There will be no more entries after St Elizabeth of Hungary.
The Section: The Doctors And Secular Saints (hundreds of them) will be taken from author Joan Carroll Cruz in her book entitled Secular Saints and published by Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. Rockford, Illinois 61105. A sample of the book is found below in the hope that you will enjoy it and explore the original book listed in the doctoral resources and at the following link.
This is a monumental Lives of the Saints : people who lived and died as laymen and laywomen. No priests, nuns or monks here--people who often had to overcome incredible difficulties to achieve holiness or who had committed outrageous sins prior to their conversions. Fully indexed by topic. Purposely written to inspire and encourage lay people today. Unique in Catholic literature! 800 pgs 192 Illus, PB.
St Adalbald of Ostrevant, St Adelaide, Bl Adrian Frtescue, St Afra, Sts Agape, Chionia and Irene, St Agatha, St Agnes, St Alban, Bl Albert of Bergamo, Bl Alpais, Bl Amadeus IX, Bl Angela of Foligno, Bl Anna Maria Taigi, St Anne Lyne, B Anthony Manzi, the Pilgrim, B Anthony Primaldi, Bl Antonia Mesina, St Armogastes, St Arthelais, Sts Aurelius and Natalia, Bl Bartolo Longo, St Benedict Joseph Labre, St Benezet, St Bibiana, St Blaesilla, St Blandina, Bl Bonavta, St Boniface of Tarsus, Bl Bonzella Piccolomini, St Boris and St Gleb, St Caesarius, St Casimir, St Cassian, Castora Gabriella, St Catherine of Genoa, St Ceadwalla, St Cecila, Bl Charles of Blois, Bl Charles the Good, St Charles Lwanga and Companions, Bl Claritus, St Clotilde, Bl Contardo Ferrini, Sts Cosmas and Damian, St Cuthman, St Dagobert II, St Davinus, St Dominic Savio, St Dorothea of Montau, St Drogo, St Dympha, St Edgar, King of England, St Edmund, King of East Anglia, St Edward the Boy King, St Edward Coleman, St Edward the Confessor, St Edwin, St Elizabeth of Hungary, St Elizabeth, Queen of Portugal, St Elzear and Bl Delphina, St Epipodius and St Alexander, St Ethelbert, St Eulalia of Merida, St Fabiola, St Felicitas and Her Seven Sons, Bl Ferdinand of Portugal, St Ferdinand III of Castile, St Flora and St Mary, St Genesius, St Gengulphus, St Gerald of Aurillac, Bl Gerard of Monza, St Germaine Cousin, St Godelieve
St Gorgonia, St Gotteschalc, St Gudule, St Gummarus, St Guntramnus, St Guy or Guido, St Hallvard, St Hedwig, St Hedwig, Queen of Poland, Bl Helen Duglioli, St Helen (Elin) of Skofde, St Helena, St Henry II, Bl Henry the Shoemaker, Bl Henry of Treviso (Bl Henry of Bolzano), St Hermengild, St Homobonus, Little St Hugh of Lincoln, St Hunna, St Hyacinth and St Protus, Bl Ida of Boulogne, St Ida of Herzfeld, Bl Isabella of France, St Isidore the Farmer, Bl Ivetta of Huy, Bl Jacoba, Bl James Bird, Bl James Duckett, St James Intercisus, Bl Jeanne Marie de Maille, Bl Joan of Aza, Bl Joan of Signa, Sts John, Anthony, and Eustace, Bl John Slade and Bl John Bodey, Bl John Felton, St John Rigby, Bl John Storey, St Joseph Moscati, St Joseph of Palestine, Bl Josefa Naval Girbes, St Julia, St Julian the Hospitaller, St Julitta and St Cyricus, St Jullita, St Justus and St Pastor, Bl Kateri Tekakwitha, St Ladislas, Bl Laurence Humphrey, St Leonidas, St Leopold, Bl Lodovica Albertoni, St Louis IX, King of France, Bl Louis Morbioli, Bl Louis Thuringia, St Luchesius, Sts Lucian and Marcian, St Ludmila, St Lufthild, St Lydwine of Schiedam, St Macrina the Elder, St Mammas, Bl Marcel Callo,
Bl Marcellus, St Margaret the Barefooted, Bl Margaret of Castello (Bl Margaret of Metola), Margaret of Clitherow, St Margaret of Cortona, Bl Margaret of Fontana, Bl Margaret of Louvain,
Bl Margaret Pole, St Margaret of Scotland, St Margaret Ward and Bl John Roche, Maria Bartolomea Bagnesi, Bl Maria Christina of Savoy, St Maria Goretti, St Marino (St. Marinus), St Mary of Egypt, St Matilda, Ven. Matthew Talbot, Bl Michelina of Pesaro (Bl Michelina Metelli) St Monica, St Nicarete, St Nicholas of Flue, Ven Nicholas Peregrinus (St Nicholas the Pilgrim) St Nonna, St Notburga, Bl Novellone, St Nunilo and St Alodia, St Olaf II, St Olga (Helga), St Oswin,
St Pantaleon, Bl Paola Gambara-Costa, Ven Pauline Jaricot, St. Pelagius, Bl Pepin of Landen, St Perpetua and Felicitas, Bl Peter Tecelano (Bl Peter of Siena), St Pharaildis, St Philemon and St Apollonius, Philip Howard, Bl Pierina Morosini, St Pollio, St Polyeuctus, St Potamiana, St Praxedes, St Prosper of Aquitaine, St Pulcheria, Bl Ralph Milner, Bl Raymond Lull, St Regina, St Richard, St Richard Gwyn (St Richard White) Bl Richard Herst, St Roch, St Rose of Viterbo, St Sabas, St Saturus, St Seraphina, St Serenus, Bl Servulus, Bl Sibyllina Biscossi, St Sigebert, St Simon of Trent, St Solangia, St Solomon, St Stephen, King of Hungary, Bl Stilla, St Swithin Wells, St Syncletica, Sts Tharsilla and Emiliana, St Theobaldus, St Theodota, St Thomas More, Bl Thomas Perry, Bl Thomas Sherwood, St. Ulphia, St Victor of Marseilles, Bl Villana de Botti, St Vladimir, Wenceslas, Wernher, Bl William Howard, St William of Norwich, St William of Rochester (St William of Perth) Bl Zdislava Berka, St Zita.
Bl. Pierina Morosini
1931 – 1957
The family of Rocco and Sara Morosini included nine sons and Pierina, who was the only daughter and the oldest of the children. Born on January 7, 1931, Pierina lived a peaceful and prayerful life with her family on a small farm in Fiobbio, which is located in the Diocese of Bergamo in northern Italy.
Always a pious child, Pierina received the Sacraments according to the custom of the time. She was quick of mind and proved to be a willing assistant to her mother by helping with her brothers and performing chores, both inside the house and outside in the fields.
After finishing elementary school, Pierina enrolled in a sewing class and learned now to make clothes for the entire family. In addition to all the help she gave her family, Pierina wanted to assist them financially, and for this reason, when she was on 15 years old, she began working at a cotton mill in nearby Albino.
Separating the small town of Fiobbio and Albino was a hilly forest area through which Pierina had to walk twice a day. She always recited her morning prayers on the path, received Holy Communion in the Church of Albino and then began her work at six in the morning with the Sign of the Cross. Her co-workers remember her as being cheerful, but not very talkative. They also claimed that she seemed to work while in a profound union with God.
After returning from a hard day’s work, Pierina helped with the chores of the household. She was also an active member of an organization for young people known as the Catholic Action. At the age of 16, she was named parish director of members in her age group. Pierina also distinguished herself among her townspeople by her devoted work on behalf of missionaries and the diocesan seminary. She also assisted in the cleaning of the church and endeared herself to all because of her sweet disposition and humble demeanor. Her many works of charity are said to be the result of her deep prayer life, which was woven throughout the various parts of her day.
Pierina had a profound attraction to the religious life and wanted to do missionary work among the lepers. Her aunt, who was a nun, recalls that when Pierina was a child she told her aunt in all confidence, “I want to be a nun and belong to Jesus.”
Since the needs of her family prevented Pierina from leaving, she accepted the family’s decision as being the will of God and never spoke of her great disappointment. Realizing that Pierina might never be able to join the religious life, her spiritual director permitted her to make private vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. To help herself maintain these vows as perfectly a possible, she wrote a twelve-point rule, which she observed the rest of her life. In addition, she joined the Apostolate of Reparation, offering in a spirit of faith the many difficulties she encountered each day.
Pierina spent all of her life in Fiobbio and Albino, and never left except for a trip she made to Rome with members of Catholic Action. This took place in April, 1947, for the beatification of Maria Goretti, the little Saint who had died in the defense of purity. During the journey, the life of Maria Goretti understandably was the frequent topic of conversation. When Pierina was asked what she would do if she were confronted by an assailant, Pierina quickly replied that she would willingly imitate Maria Goretti by dying in the defense of purity. On another occasion she again stated that she would rather die than commit a sin.
Sometime after this trip to Rome, Pierina seemed to have had a premonition that she would suffer martyrdom. Ten years later, this premonition was realized. On April 4, 1957, while she was on her way home from work, Pierina was confronted on the wooded path by a young man. Judging from the condition in which she was found and the many bloodied handprints in the area, Pierina had fought vigorously against the rapist and even attempted to crawl away. Found in the weeds nearby was a rock that was covered with blood and bits of flesh. This rock was in the shape of a hammer, and it was apparent that the man had used it to repeatedly strike Pierina in the head.
One of Pierina’s brothers reported that on the day of Pierina’s assault, he had a premonition that something would happen to her and was very agitated concerning her welfare. It was for this reason that he went along the wooded path to meet her after her work shift to accompany her home. Instead, he found his dying sister on the ground with her clothes in disarray and her long hair matted with blood. When her brother drew nearer, Pierina slowly moved her hand to her head, but did not speak or open her eyes. He reported that her face was boldly and her breathing was slow and labored. When he touched the left side of her face, which was coved by her hair, his hand was immediately covered with blood and pieces of flesh. It was obvious that a huge and ugly wound covered the left side of her face and head. The brother ran for help and returned with various relatives, who were shocked by what they discovered. It was then noted that the assailant had neatly arranged beside his victim her shoes, socks, pursue, rosary and a photograph taken of her with three of her friends.
Pierina was removed to a hospital, where she was treated for her injuries; but she lapsed into a deep coma and died two days later, before she could describe or identify her assailant. Pierina was 26 years old. Her doctors reported that she was a victim of sexual aggression, to which one of the doctors added, “We have here a new Maria Goretti.” The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano (October 5, 1987) reported that, “Her skull was broken and she was raped.” Pierina is nevertheless designated as “virgin” as well as “martyr.”
The funeral of the virtuous Pierina was attended by most of the people of Fiobbio and Albino. The crime committed against her will so outraged the people that it quickly became well-known throughout the district. For this reason an article on the font page of the newspaper of Bergamo told of her life and death and was accompanied by a picture of the huge crowd that attended the funeral.
A memorial marker and a stone winch record the heroism of Pierina was soon erect at the wooded placed were she had been found mortally wounded. A larger memorial stone, which is topped with a marble bust resembling Pierina, is founded in the piazza of the Church of Fiobbio.
During the ecclesiastical examination into the life of Pierina conducted in preparation for her beatification, the casket containing her remains was removed from her tomb on April 9, 1983. It was then carried in an impressive procession to the parish church of Fiobbio, where her relics are not entombed. The shrine attracts many of her devotees, who pray fervently for her intercession. It is customary for many to walk in procession to the place of her martyrdom.
Pierina Morosini was beatified on October 4, 1987. Sara Morosini, Pierina’s mother, had already met Pope John Paul II in 1981, but was privileged to meet him once again shortly after the beatification ceremony, while he was still seated upon the papal throne. While Sara Morosini knelt before him, the Pope placed his hands upon her head and spoke words of comfort. After the ceremony, the Pope again spoke privately with her and then with Pierina’s brothers and other members of the family.
Kept as a treasured relic is Pierina’s copy of a biography of St. Maria Goretti. It is said that this book was Pierina’s favorite and that she read it so often, she almost knew it from memory.
Pierina has been recommended as a model for working girls and as a model of holy purity.
Bl. Louis of Thuringia
1200 - 1227
When Louis of Thuringia was 11 years old, he was betrothed to Elizabeth of Hungary, the daughter of King Andrew II. Elizabeth at the time was four years old, and according to the costume among ruling families, the child was taken to the castle of her intended husband be educated in the traditions and culture of her adopted land. Louis was 16 years of age when he succeeded his father, Landgrave Hermann I. Five years later, in 1221, his marriage to Elizabeth was ratified. Louis was 21 years old and Elizabeth 14. The arranged marriage had been one of political expediency, but it proved to be also a marriage of virtuous souls and one of the happiest marriages recorded in the annals of the Saints. The couple became the parents of three children, one of whom was Bl. Gertrude of Altenburg.
In his biography of St. Elizabeth, Count de Montalembert gives us a description of Bl. Louis:
The nobility and purity of his soul were manifested in his exterior. His manly beauty was celebrated by his contemporaries. All boast of the perfect proportion of his figure, the freshness of his complexion, his long fair hair, and the serene, benevolent expression of his countenance, Many imagined they saw in him a striking resemblance to the portrait which tradition has preserved of the Son of God made man. The charm of his smile was irresistible Hs deportment was noble and dignified – the tone of his voice extremely sweet. No one could see him without loving him. What particularly distinguished him was an unstained purity of soul.
This purity was tested on two occasions, which contemporary writers have related in some detail. The first incident occurred when a certain knight wanted to put Louis’ innocence to the test and found in the neighboring village a young girl of remarkable beauty. He brought her to Louis’ chamber in the castle; Louis, after answering the knock at his door, was bewildered when the girl entered. When Louis asked the purpose of her visit, the knight replied that he had brought her so that Louis might do with her what he pleased. At these words Louis took the knight aside, ordered him to restore the girl to her family and warned that if any harm came to her, the knight would be hanged. The narrator of this incident stated that he concealed the name of this false knight to avoid giving scandal.
At another time Louis was standing at a window, looking down upon a square where the people were dancing. An attendant pointed out to him the wife of one of the citizens, who was remarkable for her beauty and grace. The attendant offered to make her available to Louis. Upon hearing this proposal, Louis was so shocked that he turned to the servant and said, “Be silent. If ever again thou darest to sully my ears by such language, I will drive thee from my court!”
Holy Mass was celebrated every day in the presence of Louis and his family, and it was with exemplary devotion that he assisted. He was a zealous defender of the rights of the Church, the monasteries and the poor. As an example of this, we are told about some Thuringia citizens who were robbed and beaten in Poland. Louis demanded reparation, but when none was forthcoming he let his troops into Poland and gained satisfaction by force of battle. The same crime then occurred at Wurtzburg. Once again Louis marched, this time, to recover stock that had been stolen from a trader. It is claimed that “no sovereign of his time surpassed him in courage, not even in physical strength and agility in the exercise of the body.” He had what was called a “vehement passion for justice” and is known to have sufficiently punished violators of the law. He banished from his court those who were unkind to the poor and those who brought him false and malicious tales. Blasphemers and those who spoke “impure words” were condemned to wear a mark of shame in public. He is also known to have been cheerful and kind to his subjects and never to have offended anyone by pride of coldness.
In his association with his wife he was most loving and thoughtful, displaying, even in the presence of others, a tenderness which was well-recorded by contemporary writers. (See chapter on St. Elizabeth of Hungary.) Louis in every way approved of, and encouraged, the charity and devotions of his wife. Once he found in his bed a leper who had asked for relief at the door of the castle. For a moment Louis was tempted to anger, but then he saw not the leper, but the crucified Son of God. As a result of this episode, he paid for the building of a lazar house on the slope of the Wartburg.
At the request of the Emperor, Louis spent several months at court assisting the Emperor in restoring peace between Bologna and the cities of Lombardy. Friar Berthold tells that when Louis returned him, Elizabeth, “a thousand times and more, kissed him with her heart and with her mouth.” When Louis inquired how his people had fared during his long absence, Elizabeth replied, “I gave to God was His, and God has kept for us what was ours.” To a complaining treasurer, Louis replied, “Let her do good and give to God whatever she will, so long as she leaves me Wartburg and Newburg.”
