Saints: May 2013 Archives

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Saints in Connecticut. Relics point to Jesus Christ.

Litchfield County Times' reporter Tom Breen published his "Catholic Retreat Near Mystic Features Severed Arm of Medieval Saint" on May 25, 2013. He writes on the first class relic of Saint Edmund of Canterbury, a renowned English archbishop, in a Mystic, CT, retreat house by the same name.

The infrastructure of holiness rests, in part, with the witness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Saints, for those who are Catholic, are men and women who know they are sinners, who have been forgiven, and who know what it means to live the sacred Scriptures. Specifically, they point to Christ as Messiah and say that it is in fact possible for all of us to be saints.

The Church has venerated, not worshiped saints and their relics. As reliable witnesses, the saints to this day point to Jesus. By the second century Christians would pray in the places where the martyrs were buried and/or where they were killed. A human contact is necessary for all of us.

The practice of offering Mass upon the tombs of the saints became normal; when the Christian community expanded, the practice of praying with the saints followed. Devotion ensued and Connecticut has a verifiable saint to honor.

Saint Edmund of Canterbury's feast day is November 16.

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Saint Joan of Arc

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O God, you have chosen Saint Joan of Arc to defend her country against the invading enemy. Through her intercession, grant that we may work for justice and live in peace.

Saint Joan of Arc (1412 - 1431) was canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV and made the patron saint of France and soldiers. She's known to be from the peasant class but of a devoted family near to the province of Lorraine. Her own life of sanctity began with the awareness, it is said, of recognizing the voices of Saints Michael, Catherine and Margaret. The heavenly messengers told the young Joan to help the king reconquer his kingdom. 

For some it was a precocious act, but Joan commanded her own army at the age of 17 winning several military battles. She faced bigoted political and churchmen and were all-too-willing to let Joan hang out to dry when she was captured by the Burgundians and who they sold her to the English enemies of France.

Saint Philip Neri

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O God, who never cease to bestow the glory of holiness on the faithful servants you raise up for yourself,

graciously grant that the Holy Spirit may kindle in us that fire with which he wonderfully filled the heart of Saint Philip Neri.

Let's remember the Congregation of the Oratory and the loyal sons of Saint Philip Neri. I am thinking particularly thinking of the Oratories found in Brooklyn (NY), Sparkill (NY), and the new Oratory in Lewiston (ME). 

The life of Saint Philip Neri was known for joy. The Apostle to Rome was a provocative witness to holiness and the happiness that results in being close to the Lord. A sermon by Saint Augustine, "Rejoice in the Lord always," talks about joy and therefore an apt meditation on Neri. 

The Apostle tells us to rejoice, but in the Lord, not in the world. Whoever wishes to be a friend of this world, says Scripture, will be reckoned an enemy of God. As a man cannot serve two masters, so one cannot rejoice both in the world and in the Lord.

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Saint Rita

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Saint Rita of Cascia is the patroness of impossible causes. Most have in their minds Saint Jude, patron of difficult cases. I think I need all the help I can get, and Saint Rita does "heavenly" work for me. I was privileged to visit her shrine in Italy a few years back.

Her story is an interesting one, often well forgotten if you don't known her. At twelve her parents engaged her marry Paolo Mancini, a man with anger issues, really, an abusive person. At 18 she married and gave birth to twin sons. Rita, though, had her eyes on the convent.

Rita's sanity, indeed, her sanctity, is demonstrated by the fact that somehow she mustered the strength to suffer Paolo's abuses for eighteen years before he was stabbed to death. Their sons wanted vengeance on their father's killers, but realizing that they'd lose the beauty of heaven, Rita prayed that they receive from God the grace to forgive the killers. The twins died before they could lose their souls.

