Saint Leonard of Port Maurice was the Son of Domenico Casanova, a sea captain, and Anna Maria Benza. Placed at age thirteen with his uncle Agostino to study for a career as a physician, but the youth decided against medicine, and his uncle disowned him. Studied at the Jesuit College in Rome. Joined the Riformella, a branch of the Franciscans of the Strict Observance on 2 October 1697, taking the name Brother Leonard. Ordained in Rome in 1703. Taught for a while, and expected to become a missionary to China, but a bleeding ulcer kept him in his native lands for the several years it took to recover and regain his strength.
Sent to Florence in 1709 where he preached in the city are nearby region. A great preacher, he was often invited to other areas. Worked for devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, Sacred Heart, Immaculate Conception, and the Stations of the Cross. Established the Way of the Cross in over 500 places, including the Colosseum. Sent as a missionary by Pope Benedict XIV to Corsica in 1744. He restored discipline to the holy orders there, but local politics greatly limited his success in preaching. He returned exhausted to Rome where he spent the rest of his days.
Lately, I have been worried that my orthodox views will get me and my family in trouble. More particularly that i would be killed or jailed and that my family would suffer. While roaming around on the blogs i noticed that many Catholic men had this same worry. Then last night as I was stepping out of the bathtub and wiping myself dry something hit me. A scripture verse to be precise. 'If anyone puts family of friends before me he is not worth to enter the Kingdom of God' BANG like a bolt from the blue. All my worries about what would happen to my family vanished. I thought about it more, if I did not put God first then I would be really losing my family, but if I did put God first, it would appear that I would be losing my family for now but in the end when it mattered I would gain family. This corresponds with another bible verse ' He who loses his life for my sake gains it and He who tries to save his life will lose it'. My life to me is my family. Thus i think God is asking me to put Him first above even Family. After all he gave me the gift of life and family and He has the right to take it away if He so chooses.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria. Let us contemplate what Dr. Plinio has to say about this saint.
(Torchiara Polyptych. 1462 Madonna and Child and Angels, St. Nicodemus, St Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Peter. On the predella, the twelve Apostles.)
After the unsuccessful attempt to kill St. Catherine on the wheel, Emperor Maxentius ordered her to be beheaded. She was conducted to the place of her martyrdom followed by a multitude, mainly ladies of high condition who wept at her fate. The virgin walked with a great calm. Before dying she said this prayer:
“Lord Jesus Christ, my God, I thank Thee for having firmly set my feet on the rock of the Faith and directed my steps on the pathway of salvation. Open now Thy arms wounded on the cross to receive my soul, which I offer in sacrifice to the glory of Thy Name.
“Forgive the faults I committed in ignorance and wash my soul in the blood I will shed for Thee. Do not leave my body, slaughtered by love for Thee, in the power of those who hate me. Kindly regard this people and give them the knowledge of the truth. Finally, O Lord, in Thy infinite mercy exalt those who will invoke Thee through me so that Thy name be always glorified.”
After saying these words, she told the soldiers to execute their orders, and she was beheaded with but one blow of the sword. It was November 25 (around the year 310).
Soon numerous miracles began to take place. Her body, as she had asked, was carried away by Angels and buried on Mount Sinai so that she might rest where God had written on stone His law, which she had so faithfully kept written on her heart.
Comments of Prof. Plinio:
This excerpt from the life of St. Catherine of Alexandria is so elevated that I lament commenting on it. It would be better to leave it shining alone on the horizon. But since I am asked to analyze it, I will say some words.
The first thing that occurs to me is the good position of the ladies of high society of those times. Today, such ladies often form a network that slanders and disparages the good cause. What a great potential there was in that country, where the ladies of high condition followed St. Catherine to the place of martyrdom, weeping for her, sympathetic for her, a martyr whose life would be snuffed out by the Emperor’s hatred. The Emperor was omnipotent; he could condemn any of them to death; notwithstanding they were there with St. Catherine.
It is beautiful to see the contrast of spirits in the picture and the different graces the Holy Ghost was giving. The ladies were weeping, probably touched by the gift of tears. But St. Catherine did not weep, she was calm, serene, and walked unswervingly toward death, inundated by another kind of grace of the Holy Ghost. She did not weep over her own situation, that martyrdom which grace moved the others to lament. One can imagine how impressive it was to see that cortège of ladies walking between aisles of soldiers and then to find that the only one who was serene, counseling the others to be tranquil, was St. Catherine, who was shortly to die.
Then, before her life ended, she said a prayer. It has the beauty of shining lights that fill the skies and emanate from many places. They do not come from just one source, from one central idea.
So, she began: “Lord Jesus Christ, my God.” Even as the Emperor tried to oblige her to adore the idols, she affirmed the divinity of Our Lord to show that she did not recognize any other god but Him.
The next thing she said, “I thank Thee for having firmly set my feet on the rock of the Faith and directed my steps on the pathway of salvation.” That is to say: I thank You for making me belong to You, the source of my salvation. You are the origin of every good that exists in me. I am good because You are good and gave me the solidity of the Catholic Faith; You made me love virtue and gave me the firmness to practice it. I recognize that everything that exists in me came from You.
