The Guardian Angels


The Guardian Angels

Feast date: Oct 02

“For he hath given his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” – Psalm 90:11

The truth that each and every human soul has a Guardian Angel who protects us from both spiritual and physical evil has been shown throughout the Old Testament, and is made very clear in the New.

It is written that the Lord Jesus was strengthened by an angel in the Garden of Gethsemane, and that an angel delivered St. Peter from prison in the Acts of the Apostles.

But Jesus makes the existence and function of guardian angels explicit when he says,  “See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10).

In saying this Jesus points out that all people, even little children, have a guardian angel, and that the angels are always in Heaven, always looking at the face of God throughout their mission on earth, which is to guide and protect us throughout our pilgrimage to the house of our Father. As St. Paul says, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?”  (Hebrews 1:14).

However, they guide us to Heaven only if we desire it. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that angels cannot act directly upon our will or intellect, although they can do so on our senses and imaginations – thus encouraging us to make the right decisions. In Heaven our guardian angels, though no longer needing to guide us to salvation, will continually enlighten us.

Prayer to the guardian angels is encouraged, and the habit of remembering their presence and support leads to frienship with them. The prayer to the guardian angels has been present in the Church since at least the beginning of the 12th century:

Angel of God,
my Guardian dear,
to whom His love
commits me here,
ever this day
be at my side,
to light and guard,
to rule and guide.
Amen.

“Let us affectionately love His angels as counselors and defenders appointed by the Father and placed over us. They are faithful; they are prudent; they are powerful; Let us only follow them, let us remain close to them, and in the protection of the God of heaven let us abide.” St. Bernard of Clairvaux

St. Therese of the Child Jesus


St. Therese of the Child Jesus

Feast date: Oct 01

On October 1, Catholics around the world honor the life of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, or St. Thérèse of Lisieux on her feast day.  St. Thérèse was born January 2, 1873 in Alençon, France to pious parents, both of whom are scheduled to be canonized in October 2016. Her mother died when she was four, leaving her father and elder sisters to raise her.

On Christmas Day 1886 St. Thérèse had a profound experience of intimate union with God, which she described as a “complete conversion.”  Almost a year later, in a papal audience during a pilgrimage to Rome, in 1887, she asked for and obtained permission from Pope Leo XIII to enter the Carmelite Monastery at the young age of 15.

On entering, she devoted herself to living a life of holiness, doing all things with love and childlike trust in God. She struggled with life in the convent, but decided to make an effort to be charitable to all, especially those she didn’t like. She performed little acts of charity always, and little sacrifices not caring how unimportant they seemed.  These acts helped her come to a deeper understanding of her vocation.

She wrote in her autobiography that she had always dreamed of being a missionary, an Apostle, a martyr – yet she was a nun in a quiet cloister in France. How could she fulfill these longings?

“Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and places…in a word, that it was eternal! Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my Love…my vocation, at last I have found it…My vocation is Love!”

Thérèse offered herself as a sacrificial victim to the merciful Love of God on June 9, 1895, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity and the following year, on the night between Holy Thursday and Good Friday, she noticed the first symptoms of Tuberculosis, the illness which would lead to her death.

Thérèse recognized in her illness the mysterious visitation of the divine Spouse and welcomed the suffering as an answer to her offering the previous year.  She also began to undergo a terrible trial of faith which lasted until her death a year and a half later.  “Her last words, ‘My God, I love you,’ are the seal of her life,” said Pope John Paul II.

Since her death, millions have been inspired by her ‘little way’ of loving God and neighbor. Many miracles have been attributed to her intercession. She had predicted during her earthly life that “My Heaven will be spent doing good on Earth.”

Saint Thérèse was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997 – 100 years after her death at the age of 24. She is only the third woman to be so proclaimed, after Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa of Avila.

St. Thérèse wrote once, ‘You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.”

St. Jerome


St. Jerome

Feast date: Sep 30

Saint Jerome, the priest, monk and Doctor of the Church renowned for his extraordinary depth of learning and translations of the Bible into Latin in the Vulgate, is celebrated by the Church with his memorial today, September 30.

Besides his contributions as a Church Father and patronage of subsequent Catholic scholarship, Jerome is also regarded as a patron of people with difficult personalities—owing to the sometimes extreme approach which he took in articulating his scholarly opinions and the teaching of the Church. He is also notable for his devotion to the ascetic life, and for his insistence on the importance of Hebrew scholarship for Christians.