During the following year Louis volunteered to follow Emperor Frederick II on the Sixth Crusade. He made his brother Henry regent and turned his energies to enlisting crusaders. To arouse men’s hearts to this endeavor he had a Passion Play presented in the streets of Eisenach and he visited the monasteries of his domain asking for prayers. On the feast of St. John the Baptist he parted from Elizabeth and set out toward the Holy Sepulchre. When the troops reached Otranto, Louis contracted the plague (or malarial fever) and became so seriously ill that the Last Sacraments were administered. The illness was to be mortal. Before Louis died it seemed to him that the cabin in which he lay was full of doves. “I must fly away with those white doves,” he said, and then died. The year was 1227. He was only 27 years of age. When news of his death reached Elizabeth, cried, “The world is dead to me, and all that was pleasant in it!”
Bl Louis’ final resting place was in the Benedictine Abbey of Reinhardsbrunn, which he had often visited, and where he is popularly called “St Ludwig.”
The character and life of Bl. Louis are summed up in the noble motto which he had chosen from his earliest years: “Piety, chastity, justice towards all.”
St. Elizabeth of Hungary
1207 - 1231
Elizabeth was born in the year 1207 to Andrew II of Hungary and his wife, Gertrude of Andechs-Meran. To obtain a favorable political alliance, Elizabeth was promised in marriage to Louis (Ludwig), the eldest son of Landgrave Herman of Thuringia and Hesse (now Germany). At the age of four she was taken to the Thuringian Castle of the Wartburg, near Eisenach, there to be groomed as the wife of the future Landgrave.
During her maidenhood, Elizabeth is said to have been “perfect in body, handsome, of a dark complexion; serious in her ways, modest, of kindly speech, fervent in prayer and always full of goodness and divine love.” Yet with all these attributes she did not meet with approval or affection from her new family. Instead, her humble and retiring habits annoyed Louis’ sister ‘Agnes, who often told her that she was fit only to be a servant. The other young girls of the court, who saw that Elizabeth no longer participated in their games, dances and frivolous life, were accustomed to repeat what Agnes said and would openly mock her. Even influential officers of the court, disregarding the respect that was due Elizabeth would publicly insult her saying that in nothing did she resemble a princess.
At Elizabeth approached marriageable age, her prayerful life instigated a general explosion of persecution and insults. All member of the court declared themselves against her marriage to Louis, while Sophia, his mother, even attempted to persuade Elizabeth to take the veil in a convent. “Sophia asserted that her son would have a spouse who was noble, rich well-connected and of truly royal manners.
Louis, far from sharing their opinions, once told Lord Gauthier, while the two were resting during a hunt:
“Do thou see that mountain before us? Well, if it were of pure gold, from its base to its summit, and that all should be given to me on the condition of sending away my Elizabeth, I would never do it. Let them think or say of her what they please; I say this – that I love her, and love nothing better in this word: I will have my Elizabeth; she is dearer to me for her virtue and piety than all the kingdom and riches of the earth.”
When Landgrave Herman died in 1216, his heir was eldest son, the sixteen-year-old Louis. Five years later Louis announced his intention to marry Elizabeth and imposed silence on all who were inclined speak against her. When Louis was 21 years of age and Elizabeth was 14, they were married at a High Mass in the presence of many nobles. The wedding celebration lasted three days, with splendid banquets, dances and tournaments.
To Louis’ credit must be stated that throughout his life, when criticism of his wife’s generosity was made to him, he always upheld and approved her charitable and religious endeavors. His love for Elizabeth increased each day, and as often as he saw her despised by others on account of her virtues, he more he loved and defend her.
The wedded life of Elizabeth and Luis has been called by one chronicler, “an idyll of enthralling fondness, of mystic ardor of almost childish happiness, the like of which I do not remember in all I have read of romanced or of human experience” We are told of many instances in which Louis demonstrated his tender affection of his wife. One of her ladies-in waiting revealed that “My lady would get up at night to pray, and my lord would implore her to spare herself and come back to rest all the while holding her hands for fear she should come to some harm. She would tell her maids to wake her gently when he was asleep – and sometimes, when she thought him sleeping, he was only pretending.”
We are told that when Louis had visited a city he would always bring back a present for her – a knife or a bag or gloves or a coral rosary. “When it was time for
him to be back she would run out to meet him, and he would take her lovingly on his arm and give her what he had brought.”
The holy couple had three children: Herman, who was born in 1222, and died when he was 19; Sophia, who was named for her grandmother, became Duchess of Brabant and lived to the age of 60; and Gertrude, who became the Abbess of the Convent of Altenburg and is now venerated as Blessed.
During the year 1221, Elizabeth founded a convent of Franciscans near her church in her capital city of Eisenach. In her contact with members of this order she heard of St. Francis of Assisi who was still living; also, she learned of the existence of the Franciscan Third Order, an organization for lay people which was flourishing in Italy and in other countries. She was struck by the advantages which affiliations to the Third Order would afford a fervent Christian and she humbly begged Louis for permission to be enrolled as a member. Having obtained his consent, she was the first in Germany to be associated with the third Order. After her death Elizabeth would become patroness of the female members of the Franciscan Third Order. During her lifetime St. Francis learned of her membership and often spoke kindly of her.
Louis, we know, put no obstacles in the way of his wife’s charities her simple life or her long prayers. In 1225 when Germany was experiencing famine the Saint nearly exhausted the store of grain through distribution to the needy during her husband’s absence. On Louis’s return, the officers of his household complained to him of Elizabeth’s generosity to the poor. To this Louis replied, “As for her charities they will bring upon us a divine blessing. We shall not want, so long as we let her relieve the poor as she does.”
We have been told that once when Elizabeth was on an errand of mercy her husband approached her and inquired about what she was concealing in her apron. On opening the apron instead of loaves of bread, miraculous roses were revealed. Similar stories are also told of Bl. Paola Gambara-Costa, St. Germaine Cousin, St. Dorothy and St. Isabel of Aragon.
Since the Castle of the ‘Wartburg was built on a steep rock, the infirm and weak were unable to climb up to it. To relieve these unfortunates St. Elizabeth built a hospital at the foot of the rock for their reception. There she often fed the poor with her own hands, made their beds and attended them in the heat of summer when the place became stifling. The Saint founded another hospital in which 28 people could be attended. She also fed 900 daily at her gate besides countless others in different pars of the country. While the amount expended on the poor seemed at times to be excessive the Saint’s charity was tempered with discretion. She would not tolerate idleness among the poor who were to work, employing them at tasks that were suited to their strength.
When the Fifth Crusade was being launched, Louis of Thuringia joined the endeavor. On the feast of St. John the Baptist, in the year, 1227,he parted from Elizabeth and went to join Emperor Frederick II in Apulia. On September 11 of the same year, he was dead of the plague at Otranto.
The news of Louis’ death did not reach Germany until October, just after the birth of Elizabeth’s second daughter. When told of her husband’s death Elizabeth cried, “The world is dead to me, and all that was joyous in the world.” It is said that she ran to and fro about the castle, shrieking like one crazed.
The harsh opinion that Agnes and Sophia had for Elizabeth was softened somewhat by the sharing of grief, but the same opinion of her which was shared by Louis’ brothers, Conrad and Henry, was intensified. According to the testimony of Elizabeth’s lady-in-waiting, Isentrude, Henry, who was acting as regent for Elizabeth’s son and who had pledged to defend the little family, devised a scheme to seize power for himself. Only a few months after Louis’s death, while Elizabeth was deep in mourning for her husband, she had to endure the humiliation of hearing Henry falsely accuse her before witnesses, of having ruined the country, of having wasted and exhausted the state treasury, and of having deceived and dishonored her husband. Satisfied that the allegations were enough to justify his next actions, Henry declared that as punishment Elizabeth would be dispossessed of all that she had previously considered her own.
Elizabeth and her children, together with two attendants, were forces to leave the castle immediately. The fierce winter cold in which they were obliged to travel without proper provisions inflicted extreme discomfort on the banished group.
Upon reaching the city of Eisenach, which had often benefited from Elizabeth’s charity, the exiles faced a new and painful trial. Henry had caused a proclamation to be made in the city that whoever would receive Elizabeth or her children would experience his displeasure. All the inhabitants of Eisenach are said to have obeyed the order – all, that is, except one tavern owner, who offered Elizabeth a humble shack where he kept kitchen utensils and where swine were lodged. These he displaced to make room for the visitors.
While staying in this humble situation, Elizabeth is said to have prayed, “O Lord, may Thy will be done. Yesterday I was a duchess with strong castles and rich domains; today I am a mendicant and no one would give me asylum.” Having been reduced to absolute poverty, Elizabeth anguished for her poor children, who were weeping from cold and hunger. She who had fed thousands was now obliged to beg for her children and attendants.
Elizabeth then sought refuge with her Aunt Matilda, who was the Abbess of Kitzingen. Next she visited her Uncle Eckembet, Bishop of Bamberg, who put his Castle of Pottenstein at her disposal. Having left little Sophia with the nuns of Kitzingen, Elizabeth brought her son Herman and the baby to the castle provided by her uncle. Bishop Eckembert asked Elizabeth to consider the practical benefits to be derived from a second marriage, but she refused to listen to her plans, saying that she and her husband and exchanged promises never to marry again.
Early in 1228 the body of Louis was solemnly brought home. Accompanied by her faithful servants, Isentrude and Guda, Elizabeth was conducted to the place where the coffin lay. The coffin was opened, and Elizabeth was permitted to look upon the remains of her husband. “Then what her heart felt of grief and love no one could know but Him who reads the secrets of the hearts of the children of men.” All the afflictions Elizabeth had first experienced on learning of her husband’s death were renewed in her soul as she threw herself on the bones and fervently kissed them. So abundant were her tears, and so violent was her agitation, that the Bishops and the nobles attempted to console her and to lead her away. With his family present, Louis was buried in the abbey church at Reinhardsbrunn (Reynhartsbrunn), a church which he had previously chosen as his burial place.
Following the burial, at the prompting of various nobles, a reconciliation was arranged between Elizabeth and Louis’ family. Sophia and her son Conrad were present when Henry was brought before Elizabeth. He begged forgiveness for the injuries he had caused her stating that he regretted them sincerely and that he would make ample atonement. Elizabeth answered by weeping as she tenderly embraced him. With the softening of hearts a financial provision was then made for Elizabeth and her children, which greatly relieved Elizabeth’s mind concerning the children’s welfare.
From the year 1225 until the time of her death, Elizabeth had for her confessor Master Conrad of Marburg, a priest who has often been criticized for being domineering, brutal, severe and quite unsuitable to be her director. Yet others have asserted that it was because of his offensive and scrupulous methods that Elizabeth overcame nature and attained sainthood.
After her children had been provided for, Elizabeth went to live in Marburg. Next to her small cottage she built a hospice where she provided for the sick, the aged, and the poor. Master Conrad is said to have acted as a necessary brake on her enthusiasm since he prevented her from begging from door to door; he also prevented her from risking infection by caring for people with leprosy ad other diseases. But Isentrude, Elizabeth’s attendant, reports that:
“Master Conrad tried her constancy in many ways, striving to break her will in all things. That he might afflict her still more he deprived her of those of her household who were particularly dear to her, including me, Isentrude, whom she loved; she sent me away in great distress and with many tears. Last of all he turned off Guda my companion, who had been with her from her childhood, and whom she loved with a special love. With tears and sighs the blessed Elizabeth saw her go. Master Conrad did this with good intentions, lest we should talk to her of past greatness and she be tempted to regret. Moreover, he thus took away from her any comfort she might have had in us because he wished her to cling to God alone.”
For her companions he substituted two “harsh females,” who reported to him on Elizabeth’s words and actions when these opposed his detailed commands. He punished Elizabeth with slaps on the face and blows with a “long thick rod” which left marks that remained for weeks. Before Isentrude left her side Elizabeth is known to have remarked to her “If I am so afraid of a mortal man, how awe-inspiring must be the Lord and Judge of the world!”
Having already endured the false accusations of Henry who had declared her wasteful and foolish, Elizabeth was also tried by some who now afflicted another cross. Various suspicions were hinted at as to the nature of her connection with Master Conrad. It was claimed that this priest had seduced the widow of Louis and carried her away to Marburg there to enjoy her property and riches. The rumors appeared sufficiently serious to prompt Lord Rodolph de Varila to investigate the situation. After declaring the rumors to be unquestionably false, he reportedly told Elizabeth, “I beg, then, of my dear lady to watch over your renown, for your familiarity with Master Conrad has given rise to false notions and unjust suspicions in the minds of vulgar and ignoble herd.” On learning of the rumors for the first time, Elizabeth is said to have offered this humiliation to God by praying:
“ Blessed in all things be our most dear and merciful Lord Jesus Christ, Who deigns to receive from me this little offering. For His love I devoted myself to His service; I forgot my noble birth; I despised my riches and possessions; I permitted my youth and beauty to fade away; I renounced my father, my country, my children, and, with them, all the consolations of life; I became the poorest of the poor. One only treasure did I retain – my womanly honor and reputation: but now, from what I learn, it seems that He requires that also; as He accepts, as a special sacrifice, my fair fame, I must strive to endure for His sake this ignominy. I consent to be looked upon as a dishonored woman; but oh, my dear Lord, remember my poor children; they are innocent; deign to preserve them from any shame that might fall upon them on my account.”
Elizabeth lived in great austerity and worked continually in her hospice and in the homes of the poor. Even when she herself was sick, she would try to spin or card wool. After only two years at Marburg, her health deterioratred. During the evening of November 17, 1231, Elizabeth died, being only 24 years old.
For three days her body lay in state in the chapel of the hospice, where she was to buried and where many miracles would take place through her intercessions. Master Conrad began collecting depositions to be considered for her canonization, but he did not live to see her raised to the honors of the altar.
Pope Gregory IX canonized Elizabeth in 1235. During the following year her relics were translated to the Church of St. Elizabeth at Marburg, which was built in her honor by her brother-in-law Conrad. This translation took place in the presence of Emperor Frederick II, and of “so great a concourse of divers nations, peoples and tongues as in these German lands scarcely ever was gathered before or will ever be again.” There the relics of St. Elizabeth of Hungary rested, an object of pilgrimage to all Germany and beyond.
But in the year 1539 a Protestant landgrave of Hesse, Philip the Magnanimous, a descendant of the Saint, wanting to abolish her cult, removed the relics to a place unknown. However, the Church of St Elizabeth in Marburg is still a place of pilgrimage and is of great interest to pilgrims and tourists. There can be seen the Saint’s tomb and many works of art depicting the life of the Saint.
All that we know of St. Elizabeth has come to us from her two handmaidens, Isentrude and Guda, as well as the two “harsh females,” the letters of Conrad to the Pope, and other documents sent to Rome in view of her canonization.
As the son of the Lord of Emblehem, Belgium, Gummarus served in the court of Pepin the Short, where he demonstrated the results of his youthful training in the faith by being humble, honest, exact in his duties and fervent in all the exercises of devotion. Although Pepin was occupied with ambitious endeavors, he greatly admired the virtues of his courtier and raised him to a high position with added responsibilities.
Presumably as a reward for his faithfulness, Pepin proposed a match between Gummarus and a lady of noble birth name Gwinmarie. Both parties consented and the marriage was solemnized. However, soon after the wedding Gwinmarie displayed her true temperament. According to the description handed down to us, she was extravagant, proud, capricious, impatient, incorrigible, unteachable and had a tiresome and frightful disposition.
The devout and patient Gummarus suffered terrible from the trials which his wife continually presented. With heroic virtue, Gummarus attempted for several years to encourage his wife toward more controlled behavior – but without results. Finally, Gummarus was granted a reprieve of sorts when he was asked by King Pepin to accompany him in his wars: first in Lombardy then in Saxony and again in Aquitaine. Gummarus was absent for eight years. Upon his return home he found that his wife had created compete disorder and confusion in his household, and that almost all of his servants, vassals and tenants had suffered from her overbearing oppression. Losing no time Gummarus corrected his affairs and made restitution to all who had suffered.
