CANONIZATIONS from 16 June 1993 to 11 Oct 1998
Agostina Livia Pietrantoni
Benito De Jesus
Charles Joseph Eugene De Mazenod
Edigio Maria of St Joseph
Enrique De Osso Y Cervello
Hedwig of Anjou
Inocendio Do La Inmaculada
Jaime Hilario Barbal
John of Dukla
Juan Grande Roman
Marcellin Joseph Benoit Champagnat
Teresa Beneducta of the Cross
Thomas Of Cori
21 November 1999
ST CIRILO BERTRAN (Jose Sanz Tejedor), born in Lerma (Burgos) on 20 March 1888;
ST MARCIANO JOSE (Filomeno Lopez Lopez born in El Pedregal (Guadalajara) on 17 November 1900;
ST VICTORIANO PIO (Claudio Bernabe Cano), born in San Millan de Lara (Burgos) on 7 July 1905;
ST JULIAN ALFREDO (Vilfrido Fernandez Zapico), born in Cifuentes de Rueda (Leon) on 24 December 1903;
ST BENJAMIN JULIAN (Vicente Alonso Andres), born in Jaramillo de la Fuente (Burgos) on 7 October 1908;
ST BENITO DE JESUS (Hector Valdivielso Saez), born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 31 October 1910;
ST ANICETO ADOLFO (Manuel Seco Gutierrez), born in Celada Marlantes (Santander) on 4 October 1912;
ST AUGUSTO ANDRES (Roman Martinez Fernandez), born in Santander on 6 May 1910; and
ST INOCENCIO DO LA INMACULADA (Manuel Canoura Arnau), a Passionist priest, born in S. Cecilia del Valle de Oro (Galicia), on 10 March 1887.
The martyrs canonized on 21 November were nine Brothers of the Christian Schools and a Passionist priest. Eight of these brothers formed a community that ran a school in Turon, in the mining valley of Asturias in north-eastern Spain; they were martyred in 1934. The ninth brother was from Catalonia and was martyred in 1937 near Tarragona. The Passionist priest had come to the school in Turon, to hear the children's confessions. The Church honours them because they remained faithful to their consecration, even to the point of giving their lives for the faith and their evangelizing mission. For the most part they were young religious: four were under 26 and the eldest was barely 46.
The martyrdom of the nine religious of Turon, did not happen unexpectedly. Freemasons and communists wanted to seize power in Spain at all costs and destroy the religious traditions of the country. They fostered a hate campaign against the Church, aimed particularly at priests and religious, resulting in ferocious massacres.
Asturias was a mining region with many immigrants leading a hard life, uprooted from their familiar surroundings and traditions. The campaign against the middle class and the Church found a sympathetic audience. At dawn on 5 October 1934, a group of rebels forced their way into the brothers' school in Turon, The brothers and the Passionist priest were imprisoned in the "People's House", while awaiting a decision from the Revolutionary Committee. Under pressure from extremists, the. Committee, decided to condemn them to death: the religious had a notable influence in the country because a great many people sent their children to the brothers' school.
In the early hours of 9 October the little group was taken to the cemetery, where a large grave was already prepared: the condemned persons were lined up in front of it. Two rifle salvos ended their earthly life. Their serenity in facing death made an impression on their executioners, which some of them acknowledged afterwards.
ST JAIME HILARIO BARBAL (Manuel Barbal Cosan) was born in Enviny (Lerida) on 2 January 1889. A hearing problem prevented him from becoming a priest, so he sought admission to the Brothers of the Christian Schools. He began his apostolate in 1918; despite difficulties he proved a good teacher, but as his illness advanced he had to be content with working in the garden. After working in France for a while, he returned to Spain and devoted himself to manual labour and to fostering vocations. He was arrested at Mollerusa in December 1936 and interned on the prison ship Mahon.
A show trial condemned him to death and he was shot on 16 January 1937. The squad was three metres away, but at the first salvo no bullet hit him. After the second salvo the brother was still standing. The terrified militiamen dispersed, while their leader, blaspheming, discharged his pistol at the brother's temple. His dying words were: "My friends, to die for Christ is to reign!".