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Have you ever wondered about the details of the Apostles' death and burial? It is a curious question for biblical studies and archeology, liturgical studies and piety in general. I caught this clever illustration the other day and it answers my question. I hope it is accurate. When in Rome I've been to some of the tombs; I guess I'll have to wait to get to India, Spain and Germany.
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Getting closer and closer to Pentecost Sunday that Church's selections from the Acts of the Apostles gives a clearer sense of how grace works in the life of the Christian community. Today's feast of Saint Matthias, one of the elected apostles (Acts 1:15-26) replacing Judas shows how discernment of spirit works to provide apostolic continuity in pastoral authority and power. Discernment is never one-sided; it is always a two-way street on the part of the man and on the part of the Church to choose who serves as an ordained minister of the Gospel. Matthias' vocation to replace Judas as one of the bishops was given to him; neither he nor single one person had the power to make the selection; it was done with in the midst of the community because the community is a place to encounter the living, resurrected Christ. Moreover, one can't say that Saint Matthias gained much: he preached the Truth of the Gospel, confirmed the faith and he lost his life: nothing greater than the love he had for Christ Jesus propelled him to serve with all his heart.

Note what the Collect of the Mass prays: God assigned Saint Matthias a place of service and pastoral responsibility and it is our hope to numbered among the elect, that is, among the saved. Key here is God's action in each of our lives; it is not our own desires alone that makes salvation possible. We are meant to share the lot of the saints, but our freedom and God's grace need to be operative for this gift to be realized.

Matthias met his Savior by crucifixion in Judea and his mortal remains are located at Saint Matthew's Abbey, Trier, Germany.

As the Church prays,

O God, who assigned Saint Matthias a place in the college of Apostles, grant us, through his intercession, that, rejoicing  at how your love has been allotted to us, we may merit to be numbered among the elect.

The following selection from a sermon of Saint John Chrysostom on Saint Matthias may be instructive on the early practice of ecclesiological need.

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Today the Church has 802 new saints, 800 of them are the martyrs of Otranto. This group of canonized were martyrs while you may say that Laura Montoya (aka, Lupita) and Maria Guadalupe García Zavala were "ordinary saints." These are the first canonizations done by Pope Francis.

What catches our eyes that in one swoop 800 are recognized as martyr saints. Their history tells us that Ottoman soldiers invaded a Christian village town in 1480; the villagers were killed for refusing to convert to Islam, in fact, beheaded because they refused to renounce their Catholic faith.

The wall of skulls of the martyrs of Oltranto (note the picture) displayed prominently in Otranto Cathedral (Apulia region of Italy). These are the human remains, the relics of holy men and women; our new intercessors before the throne of Grace.

The year was 1480 and the fateful day when a fleet of 70 to 200 Ottoman Turks ships reached the city of Otranto, then part of the Kingdom of Naples. The Turkish forces were led by Gedik Ahmed Pasha.

July 28 marks the beginning of the Ottoman wars (1453-1683) in Europe; Mohammed II had invader and conquered Constantinople just 28 years earlier. On August 12, 800 people of Otranto,  Antonio Primaldo and his companions were taken to the hill of Minerva, now called the Hill of the Martyrs, and slaughtered for being faithful to Jesus Christ and His Church.

The Church's precess of investigating the circumstances and holiness of these people began in 1539 and end on 14 December 1771 with the beatification of the people of Oranto by Pope Clement XIV. Benedict XVI issued a decree on 6 July 2007, stating that out of hatred for the faith these Catholics were killed. Therefore, certifying that martyrdom happened and therefore saints.

The Pope homily is here:

In this seventh Sunday of Easter we are gathered to celebrate with joy a feast of holiness. Thanks be to God who has made His glory - the glory of Love - to shine on the Martyrs of Otranto, on Mother Laura Montoya and María Guadalupe García Zavala. I greet all of you who have come to this celebration - from Italy, Colombia, Mexico, from other countries - and I thank you! Let us look on the new saints in the light of the Word of God proclaimed: a Word that invited us to be faithful to Christ, even unto martyrdom; a word that recalled to us the urgency and the beauty of bringing Christ and his Gospel to everyone; a word that spoke to us about the witness of charity, without which even martyrdom and mission lose their Christian savor.

Saint Isaiah, Prophet

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In the Roman Martyrology we read that today the Church liturgically recalls Saint Isaiah, a major prophet in the Old Testament. A translation of the entry found in the Martyrology:

Commemoration of holy Isaiah, the prophet, who, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, was sent to reveal that the Lord was faithful and a savior to an unfaithful and sinful people, and to fulfill the promise swear by God to David. It is said that he met death as a martyr at the hands of the Jews under king Manassah.