Eventually, Gummarus’ patience and kindness seemed to correct his wife’s disposition. She seemed sincerely ashamed of her past conduct, and for a time she appeared to be truly penitent. This was only temporary, however, since she reverted to her old faults – which seemed to be even more serious than before. Gummarus tied once more to influence her, but at length he had to admit that this was impossible. By mutual consent the two separated.
Gummarus lived for a time in a cell near their home, but later he set off on a pilgrimage to Rome. He got no further than Nivesdonck; there he built himself a hermitage and lived alone for some years, until his holy death about the year 774. Afterwards, his hermitage became a place of pilgrimage. St. Gummarus is venerated at Lier, which is near the village of his birth.
St. Elzear and Bl. Dephina
d. 1323 / d. 1358
Soon after Elzear was born his mother took him in her arms and offered him to God with great fervor. She begged that he might never offend His ‘divine Majesty, but might rather die in his in fancy than live to commit a serious sin. His other’s prayers were answered, since later in life St. Elzear acknowledged that he had never committed a mortal sin. The lessons in virtue which he had received from his mother were perfected by his uncle, William of Sabran, Abbot of St. Victor’s at Marseille. It was in that monastery that Elzear was educated.
Having been born in Provence, France, in the year 1285, Elzear was still a child when Charles II, King of Sicily, arranged Elzear’s engagement to Delphina, daughter and heiress to the Lord of Puy-Michel. Dephina was an orphan. Like her intended, who was educated by an uncle who was an abbot, Delphina was educated by her aunt who was an abbess. When Elzear and Delphina were both abut 15 years old, their marriage took place at Chateau-Pont-Michel.
It is claimed by at least one biographer that the couple decided on their wedding night, to live as brother and sister. And it is known that in 1315, in the chapel of their castle after they received Holy Communion they stood at the foot of the altar and publicly pronounced their vows of perpetual continence. This is claimed by some to indicate that both were inclined toward a religious vocation but entered into the marriage state under obedience to the advice of their elders.
Elzear was 23 years old when he inherited his father’s honors and estates. He became the Baron of Ansouis in Provence and Count of Ariano in the kingdom of Naples. When Elzear had to journey to Italy to take possession of the lordship of Ariano, he found the Italians poorly disposed toward him as a Frenchman. Then when a rebellion was threatened, Elzear’s cousin, the Prince of Taranto, advised him to subdue the rebels with execution and force of arms – a course of action which Elzear refused to take. Instead of pursuing confrontation, Elzear spent three years in opposing the rebellion with tact, gentleness, meekness and patience. His friends reproachfully accused him of being indolent and cowardly, but in the end the rebels abandoned their effort. With submission and respect they invited the Saint to take possession of his territory.
In explaining why he bore the insults, injuries and difficulties with patience, Elzear explained, “If I received any affront or feel in patience begin to arise in my breast, I turn all my thoughts toward Jesus Christ crucified and say to myself: Can what I suffer bear any comparison with what Jesus Christ was pleased to undergo for me?”
Elzear once again countered insults with patience and forgiveness when he was going through papers that had been left by his father. Several letters were found that had been written by a certain gentleman who suggested that Elzear should be disinherited because he was more of a monk than a soldier. When Delphina read the insults and criticisms that were also mentioned in the letter, she expressed the hope that her husband would deal with the writer as he deserved. But Elzear reminded her that Christ commands us not to seek revenge but to forgive injuries and to overcome hatred with charity. He destroyed the letters and never spoke of them again. When the gentleman came to him not knowing that Elzear had read his letters, Elzear greeted him affectionately and won his friendship.
The gentleman was wrong in his opinion of Elzear. While the Saint had the virtues and demeanor of a monk, he was also a soldier, having taken up arms in Italy on behalf of the Guelf party. With his followers he helped to drive Emperor Henry VII from Rome in 1312.
Elzear exercised charity in a number of areas. He visited prisoners who were condemned to death, converted many with tender words and secretly aided widows, orphans and the poor. He recited the Divine Office every day and communicated almost as often. He once said to Delphina, “I do not think that any man on earth can enjoy happiness equal to that which I have in Holy Communion.” In one of his letters to her he wrote, “You want to hear often of me. Go then and visit our loving Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and enter in spirit into His Sacred Heart. You will always find me there.”
While Elzear was devout and spent much time in prayer, he did not neglect the temporal concerns of his position. Diligent in the care of his household, he drew up the following regulations:
Everyone in my family shall daily hear Mass, whatever business he may have. If God we well served, nothing will be wanting…Let no persons be idle. In the morning a little time shall be allowed for meditation, but away with those who are perpetually in the church to avoid doing their work. This they do, not because they love contemplation, but because they want to have their work done for them…When a difference or quarrel arises, let the scriptural precept be observed that it be composed before the sun goes down. I know the impossibility of living among men and not having something to suffer. Scarcely a man is in tune with himself one whole day; but not to be willing to bear with or pardon others is diabolical, and to love enemies and to render good for evil is the touchstone of the sons of God…I strictly command that no officer or servant under my jurisdiction or authority injure any man in goods, honors or reputation, or oppress any poor person, or damage anyone under color of doing my business. I do not want my castle to be a cloister or my people hermits. Let them be merry, and enjoy recreation at the right time, but not with a bad conscience or with danger of transgressing against God.
St. Elzear himself set the example in everything that he prescribed to others, and Bl Delphina concurred with her husband in all his views and was perfectly obedient to him. Although strictly observing their vow of chastity, they were nevertheless perfectly suited to one another. They were warm, affectionate, and caring, while harmony and peace held sway in their dealings with one another and in their household.
When King Robert of Naples sent St. Elzear to Paris to ask for the hand of Mary of Valois for King Robert’s son, Bl. Delphina was concerned for her husband amid the dangers of the Parisian court. Elzear observed that since, by the grace of God, he had kept his virtue in Naples, he was not likely to come to any harm in Paris.
But a danger of another kind did await Elzear n Paris in the form of a sickness that proved to be fatal. While he awaited death, he made a general confession and continued to confess almost every day of his illness, even tough he is said never to have offended God by mortal sin. The history of Christ’s Passion was read to him every day, and in this he found great comfort in spite of his pains. After receiving the Holy Eucharist for the last time, Elzear said with great joy, “This is my hope; in this I desire to die.” On September 27, 1323 Elzear died in the arms of Fr. Francis Mayronis, a Franciscan friar who had been his confessor. In accord with Elzear’s orders, his body was carried to
Apt and there interred in the Church of the Franciscans.
Fourteen years earlier, about the year 1309, St. Elzear had assisted as godfather at the Baptism of Wilham of Grimoard, son of the Sieur De Grisac. William was a sickly child whose restoration to health was credited to the prayers of his godfather. Fifty-three years later this William became Pope Urban V, and in 1369 he signed the decree of canonization of his godfather Elzear, whose name is listed in the Roman Martyrology on September 27, the day of his death.
Bl Dephina survived her husband by 35 years. She remained at the Neapolitan court until the death of Queen Sanchia, who had entered the Order of the Poor Clares. Delphina then returned to Frances and led the life of a recluse, first at Cabrieres and then at Apt. She distributed the proceeds of her estates to the poor and during her last years she was afflicted with a painful illness, which she bore with admirable patience until her death. She was buried beside her husband in Apt.
Both St. Elzear and Bl. Delphina were members of the Third Order of St. Francis, and for this reason they are particularly venerated by the Franciscans.
Bl. Adrian Fortescue
Sir Adrian Fortescue was born in 1476 to an old Devonshire family which traced its ancestry to the time of the Norman Conquest. His father, Sir John, held important posts at court; his mother was Alice Boleyn, whose marriage to King Henry VIII was to bring about the fall of the Catholic religion in England – as well as the martyrdom of countless Catholics.
Sir Adrian’s early and middle life was that of a typical country gentleman of the time. He was a serious, thrifty man, careful in business, exact in accounts and a lover of the homely wit of the day. Because his family fortunes had been secured in earlier times, he was also a man of considerable wealth. He was a justice of the peace for the county of Oxford and assisted at the royal court. In 1513 he fought in France at the “Battle of the Spurs,” and in 1520 he was in Queen Catherine’s train when she went to Calais during the “Field of the Cloth of God.” Always a religious man, Sir Adrian was admitted in 1532 as a “knight of devotion of ‘St John of Jerusalem (the Knights of Malta). The following year he was enrolled at Oxford as a tertiary in the Third Order of St. Dominic.
Sir Adrian was also a married man and the father of two daughters by his first wife. Anne Stoner. Twelve years after her death he married Anne Rede of Boarstall, who bore him three son.
During the time that King Henry VIII was persecuting Catholics as a result of his differences with the Pope concerning his marriage to Anne Boleyn, Sir Adrian seems to have behaved with prudence. But for reasons that have not been given he was arrested on August 29, 1534 and detained in the Marshalsea prison. He was probably released in the spring of 1535, the year during which St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were beheaded for the Faith for refusing to side with King Henry VIII in the matter of his divorce and remarriage. Because Catholics and priest were being arrested for their faith, Sir Adrian, well-known as a Catholic, must have expected the inevitable. During the February of 1539, the expected occurred when he was arrested and sent to the Tower of London.
Parliament met in April, and Sir Adrian was condemned without a trial. It was claimed that he “not only most traitorously refused his duty of allegiance, which he ought to bear to Your Highness, but also hath committed divers and sundry detestable and abominable treasons, and put sedition in your realm.” The nature of these treasons was never given.
Condemned at the same time were Cardinal Pole and several others because they “adhered themselves to the Bishop of Rome.” Catholic tradition has always held that Sir Adrian died for the same cause.
Bl Adrian was beheaded with Bl. Thomas Dingley at Tower Hill on July 8th, 1539. Since his death, his cultus has always flourished among the Knights of St. John. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1895.
In the church at Husband’s Bosworth is preserved Bl. Adrian’s ‘Book of Hours. On the flyleaf he had written and signed a series of maxims, or rules, of the spiritual life. A few of these are the following:
Above al things, love God with thy heart.
Desire His honour more than the health of thine own soul.
Take heed with all diligence to purge and cleanse thy mind with oft confessions, and raise thy desire or lust from earthly things.
Resort to God every hour.
Be pitiful unto poor folk and help them to thy power, for there you shall greatly please God.
In prosperity be meek of heart, and in adversity patient.
And pray continually to God that you may do all that is His pleasure.
If by chance you fall into sin, despair not; and if you keep these precepts, the Holy Ghost will strength thee in all other things necessary, and this doing thou shall be with Christ in Heaven, to whom be given laud, praise and honour everlasting – (Signed) Adrian Fortescue.
Bl. Henry of Treviso
(Bl. Henry of Bolzano)
Because of his impoverished childhood, Henry was unable to attend school and never learned to read or right. Having been born in Bolzano, Italy, he was forced to seek employment at Treviso, where he supported himself as a day laborer.
Bl. Henry’s spiritual life was commendable. He gave to the poor whatever he could spare from his meager wages and never missed an opportunity to serve God or his fellow man. He head Mass daily and received Holy Communion as frequently as was customary at the time. He went frequent to confession as a means of preserving his purity of conscience and never failed to attend sermons and instructions. When not employed in physical labor, Bl. Henry spent his time in prayer.
It has been noted that while Bl. Henry’s soul was endowed with the beauty of grace, his physical appearance was somewhat unattractive. He was a thick-set little man with sunken eyes, a long nose and a crooked mouth. Not helping his appearance were the shabby clothes he wore. He was frequently mocked and ridiculed by both children and wicked adults, but he was never heard to utter a word of complaint, even when severely provoked. He seemed never to resent the treatment he received, and many marveled at his serenity under stress and his friendliness with everyone he met.
When Henry could no longer work a charitable citizen name James Castagnolis gave him a room in his house. Henry’s food, and the alms he received from his neighbors were shared with beggars. Nothing was held over from one day to the next.
Even when Henry suffered from advanced age and bodily weakness, he continued to visit neighboring churches until the time of his death on June 10, 1315.
As soon as Henry’s passing was announced, his little room was thronged with visitors who regarded him as a saint. Many who proclaimed his sanctity were those who had formerly ridiculed his appearance. Relics were sought after by eager devotees, who obtained fragments of his hairshirt, a wood log which had been his pillow and twigs, cords and straw that had served as his bed. The crowds were so enthusiastic that the body was finally removed to the cathedral but when the doors were closed for the night, the people broke in. When the Bishop was roused from his sleep and informed of the disturbance, he and his associates found it necessary to have a barricade constructed about the body to control the people who wished to express their admiration of Henry’s virtues and to be the recipients of miracles that were being reported.
When the number of these miracles increased, the magistrates of the town appointed notaries to keep a record of them. Within a few days, of Bl. Henry’s death, no fewer than 276 miracles were recorded. These were later set forth by the Bollandists in the Acta Sanctorum, in which they occupy 32 closely printed columns. The Bollandists also printed a Life of Henry that had been written by his contemporary, Bishop of Pierdomenico de Baone.
The penitential instruments used by Bl. Henry were preserved after his death in the Cathedral of Bolzano. In Italy, Henry is known as San Rigo.
Gotteschalc, an Abotrite prince, was a student at the Abbey of St. Michael in Luneberg, Germany when he learned that his father, Uto, had been murdered by a Saxon. The young man felt the loss of his father so acutely and so bitterly that he left the Abbey about the year 1030, and even renounced the Christian Faith.
In an attempt to avenge his father’s death, Gotteschalc gathered together a group of his tribesmen and joined with two other Wendish princes and their forces to do battle. They harassed the territories of the Saxons and carried their devastations as far as Hamburg and Holstein until Gotteschalc was captured by Duke Bernard of Saxony, who kept him in close confinement for a considerable time.
When he was finally released, Gotteschalc found that his father’s territories had been seized buy a powerful chieftain named Ratibor. Since he saw no prospect of regaining his patrimony he went to Denmark with a number of his tribesmen and offered his services to King Canute, whose daughter he eventually married.
After distinguishing himself in the wars with Norway, Gotteschalc was sent on a number of expeditions to England. In the year 1043 he returned to his own country, where the Abotrites welcomed him as their chief. In time he gained control over other tribes, until Adam of Bremen claimed that Gotteschalc was the most powerful prince who had ever ruled the Slavs.
It is uncertain when Gotteschalc returned to the Christian Faith but the zeal which he had devoted to avenging his father’s death he now redoubled in favor of making amends for his mistake in rejecting the True Faith. During a reign of about 20 years, he worked hard at correcting whatever wrong he had done, seeing to the conversion and civilization of his subjects. With the help of Adabert, Archbishop of Hamburg, Gotteschalc introduced priests into all parts of his principality. One of the missionaries, a Scotsman named John, is said to have baptized several thousand catechumens. Gotteschalc frequently assisted the priests by translating sermons and instructions into the Slavonic language.
So great was Gotteschalc’s zeal for the Faith that he founded monasteries in several cities; in Magdeburg he established three of them. He likewise worked hard to spread the Faith among distant tribes.
After the death of Emperor Henry III, who had maintained peace between the Slavs, Bohemians, and Hungarians- and after the death of Duke Bernard, who had ruled Saxony for 40 years – trouble once more arose.
A strong anti-Christian reaction began, and it claimed Gotteschalc as one of its first victims. He was attacked and killed in the City of Lenzen on June 7, 1066, during a violent persecution that also claimed the lives of many other Christians and a number of ecclesiastics.
The anti-Christians continued under Gotteschalc’s successor, but he was succeeded by Gotteschalc’s son Henry, under whom the Faith was reinstated throughout the land.
Bl. Ferdinand of Portugal
1402 - 1443
Bl. Ferdinand, Prince of Portugal, was born at Santarem on September 29, 1402. He was one of five sons born to King John I of Portugal and Philppa, daughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Ferdinand suffered throughout his life from various sicknesses, but bodily weakness did not hinder his spiritual growth.