Born around 340 as Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius in present-day Croatia, Jerome received Christian instruction from his father, who sent him to Rome for instruction in rhetoric and classical literature. His youth was thus dominated by a struggle between worldly pursuits –which brought him into many types of temptation– and the inclination to a life of faith, a feeling evoked by regular trips to the Roman catacombs with his friends in the city.

Baptized in 360 by Pope Liberius, Jerome traveled widely among the monastic and intellectual centers of the newly Christian empire. Upon returning to the city of his birth, following the end of a local crisis caused by the Arian heresy, he studied theology in the famous schools of Trier and worked closely with two other future saints, Chromatius and Heliodorus, who were outstanding teachers of orthodox theology.

Seeking a life more akin to the first generation of “desert fathers,” Jerome left the Adriatic and traveled east to Syria, visiting several Greek cities of civil and ecclesiastical importance on the way to his real destination: “a wild and stony desert … to which, through fear or hell, I had voluntarily condemned myself, with no other company but scorpions and wild beasts.”

Jerome’s letters vividly chronicle the temptations and trials he endured during several years as a desert hermit. Nevertheless, after his ordination by the bishop of Antioch, followed by periods of study in Constantinople and service at Rome to Pope Damasus I, Jerome opted permanently for a solitary and ascetic life in the city of Bethlehem from the mid-380s.

Jerome remained engaged both as an arbitrator and disputant of controversies in the Church, and served as a spiritual father to a group of nuns who had become his disciples in Rome. Monks and pilgrims from a wide array of nations and cultures also found their way to his monastery, where he commented that “as many different choirs chant the psalms as there are nations.”

Rejecting pagan literature as a distraction, Jerome undertook to learn Hebrew from a Christian monk who had converted from Judaism. Somewhat unusually for a fourth-century Christian priest, he also studied with Jewish rabbis, striving to maintain the connection between Hebrew language and culture, and the emerging world of Greek and Latin-speaking Christianity. He became a secretary of Pope Damasus, who commissioned the Vulgate from him. Prepared by these ventures, Jerome spent 15 years translating most of the Hebrew Bible into its authoritative Latin version. His harsh temperament and biting criticisms of his intellectual opponents made him many enemies in the Church and in Rome and he was forced to leave the city.

Jerome went to Bethlehem, established a monastery, and lived the rest of his years in study, prayer, and ascetcism.

St. Jerome once said, “I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: ‘Search the Scriptures,’ and ‘Seek and you shall find.’ For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

After living through both Barbarian invasions of the Roman empire, and a resurgence of riots sparked by doctrinal disputes in the Church, Jerome died in his Bethlehem monastery in 420.

Sts. Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Archangels


Sts. Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Archangels

Feast date: Sep 29

The three Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are the only angels named in Sacred Scripture and all three have important roles in the history of salvation.

Saint Michael is the “Prince of the Heavenly Host,” the leader of all the angels. His name is Hebrew for “Who is like God?” and was the battle cry of the good angels against Lucifer and his followers when they rebelled against God. He is mentioned four times in the Bible, in Daniel 10 and 12, in the letter of Jude, and in Revelation.

Michael, whose forces cast down Lucifer and the evil spirits into Hell, is invoked for protection against Satan and all evil. Pope Leo XIII, in 1899, having had a prophetic vision of the evil that would be inflicted upon the Church and the world in the 20th century, instituted a prayer asking for Saint Michael’s protection to be said at the end of every Mass.

Christian tradition recognizes four offices of Saint Michael: (i) to fight against Satan (ii) to rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death. (iii) to be the champion of God’s people, (iv) to call away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment.

“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.” (Luke 1, 19)

Saint Gabriel, whose name means “God’s strength,” is mentioned four times in the Bible. Most significant are Gabriel’s two mentions in the New Testament: to announce the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias, and the at Incarnation of the Word in the womb of Mary.

Christian tradition suggests that it is he who appeared to St. Joseph and to the shepherds, and also that it was he who “strengthened” Jesus during his agony in the garden of Gethsemane.

“I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” (Tob 12:15)

Saint Raphael, whose name means “God has healed” because of his healing of Tobias’ blindness in the Book of Tobit.  Tobit is the only book in which he is mentioned. His office is generally accepted by tradition to be that of healing and acts of mercy.

Raphael is also identified with the angel in John 5:1-4 who descended upon the pond and bestowed healing powers upon it so that the first to enter it after it moved would be healed of whatever infirmity he was suffering.

St. Wenceslaus


St. Wenceslaus

Feast date: Sep 28

On Sept. 28, the Catholic Church honors Saint Wenceslaus, a Central European ruler who died at the hands of his brother while seeking to strengthen the Catholic faith in his native Bohemia.

