New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Friday, April 3, 2009

St. Benedict the African - 3rd April 2009

Benedict held important posts in the Franciscan Order and gracefully adjusted to other work when his terms of office were up.

His parents were slaves brought from Africa to Messina, Sicily. Freed at 18, Benedict did farm work for a wage and soon saved enough to buy a pair of oxen. He was very proud of those animals. In time he joined a group of hermits around Palermo and was eventually recognized as their leader. Because these hermits followed the Rule of St. Francis, Pope Pius IV ordered them to join the First Order.

Benedict was eventually novice master and then guardian of the friars in Palermo— positions rarely held in those days by a brother. In fact, Benedict was forced to accept his election as guardian. And when his term ended he happily returned to his work in the friary kitchen.

Benedict corrected the friars with humility and charity. Once he corrected a novice and assigned him a penance only to learn that the novice was not the guilty party. Benedict immediately knelt down before the novice and asked his pardon.

In later life Benedict was not possessive of the few things he used. He never referred to them as "mine" but always called them "ours." His gifts for prayer and the guidance of souls earned him throughout Sicily a reputation for holiness. Following the example of St. Francis, Benedict kept seven 40-day fasts throughout the year; he also slept only a few hours each night.

After Benedict’s death, King Philip III of Spain paid for a special tomb for this holy friar. Canonized in 1807, he is honored as a patron saint by African-Americans.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

St. Francis Of Paula - 2ns April 2009

Saint Francis Of Paula, founder of the order of Minims, born at Paula or Paola, Calabria, in 1416, died at Plessis-les-Tours, France, April 2, 1507. His family name has been variously given as Martorello, Martotillo, and Re-tortillo. Commines, who gives all the details of his stay in France, constantly calls him Frere Robert. This may have been his first name, to which that of Francis was added at a later date. He was devoted by his parents to St. Francis of Assisi, to whose intercession they ascribed his birth, after their marriage had been long childless.

He was early placed in an unreformed convent of Franciscans in Calabria, where he surpassed all the monks in the strict observance of the rule. In 1428 he returned to Paula, resigned his right of inheritance, and retired to a grotto to lead the life of a hermit. He was hardly 20 years old when he found many followers, who built themselves cells near his grotto. He received from the archbishop of Cosenza permission to build a church and convent, which were completed in 1436. From this year dates the establishment of the order of Minims, which adopted the name of hermits of St. Francis. To the usual three monastic vows (poverty, chastity, obedience) St. Francis added as a fourth perpetual abstinence, not only from meat, but also from eggs and milk, except in sickness.

He himself was still more ascetic. He slept on the bare ground, took no food before sunset, often contented himself with bread and water, and sometimes ate only every other day. The fame of miracles reported of him induced Pope Paul II. in 1469 to send his chamberlain to investigate the facts. The report was very favorable. Pope Sixtus IV. confirmed the new order, appointed the founder superior general, and permitted him to establish as many convents as he could. King Louis XL of France, attacked by a fatal disease, sent for him in the hope of being cured; but Francis waited until, in 1482, the pope ordered him to go. He met the sick king in Tours, and exhorted him to leave the issue of his sickness to the will of God, and to prepare himself for death. The successor of Louis, Charles VIII, retained the saint in France, and consulted him in cases of conscience as well as in state affairs, and built for him two convents in France and one in Rome. Francis was canonized by Pope Leo X. in 1519.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

St. Hugh of Grenoble - 1st April 2009

St. Hugh was born on in 1052, at Châteauneuf, France near Valence in the Dauphiné. St. Hugh was born to a pious family. His father, Odilo, was a soldier and he had been married twice. Odilo later became a Carthusian; as a religious order of great austerity dedicated exclusively to the contemplative life, the Carthusians were founded by St. Bruno in 1084 in the Chartreuse Mountains, a lonely branch of the French Alps.

Odilo died at the age of 100, receiving viaticum from his son in whose arms he passed away. After education begun in Valence and completed with distinction in foreign centres of learning, Hugh was presented to a canonry (the office of a canon) in the cathedral of Valence through still a layman - such benefices at that period being often conferred on young students without orders. At the time when Hugh was very young, good-looking, and extremely bashful, he won all hearts by his courtesy and by the modesty which led him to conceal and underrate his talents and learning.