While still a young boy he showed a remarkable attraction to prayer and for the devotions and ceremonies of the Church. At the age of 14 he was reciting the canonical hours and fasting on Saturdays and the vigils of feasts. Ferdinand was frugal in his diet, solicitous for the sick and poor and careful in overseeing the spiritual well-being of his servants. Much to the admiration of the court, he remained untouched by the temptations and frivolities around him. His generosity to the Church was occasioned by his desire to participate in its prayers and good works, and for a similar reason he had himself enrolled in all the pious congregations of the kingdom.
Upon the King’s death in 1433, Ferdinand’s brother Edward ascended the throne.
Ferdinand’s inheritance was so small that Edward conferred on him the Grand Mastership of the Knights of Aviz, a religious military order. Since Ferdinand was not a cleric, a special papal dispensation was necessary before he could assume the office. When this dispensation was obtained, Ferdinand accepted only because he did wish to be a burden to his family.
Bl. Ferdinand never married and seems never to have been drawn to the clerical state. However, he was eager to participate in a crusade again the enemies of the Church. It was largely at Ferdinand’s prompting and in opposition to the advice of Pope Eugenius IV, that King Edward planned an expedition against the Moors in Africa. Leading the expedition were the King’s two brothers, Henry the Navigator and Bl. Ferdinand. They set sail on August 22, 1437. During the voyage of four days Ferdinand became dangerously ill due to an abscess and fever, which he had concealed before his departure in order to prevent a delay.
After the group arrived at Ceuta (a Spanish military post in Portuguese found that through some mismanagement they numbered only 6,000 men, instead of 14,000 as ordered by the King. They were advised to wait for reinforcements, but the two princes, eager to do battle against the heathen, decided to advance toward Tangier.
The Portuguese fought bravely against an overwhelming number of Moors, but the result was disastrous. The Moors cut off their communication with the fleet, their only source of supplies. Faced with starvation or surrender, the Portuguese were finally compelled to negotiate humiliating terms: the surrender terms: the surrender of the City of Ceuta and its fortress, in return for safe passage to their vessels.
When the Moors demanded that one of the princes be left with them to insure the delivery of the city, Ferdinand bravely offered himself as a hostage. With him remained 12 attendants, including Joao Alvarez – his secretary, and later his biographer. The Moorish emir, Sala ben Sala, brought Ferdinand to Arsilla, where the holy prince continued all his devotions and showed great charity to his fellow captives, in spite of lingering sickness and suffering.
Developments then took a strange course. With his brother held prisoner, Henry the Navigator changed his mind about surrendering Ceuta and its fortress. He offered instead to release the son of Sala ben Sala, who was a prison of the Portuguese. The exchange of hostages was scornfully rejected. Sal ben Sala insisted on the recovery of Ceuta, which would restore to him his former seat of government. Once more Henry refused to surrender Ceuta. He left for Portugal to devise other means to win Ferdinand’s release.
Ceuta was left in the command of the Portuguese Cortes, who answered the threats of the Moors with repeated refusals to surrender the fortress – which had been captured at the cost of many lives and whose location would serve as a point of departure for future conquests.
Various attempts were made to free the Prince, but all were rejected and only served to make the Moors more resentful toward him. On May 25th, 1438 Ferdinand and his companions were taken to Fez, where he was handed over to the cruel Lazurac. He was placed in a dark dungeon and , after many months of imprisonment, was made to work like a slave in the gardens and stables. In spite of the Prince’s harsh treatment, abuse, insults and misery, we are told by his companion and biographer, Joao Alvarez, that he never lost patience, never complained, nor did he ever speak a harsh word against the Moors. Ferdinand refused to attempt an escape –which would have meant leaving his loyal companions to worst treatment.
Although it is said that Bl. Ferdinand’s brothers made great efforts to release him, they still refused to surrender Ceuta. Apparently abandoned by his brothers, Bl. Ferdinand spent the last 15 months of his life confined in a dark dungeon. He spent most his time in prayer and in preparation for death, which he knew was near at hand. He was finally stricken with a fatal disease.
While Bl. Ferdinand was still detained in the dungeon, his captors permitted a physician and a few faithful friends to visit him. The day before he died, he confided to his confessor that he had been greatly consoled by a vision of the Blessed Virgin, who was accompanied by St. John and the Archangel Michael. The next day, June 5, 1443, after making a general confession and a profession of faith, the saintly prince died peacefully after having endured six years of imprisonment.
After the death of his holy prisoner, the cruel Lazurac had still other indignities to inflict upon him. He ordered the body of the Prince to be opened and the vital organs removed. He then had the body suspended head downward for four days on the wall of the City of Fez.
Of Ferdinand’s companions, four soon followed him to the grave, one joined the ranks of the Moors, and the others regained their liberty after Lazurac’s death. Joao Alvarez carried Ferdinand’s heart to Portugal in 1451.
Prince Ferdinand was held in great veneration by the Portuguese because of his saintly life and devotion to country. Miracles were reported through his intercession, and in 1470 he was beatified by Pope Paul II. In 1473 his remains were brought back to his native soil. Amid special ceremonies they were deposited in the monastic Church of Our Lady of Batalha, in the diocese of Leira.
474 – 545
Clotilde was born in Lyon, France about the year 474 to Chilperic, the ruler of the Burgundians of Lyon, and Caretana, a fervent Catholic. When Clotilde’s father died her mother took the 16-year old girl and her sister Sendeleuba to Geneva. Sendeleuba eventually took the veil in the convent of St. Victor at Geneva, but Clotilde became the bride of Clovis, King of the Salian Franks, when she was about 18 years old.
The wedding took place at Soissons, which Clovis had made his new capital. Although Clovis was a pagan, he – like his father – maintained a friendly relationship with the bishops of the realm, especially with St. Remigius, Archbishop of Rheims. St. Remigius previously had sent Clovis warm letter of congratulations when he had ascended the throne at the age of 15.
Clotilde exercised great influence over her husband and tried every means to convert him to the Faith. Although Clovis resisted and continued in his pagan beliefs, he did permit Clotilde to baptize their first child, a son named Ingomar, who died in infancy. He likewise permitted the Baptism of the other children: Clodomir, Childebert, Clotaire and a daughter who bore her mother’s name.
Clovis’ decision to become a Christian was made dramatically on the field of battle when he was in the process of losing to the Alemanni. When his troops were on the verge of yielding to the enemy, Clovis turned for help to Clotilde’s God, promising to accept the Faith if he were victorious. The tide of the conflict took a miraculous turn; the battle was won, and on Christmas morning, 496, Clovis was baptized with great pomp by St. Remigius in Rheims Cathedral. His sister Abofledis and 3,000 of his Franks were also received into the Church at the same time.
Clovis was also successful in further conquests in Gaul. Clotilde no doubt was happy with this accomplishment, which furnished fresh fields for extending the Catholic Faith. Together, Clovis and Clotilde found in Paris the Church of the Apostles Peter and Paul, which was to serve them as a mausoleum and which was afterwards renamed for St. Genevieve. In this church, Clotilde buried her husband, Clovis, when he died in 511. The couple had been married 19 years.
While the years previous to Clovis’ death were relatively happy ones, Clotilde’s widowhood was saddened by family feuds and the problems of her three sons and daughter.
The first problem involving Clotilde’s children concerned her daughter, the princess Clotilde, whose husband – the Visigothic Amalaric – was abusing her. So cruel and in human was his behavior, as reported in the news that reached the rest of the family, that St. Clotilde’s son Childebert was outraged. Rising to the defense of his sister, he gathered together an army, battle against Amalaric, defeated him and put him to death. Childebert was in the process of bringing his sister home when she died on the journey as a result of the harsh treatment she had endured at the hands of her husband. We can only imagine St. Clotilde’s grief upon receiving the body of her only daughter.
Another difficulty involved Clotilde’s son, Clodomir, who attached his cousin St. Sigismund, captured him and mercilessly put him to death, together with his wife and children. Later Clodomir was himself killed in retaliation by St. Sigismund’s brother Godomar in the battle of Vezeronce in the year 542.
Following the death of Clodomir, St. Clotilde adopted his three little sons, intending to raise them as her own children. Her two remaining son, Clotaire and Childebert, decided to acquire undisputed possession of their deceased brother’s inheritance, which they divided between themselves. Knowing that their three little nephews, who were the rightful heirs present a hindrance to their greed, killed two of the children, who were 10 and seven years of age. The youngest child, Clodoald, escaped and afterwards became a monk near Paris, at the monastery of Nogent, which later was renamed St. Cloud in his honor.
Brokenhearted at the loss of her two grandsons, plus the knowledge that her two sons had plotted the murder and that one actually performed the deed, St. Clotilde left Paris and moved to Tours. There she spent the rest of her life in helping the poor and suffering and in praying at the tomb of St. Martin, to whom she had a great devotion.
While at Tours, St. Cloltilde learned that her two sons, Childert and Clotaire had been feuding and were on the verge of battle. In her anguish, St. Clotilde spent the whole night in prayer before St Martin’s shrine, begging God to put an end to the conflict. The Saint’s prayers were answer the very next day, when the armies were facing each other on the field of battle. Before the conflict could begin, a storm arose with such turbulence that the troops scattered for safety.
A month later St. Clotilde was seized with a serious ailment; she died at the age of about 71, been a widow for 34 years. The two sons who had caused their mother so much grief buried St. Clotilde beside her husband and children in the Church of the Apostles, which Clotilde and Clovis had built many years before. The church was later named after St. Genevieve, the Patroness of Paris.
When King Clotaire I was on his deathbed he divided the French Kingdom among his four sons. Sigebert received the territory of Austrasia; Charibert received Neustria; Chilperic received Soissons; and Guntramnus (or Gontran) became King of Burgundy and sovereign over part of Aquitaine. He was 36 years old at the time, and according to Butler, Guntramnus “lived a somewhat dissipated life, which afterwards caused him remorse.” What especially pricked his conscience in late life was his divorce from his wife, Marcatarude. Additionally, he reproached himself for having ordered the execution of Queen Austrechild’s physicians because they had failed to cure her.
It would be difficult to find a family in which brothers and their wives were more at odds, often with unholy intrigues and tragic results.
The problem seem to have flowered when the eldest brother, Charibert, died in 567 without leaving a male heir. It was Guntramnus who suggested that a council be held in Paris to decide upon a friendly division of Charibert’s property. The council was held, but only Guntramnus observed tougher terms which had been decided upon. Even though the others had agreed to the terms, the division of Charibert’s estate produced quarrels between Chilperic and Sigebert who were already at odds because of their wives.
Sigebert, it seems, had married the beautiful Brunehilda, daughter of Athanagild,King of Visigoths. Chilperic had married Brunehilda’s sister Galeswinta; but when Chilperic’s mistress, Fredegonda, became jealous, Chilperic had Galeswintha assassinated and placed Fredegonda upon the throne. Brunehilda’s determination to avenge the death of her sister involved bitter quarrels not only between the two women, but also between their husbands.
In 575 Sigebert took to the field, determined to bring matters to a conclusion. Chilperic, already banished from his kingdom, had taken refuge behind the walls of Tournai; this maneuver provided safety, but no hope for escape. Just when defeat for Chilperic seemed imminent and victory for Sigebert was anticipated, Sigebert was killed by an assassin sent by Chilperic’s wife, Fredegonda. Brunehilda was briefly imprisoned while her bitter enemies, Chilperic and Fredegonda, reveled in their victory. Nine years later, justice seem to have been served when Chilperic was himself killed by assassin.
The difficulties which King Guntramnus had to contend with during this time were awesome. He continually attempted to make peace between his two brothers and their wives, while at the same time he was also defending part of this territory from the Visigoths, as well as defending himself against the intrigues of Gondowald, his illegitimate brother who wanted the throne for himself.
After the deaths of his two brothers, Chilperic and Sigebert, Guntramnus served as a father to their children. Toward his two fierce sisters-in-laws, Fredegunda and Brunehilda, Guntramnus was singularly patient and forbearing, although Fredegunda on several occasions attempted to take his life. Brunhilda was likewise devious and untrustworthy. Following Guntramnus’ death, Brunehilde became very influential through so many nobles, and so many of the citizenry, that she was punished by means of a frightful death. She suffered the humiliation of being tied to the tail of a wild horse and trampled to death.
Although Guntramnus is described as having led “a dissipated life” in his youth, he was admirably virtuous during his maturity. Throughout his reign he would not permit his people to be oppressed. While serving as regent of the land of his deceased brothers Chilperic, he abolished fines and returned to the people properties that had been unjustly taken from them by his brother.
It is said that few kings were as popular with their subjects as was Guntramnus. He often visited his people in their homes and sat at their tables.
When Guntramnus entered a town, the citizens would rush out to meet him crying, “Noel, Noel! Long live the King!”
Although Guntramnus held the Church and her clergy in the highest regard, he was convinced that some of the most serious evils of the time arose from the lack of proper ecclesiastical discipline and from the bishops taking undue interest in secular affairs. He arranged for important synods, at which regulations were enacted to correct disorders. Guntramnus also founded or endowed many churches and monasteries, and he encouraged a better observance of Sundays and festivals.
A dear friend of Guntramnus was St Gregory of Tours (d. 594). St. Gregory aided the Kind in many of his endeavors involving the Church, and he wrote nearly all we know of Guntramnus.
After reigning for 31 years, Guntramnus died at the age of 68 and was immediately regarded as a saint by his subjects. He was buried at the Abbey of Baume les Dames, which had been founded in the fifth century. Unfortunately, during the Revolution the church of this abbey was leveled.
[We have a superb business model today for the Catholic Church. Wall St and Entrepreneurs might reflect on this saint seriously.]
Commerce frequently encourages an attachment to material things and provides opportunities for many vices, including lying and defrauding. But St. Homobonus brought to his business many virtues – including those of honest and integrity.
Born in Cremona, Italy, this saint was given his name at Baptism, - Homobonus, meaning Good Man. His father owned a mercantile business in which he trained his son at an early age. It was from his father that Homobonus was inspired to continue the trade with fairness. To this he added economy, care and hard work. He looked upon his business as an employment given him by God, and he found in the profession many opportunities for exercising virtue. It is said by Butler that “Homobonus was a saint by acquitting himself diligently and uprightly, for supernatural motives, of all the obligations of his profession.”
After a time the Saint married. His wife was prudent and faithful assistant who seems to have been almost as virtuous as her husband.
Upon the death of his father, the Saint inherited a considerable stock in trade, as well as a house in town and another in the country. Although it appears that Homobonus had the means to live a carefree life and to accumulate every possession and convenience that he might have desired, an attachment to material possessions had no part in his character. Not content with merely tithing, he distributed considerable amounts of money to
unfortunates. He sought out the poor in their homes, where he supplied their necessities and tenderly encouraged them to repentance and a good life. We are told by the author of his biography that God often recognized the Saint’s charity by miracles worked in favor of many whom he helped.
St. Homobonus was a man of considerable devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. It was his custom every night to go to the Church of St. Giles a little before midnight to assist at Matins, and frequently he did not leave the church until after Holy Mass the next morning. He always consecrated Sundays and holy days entirely to devotion. Prayer sanctified all his actions, and it was during prayer before the Holy Eucharist that he died.
On November 13, 1197, after attending Matins, Homobonus remained kneeling before the crucifix until Mass began. At the Gloria in Excelsis, he stretched out his arms in the figure of a cross and fell on his face to the ground. Those who saw him thought he did so out of devotion, but when he neglected to rise they discovered that he was dead.
Since the virtues of the saintly merchant were well-known to Sicard, the Bishop of Cremona, this prelate went himself to Rome to solicit the canonization. Less than two years after the merchant’s death, Homobonus was canonized by Pope Innocent III. He was soon recognized as the patron of tailors and clothworkers, and as such was venerated throughout Italy, as well as in France and Germany.
The Saint’s body was removed in 1357 to the cathedral, although his head remains at the Church of St. Giles, where he was originally buried.
Bl. Josefa Naval Girbes
1820 - 1893
The city of Algemesi, located approximately twenty miles south of Valencia, Spain, is the birthplace of the newly beatified Josefa Naval Girbes, who was
born there in 1820. Her
early education was limited to embroidery and the rudiments of reading, but she soon became well informed concerning the doctrines of the Catholic Faith.