During his 2009 visit to the Czech Republic, Pope Benedict XVI called the country’s patron saint “a martyr for Christ” who “had the courage to prefer the kingdom of heaven to the enticement of worldly power.”

St. Wenceslaus was born around the year 903. His father Duke Wratislaw was a Catholic, but his mother Princess Dragomir practiced the native pagan religion. She would later arrange the murders of both Wenceslaus and his grandmother Ludmilla, who is also a canonized saint.

During his youth, Wenceslaus received a strong religious education from Ludmilla, in addition to the good example of his father. He maintained a virtuous manner of living while attending college near Prague, making significant progress both academically and spiritually. But with the death of his father Wratislaw, the devout young nobleman faced a spiritual and political crisis.

His mother Dragomir, who had never accepted the Catholic faith, turned against it entirely. She seized her husband’s death as a chance to destroy the religion his parents had received from Sts. Cyril and Methodius, through methods that included purging Catholics from public office, closing churches, and preventing all teaching of the faith.

Dragomir’s Catholic mother-in-law Ludmilla urged Wenceslaus to seize power from his mother and defend their faith. His attempt to do so resulted in the division of the country into two halves: one ruled by Wenceslaus, advised by Ludmilla; the other ruled by Wenceslaus’ younger brother Boleslaus, who had absorbed his mother’s hatred of the Church.

Wenceslaus, who would have preferred to become a monk and not a duke, fortified himself in this struggle through fervent prayer, extreme asceticism, charitable service, and a vow of chastity. Meanwhile, his mother carried out a plot to kill Ludmilla, having her strangled in her private chapel. St. Ludmilla’s liturgical feast day is Sept. 16.

The Bohemian duke also faced the threat of invasion from abroad, when Prince Radislaus of Gurima demanded that Bohemia submit to his rule. When Wenceslaus sought to avoid a war by challenging him in single combat, two angels are said to have appeared, deflecting the javelin thrown at Wenceslaus and immediately inspiring Radislaus to drop to his knees in surrender.

During his period of rule, Wenceslaus received the relics of several saints from the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, who also conferred on him the title of “King Wenceslaus.” But some noblemen of his own country resented the saintly king’s strict morals, and allied themselves with Dragomir and Boleslaus.

Wenceslaus’ brother sought to appear as a peacemaker, inviting the king to his realm for a celebration. When Wenceslaus was praying in a chapel during the visit, Boleslaus’ henchmen attacked and wounded him. Boleslaus himself delivered the final blow, killing his brother by running him through with a lance. St. Wenceslaus died on Sept. 28, 935.

Emperor Otto responded to St. Wenceslaus’ death by invading Bohemia and making war against Boleslaus for several years. He succeeded in conquering the region, and forced Boleslaus to reverse the anti-Catholic measures he and his mother had taken.

There is no evidence that Dragomir, who died soon after the murder of St. Wenceslaus, ever repented of killing her family members. Boleslaus, however, came to regret his sin when he learned of the miracles that were taking place at his brother’s tomb. He moved St. Wenceslaus’ body to a cathedral for veneration by the faithful.

St. Vincent de Paul


St. Vincent de Paul

Feast date: Sep 27

On Sept. 27, the Catholic Church remembers Saint Vincent de Paul, the French, 17th century priest known as the patron of Catholic charities for his apostolic work among the poor and marginalized.
 
During a September 2010 Angelus address, Pope Benedict XVI noted that St. Vincent “keenly perceived the strong contrast between the richest and the poorest of people,” and was “encouraged by the love of Christ” to “organize permanent forms of service” to provide for those in need.
 
The exact year of Vincent’s birth is not definitively known, but it has been placed between 1576 and 1581. Born to a poor family in the southwest of France, he showed his intellectual gifts from a young age, studying theology from around age 15. He received ordination as a priest in the year 1600, and worked as a tutor to students in Toulouse.
 
During a sea voyage in 1605, Vincent was seized by Turkish pirates and sold into slavery. His ordeal of captivity lasted until 1607, during which time the priest converted his owner to the Christian faith and escaped with him from Tunisia. Afterward, he spent time studying in Rome, and – in a striking reversal of fortune – served as an educator and spiritual guide to members of an upper-class French family.
 
Although Vincent had initially begun his priesthood with the intention of securing a life of leisure for himself, he underwent a change of heart after hearing the confession of a dying peasant. Moved with compassion for the poor, he began undertaking missions and founding institutions to help them both materially and spiritually. The one-time slave also ministered to convicts forced to serve in squalid conditions as rowers aboard galley ships.
 
