Tag Archives: saint

St Therese of Lisieux

It is the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, who was recently made a Doctor of the Church.

It is also the first day of the Year of Faith, declared by Papa Beni.

I am a very recent convert-fan of St Therese. I am afraid I had avoided her for many years, thanks, largely to the dreadful saccharine saints book I had as a child.

My friend Amanda suggested she was not a sloppy, sentimental saint at all, and that I should give her seminal work The Story of a Soul a chance. I listened to this well read version HERE, and I was converted. She has a depth of solid common sense and profound spiritual awareness that is simply good for the soul.

So, if you are looking for something to read and/or listen to that will kick start the Year of Faith for you – this could be it.

The Kolbe legacy.

Shakespeare had Mark Anthony say that the evil men do lives after them, while the good is often interred with their bones.  But the reality is that the good men do lives after them too.

The story of how a Polish Franciscan priest Fr. Maximilian Kolbe gave his life in Auschwitz in place of another man who had a wife and children to consider is well known.  Franciszek Gajowniczek whose life was saved, went on to tell thank God and the priest for his life, and was present at the canonisation of Fr. Maximilian.

It wasn’t just one man’s life this priest had saved however. His monastery had hidden something like 2000 Jewish people (after Pope Pius XII had asked this of all the Church – and the Holy Father himself saved around 800,000 Jewish lives).

I learned today, thanks to my knowledgable friend Shana, that St. Maximilian had built a monastery in Japan during his missionary days there. He built it on the “wrong” side of a mountain just outside Nagasaki. Even though the Japanese builders warned him that he had chosen the wrong side, he insisted on it.

When the bomb was dropped some years later the Franciscans were shielded by the mountain and survived. There was a Church and monastic house in the middle of Hiroshima as well which despite being right in the middle of the bomb site remained untouched and all the priests survived.

St. Maximilian did much work in Japan and Poland.  His love of the Blessed Mother helped him shine.

The legacy of his work and love does live after him.

St Maximilian Kolbe ora pro nobis.



St. James, the Pillar and the shell.

I like Mary Salome who doesn’t get much notice in Scripture. I imagine she was a good, hard-working wife of a fisherman. I think her husband Zebedee was most likely dead by the time her kinsman Jesus began His mission, as she was able to follow Him and help take care of Him and His followers, including her two sons, James and John. Jesus named them Sons of Thunder. They, along with Peter were the only apostles to be given a name by Jesus. In Jewish tradition that’s important.

At the foot of the cross Mary Salome stood with the other three Mary’s and her son John. Jesus gave John to His mother and we can be sure Mary Salome was happy with that.

After Pentecost James took none companions and went on a missionary journey to Spain. He brought the people the Gospel and the people were completely disinterested in what he had to say. He was disheartened and went to the Lord in prayer. Jesus heard the prayer of His dear friend and sent His Blessed Mother to help James.

She appeared to him standing on a pillar of jasper, held by angels, and holding a wooden statue. She gave the pillar and statue to James and asked that a church be built. James did as she asked and built a small chapel where she had appeared to him. That is now the great basilica of Santiago de Compostela, probably the most visited pilgrimage site in the world.

His vision of the Blessed Mother is the earliest one ever recorded and as it happened while she was still alive on earth it is considered the earliest known case of a saint bilocating. (St. Pio is probably the most well know saint who did this).

James returned to Jerusalem where he was martyred in 44 AD. His disciples took his body back to Spain and had a grave made for him there. He has been denied burial in Jerusalem.

What about the clam shell symbol? There is a legend – which may be true- that a knight was taken by his runaway horse and plunged into the sea, armour and all. He cried out to Saint James to save him and immediately floated on the water. A wave washed him back to shore and he found he was covered in clam shells. So the symbol stuck (if you’ll excuse the pun).

Anyway, on this feast of St. James I can’t help thinking of his mother Mary Salome sitting in heaven with a smile on her face as her boys, the Sons of Thunder, did good.

Feast Day of St Bridget of Sweden

Today is the feast of my beloved St. Bridget. She is one of the three women patron’s of Europe along with St. Edith Stein (Sr. Benedicta of the Cross) and St. Catherine of Siena.

She was married around age 13 or 14 to Ulf who was then 18. They had 8 children together, one of whom, Katrin (Katherine) is also a saint. (St. Katrin of Verdena or Katherine of Sweden, depending on spelling and translation).

Bridget and Catherine of Siena were more or less contemporaries and were both fighting for reform in the Church and a return of the papacy to Rome from Avignon.

While Catherine and Bridget worked for reformation and tried to intervene in the war making politics of Italy and other parts of Europe it would be the Jewish convert Edith Stein who would give her life for the soul of Europe under Hitler’s wholesale destruction of the Jewish people.

Europe needs all the prayers it can get these days. These three along with St Benedict and others would be wearing out their knees, but it’s heaven and so they aren’t.

Josephine Bakhita seeking and finding

Sister Guiseppina Margarita Bakhita spent forty-five years of her life as the porteress for the Canossian sisters in a little convent in Italy. The chair and little place she sat to open the door for all those seeking is still there today. It seems very fitting that she spent so many years opening doors as she had spent the first years of her life seeking the door to God. Jesus, of course promised that all those who seek will find, and so she did.

She was born in Darfur in the Sudan, but, as is still the case, the rulers were slavers and one day the slavers came to her village and violently captured her and took her away from her family.