Known throughout her lifetime as Senora Pepa or simply Pepa, she received spiritual guidance from her parish priest. These instructions, together with her
extraordinary virtues, enabled her to grow deeply in the love of God. By the time she was 30 years old, she was well advanced life, and by the time she
was 55 she had reached the state of mystical union with God.
When Pepa was still a young woman she felt called to share with others all that she had learned about her faith. With the approval of the parish priest,
she began to teach the art of embroidery to the young women of the city. These free lessions were accompanied by spiritual readings and a wholesome
conversations. Pepa's house continued to become a popular place for young women to practive needlework and to learn the practice of virtue until it was
said that, under Senora Pepa's guidance, her pupils became experts at both.
Her curriculum of study gradually developed from basic catechism to instruction on the highest states of prayer. She also involved her students in the
activities of the parish and, moreover, prepared them for vocations as spouses and mothers or as members of religious orders. She also became active in
preparing children for their First Holy Communion.
Since more room was needed to accommodate Pepa's many pupils, a family friend gave her an orange grove known as the Huerto de la Torreta, the "Orchard of
the Little Tower." In 1877 many of her pupils began to gather there. Eventually Pepa's house and the Huerto became known as a pre-novitiate for Christian
Since her spiritual life was shaped by the Discalced Carmelite Order, Pepa's life was marked by a great devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Teresa of
Avila and St. John of the Cross.
When Pepa was 71 years old she began to suffer from a heart condition in addition to the other infirmities of her age. Two years later she peacefully died
on February 24, 1893.
Having been a tertiary of the Discalced Carmelite Third Order for many years, Pepa was buried in the Carmelite habit, as she had requested.
This teacher of embroidery and of sanctity was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988.
Alpais was a peasant girl who was born into lowly circumstances at Cudot in the Diocese of Orleans, Frances. Because of her family’s humble situation, she was obliged to work with her father in the fields until she was stricken by a disease which may have been leprosy. Her biographer, a Cistercian monk of Escharlis who knew her personally, assures us that Bl Alpais was cured of the disease during a vision of Our Lady. Later, due to the effects of another illness, she lost the use of her limbs and was confined to bed
It was soon noticed that Bl. Alpais subsisted entirely on the Holy Eucharist. This was confirmed by the Archbishop after a commission which he organized had examined and tested the authenticity of her fast. In fact, Bl Alpais seems to be the earliest mystic of whom it is recorded on reliable evidence that she lived for years on the Blessed Eucharist alone.
Because of Bl Alpais’ Eucharistic fast her reputation for holiness, the Archbishop had a church built next to her home at Cudot so that, by means of a window, the invalid could assist at religious services.
Pilgrims, prelates and nobles came to Alpais for advice; even Queen Adela, wife of Louis VII of France, visited her three times. In 1180 the Queen made a substantial donation to the canons of the church, “for love of Alpais.”
The honor which had been bestowed on Bl Alpais from the time of her death was approved by Pope Pius IX in 1874.
St. Nunilo and St. Alodia
The Moorish caliph, Abderrahman II, terrorized Spain in the middle of the ninth century and produced for the Church many saints who defended their faith with their lives. Among these martyrs were two sisters, Nunilo and Alodia, who lived in the City of Huesca in northeastern Spain.
The early life of the two sisters were disturbed by the death of their father, a Mohammedan, and the remarriage of their Christian mother to another Mohammedan. Since the two girls had been raised in the Christian Faith, they suffered much in the exercise of their faith because of the brutality of their stepfather. After making vows of virginity, they were additionally troubled when suitors began to visit their homes. To avoid these young men and to be enabled to practice their religion without the criticism and restrictions of their stepfather, they obtain permission to live in the house of a Christian aunt. Here they were free to practice their devotions and to spend all their time in prayer, except for the times when they were engaged in necessary duties.
Eventually the laws of Abderrahman were published, and countless Christians suffered as a result. The piety and faith of the two girls being well known, it was inevitable that they were among the first who were affected. They appeared before the cadi with Christian joy and resisted the flattery that was intended to induce them to renounce their faith. Promises and special favors were likewise rejected. When all failed, threats were made until finally they were placed in the hands of wicked women who were instructed to lead them into sin. Nunilo and Alodia were divinely enlightened and protected, and after many trials the women of sin had to admit that they could not conquer their resolution. Infuriated, the cadi ordered that they be beheaded in prison, which took place in the year 851.
St. Ida of Herzfeld
Because her father, duke Theodericus, was held in great esteem by Charlemagne, Ida had the advantage of being educated at the Emperor’s court. She was also fortunate for the holy example of her mother. The conversations they shared on religious topics made a deep impression on Ida during her formative years. Ida’s mother eventually became the Abbess of Soisson, much to their daughter’s edification. Ida was additionally blessed by her association with two uncles, St. Adelhard and St. Wala, both of whom were monks.
Charlemagne gave Ida in marriage to a lord of his court named Egbert and bestowed upon her a great fortune in money and property – not only, it is said, because of her merit, but also in recompense for their father’s services. The couple loved in perfect harmony while sharing a mutual love of the Faith and the practice of virtue.
Unfortunately, Ida was left a widow while she was still very young.
Upon the death of her husband, Ida redoubled her prayers and penances; with the revenues of her estates she increased her generosity to the poor. She advanced rapidly in the spiritual life, always endeavoring to conceal the heavenly favors she received during prayer.
After her son Warin left to become a monk at Corvey, St. Ida changed her residence to Herzfeld, where she spent the remainder of her life in the performance of good works. It is claimed that, to remind her of her earthly end and her need to help God’s poor, she had a stone coffin made which was filled each day with food for the needy.
Her last years were spent in offering to God the penance of a painful illness, which she endured with admirable patience.
St. Ida died in the year 813 and was buried at Herzfeld in the cemetery of the convent she had founded there.
In her native city of Augsburg, Bavaria (located in southern West Germany), Afra was a well-known prostitute. Her three servants, Digna, Eunomia, and Eutropia, were also well-known for their disorderly lives.
However, when the persecution of Diocletian threatened, St. Narcissus, the holy Bishop of Gerona, was driven from his see and for a time lodged in the home of Afra’s mother, Hilaria. During his stay he converted not only the mother, but Afra and her servants as well.
Realizing the gravity and the number of her sins, Afra became a sincere penitent and wept bitterly for the pain her sins had caused her Redeemer. She did all she could to make amends for them, by giving what she had to the poor and by spending time in fervent prayer and penance.
When the citizens of Augsburg noticed the conversion and Afra’s new occupation of aiding the poor, she came under suspicion of being a Christian when the persecution of Diocletian reached the city. She was arrested and brought to trial before name Gaius, who knew of her former life of sin. He ordered her to sacrifice to the gods, to which Afra replied, “I was a great sinner before God; but I will not add new crimes, nor do what you command me.”
Gaius then revealed that he knew Afra had been a prostitute, and he promised that her paramours would return and make her wealthy if she would only sacrifice to the gods. This and other offers were all rejected. Threats of torture were dismissed with the words, “Let this, my body, which has been the instrument of so many sins, undergo every torment; but let my soul not be contaminated by sacrificing to demons.”
Gaius passed the sentence of death by fire. Executioners seized Afra, carried her to an island in the river Lech, and tied her to a stake. The prayer that Afra offered just prior to her death concluded with the words, “By this fire, which is about to burn by body, deliver my soul from everlasting flames.” The executioners then heaped a pile of dry vine branches about her and set them on fire. While Afra was still praying, the smoke billowed up and suffocated her.
Standing on the opposite side of the river during the martyrdom were Afra’s faithful servants, who had followed her in the ways of sin and later had joined their mistress in her conversion to the Faith. When the executioners left, the three women went to the island – and with the martyr’s mother, Hilaria, and some priests, they carried the body of the family’s sepulcher, which was located two miles from the city.
Fleury, a church historian, informs us that the sepulchers of the ancients were often buildings large enough to contain rooms. While Hilaria and her company were in the sepulcher preparing to entomb Afra’s body, Gaius was informed of what was taking place. He immediately dispatched soldiers with an order to demand the mourners to sacrifice to the gods or face death. When the soldiers could not persuade the group to comply, they filled the sepulchre with a dry wood, thorns, and vine braches, set fire to them, secured the door and left. In this way St. Afra, St. Alphonsus de Liguori relates that we are grateful to such respected church historians as Fleury, Orsi and Massini for preserving the details of the martyr’s life, St. Alphonsus also write that:
Penitent sinners may receive great encouragement from the consideration of the fortitude communicated to this penitent by the Lord, which enabled her to suffer martyrdom of fire; and also from the consideration of the wisdom given to her, by which she answered the insidious arguments that was intended to pervert her.
St. Afra, St. Hilaria and their three sainted companions are inscribed in the Roman Martyrology under the date of August 12. It has been firmly established that St Afra, who died in 304, was venerated from the earliest times. This fact is also proved by Venantius Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers, who mentions St Afra in his poem dedicated to St. Martin, which was written in the sixth century. < br>
The remains of St. Afra rest at Augsburg in the Church of Sts.
Ulrich and Afra, where she continues to be venerated.
St. Helen (Elin) of Skofde
d. c. 1160
The Bishop of Skara, Sweden, St. Brynolph, wrote that Helen (Elin) was a member of a distinguished family and a favored daughter of her country.
When her husband died, Helen remained a widow and spent the rest of her life in works of charity and piety. The gates of her home are said to have always remained open to the need, and the Church of Skofde was built almost entirely at her expense.
Helen’s humble life would probably have remained hidden and unknown to us had it not been for the circumstances surrounding the death of her daughter’s husband. He is described as having been so unreasonable and cruel that his own servants killed him. Soon after his death, Helen left on a previously arranged pilgrimage. During her absence, the dead man’s family, wanting to avenge their relative’s death, began to question the servants. Under the pressure of the questioning they admitted the crime – but they place the blame on Helen, whom they said had planned the attack and then left on pilgrimage to divert suspicion from herself. The relatives believed the story, and as soon as the innocent and unsuspecting Helen returned from her journey, the dead man’s family attacked and killed her. This took place at Gothene about the year 1160.
Helen’s body was brought to Skofde for burial, and many wonderful cures took place during that time. A catalog of these miracles was sent by Stephen, the Archbishop of Upsala, to Pope Alexander III. In 1164 Helen’s name was inscribed in the list of canonized saints.
The veneration paid to Helen and her relics was so great that it vigorously survived the Protestant Reformation when it came to Sweden, centuries later.
At that time much attention was given to a holy well near her church, which was known as St. Lene Kild. At various time Lutheran authorities criticized the attention given the well as being a remnant of what they called popish and anti-Christian superstition. Eventually all the wells in the area, whether they contained mineral or pure water, were filled with stones and rubbish. However, another holy well, that at the Church of Tiburke, known as St. Elin’s attracted pilgrimages. These came every summer bringing cripples and the sick in great numbers. It was customary for the pilgrims to remain all night at the place and then leave their crutches and make votive offerings as a token of gratitude.
Although she did not died for the Faith, St. Helen is listed as a martyr – possibly because she died innocent of the charge made against her.
Born at Villemont, France, St. Solangia (Solange) was the child of pious parents who were vine-dressers. Although living in poor circumstances, she was blessed with some of Heaven’s most beguiling gifts. She was sweet-tempered, lovable, charitable, industrious and extremely beautiful.
Reports of her beauty reached Bernard de la Gothie, the son of the Count of Poitiers. Bernard journeyed to meet Solangia and found her in the pasture, where she was minding her father’s sheep. He immediately developed a great desire to have her for his wife and proposed marriage.
Solangia declined the offer, giving as her excuse the vow of virginity she had made at the age of seven. The nobleman expressed his disappointment and pleaded with her, describing the many benefits she was renouncing for herself and her poor family.
When Solangia continued to decline his proposal, Bernard decided to abduct her. Bernard caught her up and set her in the saddle before him, but Solangia resisted with such violence that she threw herself from his horse while it was crossing a stream. Although injured in the fall, she struggled to crawl to safety. The pride of the young nobleman was seriously wounded. Angry at seeing the girl attempting to escape him and furious at the rejection he decapitated her with a blow from his sword. The year was 880.
The veneration paid to St. Solangia has remained active at the Church of St. Martin at Fillemont, where the head of the Saint is reverently enshrined. Near her home, a field where she liked to pray received the name of Le Champ de Sainte Solangia.
In the past, during times of great calamity, the relics of the Saint have been taken in procession through the town of Bourges. Although the processions no longer take place, the Saint is still invoked in times of drought.
Bl. Helen Dei Cavalcanti
1396 - 1458
Bl. Helen was a member of the Valentini family of Udine, Italy, and was given in marriage at the age of
15 to a knight name Antonio dei Cavalcanti. During 25 years of a happy wedded life, Bl. Helen appears to
have lead a normal existence as the mother of a large family of children.
The unexpected death of her husband came as a great shock to Bl. Helen. Realizing that the grief and
difficulties of windowhood lay ahead of her and that her future would be devoted to God alone, she cut off
her beautiful hair and laid it on her husband's bier, together with her jewelled headdress. "For love of
you alone have I worn these," she said. "Take them down into the earth with you."
As the result of conferences given by the learned theologian Angelo of St. Severino, Bl. Helen decided to become
a tertiary of his order, the Hermits of St. Augustine. From that moment on she devoted herself to works of
charity, to prayer and to mortification. Her costly dresses were made into vestments, while her jewels were
sold for the benefit of the poor for whom she labored. One of her many mortifications consisted in abstaining
from meat, eggs and milk and living almost entirely on roots, bread and water.
With the consent of her director, Bl. Helen took a vow of perpetual silence, which she observed all year 'round
except on Christmas night. It is clear, however, that this obligation did not extend to speaking to the members
of her household, which included servants and her sister Perfecta. It is from them that details of her holy
life are derived.
Bl. Helen was subject to many trials, especially in that she was terrified by loud noises and suffered temptations to commit
suicide. She was apparently tormented by the devil, since she was once discovered lying bruised upon the
ground and was twice found with a broken leg. Once as she was crossing a bridge on her way to church, Bl.
Helen was thrown into the river. She scrambled out and attended Holy Mass as usual, despite her dripping clothes.
Helen was one of many who was cured during a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter Parenzo at Orvieto.
In later years she left the house only to attend the Church of St. Lucy. There she spent many hours in prayer.
Although she was tried by many temptations, she was also consoled by spiritual joys, and ecstasies. Bl.
Helen seems to have had the gift of healing, since many sick persons were cured through her prayers.
During the last three years of her life Bl. Helen was unable to rise from bed, but she insisted upon
maintaining her bed of stones and chaff.
Bl. Helen died on April 23, 1458 at the age of 62. Her cultus was confirmed in 1848.
St. Lydwine of Schiedam
1380 – 1433
The only girl in a family of nine children, Lydwine was born in the Netherlands, at Schiedam, near The Hague, in the year 1380. Her father, Pierre, was the town watchman by trade; her mother, Petronille, came from Ketel, a village in the neighborhood of Schiedam. Both parents were exemplary Christians who were faithful to their religious duties.
Unaware that she was soon to deliver, Lydwine’s mother was attending High Mass one Palm Sunday when the pains of childbirth came upon her so quickly that she was forced to hurry home. It is said that her only daughter was born at the moment when the Passion of Our Saviour was being read in the church.
At her Baptism, the child was given the name Lydwine which has various spellings, all of which are derived from the Flemish word “lyden,” meaning to suffer. One of her biographers, the lay brother of the Observants, John Brugman, claims that the name signifies “great patience” in the German tongue. The Saint’s early biographers, Thomas a Kempis, John Gerlack and John Brugman, all of whom were her contemporaries, observe that both her name and the moments of the day on which she was born were prophetic, since her life was one of sufferings in union with the Passion of the Savoir.
At the age of seven, Lydwine assisted her mother with the housework –which was considerable in a household of eleven people. As Lydwine grew older she became a clever housekeeper, and at the age of 12 she was a serious girl who cared little for the games or amusements of her fiends and neighbors. At the age of 15 there seems to have been nothing to distinguish Lydwine from other lively, healthy and pretty girls of her age, except that she was unusually pious. Since she had taken a vow of chastity, she was obliged to reject several offers of marriage.