ST THOMAS OF CORI St Thomas of Cori was born at Cori (Latina), Italy, on 4 June 1655. Having lost both parents by the age of 14, he was left alone to look after his younger sister. While shepherding sheep, he learned wisdom from the simplest things. Once his sisters were married, he decided to join the Franciscans. He made his novitiate in Orvieto and, after professing his vows and completing his theological studies, he was ordained a priest in 1683. He was immediately appointed assistant novice master at Holy Trinity Friary in Orvieto.
After a short time Fr Thomas heard of the hermitages that were beginning to bloom in the order and the intention of the superiors of the Roman Province to establish one at the friary in Civitella (today Bellegra). His request was accepted, and the young friar thus knocked at the door of the poor friary in 1684, saying: "I am Fr Thomas of Cori, and I have come here to become holy!". He was anxious to live the Gospel radically in the spirit of St Francis.
From then on, Fr Thomas lived at Bellegra until death, with the exception of six years in which he was guardian of the friary in Palombara, where he established a hermitage modeled on the one in Bellegra. He wrote the Rule first for one and then for the other, observing it scrupulously and strengthening by word and example the new institution of the two hermitages.
St Thomas of Cori was not so much a man who prayed as a man who became prayer. This dimension animated the entire life of the hermitage founder. The most obvious aspect of his spiritual life was the centrality of the Eucharist, seen in his intense celebration of Mass and in his silent adoration during the long nights after the Divine Office had been celebrated at midnight. His life of prayer was marked by persistent aridity. The total absence of sensible consolation in prayer lasted for a good 40 years, but he was always serene and absolute in living the primacy of God.
St Thomas did not close himself up in the hermitage, forgetting the good of his brothers and sisters or the heart of the Franciscan vocation, which is apostolic. He was deservedly called the Apostle of Sublacense (the Subiaco region): he traversed the area, tirelessly preaching the Gospel, administering the sacraments and working miracles, a sign of the presence of the kingdom. His preaching was clear and simple, convincing and strong. He lived the Franciscan vocation in lowliness and a concrete option for the poorest.
St Thomas of Cori was a very gentle father to his brothers. To those who resisted his will to live the Franciscan ideal radically, he responded with patience and humility. He had understood well that all true reform begins with oneself.
Rich in merits, he fell asleep in the Lord on 11 January 1729.
ST BENEDICT MENNI Angelo Ercole was born in Milan, Italy, on 11 March 1841 and baptized the same day. He was the fifth of 15 children born to Luigi Menni and Luisa Figini. His warm and hospitable home gave him the support and stimulus he needed to develop his intellectual abilities and personality.
God's call came early, on: faithful to his conscience, he gave up a good position in a bank and volunteered as a stretcher-bearer for the soldiers wounded on the battlefield at Magenta.
Attracted by the spirit of dedication and self-denial which he discovered in the Brothers of St John of God, at the age of 19 he sought entry into the Hospitaller Order, taking the name Benedict and consecrating himself to God and to the care of the sick.
At that time Spain, the cradle of the Hospitaller Order, was embroiled in political strife and St John of God's work was practically dead. It needed new fervour, and so Benedict Menni was sent there in 1867. There he performed his two great works: he restored the Order of St John of God and founded the Congregation of the Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Only a few months after his arrival in Spain he set up his first children's hospital in Barcelona (1867), marking the beginning of his extraordinary work of restoration, which he was to carry through over the next 36 years. From the start, thanks to his commitment to his vocation, numerous generous followers joined him, and it was through them that he was able to guarantee continuity to his new Hospitaller institutions in Spain, Portugal and Mexico
When he arrived in Granada (1878), Benedict Menni came in contact with two young women, Maria Josefa Recio and Maria Angustias Gimenez, who set up a new women's hospital specifically for psychiatric care in 1881. It was at Ciempozuelos, Madrid, that the motherhouse of the Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was founded. Six words summarize their identity in the Hospitaller service: "pray, work, endure, suffer, love for God and silence".
The new institution soon spread to Europe and Latin America, and later to Africa and Asia. At the present time the sisters are present in 24 countries, with over 100 Hospitaller centres.
Benedict Menni's work spread to the whole order when he was appointed Apostolic Visitor (1909-11) and later Prior General (1911), which he had to resign one year later for reasons of health and as a result of misunderstandings. He spent the last two years of his life in humility and purification, and died a holy death at Dinan, France, on 24 April 1914.