She continued: “Open now Thy arms wounded on the cross to receive my soul, which I offer in sacrifice to the glory of Thy Name.” Nothing more beautiful can exist! She asked her Crucified Lord to open His bloodied arms to receive her soul as she left this life, which also saw its earth soaked with the blood of her martyrdom. What a marvelous intimacy! What an encounter: the Martyr of martyrs Our Lord Jesus Christ and this heroic and grandiose martyr St. Catherine of Alexandria! What a magnificent thought, that her blood should intermingle with the blood of Our Lord! What a profound idea of the communion of saints is expressed in such a desire! She had such a great certainty that she would be received into Heaven that she asked Our Lord to embrace her. How admirable such certainty is! Then she said: “Forgive the faults I committed in ignorance and wash my soul in the blood I will shed for Thee.” She was afraid that she had committed some faults, and she asked to be washed clean by the merit of her martyrdom.
“Do not leave my body, slaughtered by love for Thee, in the power of those who hate me.” After having asked Our Lord to attend to her soul, she asked refuge for her body. You can see the respect she had for her own body, for the sanctity of the body that was her companion in the practice of virtue. And what a magnificent response to this request! Soon after she died, the Angels came and transported her body to the most majestic mountain that exists on earth after Mount Calvary, which is Mount Sinai, where God gave His Law to men.
“Kindly regard this people and give them the knowledge of the truth.” She was no longer thinking of herself, but of the ones she was leaving behind.
“Finally, O Lord, in Thy infinite mercy, exalt those who will invoke Thee through me, in order that Thy name be always glorified.” She was so certain that she would go to Heaven that she was already interceding for those who would pray to her.
Once this prayer was said, she calmly told the soldiers to carry out her sentence. No trembling, no desire to prolong her life a little more. Also, no precipitation, which sometimes is a reflection of fear. No. She said everything she wanted to say, and when she finished, she delivered herself into the hands of God. The soldiers beheaded her, and immediately afterward, her prayer started to be answered.
What grace should we ask of St. Catherine of Alexandria? We should ask her that when the chastisement predicted in Fatima will be realized and we face the enemies of the Church and Christendom, that we have the same serenity she had in face of death. It is a serenity that only grace can give. In face of death, there are two kinds of serenity: one is the serenity of the idiot, another is the serenity that comes from grace. Death, the separation of the body and soul, the apparent plunging into nothingness, is such a terrible thing that only two kinds of serenity are comprehensible: that of the idiot who never measures the consequences of anything, or the serenity of the man inundated by grace.
So then, let us ask St. Catherine to help us be calm in every situation in our lives, and especially in the risks and dangers of life, and even in the extreme sacrifice of death, if that should be the will of Our Lady for us.
St. Andrew was one of 117 martyrs who met death in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. Now all have been canonized by Pope John Paul II.
Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan.
The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese apostatize by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful.
Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries.
Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with the rebellion of one of his sons.
The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution.
By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees.
During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.
Here is a comparatively rare event in the history of the Church: a camera is witness to a martyrdom. The whole affair was orchestrated in 1927 by a fierce enemy of the Church whose savage blows only served to strengthen and glorify both her and the individual victims of his wrath.
A sketch of Bl. Miguel Pro's life brings to mind the story of his spiritual forbears, the martyr-priests in post-Reformation England. Like them, he lived at a time when his nation's leaders turned against the Church. The young Jesuit novice went into exile during the Mexican revolution; like many seminarians during the English persecution, Miguel Pro had to study for the priesthood abroad; he was ordained in Belgium on August 31, 1925. Like his English forbears, Fr. Pro conducted his ministry on the sly, and frequently in disguise.
Fr. Pro was known not only for his devotion and prayerfulness, but also for his wit, his playfulness and his good cheer, especially in the face of a distressing stomach ailment. He was much loved; however, he was eventually betrayed to the authorities and ultimately condemned to death on a trumped-up charge of attempting to assassinate the vice-president.
On the day of Fr. Pro's execution by firing squad, the fiercely anti-Catholic president Plutarcho Calles brought the press out to photograph the event, secure in the belief that he would thereby prove that impending death reduced Catholics to sniveling cowards. In the first photograph above, we see Fr. Pro praying, the picture of serenity in the face of the violent death from which he is only moments away. The next photograph shows Fr. Pro confronting the firing squad, sans blindfold, his arms raised in the form of the cross, with a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other. Fr. Pro forgave his executioners; and as they took aim, he shouted his last words, "¡Viva Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!)." The firing squad was so shaken by his courage that it succeeded only in wounding him; in the final photograph, a soldier dispatches the fallen priest at point-blank range.
Naturally, these photographs had the opposite effect to that intended; Plutarcho Calles ended up confiscating and outlawing them. And Calles obviously did not succeed in entirely destroying the camera's witness to Fr. Pro's courage, since they survive down to the present day.