Toward the end of her fifteenth year, while recovering from an illness, Lydwine was persuaded by friends to join them in skating the canals that had been frozen hard in the bitter winter of 1395-1396. Although she offered the poor state of her health as an excuse, they insisted that the exercise and fresh air would be beneficial. When her father agreed with them and gave his consent, Lydwine relented.
On reaching the canal near her home, Lydwine and her companions were just beginning to skate when a friend, who was late, hurried to overtake them. She fell against Lydwine, causing the future Saint to fall against a pieced of ice with such force that one of the ribs on her right side was broken.
The accident became know throughout the town, bringing many who offered advice on how to heal the fracture and reduce the pain. In spite of the family’s poverty, renowned physicians of the Low Countries were called in. Their prescribed medicines may only have worsened the condition. A hard abscess soon developed, and as the physicians and others could not cure Lydwine’s infirmities, they gradually abandoned her.
Lydwine’s pain was so intolerable that she could find no relief lying, sitting or standing. One day when she could bear the pain no longer, she threw herself from her couch and fell upon the knees of her father, who had been weeping as he sat by her side. This fall broke the abscess; but instead of releasing the infection externally, the abscess opened internally, forcing the infected matter to pour from Lydwine’s mouth. These vomitings shook her whole body and so quickly filled the vessels used to catch the outpourings that those who attended Lydwine had little time to empty them before they were filled once more.
Finally, being unable to stand, yet feeling a constant urge to change her position, Lydwine undertook to drag herself around on her knees – a practice that she continued for three years. When Lydwine became unable to move even in this fashion, she was confined to bed for what would be the rest of her life.
The wound under the rib gradually swelled and developed a gangrenous condition. Horrible as it is to consider , the putrefaction bred worms that developed in three large ulcers. Various remedies were attempted, but these only caused the patient additional discomfort. A tumor then appeared on St. Lydwine’s shoulder; this too putrefied, causing almost unbearable neuritis. (This affliction is thought to have been the dreaded “plague” of the Middle Ages.) The disease also affected Lydwine’s right arm, consuming the flesh to the bone. From this time onward the arm was useless and prevented the Saint from turning on her side. Violent neuralgic pains then began, along with a pounding noise in her head.
The once-beautiful girl, who had attracted many potential suitors, was now becoming a pitiful sight. Her forehead became cleft from the hairline to the center of the nose. Her chin dropped under the lower lip and her mouth swelled. Her right eye became blind and the other became extremely sensitive to the light. She suffered violent toothaches, which raged sometimes for weeks. A severe inflammation of the throat nearly suffocated her and caused bleeding from the nose, mouth and ears. St. Lydwine’s nose was then invaded by sores, her lungs and liver decayed, and a cancer devoured her flesh. When the pestilence ravaged Holland, Lydwine was one of the first victims, becoming afflicted with two additional abscesses.
St. Lydwine’s sad condition would have been life-threatening in the extreme, had not God supported her whom He had chosen as a victim soul. At the beginning of her sufferings the Saint complained of her condition – until she came to realize, with the help of her confessor, John Pot, and others, that her sufferings were not only intended to expiate the sins of others, living and dead, but would also draw down great benefits for the Church. She then accepted her trials willingly and patiently, and even said that if a singe Hail Mary could gain her recovery, she would not utter it.
Added to these ailments was that of dropsy, with its swelling of the body – which gradually developed so alarmingly that Lydwine’s stomach ruptured and had to be held together with wrappings. A cushion placed atop her stomach was required in order to press back her organs. Each time the position of the Saint was changed, it was necessary to bind her firmly with napkins and clothes – otherwise her body would literally have fallen to pieces.
The supernatural origin of the Saint’s condition is proved by her extraordinary fast and her sleep patterns. During the last 19 years of her life, St. Lydwine underwent a complete fast. According to the sworn deposition of witnesses, this fast was only interrupted for the reception of the Holy Eucharist. During the 11 years preceding this complete fast, the Saint ate only as much as a healthy person consumed in three days. Those who attended St. Lydwine also testified that during the last seven years of her life she experienced a perpetual insomnia, and that in the entire 23 years previous to this seven-year period, the Saint had slept the equivalent of only three good nights.
Because of this lack of nourishment and sleep, the Saint became an object of curiosity and was visited and questioned by countless people – situation that only added to her trials.
St. Lydwine was spared one trial, however. She was never misunderstood or neglected by her family. Fortunately, in their simple piety, they recognized her sanctity. The poor body of the invalid, so invaded by disease, infection, sores and revolting openings, did not disgust them. In fact, they were aware, as were all others who came near Lydwine, that a sweet perfume came from these sickened areas.
Certain mystical phenomena became evident during her lifetime: she began to heal the sick, to see events at a distance, and she could describe places she had never visited. She began to prophesy, to bilocate and to read hearts. About the year 1407, St Lydwine began to be favored with ecstasies and visions of angels, the Blessed Mother, the Holy Child, various saints – including St. Paul and St. Francis of Assisi and the suffering Savior. Finally she received the stigmata, a phenomenon which she prayed would be hidden. “Marvelous to relate," says Michel d’Este, Bishop of Tournai, “a little skin immediately covered these wounds, but the pain and bruise remained.” In accordance with her prayer, the pain of these divine wounds lasts to the end of her life.
The Saint was subject to fits of epilepsy and apoplexy in her final years. Violent toothaches never left her, and a new ulcer developed in the breast. Finally she suffered nerve contractions that contorted her limbs.
From the time of her first injury on the ice until the day of her death, the sufferings endured by the victim soul lasted for 38 years.
The Saint died on Easter Tuesday in the year 1433, at about three in the afternoon. Soon after her death, the body of St. Lydwine was miraculously transformed. Her wounds were healed, the cleft in the forehead that had so long disfigured her disappeared, and she seemed as lovely as a girl of 17 who was smiling in her sleep. Around the body wafted a heavenly scent that was detected by many who came to pay their respects.
In the special office for her feast, St. Lydwine is described as “a prodigy of human misery and of heroic patience.” Benedict XIV also recognized the Saint’s extraordinary sufferings in his Decree of Beatification when he wrote, “It seemed as if a whole army of diseases had invaded her body.” He likened Lydwine to Lazarus, Job and Tobias, “the models of patience God has set before the sick and afflicted of all times.”
St Alphonsus Liguori, in one of his spiritual treatises, refers to the Saints in this way:
Let it, then, be your endeavor, during the remainder of your life, to love and have confidence in Him; and do not become sad when you find yourself in afflictions and tribulations; for this is a sign, not of His hatred, but of the love which God bears toward you. And therefore, in reference to this point, I will here cite for you the example of the virgin, St. Lydwine; and I know not whether there is to be met with among the annals of the Saints an instance of any other soul suffering so great affliction and desolation as did this holy virgin.
In Schiedam there are many places that remind one of the city’s Patron Saint. A street, a square and a school bear her name. There is St. Lydwine’s Chapel, and the parish church at the Singel bears her name. There is also at Schiedam the St. Lydwine Committee, which receives and answers correspondence from around the world from those who request more information about the Saint.
The feast day of St. Lydwine is observed in the Netherlands on June 14th.
Known as “Little Benedict the Bridge Builder” St Benedict spent his pious youth in Savoy tending sheep for his mother until one day, during an eclipse of the sun, heard a voice that addressed him three times out of the darkness. The voice instructed him to build a bridge over the river at Avignon.
During the Middle Ages the building of bridges at convenient locations was considered a work of mercy, since travelers had to journey out of their way, often enduring great hardships to reach places where they could cross rapid streams or rivers. Bridges were so necessary that rich men were often urged to make provision for them in their wills, and bishops often conferred indulgences on those who financially supported the building of a bridge or those who contributed their labor.
Disregarding his small stature, his complete ignorance of the mechanics of bridge-building and his total lack of funds, Benezet did as the voice had prompted him. He arrived at Avignon and presented himself to the Bishop. Through various means he gained the approval of the Bishop and began work on a stone bridge in the year 1177. For seven years he directed the operation, and when he died in 1184, the main difficulties of the enterprise had been overcome. He was buried upon the bridge itself, which was not completed until four years after his death.
The wonders that occurred from the moment the foundation was laid as well as the miracles that occurred at the tomb, inspired the city officials to build a chapel on the bridge. In this chapel the body of the Saint was enshrined for almost 500 years.
Weakened from age and the constant pressures of the current, part of the bridge fell into ruin in 1669 and completely destroyed the chapel. Fortunately, the Saint’s coffin was rescued – and when it was opened the following year, the body was found in a state of perfect preservation, although the iron bars about the coffin were badly damaged by rust due to excessive dampness. The body was again found in excellent condition in 1674 during its translation to the Church of the Celestines. During the French Revolution of 1789, a group of revolutionaries seized the incorrupt body and sacrilegiously destroyed it. Only a few bones survived, and these are kept in the parish Church of St Didier in Avignon.
St. Benezet is regarded as the founder of the Order of Bridge-Building Brothers, whose constitution was approved in 1189, four years after the Saint’s death. St. Benezet is also recognized as one of the patron saints of Avignon, and he is quite appropriately regarded as the patron of all bridge builders.
Bl. Margaret of Castello
(Bl Margaret of Metola)
Bl. Margaret of Castello was blind, hunchbacked, DWARFED AND LAME. Her right leg was much shorter than the left, which was malformed, and she is described quite candidly as “ugly”. We know of this and other details of her life from the biography written by her contemporary, the Franciscan. Hubert of Casale, and that of a canon regular of the Cathedral of Castello, who wrote in 1345, only 25 years after Margaret’s death.
The joyfully anticipated birth of their first child was turned into a veritable tragedy when the newborn was examined. Immediately, Margaret’s parents were overwhelmed with disappointment, anger and loathing. They seem to have felt shamefully disgraced that they, the two most important personages of the district, had been inflicted with a malformed infant. All efforts were then made to keep the infant and her deformities a secret. Since the parent wanted nothing to do with their misshapen baby, a trusted servant was given charge of the child, and it was this servant who saw to Margaret’s Baptism and the choice of a name.
Apparently Margaret was given at an early age to prayer and visits to the castle’s chapel. It was during one of these visits to the chapel that her identity was almost discovered. Fearing that they would become known as the parents of the deformed child, Parisio and his wife decided that because of the child’s devotion to prayer, they would make of her a recluse. Inspired by those holy solitaries who lived in cells adjoining churches, Parisio decided to imprison the child in a similar manner. In a little church in the forest, about a quarter of a mile away from the castle, was the Church of St. Mary of the Fortress of Metola. Against the wall of this church Parisio had a mason build a room with a window opening into the chapel, through which the child cold assist at Holy Mass. Another small window, opening to the outside, was so arranged that food could be passed without anyone seeing the occupant. The child was unceremoniously trust into the prison and the mason walled up the doorway. Margaret was six years old at the time. She was never to know parental love, to play with other children or to enjoy the company of people. She was condemned, however, to suffer loneliness, extreme cold in the winter and suffocating heat in the summer.
It was soon learned by the chaplain that the blind girl’s mind was “luminous.” Margaret grew in grace and knowledge of her faith under the priest’s instructions, so much so that years later she astonished the Dominican at Citta di Castello with the extent and depth of her theological knowledge.
As though the sufferings of her bodily deformities were not enough, Margaret, as the age of seven, bound herself to a strict monastic fast – a fast extending from the middle of September (the Feast of the Holy Cross) to the following Easter. For the rest of the year Margaret fasted four days a week. On all Fridays of the year her only nourishment consisted of a little bread and water.
During the thirteenth year of her imprisonment, when Parisio’s territory was threatened with invasion, Lady Emilia and her attendant left the castle and took Margaret with them to the safety of Mercatello. As soon as they arrived, Margaret was led to an underground vault, where she was once more imprisoned. In this place Margaret suffered more intensely than before. At Metola she had been sustained by the benefits of her religion: Holy Mass, the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist and the visits of the chapel. At Mercatello she was deprived of all consolations.
In August of the year 1307, when Margaret was twenty years old, five pilgrims from Rome brought news of the wonderful cures taking place in the city of Castello at the tomb of a Franciscan tertiary, Fra Giacomo. When peace was restored in September, Parisio and Emilia, after hearing details of various cures, took Margaret to the tomb of Fra Giacomo. Because there were many crippled and sick pilgrims who were vying for positions about the tomb, Margaret was placed among them while the parents withdrew to make room.
Throughout Margaret prayed fervently for a cure . After several hours, when the parents saw with disappointment that Margaret was not cured, the nobleman and his wife did the unbelievable – they abandoned their blind daughter in the church and returned to Metola.
Left without funds in a strange city, the blind and lame girl was obliged to sleep in doorways and to stumble along the streets until she was befriended by two beggars, Roberto and Elena. Always hoping that her parents would return for her, Margaret finally realized, at the inn where Parisio and Emilia had stayed, that her parents had indeed purposely abandoned her. Margaret must have been deeply grieved on learning the truth, but it is known that never, throughout her lifetime, did she accuse them or speak unkindly of the rejection or the harsh treatment she had endured at their hands. Instead, she often made excuses for them and always professed her love for them.
In addition to Roberto and Elena, Margaret also was befriended by others. Whole families of the poorer class assisted Margaret by taking her into their homes. When one family felt an economic strain, another would house her. For several years Margaret passed form one house to another.
When news of her extraordinary piety reached the cloistered nuns of St Margaret’s Monastery, Margaret was invited to join them. Margaret accepted the invitation with great joy and anticipated a lifetime of prayer and work in the monastic environment. The sisters were happy to receive her and were amazed when Margaret quickly learned the different parts of the convent. They were even more astonished to discover that, despite her blindness and afflictions, she was able to clean rooms, help in the preparation of meals and perform other household chores.
In joining the community, Margaret bound herself to live according to the rule of the order. Unfortunately, with the passage of time and death of the foundress, the rule was not observed according to its high ideals. Instead, there were many relaxations – which were justified with various explanations. After a time, when Margaret, continued to observe the rule strictly, the consciences of the sisters became greatly troubled. To ease their discomfort, Margaret was asked to leave. Once again the little cripple suffered rejection by those she loved.
Not only was Margaret saddened when she was forced to leave the religious life, but she suffered as well from public ridicule and contempt. Word had spread that she had been expelled from the convent because she could not adjust herself to community life, that had peculiar ideas about the religious life, and that her conduct had become eccentric, so that she upset the whole community. Many decided that she was no saint, after all, and that the discipline of the convent had revealed her hidden faults. Even the children, who heard their parents gossip about the matter, began to persecute Margaret with cruel remarks. It is said that even in church she was the object of sneering words. Through it all, Margaret defended the sisters and spoke of their kindness and patience.
Little by little the true nature of the situation was revealed. The reputation of the convent diminished, while Margaret’s reputation rose to a great degree. During this time Margaret attended the Chiesa della Carita, the Church of Charity, which was conducted by the Dominican friars. This was also the headquarters of the Mantellate, a religious organization that eventually developed into the present Third Order of St Dominic. Women who wished to live a more religious life, but who for any reason were unable to enter a convent, could affiliate themselves with the Dominican Order by joining the Third Order. These secular women continued to live at home, but they bound themselves to a more religious schedule of life, and at all times, both at home and abroad, they wore the Dominican religious habit. This consisted of a white tunic, a black belt and a long white veil. They also wore a black cloak or mantilla, and it is for this reason that they became popularly known as the Mantellate.
Knowing of Margaret’s desire to join a religious order, members of the Mantellate invited her to join them. Since only widows and mature women were then accepted into the Mantellate, this is the first recorded instance of a young unmarried woman joining the order.
After her investiture, which was conducted by the prior himself, Margaret attended weekly discourses and soon had a complete
understanding of the Dominican system of spirituality, in which study, prayer and penance are foremost.
In addition to the prayers prescribed by the rule, Margaret daily recited the 150 Psalm of David, the Office of the Blessed Virgin and the Office of the Holy Cross. All these she said from memory, Her medieval biographer states –without giving details –that the blind Mantellate learned thee prayers in a miraculous fashion. It was soon learned that Margaret passed quickly from meditation to contemplation. Then, after hearing of the penances practiced by St. Dominic, Margaret applied herself to practicing similar fortifications. Additionally, she often spent whole nights in prayer and attended Holy Mass every morning. It is recorded that Margaret observed this remarkable program of mortification until her final illness.
