Category Archives: Saints

St John Baptist de la Salle

John Baptist de la SalleThe seventeenth-century Frenchman John Baptist de la Salle was drawn to what he discerned as God’s will for him be abandoning all earthly things. He was capable, from a noble family, good looking and yet the entitlements of society were insufficient for his heart. John was ordained at 27 and was offered place among the canons at Rheims which he later gave up.

We believe that Divine Providence shows us the path to walk by putting people and circumstances in our way as pointers to serve Him and Him alone. The events of his era led John Baptist and others to take seriously the work of mercy educating young men, especially the poor.

The charism of educating the poor was so attractive that men who desired to serve the Lord and the Church a brothers and not priests gave way to the founding of a community of religious men called the Brothers of the Christian School (Christian Brothers, or De La Salle Brothers and sometimes the French Christian Brothers). Over time the work was more defined by educating boys of poor families, training teachers and setting up homes and schools for delinquents of the wealthy. It was John’s desire that the men in his care would be become a good Christian men.

De La Salle had lived his final years with chronic asthma and the painful rheumatism giving himself totally to God on Good Friday. He was 68. The Church canonized Father John Baptist de la Salle in 1900 and in 1950, Pope Pius XII named de la Salle patron of schoolteachers.

3 new saints from the Americas

This morning we have three new saints! His Holiness canonized three new patrons, to pray for us in heaven. Actually, God makes saints, the Church discerns who the saints are. All three have strong connections to the Americas: Canada and Brazil.

St José de AnchietaSaint José de Anchieta is the newest Jesuit saint. The saint died in 1597. De Anchieta is known as the “Apostle of Brazil” and “Father of Brazilian Literature,” a person in Brazil’s history. Writing to the Society of Jesus, Father Adolfo Nicolás, superior general, said:

The Society must not refuse this invitation offered to present anew this versatile figure who is inspiring and extremely relevant to this day. What does the Lord want to say to us in giving us the gift, in less than a year, of Church recognition of the evangelical value of the lives of our two companions, Peter Faber and José de Anchieta? These are two men who accomplished missions so different and yet so similar in the Jesuit spirit that should animate our mission. Both, with the passion of their lives, invite us to discover that the “restoration,” more than being a mere historical event for us, ought to manifest the ever present “mode of being” of an apostolic body in continuous re-creation.

José de Anchieta, “of medium height, lean, with a strong and decisive spirit, bronzed features, bluish eyes, ample forehead, large nose, thin beard, and with a happy and friendly face,” spent 44 years of his life traversing a good part of the geography of Brazil and carrying the good news of the Gospel to the native peoples.

Read Father Adolfo Nicolás’ whole letter here.

Saint Marie de l’Incarnation (Marie of the Incarnation) is an amazing Ursuline sister who founded the first Ursuline convent in Canada, founded Canada’s first school and is called “Mother of Canada.” The biography of Saint Marie is written by the Ursulines.

Saint François de Laval, was the first bishop of Québec. You can read about him at Center Francois de Laval.

In literature Saints Marie of the Incarnation and François de Laval are found in Willa Cather’s 1931 novel of early Quebec, Shadows on the Rock.

May our three new heavenly companions to show us by their example how to love God in a particular way.

Theology of the Body, briefly visited with St Gregory Palamas

St Gregory PalamasThe Eastern Christian Saint Gregory Palamas (1296-1359) whose feast day is observed twice a year by Orthodox Christians –once on November 14 and then on the Third Sunday of Lent. For Catholics Saint Gregory Palamas is a great guide for our spiritual training in Lent.

John Paul II was very keen on the theology of the body for some very good reasons. One of which is that he thought that the recovery of certain biblical principles as they are related to the human body were essential for the truthfulness, goodness and beauty Christian life life to thrive. His massive tome on the subject takes times to digest. But he’s not the only one to use the theme of “theology of the body.”

Some tend to reject the idea that the human body has anything to do with spiritual life. Nothing can be further from the truth. Christians, especially liturgically oriented Christians like Catholics and the Orthodox, believe that the body  Saint Gregory, the archbishop of Thessalonki taught a great deal about the importance of the body in the prayer life. Gregory was a proponent of hesychasm, a Greek work meaning stillness, quite. As it is related to a form of prayer it attends to the inner prayer life. It is mental prayer. The Jesus Prayer is prayed.