The bishop of Die, another Hugh, was so charmed by his namesake when he came to Valence that he insisted upon attaching him to his household. The prelate soon proved the young canon's worth by entrusting him with some difficult negotiations in the campaign then directed against simony; and in 1080 he took him to a synod at Avignon, called to consider, amongst other matters, the disorders which had crept into the vacant see of Grenoble. The council and the delegates from Grenoble severally and collectively appear to have looked on Canon Hugh as the one man who was capable of dealing with the disorders complained of; but through unanimously elected it was with the greatest reluctance that he consented to accept the office. The legate himself conferred on him holy orders up to the priesthood, and took him to Rome that he might receive consecration as bishop from the pope. Immediately after consecration, St. Hugh hurried off to his diocese, but he was appalled by the state of his flock. St. Hugh had the ability in dealing with both the immorality and wickedness that were predominant and common in Grenoble. St. Hugh was elected bishop at the age of twenty-five.

For two years, Hugh laboured unremittingly. The excellent results he was obtaining were clear to all but to himself: he only saw his failures and blamed his own incompetence. It had been two years of preaching, denunciations, rigorous fasts and continuous praying. Because Hugh was discouraged, he quietly withdrew to the Cluniac Abbey of Chaise-Dieu, where he received the Benedictine habit. He did not remain there long, for Pope Gregory commanded him to resume his pastoral charge and return to Grenoble.

It was to St. Hugh of Grenoble that St. Bruno and his companions addressed themselves when they decided to forsake the world, and it was he who granted to them the desert called the Chartreuse, that gave its name to their order. The bishop became greatly attached to the monks; it was his delight to visit them in their solitude, joining in their exercises and performing the most menial offices. Sometimes he would linger so long in these congenial surroundings that St. Bruno was constrained to remind him of his flock and of his episcopal duties. St. Hugh's preaching with greater intensity and passion than earlier times at Grenoble, drove several people into the state of sadness and sorrow; St. Hugh was so effective that some would make confessions in the public. Despite his achievements, St. Hugh would frequently ask one Pope after another to be transferred; however, the Popes of his time felt he was needed in Grenoble.

A generous almsgiver, St. Hugh in a time of famine sold a gold chalice as well as rings and precious stones from his church treasury; and rich men were stirred by his example to give liberally to feed the hungry and supply the needs of the diocese. His actions were perfect examples in helping the needy, avoiding unimportant money and belongings, and living a true Christian life. St. Hugh's charitable actions and way of living helped influence, teach and persuade other rich people into giving generously to the hungry and needy.

Although at the end of life his soul was further purified by a lingering illness of a very painful character, Hugh never uttered a word of complaint, nor would he speak of what he endured. St. Hugh had suffered drastic health problems in the last forty years of his life. A short time before his death he lost his memory for everything but prayer, and he would recite the psalter or the Lord's Prayer without intermission. St. Hugh died on 1 April 1132, having been a bishop for fifty-two years. Pope Innocent II canonized him two years later.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

St. Stephen of Mar Saba - 31st March 2009

I do apologize for not updating sooner. I have been busy writing up some articles for a magazine and taking care of some other personal issues.

Stephen of Mar Saba was the nephew of St. John Damascene, who introduced the young boy to monastic life beginning at age 10. When he reached 24, Stephen served the community in a variety of ways, including guest master. After some time he asked permission to live a hermit's life. The answer from the abbot was yes and no: Stephen could follow his preferred lifestyle during the week, but on weekends he was to offer his skills as a counselor. Stephen placed a note on the door of his cell: "Forgive me, Fathers, in the name of the Lord, but please do not disturb me except on Saturdays and Sundays."

Despite his calling to prayer and quiet, Stephen displayed uncanny skills with people and was a valued spiritual guide.

His biographer and disciple wrote about Stephen: "Whatever help, spiritual or material, he was asked to give, he gave. He received and honored all with the same kindness. He possessed nothing and lacked nothing. In total poverty he possessed all things."

Stephen died in 794.