Margaret also embarked on a life of charity to the sick and dying. It is said that “No sick person was too far away for her to limp to; no hour of the day or night was ever too inconvenient for her to hasten to those in agony.” She would do all in her power to provide needed food and medicine for the sickly poor who were unable to secure these necessities for themselves. They dying also benefited from her attentions, and many a hardened sinner converted because of her.
Although devotion to St. Joseph was then uncommon, Margaret’s medieval biographer remarks , with a bit of humor, that she would talk about St. Joseph as long as anyone remained to listen. It is suggest that Margaret was one of the pioneers of devotions to St. Joseph.
After living for several years in the homes of the poor, she was invited to live with a wealthy family named Offrenduccio. Also living in the same house were the lady Ysachina and an only daughter Francesca. Margaret’s prediction that Ysachina and Francesca would eventually join the Mantellate was realized.
We do not know how long Margaret lived with the Offrenduccio family, nor why she left, but it is known that the blind girl ultimately went to live with the Venturino family. Having been born into wealth and position, Margaret was now destined to pass the last years of her life in the palace of a wealthy nobleman. Declining the sumptuous room she was offered as her own, Margaret decided upon the garret, which was small and open to the elements.
Soon after Margaret moved into this home, she overheard a conversation in which the frightful conditions of the local prison were described. Upon learning that the prisoners were kept in underground cells without fresh air or light and that many slept on the damp stones – that they needed clothing and were sometimes starving dying without medical care –Margaret began her ministry among these unfortunates and invited some to the Mantellate to join her. Every day they were seen entering the prison, their arms laden with bundles of clothing, food and medicine.
Many were the prisoners Margaret brought back to the good graces of the Church, but one obstinately resisted her entreaties. One day, while one of the Mantellate was bathing his skin ulcers, Margaret bowed her head in prayer. When the prisoners next looked in Margaret’s direction, she was elevated twenty inches from the ground. With her hands joined in the attitude of prayer and her head now thrown back as if looking heavenward, Margaret remained in deep prayer before slowly descending to the ground. It is said that the prisoner, formerly known for his blasphemous language, now said in a choked voice, “Little Margaret, please pray for me.”
Many other phenomena are related by her contemporary biographers. It is recorded that Margaret, although completely blind, could nevertheless “see” Our Lord. She is known to have confided to her confessor that from the Consecration of the Mass until the Communion she did not see the priest, the crucifix, the missal or anything else, only her Saviour.
Once when her godchild, a niece of Lady Gregoria, was dying, Margaret did not join the family members at the bedside but remained in the hall, where she knelt in prayer for a lengthy period of time. When a nearby church bell rang, the sick girl awoke and announced that she had been cured through the prayers of her godmother, Margaret.
One wintry day a fire broke out on the ground floor of the Venturino home. With servants and volunteers frantically attempting to fight the fire, which quickly increased in intensity, the whole house was declared doomed. It was then realized that Margaret was upstairs in the garret. In answer to the shouts of the crowd, Margaret was seen to appear at the head of the stairs. Although choking from the smoke, and without the least sign of alarm, she removed her black mantle, rolled it into a bundle and threw it down the stairs. The medieval biographer tells us what happened next: “In the sight of the crowd of men who had rushed to Venturino’s house to fight the blaze, when the cloak of Margaret was thrown into the flames, the raging fire was instantly extinguished.”
The healing power of her prayers was used in favor of Sister Venturella, one of the Mantellate. Afflicted with a tumor of the eye which threatened to blind her, Sister Venturella was grieved that she did not have enough money to pay for her medical treatments. When Sister Venturella complained to poor Margaret, who had never experienced sight, that she did not want to be blind, Margaret told her to accept the prospect of blindness as a penance and as a means of growing more in virtue. But when Sister Venturella declared that God was asking too much of her, Margaret saw the futility of further arguments. She stretched out her right hand and asked Venturella to place it over her eye. We are told that, “ The instant Margaret’s hand touched the diseased eye, the tumor disappeared and Venturella’s sight became perfect.”
The medical biographer mentions that there were many other miracles for which Margaret became celebrated through out the land, but few are given concerning them. He also added that “many other things concerning her sanctity should be truthfully told.” He apparently felt that it was necessary to relate those extraordinary deeds, about which the people were well informed.
According to the Dominican custom of the time, the bodies of their members were buried without a coffin, in accordance with the holy poverty. For this reason Margaret’s body was exposed on a wooden frame. After the funeral services in the church, the friars prepared to carry the body outside to the church cemetery. It was then that a violent argument took place, instigated by those who claimed that the Saint should be placed in a coffin and buried in the church. Described as “a stupendous uproar,” the argument continued until a man and his wife brought their crippled daughter into the church. Suffering from an acute curvature of the spine, the child was unable to walk and was mute as well. Pushing their way through the crowd, they placed the child beside Margaret’s body. Touched with pity, the crowd began praying with the parents for the child’s cure. Suddenly, all stared in amazement as the left arm of the body began to rise. Reaching over, it touched the young crippled girl. A moment later the girl, who had never been able to walk, rose unaided and spoke for the fist time, declaring that she had been cured through Margaret’s prayers.
The cure settled the dispute as to Margaret’s burial place. The prior provided a coffin, and the city council decided that they would pay the expense of having the body embalmed. In the Middle Ages no preservative chemicals were used; a delay in decomposition was attempted by simply removing the viscera and the heart and placing spices in their place. Corruption was expected to take place within a week or two. Following this primitive procedure, Margaret’s body was entombed in one of the chapels of the Dominican Church.
New of Margaret’s final miracle, as well as the other wonders worked throughout her life, became well-known, so that many soon flocked to pray beside her tomb. Soon more than two hundred affidavits were received testifying to permanent cures received through her intercession.
Margaret was eventually beatified by Pope Paul V on October 19,1609, with April 13 being assigned as her feast day.
Dressed in the black and white habit of the Mantellate, the marvelously incorrupt body of Blessed Margaret is now seen in a glass sarcophagus in the chapel of the School for the Blind in Citta di Castello, Italy.
Leovigild, the Arian King of the Spanish Visigoths, fathered two sons, Recared and Hermengild, by his first wife, Princess Theodosia. She saw to it that bother sons were instructed in the Arian heresy, which their father also professed. Upon the death of Theodosia, Leovigild took as his second wife Goswintha, a fanatical Arian. This heresy denied the divinity of Christ and is considered to have been the most devastating of the early heresies. Eventually the heretics established their own hierarchies and churches.
In the year 576, Hermengild married the princess Indegundis, a zealous Christian. This marriage produced a clash in the family, with Goswintha resenting her daughter-in-law to the extent that physical violence was used in an attempt to make Indegundis abandon her Christian faith. The young princess, however, stood firm. Because of the patience his wife exercised with her mother-in-law and also due to her prayers – and the instructions from St. Leander, Archbishop of Seville – Hermengild waited until his father’s absence and then publicly renounced the heresy. He was welcomed into the Christian faith, receiving the imposition of hands and the anointing with chrism upon his forehead.
Leovigild, who had already been influenced against his son by Goswintha, was furious when he heard of his son’s open profession of the Christian Faith. He immediately deprived Hermengild of his title and called upon him to resign all his dignities and possessions. This Hermengild refused to do.
With the support of the Christians, Hermengild raised the standard of a holy war against the Arians. This endeavor was poorly planned, ill-equipped and lacking in manpower. The attempt proved to be a tragic mistake.
Because the Arians were powerful in Visigothic Spain, Hermengild sent St. Leander to Constantinople to obtain support and assistance. But the emperor to whom the appeal was made died soon afterward, and his successor was obliged to use all available troops in an effort to resist an invasion of the Persians.
Disappointed with the unavailability to the Roman generals who still ruled a strip of Spanish land along the Mediterranean Coast. They took his wife and infant son as hostages and made promises to Hermengild which they failed to keep. For over a year Hermengild was besieged in Seville by his father’s troops, and when he could hold out no longer he fled to the Roman camp, only to be warned that those he had thought were his friends had been bribed by Leovigild to betray him.
Hermengild next made his way to the fortified town of Osseto, which he defended with 300 men, until the royalist soldiers captured the town and burned it.
In desperation Hermengild entered a church and fell at the foot of the altar. Leovigild did not violate the sanctuary but her permitted his younger son Recared, who was still an Arian, to go to his brother with an offer of forgiveness, if he would submit and ask for pardon. Hermengild had no other recourse but to accept this father’s offer. A reconciliation took place, and for the moment Leovigild waxed sentimental and restored to his son some of his former dignities.
Hermengild’s stepmother, Goswintha, in a meantime had lost none of her former antagonism for Christians. As soon as the Arian father and his Christian son returned him, she was successful in estranging them once more. Hermengild was subsequently stripped of his royal of his royal robes, loaded with chains and imprisoned in the tower of Seville. (Another source claims he was imprisoned in Tarragone.) He was accused of treason and was offered his liberty if he would renounce his Christian faith. His reply was “I am ready to lose scepter and life rather than forsake the divine truth.” For this statement he was transferred to a filthy dungeon, where he was subjected to various forms of torture. Prayer fervently that God would sustain him in his sufferings, Hermengild added voluntary mortification to what he already suffered at the hands of his persecutors.
St Gregory the Great in The Dialogues (Book III, Chapter XXXI) tells what occurred next:
When the solemn feast of Easter was come, his wicked father sent unto him in the dead of the night an Arian bishop to give him the communion of a sacrilegious consecration, that he might thereby again recover his father’s grace and favor; but the man of God, as he ought, sharpely reprehended that Arian Bishop which came unto him, and giving him such entertainment as his deserts required, utterly rejected him; for albeit outwardly he lay there in bands, yet inwardly to himself he stood secured in the height of his own soul.
The father, at the return of the Arian prelate, understanding this news, fell into such a rage that forthwith he sent his officers of execution to put to death that most constant confessor in the very prison where he lay, which unnatural and bloody commandment was performed accordingly: for as soon as they came into the prison. They clave his brains with a hatchet, and so bereaved him of mortal life, having only power to take that from him which the holy martyr made small account of.
St Gregory the Great continues by telling that as soon as the death of Hermengild was made known, miracles from Heaven occurred. “For in the night time singing was heard at his body, some also reported that in the night burning lamps were seen in the place by reason whereof his body, as of him that was a martyr, was worthily worshipped by all Christian people”
St. Gregory also relates that the faith was grief-stricken for having murdered his own son, but he never actually renounced Arianism. Yet when he was on his deathbed, he recommended his son Recared to St. Leander, with the hope that the Saint would convert his remaining son to the Christian Faith. St Gregory relates that:
Recared the king, not following the steps of his wicked father, but his brother the martyr, utterly renounced Arianism, and labored so earnestly for the restoring of the Christian religion that he brought the whole nation of the Visigoths to the True Faith of Christ, and would not suffer any that was a heretic in his country to bear arms and serve in the wars. And it is to be admired that he became thus to be a preacher of the True Faith, being he was the bother of a martyr whose merits did help him to bring so many into the lap of God’s Church, wherein we have to consider that he could never have effected all this if Hermengild had not died for the testimony of true religion.
After her husband’s death, Indegundis fled with her son to Africa, where she died. He son was then given to the custody of his grandmother Brunhilde.
Hermengild was venerated as a martyr soon after his death. Sixtus V, acting on the suggestion of King Philip II, extended the celebration the martyr’s feast, April 13th, throughout the whole of Spain.
Bl. Ida of Boulogne
Ida is called the Mother of Monarchs because two of her sons, Godfrey and Baldwin, became kings of Jerusalem and her granddaughter became Queen Consort of England. Not only is her progeny titled, but ancestors are as well, since both of her parents were descended from Charlemagne. Her father was Godfrey IV, duke of Lorraine, and her husband was Eustace II Count of Boulogne.
Married at the age of 17, Bl. Ida seems to have had a happy marriage; both husband and wife were equally dedicated to good works – especially to the restoration and building of churches. As a mother, Bl. Ida was careful in the education of her three sons, considering it her prime duty to train them in the ways of holiness and to teach them by her example all the good that can be achieved through generous almsgiving to the needy.
At the death of Count Eustace, his widow was left in control of valuable holdings. Ida had previously inherited from her father various estates in Lorraine and Germany. These holding she arranged to sell, and the greater paret of the money she derived from these sales was given to relieve the poor and in the construction of monasteries. Among the monasteries which Bl. Ida either built or restored are counted St. Villemar at Boulogne: St Vaast, which accepted the religious who were sent from Cluny; the monastery of the Samer; Our Lady of the Chapel, Calais; St. Bertin Abbey; and the abbeys of Bouillon and Afflighem.
Bl. Ida regarded it a blessing of the highest order that she had as her spiritual director one of the greatest men of the Age, St. Anselm, Abbot of Bec in Normandy, who was afterward the Archbishop of Canterbury. Some of his letters to Bl Ida have been preserved; these indicate the generosity which she lavished on his abbey and the monies she donated for the relief of pilgrims traveling to it. In one of these letters St. Anselm expressed his gratitude in this manner.
You have bestowed so many and so great kindnesses upon men, whatever their order, coming to our monastery or traveling from it, that it would be wearisome to you if we were to send you messages or letters of thanks for them all; nor have we anything with which to reward you as you deserve. So we comment you to God, we make Him our agent between you and us. All that you do is done for Him; so may He reward you for us. For Him, you do so much.
Many hours were spent by Bl. Ida in praying for the success of the Crusade, and it is recorded that while she was making fervent intercession for the safety of her Son Godfrey, it was revealed to her that he was at that very moment making his victorious entry unto Jerusalem. From him she received various relics from the Holy Land, which she distributed among several foundations.
As Ida grew older, she retired form the world, Although she had the highest regard for monastic life, she never showed an inclination t to enter a convent. She preferred to express her love for God by being a dutiful wife, a loving mother and a generous benefactress of the poor.
Bl. Ida died when she was over 70 years old, after a long and painful illness. She was the first buried in the church of the Monastery of St. Vaast. The first biography of Bl. Ida was written at this monastery by a monk, a contemporary, who compared Ida to Queen Esther the Old Testament. One chronicler suggest that Ida can also be compared to the valiant, prudent wife in Proverbs (31: 10-321).
After several translations, Bl. Ida’s relics finally came to rest at Bayeux.
Bl. Angela of Foligno
Angela was born in the City of Foligno, Italy, where she derived all the benefits of being reared as a member of a prominent family. She was married to a man of substantial means and became the mother of several children. In her early life she was careless and worldly, and according to her own account, her life was not only pleasure-seeking and self-indulgent, but was also sinful. One source tells that, “Forgetful of her dignity and duties as wife and mother, she fell into sin and led a disorderly life.”
Quite suddenly Angela experienced a complete transformation – a sudden, vivid conversion in which the life she had thought harmless, she now saw in its true perspective as having been sinful. As a result of this, she earnestly wanted to make reparation by doing penance and performing works of mercy. She took as her model St. Francis of Assisi, and became a tertiary in the Franciscan Third Order.
As a tertiary she continued her normal life in the world, but now spent more time in prayer and penance – more than that which was prescribed by the Rule. Then, her life became one of great sorrow when death claimed her husband and her mother. Finally, one by one, all her children died. Brother Arnold, a Friar Minor, who was her confessor, tells how, cruelly she suffered as blow after blow fell upon her. Her conversion had been so complete, however, that despite her great sorrow, she accepted her trial with complete resignation to the will of God.
Soon after these losses, Angela began to experience visions. In one of these she was reminded that if she meant to be perfect, she must sell all that she had and follow St. Francis in his absolute poverty. As a result of this vision, she sold a castle that was very dear to her. Although Angela experienced many visions and ecstasies, Brother Arnold wrote that she was ever humble, so that the greater the ecstasy, the deeper was her humility. The details of her mystical experiences were dictated to Brother Arnold, who recorded them in a book entitled (Book of) Visions and Instructions, which contains 70 chapters.