His mortal remains are venerated under the high altar in the Founders' Chapel at the Hospitaller Sisters' motherhouse. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 23 June 1985.
16 June 1999
ST KINGA On Wednesday morning, 16 June, Pope John Paul II traveled from Krakow to Stary Sacz for the canonization of Bl. Kinga, daughter of the King of Hungary and Princess of little Poland. Known for her generosity to the poor, she founded the Poor Clare monastery in Stary Sacz.
18 April 1999ST MARCELLIN JOSEPH BENOIT CHAMPAGNAT was born on 20 May 1789 in Marlhes, France. He was the ninth child of a very Christian family, from whom he received his basic education. When he was 14, a priest passing through the village helped him to see that God was calling him to the priesthood. Marcellin, whose formal schooling was practically non-existent, began to study because "God wills it!". The difficult years he spent in the minor seminary in Verrieres were a time of real human and spiritual growth.
Among his companions in the major seminary of Lyons were Jean-Marie Vianney, the future cure of Ars, and Jean-Claude Colin, who was to become the founder of the Marist Fathers. He joined a group of seminarians whose goal was to found a congregation bearing Mary's name for the re-Christianization of society. Deeply aware of the cultural and spiritual poverty of the children of the countryside, Marcellin felt a strong urge to include a branch of brothers for the Christian education of young people. The day after their ordination on 22 July 1816, these priests consecrated themselves to Mary and put their project under her protection.
Marcellin was sent as curate to the parish of La Valla. His simple direct style of preaching, his deep devotion to Mary and his apostolic zeal made a profound impression on his parishioners.
On 2 January 1817 Marcellin brought together his first two disciples; the congregation of the Little Brothers of Mary, or Marist Brothers, was born in poverty, humility and total trust in God under Mary's protection. While still carrying on his parish ministry, he went to live with his brothers, whomhe trained and prepared for their mission as Christian teachers, catechists and educators of young people. Marcellin turned these uncultured country lads into generous apostles.
He lost no time in opening schools. Vocations arrived and the first little house, even though enlarged by Marcellin himself, was soon too small. There were many difficulties. The clergy in general did not understand what this inexperienced young priest with no material resources was trying to accomplish. However, the nearby villages continually requested brothers to see to the Christian education of their children.
Freed from his parish duties in 1825, he devoted himself totally to his congregation: the spiritual, pedagogical and apostolic formation and guidance of his brothers, visits to the schools and the opening of new ones.
"To make Jesus Christ known and loved" is the brothers' mission. Marcellin taught his disciples to love and respect children, and to give special attention to the poor, the most ungrateful and the most neglected, especially orphans. In 1836 the Church recognized the Society of Mary and entrusted it with the missions of Oceania. Marcellin took his vows as a member of the Society of Mary, and sent three brothers with the first missionary Marist Fathers to the islands of the Pacific.
A lengthy illness steadily took its toll on his robust constitution. Worn out by his labours, he died at the age of 51 on 6 June 1840.
ST GIOVANNI CALABRIA was born on 8 October 1873 in Verona, Italy. He was the seventh child of a cobbler and a maid. Poverty was his companion from birth. After his father's death, he had to interrupt his fourth year of elementary school to find a job. The rector of San Lorenzo, Fr Pietro Scapini, noticing the virtues of this boy, prepared him privately for the admission examination into the seminary. Having passed his exams, he was admitted to the school but his studies were interrupted by two years of military service.
Having terminated his military service, he resumed his studies. One very cold night in 1897, as he was returning home from a visit. to the sick, he found a boy crouching on the doorstep of his house; he had run away from the Gypsies. Fr Calabria picked him up, took him in, kept him in his house and shared his room with him. It was the beginning of his work for orphaned and abandoned boys.
A few months later he founded the Pious Union for Assistance to the Sick". These were only the beginnings of a life marked by charity. "Every instant of his life was a personification of St Paul's marvellous hymn on charity", wrote a Jewish woman doctor in her Lettera Postulatoria to Paul VI about Fr Calabria. She had been in hiding from Nazi-Fascist persecution in one of his religious institutes.
