Category Archives: Saints

Saint Ephrem the Syrian

saint-ephrem2.gifIt is indeed fitting to honor the blessed deacon of
Edessa for his desire that the preaching of the divine word and the training of
his disciples rest on the purity of Sacred Scripture. He also acquired honor as
a Christian musician and poet. He was so accomplished in both arts that he was
called the “lyre of the Holy Spirit.” From this, Venerable Brothers,
you can learn what arts promote the knowledge of sacred things. Ephrem lived
among people whose nature was attracted by the sweetness of poetry and music.
The heretics of the second century after Christ used these same allurements to
skillfully disseminate their errors. Therefore Ephrem, like youthful David
killing the giant Goliath with his own sword, opposed art with art and clothed
Catholic doctrine in melody and rhythm. These he diligently taught to boys and
girls, so that eventually all the people learned them. In this fashion he not
only renewed the education of the faithful in Christian doctrine and supported
their piety with the spirit of the sacred liturgy, but also happily kept
creeping heresy at bay.

The artistry introduced by Blessed Ephrem added dignity
to sacred matters as Theodoretus stresses. The metric rhythm, which our saint
popularized, was widely propagated both among the Greeks and the Latins. Indeed
does it seem probable that the liturgical antiphonary with its songs and
processions, introduced at Constantinople in the works of Chrysostom and at
Milan by Ambrose (whence it spread throughout all of Italy), was the work of
some other author? For the “custom of Eastern rhythm” deeply moved
the catechumen Augustine in northern Italy; Gregory the Great improved it and
we use it in a more advanced form. Critics acknowledge that that “same
Eastern rhythm” had it origins in Ephrem’s Syrian antiphonary.

It is no
wonder then that many of the Fathers of the Church stress the authority of St.
Ephrem. Nyssenus says of his writings, “Studying the Old and New
Scriptures most thoroughly, he interpreted them accurately, word for word; and
what was hidden and concealed, from the very creation of the world to the last
book of grace, he illumined with commentaries, using the light of the
Spirit.” And Chrysostom: “The great Ephrem is scourge of the
slothful, consoler of the afflicted, educator, instructor and exhorter of
youth, mirror of monks, leader of penitents, goad and sting of heretics,
reservoir of virtues, and the home and lodging of the Holy Spirit.” Certainly
nothing greater can be said in praise of a man who, however, seemed so small in
his own eyes that he claimed to be the least of all and a most vile sinner”

Pope Benedict XV

Apostolorum Pet
ro (On St. Ephrem the Syrian), 5 October 1920

Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko, martyr

Jerzy Popiełuszko.jpg

The Church has a new blessed, an apostle for freedom, Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko.

From Cyprus on Sunday, June 6, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI
during the Angelus address spoke a “few words in Polish on the happy occasion
of the beatification today of Jerzy Popieluszko, priest and martyr: [I send
cordial greetings to the Church in Poland which today rejoices at the elevation
to the altars of Father Jerzy Popieluszko. His zealous service and his
martyrdom are a special sign of the victory of good over evil. May his example
and his intercession nourish the zeal of priests and enkindle the faithful with

In 1984 I distinctively remember the tangible feelings upon hearing of the murder of the young priest, Father Jerzy Popieluszko, by the Communists. I think we all cried because he died for us. In fact, no person of Polish heritage could not not know about Popieluszko and identify with the struggle for human dignity and freedom he sought his people. He was seen as a the modern Saint Stanislaus, martyr. The tragic circumstances of his death were ever in front of us as yet another example of the evils of Communism.

Marianna Popiełuszko.jpg

Father Jerzy was a popular chaplain to members of the Solidarity movement. Yesterday, Archbishop Angelo Amato, SDB, Prefect of the Congregation of Saints, beatified Father Jerzy in the presence of his mother Marianna, 100, and other family members and nearly 140,000 people. Marianna is yet another living member of a saint or “saint-to-be.” How moving it is two see Father Jerzy’s mother present for her son’s beatification and the tremendous outpouring of love for him and for her.

Known as a martyr of freedom, Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko’s tomb has had nearly 17 million visitors. Other details pertaining to Popieluszko’s beatification are in Jonathon Luxmoore’s Catholic News Service article, the Zenit article and another story about Blessed Jerzy that can be read here.

Some quick facts:

Born: September 14, 1947
Ordained priest: May 28, 1972
Kidnapped & killed: October 19/20, 1984
Venerated: December 19, 2009
Beatified: June 6, 2010
Liturgical memorial: October 19

Watch the note on a forthcoming movie on Blessed Jerzy

Saint Norbert of Xanten

“I myself shall lead my sheep,
Guarding them from danger;
They shall hear and follow me,
Not go with a stranger.
Into pastures rich and green–
God the Lord has spoken–
I shall bring my Israel,
With my love as token.”
Norbert, father of his flock,
Took to heart this warning,
And in all his works and words
Toiled from night to morning.
Guiding all within his cure,
He took time to nourish
With the love of Christ most fair,

Causing souls to flourish.

St Norbert.jpg

Father of the canon’s life,
Bishop of his city,
Prayed before the Eucharist,
Served the poor with pity.
Crowned a sacrificial life
With a death of glory;
Now we join with saints above
To retell his story!
Glory to the Father give,
Source of ev’ry blessing,
Glory to the Son we sing,
Who, our wrongs addressing,
Came to us as one of us!
To the Spirit, praises!
Hear the songs of thankfulness
Each believer raises!

J. Michael Thompson
Copyright © 2010, World Library Publications

Saint Charles Lwanga & companions, Martyrs of Uganda

St Charles Lwanga.jpgToday’s the liturgical memorial of some of the most evocative witnesses to Jesus Christ who gave their lives for the Christian Faith of the 19th century. I pray that Saint Charles and companions intercede not only for Africa but for all who claim the Church as mother and family and who find it difficult to truly live their faith. More on Saint Charles here.

Saint Charles and his companions (22 of them) were killed in Namugongo, Uganda between 1885-1887. They ranged in age between 13 and 30. They were beatified in 1920 and canonized in 1964. At the revision of the Roman liturgical calendar Saint Charles’s feast day was added. The Church calls these saints the “Protomartyrs of Black Africa.”

In his 1964 homily at the canonization of Saint Charles and his companions, Pope Paul VI said:
“The African martyrs add another page to the Church’s roll of honor –an occasion both of mourning and joy. These African martyrs herald the dawn of a new age. If only the mind of man might be directed not toward persecutions and religious conflicts but toward a rebirth of Christianity and civilization! Africa has been washed by the blood of these latest martyrs, and the first of this new age (and, God willing, let them be the last, although such a holocaust is precious indeed). Africa is reborn free and independent.”

Saint Philip Neri

Neri.jpgOne of the epitaphs of Saint Philip Neri’s is:

“Philip Neri, learned and wise, by sharing the pranks of children himself became a child again.”


Father Frederick Miller’s excellent article ”Saint Philip Neri and the Priesthood” gives a glimpse into this wonderful saint.

On a personal note, I went to Neri’s tomb at the Chiesa Nuova (Rome) yesterday to offer a prayer for a friend, and myself, and found consolation.

Remember, ”To pray well requires the the whole man.”

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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