Vincent established the Congregation of Priests of the Mission in 1625, as part of an effort to evangelize rural populations and foster vocations to remedy a priest shortage. Not long after this, he worked with the future Saint Louise de Marillac to organize the Daughters of Charity, the first congregation of women religious whose consecrated life involved an extensive apostolate among the poor, the sick, and prisoners.
 
Under Louise’s direction, the order collected donations which Vincent distributed widely among the needy. These contributions went toward homes for abandoned children, a hospice for the elderly, and an immense complex where 40,000 poor people were given lodging and work. Vincent was involved in various ways with all of these works, as well as with efforts to help refugees and to free those sold into slavery in foreign lands.
 
Though admired for these accomplishments during his lifetime, the priest maintained great personal humility, using his reputation and connections to help the poor and strengthen the Church. Doctrinally, Vincent was a strong opponent of Jansenism, a theological heresy that denied the universality of God’s love and discouraged reception of the Eucharist. He was also involved in the reform of several religious orders within France.
 
St. Vincent de Paul died on Sept. 27, 1660, only months after the death of St. Louise de Marillac in March of the same year. Pope Clement XII canonized him in 1737. In 1835, the French scholar Blessed Frederic Ozanam took him as the inspiration and namesake for the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, a lay Catholic organization working for the relief of the poor.

Sts. Cosmas and Damian


Sts. Cosmas and Damian

Feast date: Sep 26

Saints Cosmas and Damian were twins born to Christian parents in Arabia, in the third century. They lived in the region around the border between modern day Turkey and Syria. They were physicians who were renowned for their skill as well as their refusal to charge for their services.

Their charity and Christian witness won many converts to the faith and earned them a place of prominence in the Christian communites of Asia Minor. Therefore, when the Diocletian persecutions began in the latter half of the third century they were of some of the first to be sought out for execution.

In 287, they were captured and ordered to deny their faith in Christ. They refused and underwent a series of tortures, including Crucifixion, from which, miraculously, they remained unscathed. The torturers, weary of what they realized was the impossible task of forcing apostasy from their mouths, finally beheaded them both.

They are invoked in the Canon of the Mass and the Litany of Saints.

St. Hermann Contractus


St. Hermann Contractus

Feast date: Sep 25

Born February 18, 1013, at Altshausen (Swabia), St. Hermann Contractus was born crippled and unable to move without assistance.  It was an immense difficulty for him to learn to read and write, however he persisted and his iron will and remarkable intelligence were soon manifested.

 

Upon discovering the brilliance of his son’s mind, his father, Count Wolverad II, sent him at the age of seven to live with the Benedictine monks on the island of Reichenau in Southern Germany.

 

He lived his entire life on the island, taking his monastic vows in 1043.

 

Students from all over Europe flocked to the monastery on the island to learn from him, yet he was equally as famous for his monastic virtues and sanctity.

 

Hermann chronicled the first thousand years of Christianity, was a mathematician, an astronomer, and a poet and was also the composer of the Salve Regina and Alma Redemptoris Mater – both hymns to the Virgin Mary.

 

He died on the island on September 21, 1054.

Blessed Anton Martin Slomshek


Blessed Anton Martin Slomshek

Feast date: Sep 24

Anton Martin Slomshek who was born November 26, 1800 at Ponikva, Slovenia is the first Slovenian to be beatified.

 

Slomshek is known as a great educator, largely responsible for the nearly 100% literacy rate among Slovenians, a remarkable turn around from the very poor state of the nation’s educational levels at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

 

In the late 18th and early 19th century, the Slovenian education system had been crippled by the Austrian empire’s suppression of their native language and culture. This left them without their own schools, texts and magazines and newspapers.

 

As bishop, Anton Martin Slomshek reformed the schools in Slovenia, and rebuilt the education system, giving it Catholicism and Slovene history as a foundation.  He wrote many textbooks, began a weekly review, and wrote many books and essays concerning whatever questions he considered relevant to the intellectual needs of his people.

 

He founded a society for the spread of Catholic literature, an organization responsible in large part for making possible the rejuvenation of the Catholic cultural base of the Slovenian nation.

 

He was known as a simple and humble man, possessed with a childlike purity, and was loved by his priests and his flock.

 

Blessed Anton once remarked, “When I was born, my mother laid me on a bed of straw, and I desire no better pallet when I die, asking only to be in the state of grace and worthy of salvation.”

 

Blessed Anton died September 24, 1862 in Maribor, Slovenia and was beatified September 19, 1999 by Pope John Paul II.