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Saint John Houghton (1487-1535), born in Essex, England, became a parish priest then found his vocation with the Carthusian Order, an order founded by Saint Bruno. In history the Carthusian vocation is given to few.  In the North America, in fact, in Vermont, there is only Charterhouse for monks. There is no monastery for Carthusian nuns. We do, however, have a monastery of nuns aggregated to the Carthusian order called, The Monastic Family of Bethlehem and of the Assumption of the Virgin, Livingston Manor, New York. They are impressive nuns because of the complete faithfulness to the charism of being with God alone.

Father Houghton was elected Prior of the Beauvale Charterhouse, Northhampton, for a few months before moving to the London Charterhouse.  In 1534, he was with Blessed Humphrey Middlemore (killed on 19 June 1535), for refusing to accept the Act of Succession, which recognized the legitimacy of the monarchial authority of Elizabeth I. Had Houghton and Middlemore signed the  Act of Succession they would have been released. There were two Carthusian monks accepted the law "as far as the law of God allows" and were released.

Houghton was arrested again in 1535 but this time with Saint Robert Lawrence and Saint Augustine Webster finally for refusing to accept the Act of Supremacy.  Lawrence was the Prior of the Beauvale Charterhouse and Webster was the Prior of the Axholme Charterhouse at the time of the arrests. The three were hanged, drawn, and quartered on this date in1535.

With the Church we pray:

Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your love in the hearts of your holy martyrs Saint John Houghton, Saint Robert Lawrence, and Saint Augustine Webster: grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their examples.

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Saint Athanasius

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The Church liturgically honors Saint Athanasius, a bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church. He was the bishop of Alexandria, having been the 20th Patriarch of the Church, and having died in 373. The exact biography of the saint's life is lost, we do know this theological and pastoral activity. It is said that he was ordained to the episcopate in 328 not yet attained the canonical age of thirty years. Athanasius is famous, that is, distinguished, for being a great defender of the truth of Jesus' full divinity as well as being fully human: our belief in the Incarnation. He was at that time, and continues to be, revered as a "Father of Orthodoxy." Historically, he is remembered for composing two treatises, "Contra Gentes" and "De Incarnatione," written around 318 which is before Arianism got a foothold in society.

What makes Saint Athanasius important for us in the 21st century is that despite the contentiousness of the debate of who Jesus is, it was his personal witness more than anything that led people to the truth of the Faith. The issues in the 4th century remain with us today: many "faithful" Christians don't know how to explain what and whom they say they believe in. Saint Athanasius is still able articulate Catholic belief.

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"The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it" (Genesis 2:15). The God the Father created all things and gave all of humanity to help Him to continue the work of creation by being co-creators, thus giving dignity to work.

Communism was in full force for a long time doing nasty things to people. One example is the Communist ideology propagated on the nature of work and the person was always contentious.  But unbridled capitalism also rejects the dignity of work in the way it cheapens peoples' dignity, the quality of the products made and the reduction of human interaction.

To positively respond to the Communists "May Day" celebrations for the Servant of God Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker in 1955. In doing so, he told the world that work is not unimportant and that each person works with God in creating something good. He communicated that working men and women have a Good Shepherd who walks with each person, that in Saint Joseph the Lord is a defender and a father, a man who values his work as a carpenter whom God chose to be the head of the Holy Family. Joseph's silent but has excellent hearing, and his intercession is very powerful over the Heart of the Savior. Remember he heard the God's call through the angel in the silence of sleep; the angel used dreams to communicate God's plan.

Pope Francis said today, "we celebrate the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, reminds us of the dignity and importance of labor. Work is part of God's plan for the world; by responsibly cultivating the goods of creation, we grow in dignity as men and women made in God's image. For this reason, the problem of unemployment urgently demands greater social solidarity and wise and just policies. I also encourage the many young people present to look to the future with hope, and to invest themselves fully in their studies, their work and their relationships with others. Saint Joseph, as a model of quiet prayer and closeness to Jesus, also invites us to think about the time we devote to prayer each day."

Prayer to Saint Joseph, Workman,

O glorious Patriarch, Saint Joseph, humble and just artisan of Nazareth, thou hast given to all Christians and particularly to us an example of a perfect life through diligent labor and admirable union with Jesus and Mary.

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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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Saints category from May 2013.

Saints: April 2013 is the previous archive.

Saints: June 2013 is the next archive.

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