Category Archives: Saints

Saint Polycarp

As a disciple of the Apostles especially Saint John the Beloved Disciple, and as bishop of Smyrna, and a friend of St Ignatius of Antioch, Saint Polycarp (+155) is a very interesting friend of Jesus. A very well-connected man.

At that Polycarp’s time among the many issues of the nascent Church was the date to celebrate the Resurrection. Polycarp travelled to Rome to confer with Pope Anicetus about the celebration of Easter. Polycarp’s importance in Church history is critical as his  writings is among the the earliest Church Fathers to survive. He bears witness to the beliefs of the early Christians and the early stages of the development of doctrine. He was martyred at the age of 86 in about 155 by being burnt to death in the stadium. The aroma of his burning flesh was that of baking bread. Some make the connection that his death was eucharistic. The blood from Polykarp’s body put the fire out. The account of his death became a new genre of writing which came to be known as Acts of the Martyrs encouraging Christians to live their lives with coherence with Christ Jesus.

21 Egyptian martyrs

21 Egyptian Martyrs 2015The Coptic Orthodox Church announced that they recognize the 21 men killed last week in Libya by ISIS as martyrs and their have names have been inscribed into Coptic Synaxarium. This was an ecclesial act, similar to the Latin Church’s canonization, by Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II.

A  Synaxarium is the equivalent to the Roman Martyrology for the Eastern Churches (each of the church has its own list of saints). As one commentator said, the 21 Egyptian martyrs are not merely for the Copts, but for all Christians. Their witness to the Christian faith is critical for all of us who find it difficult to bear the burden of Christ’s Paschal Mystery.

The Coptic Orthodox Pope stated that the martyrs will be commemorated on the 8th Amshir of the Coptic calendar, or February 15th of the Gregorian calendar. The commemoration falls on the feast day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

Something Tertullian said comes to mind:

“Kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice is the proof that we are innocent. Therefore God suffers that we thus suffer…. a taint on our purity is considered among us something more terrible than any punishment and any death. Nor does your cruelty, however exquisite, avail you… The more often you mow us down, the more we grow in number; the blood of Christian martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

~ Tertullian in “Apologeticum (The Apology)” – writing in Carthage, North Africa c. 200 AD

The 21 martyrs are not vague group of men; each has a name and genealogy:

1. Milad Makeen Zaky
2. Abanub Ayad Atiya
3. Maged Solaiman Shehata
4. Yusuf Shukry Yunan
5. Kirollos Shokry Fawzy
6. Bishoy Astafanus Kamel
7. Somaily Astafanus Kamel
8. Malak Ibrahim Sinweet
9. Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros
10. Girgis Milad Sinweet
11. Mina Fayez Aziz
12. Hany Abdelmesih Salib
13. Bishoy Adel Khalaf
14. Samuel Alham Wilson
15. Worker from Awr village
16. Ezat Bishri Naseef
17. Loqa Nagaty
18. Gaber Munir Adly
19. Esam Badir Samir
20. Malak Farag Abram
21. Sameh Salah Faruq

Saints Cyril and Methodius

Sts Cyril and Methodious

Your translation’s divine,
your preaching melodious;
won’t you be
my Cyril and Methodius?

(Dominic M. Holtz, OP)

Saint Josephine Bakhita

When Pope Benedict XVI published his encyclical on Hope, “Spes Salvi” he showed the world a new aspect of hope in the person of a tremendously beautiful saint of the 20th century: Saint Josephine Bakhita. One priest called her “a superlative example of one who found hope.” YES, indeed!!!!!

In Spe Salvi, Benedict wrote:

3. Yet at this point a question arises: in what does this hope consist which, as hope, is “redemption”? The essence of the answer is given in the phrase from the Letter to the Ephesians quoted above: the Ephesians, before their encounter with Christ, were without hope because they were “without God in the world”. To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope. We who have always lived with the Christian concept of God, and have grown accustomed to it, have almost ceased to notice that we possess the hope that ensues from a real encounter with this God. The example of a saint of our time can to some degree help us understand what it means to have a real encounter with this God for the first time. I am thinking of the African Josephine Bakhita, canonized by Pope John Paul II. She was born around 1869—she herself did not know the precise date—in Darfur in Sudan. At the age of nine, she was kidnapped by slave-traders, beaten till she bled, and sold five times in the slave-markets of Sudan. Eventually she found herself working as a slave for the mother and the wife of a general, and there she was flogged every day till she bled; as a result of this she bore 144 scars throughout her life. Finally, in 1882, she was bought by an Italian merchant for the Italian consul Callisto Legnani, who returned to Italy as the Mahdists advanced. Here, after the terrifying “masters” who had owned her up to that point, Bakhita came to know a totally different kind of “master”—in Venetian dialect, which she was now learning, she used the name “paron” for the living God, the God of Jesus Christ. Up to that time she had known only masters who despised and maltreated her, or at best considered her a useful slave. Now, however, she heard that there is a “paron” above all masters, the Lord of all lords, and that this Lord is good, goodness in person. She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her—that he actually loved her. She too was loved, and by none other than the supreme “Paron”, before whom all other masters are themselves no more than lowly servants. She was known and loved and she was awaited. What is more, this master had himself accepted the destiny of being flogged and now he was waiting for her “at the Father’s right hand”. Now she had “hope” —no longer simply the modest hope of finding masters who would be less cruel, but the great hope: “I am definitively loved and whatever happens to meI am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.” Through the knowledge of this hope she was “redeemed”, no longer a slave, but a free child of God. She understood what Paul meant when he reminded the Ephesians that previously they were without hope and without God in the world—without hope because without God. Hence, when she was about to be taken back to Sudan, Bakhita refused; she did not wish to be separated again from her “Paron”. On 9 January 1890, she was baptized and confirmed and received her first Holy Communion from the hands of the Patriarch of Venice. On 8 December 1896, in Verona, she took her vows in the Congregation of the Canossian Sisters and from that time onwards, besides her work in the sacristy and in the porter’s lodge at the convent, she made several journeys round Italy in order to promote the missions: the liberation that she had received through her encounter with the God of Jesus Christ, she felt she had to extend, it had to be handed on to others, to the greatest possible number of people. The hope born in her which had “redeemed” her she could not keep to herself; this hope had to reach many, to reach everybody.

The concept of faith-based hope in the New Testament and the early Church

4. We have raised the question: can our encounter with the God who in Christ has shown us his face and opened his heart be for us too not just “informative” but “performative”—that is to say, can it change our lives, so that we know we are redeemed through the hope that it expresses? Before attempting to answer the question, let us return once more to the early Church. It is not difficult to realize that the experience of the African slave-girl Bakhita was also the experience of many in the period of nascent Christianity who were beaten and condemned to slavery……

5. We must add a further point of view. The First Letter to the Corinthians (1:18-31) tells us that many of the early Christians belonged to the lower social strata, and precisely for this reason were open to the experience of new hope, as we saw in the example of Bakhita……

Saint Joan de Lestonnac 

St Joan de LestonnacYou know you are in the digital age when you learn about a saint that has an interesting place in people’s lives. This morning I learned of one of today’s liturgical memorials: St. Joan de Lestonnac.

According to a biographer, Saint Joan “was born in Bordeaux, France, in 1556. She married at the age of seventeen. The happy marriage produced four children, but her husband died suddenly in 1597. After her children were raised, she entered the Cistercian monastery at Toulouse [at the age of 46]. Joan was forced to leave the Cistercians when she became afflicted with poor health. She returned to Bordeaux with the idea of forming a new congregation, and several young girls joined her as novices. They ministered to victims of a plague that struck Bordeaux, and they were determined to counteract the evils of heresy promulgated by Calvinism. Thus was formed the Order of the Company of Mary our Lady of Bordeaux. In 1608, Joan and her companions received the religious habit from the Archbishop of Bordeaux. Joan was elected superior in 1610, and many miracles occurred at her tomb. She was canonized in 1949 by Pope Pius XII.”

One interesting point for me is that Saint Joan’s concern for souls lost to Calvinism was aided by members of the Society of Jesus. Another biographer writes:

“Two Jesuit priests, Fathers de Bordes and Raymond, whilst they celebrated Mass, received an understanding that they should assist in founding an order to counteract the surrounding heresies and that Joan must be the first superior.  The rule and constitutions of the Order were founded on those of St. Ignatius and the first house was opened in the Holy Ghost priory at Bordeaux.”

AND, “Finally, her great love shown by her patient example even whilst she was being emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and physically abused, with her reputation being ruined as a result of lies and hatred, she still remained firm in her Faith and love of God, even converting the person who was so mean and cruel to her.  Let us remember the extraordinary example of this beautiful and incredible woman always!  St. Joan is a true feminist, true to her Faith, true to her abilities and never afraid to love, even her most vicious enemies!  God be praised for this magnificent lady!”

Saint Joan’s body, as a sign of holiness, remains incorrupt.

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]yahoo.com.
coat of arms

Categories

Archives

Humanities Blog Directory