We are also told that Bl. Angela experienced the mystical marriage with Our Lord and bore on her body the wounds of the stigmata. Although Angela always remained a lay person, a number of her fellow tertiaries – both men and women – looked to her for guidance. These also received her dying prayers as they stood around her deathbed.
Bl. Angela died January 4, 1309. Her remains are found in the Church of St Francis at Foligno, where the many miracles worked at her tomb prompted Pope Innocent XII to sanction the veneration paid to her. Bl. Angela of Foligno is considered one of the Church’s great mystics.
Bl. Jeanne Marie De Maille
1332 – 1414
At Roche Ste. Quentin in Touraine, France, on April 14th, 1332, a daughter was born to Baron Hardouin VI of Maille, France and his wife, Jeanne de Montbazon. The infant received the name Jeanne at her Baptism, and at her Confirmation that of Marie.
Jeanne Marie’s father died during her adolescence, and she became the sole heir of a considerable fortune. Her grandfather, who was her guardian, judged it prudent for her to marry a young man who had been her childhood companion. He was Robert, the heir of the Baron of Sille. Although Jeanne Marie had decided to vow her virginity to God, she obeyed her grandfather and married. Robert.
Previously to this, Jeanne and Robert decided that they would live in continence. It was well-known that during their childhood they were particularly fond of each other, and at the time of their marriage there was a deep love between them. Christian virtue, order and piety distinguished their home, which became famous as a place of relief for the poor and afflicted. While engaged in their works of charity, they came to know three orphans, whom they adopted and educated.
Their peaceful and holy situation was disturbed by war when Robert followed King John into battle in defense of his country against the English. In the disastrous Battle of Poitiers, he was seriously wounded and left for dead. When King John was captured and imprisoned, Touraine was left to the mercy of the enemy troops, who overran the land and pillaged the Chateau of Sille. Robert was imprisoned, and the sum demanded of his ransom was 3,000 florins. Since the generosity of the holy couple had drastically reduced their holdings, Jeanne Marie found it necessary to sell her jewels and horses and to borrow what was additionally needed to win her husband’s freedom.
The harshness that Robert experienced during his confinement made him sensitive to the needs of prisoners, so that, upon his release, he and Jeanne Marie made many donations for the ransom of captives. They continued this and other charities while living a holy life which was characterized by self-denial until Robert died in 1362, after 16 years of marriage.
The grief that Jeanne Marie experienced at her loss was intensified by the unkindness of Robert’s family, who criticized her bitterly for impoverishing the estate through her charities. They went so far as to deny Jeanne Marie her rightful share of the estate and actually forced her from her home. With nowhere to go, Jeanne Marie took refuge with an old servant, who received her grudgingly and treated her with contempt when she learned that Jeanne Marie was without funds and was in need of charity.
Eventually Jeanne Marie journeyed to Tours, where she lived in a small house next to the Church of St. Martin. There she devoted herself to prayer, to the devotions held in the church and to the care of the poor and sick, especially lepers. She was particularly untiring in her efforts win back to virtue women who were living an amoral life.
Having become a Franciscan tertiary, Jeanne Marie wore a distinctive dress which caused her to be insulted and mocked as she made her way on her errands of mercy. Once a madwoman threw a stone at Jeanne Marie, which struck her back so severely that she carried the mark of the blow until death. Not only that did she suffer throughout her life from the injury caused by this blow, but to this penance she added others, including the wearing of a hairshirt.
When her husband’s family restored the Chateau des Roches to her, Jeanne Marie resolved to continue a life of poverty and gave the chateau and everything else she had to the Carthusians of Leget. She also made a declaration wherein she renounced any property which might be given to her in the future. In so doing, she alienated her own relatives, who considered her a disgrace to the family.
When Jeanne Marie became completely destitute, no one would house her. She was obliged to beg from door to door and to sleep in hovels and dog kennels. For a time she worked among the servants of the hospital of St. Martin, performing the most menial chores. But there her holiness was not appreciated and she came to be humiliated, ridiculed and eventually expelled. Jeanne Marie accepted all these trials with meekness and was rewarded with visions and special graces which allowed her to understand some of the mysteries of our faith.
When she was 57 years old, Jeanne Marie began living in a tiny room near the Minorite church at Tours. Some of the people who lived nearby considered her a madwoman or a witch, but many others recognized her as a saint.
Jeanne Marie eventually came to the attention of Louis, Duke of Anjou and Mary of Brittany, who chose her to be the godmother of their infant son. She taught the little prince about God and heaven and likewise instructed the little children in her neighborhood. These would flock around her and chant the words she had taught them, “Blessed be God and Our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is said that she also taught the words to a magpie, which she had tamed.
In addition to her other mystical gifts, Jeanne Marie was also given the gift of prophecy. She felt compelled to share some of the prophecies with the King, and she was once detained at court for seven days by Queen Isabel of Bavaria.
Bl. Jeanne Marie converted and healed many. She redeemed numerous men from prison and was so highly regarded by the King that he once granted her request and liberated all the prisoners in Tours.
Bl. Jeanne Marie was denied her wish to suffer martyrdom, and instead died in her poor room on March 28th, 1414. She was buried in the Minorite church where she had spent so many hours in prayer.
The memory of St. Seraphim (or Fina) is especially venerated in the old town of San Gimignano, Italy, where she was born. She is remembered there as a young girl who accepted great bodily suffering with perfect resignation to the will of God.
Seraphina was born of respectable parents who had fallen into poverty. The child was pretty and attractive, modest and concerned for the poor, going so far as to give half her food to those who were less fortunate than herself. Even in her youth she became proficient in the household skills of sewing and spinning and was considered an able assistant to her mother.
While Seraphina was still quite young, her father died. At about the same time the beautiful young girl was attacked by a series of illnesses that left her unattractive and an object of pity. Her head, eyes, feet and internal organs were affected. Within a short time paralysis claimed her body. No doubt inspired to behave like Our Lord on the Cross, she would not allow a soft bed to be made for her. Instead, she chose to lay on a hard plank. Finding movement impossible, Seraphina lay on this board for six years in one position. Since there was constant contact with the wood, the plank eventually rotted and adhered to her skin, producing agonizing pain.
With the death of her father, Seraphina and her mother were reduced to abject poverty, which forced the mother to periodically leave the patient while she went begging or looking for work. While the mother was gone, the helpless Seraphina was forced to endure the presence of rats, which at times gnawed at her flesh or licked up her blood. Although in terrible pain, Seraphina always maintained a peaceful spirit, and while gazing upon the crucifix she was known to repeat countless times, “It is not my wounds but Thine, O Christ, that pain me.”
As though poverty, sickness and paralysis were not enough of a burden, Seraphina had another to endure – the sudden death of her beloved and devoted mother. Seraphina was now completely destitute except for one devoted friend, Beldia and a few neighbors, who gave her a minimum of attention due to the repugnance of her wounds.
Seraphina had a great devotion to St. Gregory the Great, who, she was told, had suffered from various diseases. She prayed fervently to this Saint that she might have patience in her affliction. Eight days before her death, as she lay alone and unattended, the Saint appeared to her and said, “Dear child, on my festival, God will give you rest.” His prophetic words were realized. On the feast of St. Gregory in the year 1253, St Seraphina died.
When the Saint’s body was removed from the rotten board on which she had lain for so long, her neighbors declared that the wood was found to be covered with white violets which gave off a heavenly scent.
All the people of the city attended the funeral of the poor Saint, and many miracles were reported. One miracle in particular is said to have occurred as Seraphina lay dead. This miracle was in favor of her friend, Beldia, who had helped Seraphina after the death of her mother. While Beldia was standing in prayer beside the body of her friend, the corpse’s hand began to rise. It clasped Beldia’s injured arm, which was immediately cured.
White violets which bloom about the time of the Saint’s feast day are still given the name of Santa Fina by the people of San Gimignano.
Seraphina is also called the “Saint of the Wallflowers,” because these flowers reportedly sprang up on her coffin and on the towers of the town on the day of her death.
St. Seraphina is sometimes incorrectly identified as a Benedictine nun, but she belonged to no order and lived a life of seclusion in her own home.
St. Adalbald of Ostrevant
As the son of a distinguished family, Adalbald spent much of his time in the court of Dagobert I and Clovis II and may have been the Duke of Douai. An ideal Christian noble, he was a general favorite among the courtiers.
While on an expedition in Gascony, Adalbald became friends with a noble lord named Ernold whose daughter, Rictrude, became Adalbald's bride. The wedding was performed with great pomp, but the union did not please certain members of the bride's family. Yet, in spite of a critical assessment of the groom by his in-laws and their dire predictions for the couple's future, the marriage proved to be a happy one. Early in their wedded life the young couple became interested in perfoming works of mercy and spent time visting the sick, relieving the poor, feeding the hungry and converting prisoners.
Four children were born to them: a son, Mauront, and three daughters, Eusebia, Clotsind and Adalsind. All four children imitated their parents in the ways of virtue and acts of charity.
In the year 650, 16 years after his marriage, Adalbald was recalled to Gascony, never to return. When he reached the vicinity of Periguerux, he was attacked and killed by a number of his wife's vindictive relatives.
When news of her husband's death reached Rictrude, she was overcome with grief. Even so, she managed to obtain possession of her husband's boby, which was buried with honor.
Following Adalbald's death and after her children were grown, Rictrude entered the double monastery for men and women at Marchiennes, which she had previously founded. This monastery was so arranged that the living accommodations and prayer area were entirely separated. Only the chapel was shared, but even this was divided into sections. Accompanying Rictrude into the monastery were her two younger daughters, Adalsind and Clotsind, as well as her only son, Mauront, who left the world and the Frankish court to receive the tonsure in his mother's presence.
Following Rictrude's death, Clotsind succeeded her mother as abbess of the monastery. The third daughter, Eusebia, entered the monastery of Halmage, which had been founded by her great-grandmother, St Gertrude of Halmage.
The remains of St. Alalbald rested in the Monastery of St. Amandles-Eaux in Elanone (Elnon), France, but afterward his head was taken to Douai. This we lean from an ancient manuscript of the Church of St. Ame, where there was, at one time, a magnificent chapel dedicated to Sts. Adalbald, Rictrude and their son, St. Mauront. Exhibted there for public vereration were statues of the holy trio. That of St. Adalbald was draped in a robe covered with lilies; St Rictrude's statue was clothed in a Benedictine habit and held a miniature replica of the Abbey of Marchiennes in her hand; and St Mauront was represented with a sceptre in his right hand and towers in his left.
The whole family - father, mother, three daughters and one son - are honored as saints of the Church. Also included in this holy gathering are Adalbald's grandmother, St. Gertrude of Halmage, and Rictrude's sister, St Bertha, who after being widowed becasme a nun and the foundress of the Monastery of Blangy in Artois.
Bl. Anthony Manzi, The Pilgrim
c.1237 - 1267
Bl. Anthony was a native of Padua and belonged to a distinguished and wealthy family. As a child he was pious and practiced many Christian virtues. When Anthony was a young man his father died, leaving a considerable amount of money in the care of his only son. Anthony's zeal for the poor took precedence over his better judgments, and he promptly distributed the wealth among the needy, keeping nothing for himself or his two sisters.
Ridicule was heaped on Anthony's head as soon as his two sisters learned of his charity. Other members of his family, as well as his fellow citizens, reviled him in the streets and subjected him to all manner of indignities. Eventually Anthony assumed the clothing of a pilgrim, let his home town, and wandered about the countryside. During his travels he found a sick and saintly old priest, whom he tended and served for three years.
Upon the death of the priest Anthony resumed his wanderings and visted many shrines and holy places, among them Rome, Loreto, Compostela, Cologne and Jerusalem. When he retuned home he received the same ridicule and abuse he had known before his departure. Even his two sisters, who had become nuns, were still mindful of the disgrace and suffering they had endured from their sudden impoverishment many years before.
Throughout his life Anthony fasted, took severe disciplines and wore a rough hair shirt. He always slept on the bare ground with a stone for his pillow. The colonnade of a church outside the walls of Padua served Anthony as a shelter until his death.
Soon miracles were worked at his grave, and the Paduans who had scorned him during his lifetime petitioned the Pope for Anthony's canonization. This however, was denied when the Pope replied that it was enough for the City of Padua to have one St. Anthony, especially since the great St. Anthony, the Franciscan, had died a mere 36 years earlier. For this reason Anthony Manzi remains a beatus.
630 - 656
The father of St. Sigebert was Dagobert I, King of France, who led such a sinful life that he was frequently rebuked by St Amandus, Bishop of Maestricht. For the zeal with which he endeavored to convert Dagobert from his dissolute life, St Amandus was banished from the realm.
If the holy Bishop was unable to succeed in this regard, it took a mere baby to win Dagobert from his evil ways. At the birth of his son, Sigebert, Dagobert was touched by an extraordinary grace and from that hour was completely converted to a life of virtue.
For the Baptism of the future Saint, Dagobert searched for the holiest prelate in the Kingdom to perform the ceremony. His choice fell to the banished St. Amandus, who was quickly recalled. When the bishoip arrived, Dagobert fell on his knees before him. He confessed his sins and promised amendemnt. The rite
of Baptism was then perfomed with ceremony at Orleans, with the godfather being Dagobert's brother, Charibert, King of Aquitinae.
Sigebert was a mere three years old when the doting father declared his son to be the King of Austrasia and gave him for his ministers the Archbishop of Cologne, St Cunibert and Duke Adalgisilus. The person chosen to administer the whole Kingdom for the child King was Bl. Pepin of Landen, the mayor of the palace, who was a married man and the father of three children. Bl. Pepin, who is mentioned elsewhere in this volume, was also intrusted with education of the young King. When Dagobert's second son, Clovis II, was born in 634, the father allotted to him for his inheritance all the western part of France. Sigeberts territory of Austrasia consisted of the eastern part of France and parts of what are now Switzerland, Germany and Hungary.
At the death of Dagobert in 638, when Sigebert was eight years old and Clovis only four, the two brothers assumed their responsibilities, and with the help of their ministers who guided the youthful monarchs, they ruled their lands in perfect harmony and peace; the only war in which Sigebert was involved was in uprising in Thuringia, in which his army suffered.
Bl. Pepin of Landen, who trained young Sigebert, can be credited with molding the character of a saint who is also known to have reigned with perfect intelligence. Sigebert was assiduous in prayer, generous to the poor and conscientious in the exercise of Christian virtue. Hhe endowed churches and hospitals and founded 12 monasteries. He was also a married man and the father of Dagobert II, who is also venerated as a saint.
It was a deep sorrow that the people of St. Sigebert's realm were informed of the untimely death of their virtuous king. Sigebert died in the year 656, during the eighteen year of his reign and the twenty-sixth year of his life.
St. Prosper of Aquitaine
The scholarly training received by this saint seems typical of one who was preparing for the priesthood, but Prosper was never ordained. Rather, his vocation was to serve God in the married state. He received thorough literary, theological and philosophical training and was highly regarded by his friend, Hilary, who once described Prosper as a man distinguished “tum moribus, tum eloquio et studio” (for morals, eloquence and zeal). Prosper spent some time with the monks at Marseilles and later wrote to St. Augustine, describing the opposition of the monks to Augustine’s doctrine on grace. St. Augustine responded with two treatises.
With Hilary as his companion, St. Prosper journeyed to Rome in 431 to obtain a favorable judgment of St. Augustine’s doctrine from Pope Celestine I. After the year 440, Prosper was associated with Pope Leo I and aided the Pope with his correspondence and theological writings against the Nestorians.
St. Prosper was a strong opponent of Semi-Pelagianism, which caused a great disturbance at the time, and was an admirer and staunch defender of St. Augustine.
Prosper was a prolific writer whose works in both prose and poetry were devoted to philosophical and theological themes. Among his many writings was the 1,102 hexameter, “De Ingratis” (“On Those Without Grace”) and a poem written for his life which was entitled, “Poema Conjugis Ad Uxorem.”
Both the year of his birth and that of his death are uncertain. Nevertheless, it is estimated that St. Prosper of Aquitaine was about 65 years old at the time, of his death, sometime around the year 455.
The background music is Andrea Bocelli's "Ave Maria".