The point is to prayer unceasing no matter what we are doing. We know this from Saint Paul the Apostle. Saint Gregory helps us to focus on the essentiality of inner prayer amidst the noise of life. No activity is outside of God’s grace because the material world is not contrary to the things of God. However, if the material world becomes an idol, then sin creeps in, which is not good.

Incessant prayer and the worthy reception of the sacraments lead to communion with God. Nothing, particularly, the body-ethic, is outside communion with God, through the energy, not the substance, of the Holy Spirit. This is called thesois. The uncreated energy is defined as grace. It is the uncreated energy of God which transfigures and illuminates us drawing us in communion with the Divine Majesty.

Don’t get grumpy as the mid-Lent blues set in… but keep focus on your mental prayer as it will lead to a deeper relationship with Jesus. Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance.

Saint Joseph…a contemplative of pure love

St Joseph“… the apparent tension between the active and the contemplative life finds an ideal harmony that is only possible for those who possess the perfection of charity. Following St. Augustine’s well-known distinction between the love of the truth and the practical demands of love, we can say that Joseph experienced both love of the truth-that pure contemplative love of the divine Truth which radiated from the humanity of Christ-and the demands of love-that equally pure and selfless love required for his vocation to safeguard and develop the humanity of Jesus, which was inseparably linked to his divinity.”

Blessed John Paul II
Guardian of the Redeemer

Saint Joseph: participator in Mary’s dignity

Go to JosephThe Catholic devotion to Saint Joseph is strong and vital, and it is has been for centuries. You will see the phrase, “Ite ad Joseph” at the Saint Joseph shrine or altar. In fact, over the head of Joseph in this image you see the scroll with just that: Ite ad Joseph. The beloved spouse of Mary, since 1870, has been the Patron of the Church, named so by Pope Pius IX. In biblical typology of the OT Saint Joseph is prefigured by an earlier Joseph who is the protector of Israel.

Pope Leo XIII in his 1889 encyclical, Quamquam pluries, speaks of Saint Joseph an “exemplary model of kindness and humility.” Such are the virtues that we expect all Christians to possess and develop: this is especially true for fathers, parents, priests, educators, and the like. As the spouse of Mary and earthly father of Jesus we come to understand Joseph as a “participator in her [Mary’s] sublime dignity.” Leo develops in a new way a theology of Joseph in looking at his chaste spousal relationship to Mary by describing him for us when he says that Joseph was “closer than any” other person.

Leo also designated Saint Joseph to be the universal patron of the Church.

One aspect of Saint Joseph that’s not well spoken of but was raised by Pope Leo is Joseph as protector, guide, patron of the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Considering biblical typology with regard to Joseph we see the Spouse of Mary as connected with, that is, echoing, Joseph of Egypt found earlier in the OT and as the earthly father of Jesus he is custodian of holiness. This man of righteousness we say exercised significant overseeing of Jesus is the “true bread come down from heaven.” Hence, Joseph’s role as guardian of the Holy Child, it is not unrealistic to consider as crucial to the life of both the ministerial AND lay priesthood. What is seen in Joseph is now seen in the our priestly life. Catholics distinguish the two priesthoods, one serving the other in a unique manner all oriented to salvation in Christ Jesus.

Just as Joseph attended to his family and daily work, he also was attentive to life of prayer and sacrifice given to him through the Torah (the Law of Moses). It is fitting to see these things held in creative tension but likely with an accent on prayer. All the things we say that Joseph could have done that would be opposite to having concern for Mary and Jesus were actually fulfilled because the Holy Spirit was such a powerful presence in Joseph. Without this Divine Presence Joseph would have collapsed under the weight of self-absorption. The intense friendship (that is, obedience) with the Divine Majesty allowed for his earthly love to taken on a new dynamism for all of history. One might say, like we ascribe to Mary, that Joseph was the second disciple of Jesus. Yet, he is the first to experience this discipleship in an unrepeatable way as being that close to the dignity of Mother and Son.

One last point of salvation history, Joseph is a fitting patron of the priesthood because he was the spouse of Mary, and that the report of Fatima is that he was with Mary then, leading up to these last days in the Lord.

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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