She was a little child and now she was plunged into a world of torture and misuse and her owners treated her with contempt. One of her owners beat her so badly she nearly died, then she was sold on. A Turkish General bought her for his wife. By this point the girl, who had no memory of the name her parents had given her, had been named Bakhita, which means “fortunate one,”  The General’s wife had the 13 yr old girl  tattooed that is a woman came and cut the little girl 114 times, rubbing flour and salt into each cut to make the scar as pronounced as possible. Her body was covered, only her face was left.

Despite the sheer horror of her life Bakhita continued to seek and hope that somewhere she would find truth, meaning and the God of these things. Her prayers were heard and she was bought by the Italian consul Callisto Legnani. His plan was to have her freed, but war was brewing as the Arab factions struggled over who was to take over Sudan. Legnani and all the Italians had to leave Africa quickly,  so he handed Bakhita over to a friend whose Orthodox wife was expecting a baby. When the baby girl was born they named her Minima and Bakhita became her nurse,

Finally the family were able to leave Africa and taking Bakhita with them they arrived in Italy. Minima was now old enough for school, and her parents had to leave and travel for business. Minnima was to be taken into the care of the Canossian sisters, and Bakhita was to go with her.

Here, at last the young woman found what she had been seeking all her life. She was astonished to see a crucifix and asked the sisters who the man was. They told her all about Jesus and Bakhita realised with joy, that she had found Him. She asked to be baptised and took the name Josephine, or in Italian Guiseppina.

When Minima’s parents returned to Italy the mother wanted both her daughter and Josephine back, but by now Josephine wanted to enter religious life.

Sadly, as the wife could not accept that the young woman had a right to decide her own life, the situation was taken to court. Keeping slaves was not allowed in Italian law and so finally Josephine was given her freedom and she went back to the Canossian sisters and asked to be admitted to their order.

So it was that she became Sister Guiseppina Margarita Bakhita and considered herself very fortunate after all. Her health had suffered because of all the tortures she had suffered as a slave, so she was given the role as porteress. She had a lot to do with all the local children who named her “la nostra madre moretta” which means “Our little brown mother.”

Josephine forgave those who had owned and tormented her. She forgave them even though the results of their treatment was her ill health.

She lived through the wars that rocked the world,  and must have been deeply wounded to see her adopted country taken by Mussolini to support National Socialism, Hitler and the terrible war.

On 8th February 1947 God called His daughter home.

She lies before the altar in a glass coffin as she is one of the incorrupt saints.

Ven Pope John Paul the Great canonised her on 1st October 2000 and she has been adopted as the Patron saint of Sudan.

Long Dark Night

St John of the Cross is well known for his beautiful writing on The Dark Night of the Soul. He was a man who knew suffering well, up close and personal; as of course did his dear friend St Teresa of Avila.

He accepted the Cross and carried it with a peace that he was able to write about and share with others. Dark Night can be a terribly lonely thing, but it is one where the soul is supposed to be passive to God but active with Him.

It is often said of suffering that the Lord never gives us more than we can carry. I am not so sure about that.  Christ Himself couldn’t manage His cross alone, so I don’t see why it should be thought that each of us can carry our own cross. On the contrary, we are called to carry one another’s burdens and that is what will make them light.

Helping carry another person’s burden does not-sadly-mean that we can make everything okay. Simon of Cyrene helped carry the cross but could not prevent the crucifixion. Ebed Melech pulled Jeremiah from the pit but he couldn’t prevent the prophet being sent into exile.

Sometimes we can truly do our best and still it is not enough to help the other.  Even so, it must be done. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

If you, now are in the position of having to help someone who is in a bad way all I can say is; keep going. Pray and work St Benedict said (ora et labora).  Sometimes you have to brace yourself for the long haul and even worse there are times when you just know that no matter what you do-it wont be for long.

Then God hands you another responsibility and you must pray for discernment and strength and lots of grace.

However heavy the cross remember that God never expects anyone to carry theirs alone. If anyone is, someone else is reneging on their call. John and Teresa had each other.

St Paul (for the year of St Paul)(pt 1)

Painting of St Paul by El Greco 1606 OIl on Canvas and now in the Museo de Greco, Toledo.

St Paul was born 2000 years ago in Tarsus in what is now Turkey. His parents were of the tribe of Benjamin.

Only two tribes had returned to the Promised Land after the Diaspora and these were Benjamin and Judah. They awaited the coming of the Messiah who would restore all Israel.

The happy parents had their son circumcised on the 8th Day as the Law proscribed and they named him Saul. As he grew up they taught him the family trade which was tent making. They were evidently rather skilled in the industry as their endeavours had secured them Roman Citizenship. Steve Ray (click on the link for a little film by Steve and a brilliant TIMELINE that any homeschooler would love) the apologist and historian suggests they probably made tents for the Roman army and had thus been rewarded.

Paul grew up a Pharisee following the Law (the Halakah -the Way) and I dare say he made a massive effort with all 613 Mitzvot. The Pharisees believed all of Scripture-using the Septuagint as their primary set of books, but also using the Hebrew books as well as one or two other books such as Enoch.

Saul was a bright lad and when he started school at the Temple in Jerusalem he was soon taken as a disciple by the great Rabbi Gamiliel grandson of the equally great Rabbi Hillel.

The 21 year old Saul, was already a shining example of a Pharisee learning his Faith in the heart of the Temple when Jesus was crucified outside the wall of Jerusalem.