sales2.jpg

In graciousness and dignity
Saint Francis led Christ’s own,
That through the gospel’s gentle love
Reforming strength be shown.

Mid fractious striving, Francis preached
The Cath’lic faith and shared
His riches with the poor he met;
Bore witness everywhere.

May each of us, by Francis led,
Commit our lives anew
To Father, Son, and Spirit blest,
God loving, wise, and true. 

J. Michael Thompson, Copyright © 2009, World Library Publications


Today is also the 44th World Communications Day, on feast of the saintly patron is Saint Francis de Sales who tirelessly brought the faith to others in an understandable way. Those claiming to be interested in the New Evangelization, especially seminarians, pay attention to what the Pope is saying! What is your diocese doing to reach out to those not hearing the Gospel on Sunday morning? How does your parish measure up to the Pope’s ideas? Does your seminary promote communication, in its various forms, for the good of teaching the faith? Are you, as a Catholic, prepared to meet the post-modern era? If not, why?


The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World:
New Media at the Service of the Word.

The theme of this year’s World Communications Day – The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word – is meant to coincide with the Church’s celebration of the Year for Priests. It focuses attention on the important and sensitive pastoral area of digital communications, in which priests can discover new possibilities for carrying out their ministry to and for the Word of God. Church communities have always used the modern media for fostering communication, engagement with society, and, increasingly, for encouraging dialogue at a wider level. Yet the recent, explosive growth and greater social impact of these media make them all the more important for a fruitful priestly ministry.

All priests have as their primary duty the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, and the communication of his saving grace in the sacraments. Gathered and called by the Word, the Church is the sign and instrument of the communion that God creates with all people, and every priest is called to build up this communion, in Christ and with Christ. Such is the lofty dignity and beauty of the mission of the priest, which responds in a special way to the challenge raised by the Apostle Paul: “The Scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame … everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? (Rom 10:11, 13-15).

Responding adequately to this challenge amid today’s cultural shifts, to which young people are especially sensitive, necessarily involves using new communications technologies. The world of digital communication, with its almost limitless expressive capacity, makes us appreciate all the more Saint Paul’s exclamation: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16) The increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility on the part of those called to proclaim the Word, but it also requires them to become more focused, efficient and compelling in their efforts. Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: as new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word.

The spread of multimedia communications and its rich “menu of options” might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different “voices” provided by the digital marketplace. Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.

Using new communication technologies, priests can introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ. They will best achieve this aim if they learn, from the time of their formation, how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord. Yet priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ. This will not only enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a “soul” to the fabric of communications that makes up the “Web”.

God’s loving care for all people in Christ must be expressed in the digital world not simply as an artifact from the past, or a learned theory, but as something concrete, present and engaging. Our pastoral presence in that world must thus serve to show our contemporaries, especially the many people in our day who experience uncertainty and confusion, “that God is near; that in Christ we all belong to one another” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, 21 December 2009).

Who better than a priest, as a man of God, can develop and put into practice, by his competence in current digital technology, a pastoral outreach capable of making God concretely present in today’s world and presenting the religious wisdom of the past as a treasure which can inspire our efforts to live in the present with dignity while building a better future? Consecrated men and women working in the media have a special responsibility for opening the door to new forms of encounter, maintaining the quality of human interaction, and showing concern for individuals and their genuine spiritual needs. They can thus help the men and women of our digital age to sense the Lord’s presence, to grow in expectation and hope, and to draw near to the Word of God which offers salvation and fosters an integral human development. In this way the Word can traverse the many crossroads created by the intersection of all the different “highways” that form “cyberspace”, and show that God has his rightful place in every age, including our own. Thanks to the new communications media, the Lord can walk the streets of our cities and, stopping before the threshold of our homes and our hearts, say once more: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20).

In my Message last year, I encouraged leaders in the world of communications to promote a culture of respect for the dignity and value of the human person. This is one of the ways in which the Church is called to exercise a “diaconia of culture” on today’s “digital continent”. With the Gospels in our hands and in our hearts, we must reaffirm the need to continue preparing ways that lead to the Word of God, while being at the same time constantly attentive to those who continue to seek; indeed, we should encourage their seeking as a first step of evangelization. A pastoral presence in the world of digital communications, precisely because it brings us into contact with the followers of other religions, non-believers and people of every culture, requires sensitivity to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute. Just as the prophet Isaiah envisioned a house of prayer for all peoples (cf. Is 56:7), can we not see the web as also offering a space – like the “Court of the Gentiles” of the Temple of Jerusalem – for those who have not yet come to know God?

The development of the new technologies and the larger digital world represents a great resource for humanity as a whole and for every individual, and it can act as a stimulus to encounter and dialogue. But this development likewise represents a great opportunity for believers. No door can or should be closed to those who, in the name of the risen Christ, are committed to drawing near to others. To priests in particular the new media offer ever new and far-reaching pastoral possibilities, encouraging them to embody the universality of the Church’s mission, to build a vast and real fellowship, and to testify in today’s world to the new life which comes from hearing the Gospel of Jesus, the eternal Son who came among us for our salvation. At the same time, priests must always bear in mind that the ultimate fruitfulness of their ministry comes from Christ himself, encountered and listened to in prayer; proclaimed in preaching and lived witness; and known, loved and celebrated in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation.

To my dear brother priests, then, I renew the invitation to make astute use of the unique possibilities offered by modern communications. May the Lord make all of you enthusiastic heralds of the Gospel in the new “agorà” which the current media are opening up.

With this confidence, I invoke upon you the protection of the Mother of God and of the Holy Curè of Ars and, with affection, I impart to each of you my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2010, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales.


Saint Agnes

St Agnes3.jpg

Almighty and everlasting God, you choose those whom the world deems powerless to put the powerful to shame: Grant us so to cherish the memory of your youthful martyr Agnes,  that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in you.

Let us now our voices raise,
Wake this day with gladness;
God has now to joy and praise
Changed our human sadness–
Joy that Agnes won her crown,
Entered heaven’s portal
When she laid the mortal down

For the life immortal!
Praise we God, whose wondrous grace
Showered on this martyr,
Giving strength in death’s fierce face
Not with sin to barter;
Rather claiming Christ as Lord,
Vowed to him forever.
Fullest praise let us afford,
Hymns that shall cease never!

To the Father, giving life,
Endless praise be given,
To the Son, who through death’s strife
Brings us all to heaven,
To the Spirit, Paraclete,
Filling all with graces
Be our song of joy complete,
Through the endless ages.

J. Michael Thompson
Copyright © 2009, World Library Publications
76 76 D

For more on Saint Agnes, read the post from last year which includes a brief paragraph on the blessing of lambs.
What the video on the blessing of lambs whose wool is used for the weaving of pallia.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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