After being ordained a priest on 11 August 1901, he was appointed confessor of the seminary and curate of St Stephen's Church. He devoted himself to hearing confessions and to charitable works, helping the poor and marginalized.
In 1907 he was appointed vicar of St Benedict "al Monte". On 26 November 1907 he founded the "Casa Buoni Fanciulli". The following year it moved definitively to Via San Zeno in Monte, today their motherhouse.
The Lord also sent him lay people wishing to offer their lives to the Lord. With this handful of men totally given to God in the service of the poor, he revived the apostolic spirit of the Church in Verona. This nucleus of men was the foundation of the Congregation of the Poor Servants of Divine Providence, approved by the Bishop of Verona on 11 February 1932 and receiving pontifical approval on 25 April 1949.
Immediately after the diocesan approval, the Congregation spread to various parts of Italyserving the poor, the abandoned and the marginalized. It also extended its works to the elderly and to the sick. In 1910 he founded the female branch, which later became a congregation of diocesan right on 25 March 1952 with the name of Poor Sister Servants of Divine Providence; on 25 December 1981 it obtained pontifical approval.
He became a prophetic voice. Bishops, priests, religious and the laity found in him a sure guide for themselves and their projects. He understood that even the laity could be involved in this radical spiritual renewal and in 1944 founded the "Family of Extern Brothers", made up solely of laymen.
On the eve of his death he made his last act of charity, offering his life to God for the dying Pope Pius XII. The Lord accepted this offer, for while he was dying, the Pope mysteriously and unexpectedly recovered and lived for another four years. Fr Calabria died on 4 December 1954.
ST AGOSTINA LIVIA PIETRANTONI was born on 27 March 1864 and baptized with the name of Livia at Pozzaglia Sabina in the area bordered geographically by Rieti, Orvinio and Tivoli, Italy. She was the second of 11 children born to farmers. Livia's childhood was imbued with the values of an honest, hardworking and religious family.
She worked in the fields and looked after the animals, thus attending school very irregularly. At the age of seven she went to work with other children, transporting sacks of stones and sand for construction of the road from Orvinio to Poggio Moiano. At 12 she left with other young "seasonal workers" who went to Tivoli during the winter months for the olive harvest. Precociously wise, Livia took moral and religious responsibility for her young companions.
An attractive young woman, Livia nevertheless chose Christ as her Spouse. To those who tried to dissuade her by saying she was running away from hard work, she replied: "I wish to choose a congregation in which there is work both day and night". After an initial disappointment, the Superior General of the Sisters of Charity of St Joan Antida Thouret let her know that she was expected at their generalate.
Livia was 22 when she arrived in Rome at Via S. Maria in Cosmedin. A few months as a postulant and novice were enough to prove that the young girl had the makings of a Sister of Charity, that is, of a "servant of the poor" in -the tradition of St Vincent de Paul and St Joan Antida. On receiving the habit she was given the name of Agostina.
Sr Agostina was sent to Santo Spirito Hospital, where 700 years of glorious history had led it to be called "the school of Christian charity". Following the saints who had preceded her, including Charles Borromeo, Joseph Calasanctius, John Bosco and Camillus de Lellis, Sr Agostina made her personal contribution and In this place of suffering gave expression to heroic charity.
The atmosphere in the hospital was hostile to religion. The Capuchin Friars were expelled, the crucifix and all the other religious signs were forbidden. The hospital even wanted to send the sisters away but was afraid of becoming unpopular. Instead, their lives were made "impossible" and they were forbidden to speak of God.
But first in the childrens' ward and later in the tuberculosis ward, a place of despair and death, where she caught the mortal contagion of which she was miraculously healed, Sr Agostina showed an extraordinary dedication and concern for each sick person, even the most violent, like Giuseppe Romanelli.
How many times she offered Romanelli to Our Lady! He was the worst of them all, the most vulgar and insolent, especially towards Sr Agostina, who was more and more attentive towards him and welcomed his blind mother with great kindness when she came to visit. When, after the umpteenth provocation at the expense of the women working in the laundry, the director expelled him from the hospital, he sought a target for his fury and poor Agostina was the victim. "I will kill you with my own hands. Sr Agostina, you only have a month to live!", were the threats he sent to her in little notes.
Romanelli was not joking, but Sr Agostina was prepared to pay the price for love with her own life. When Romanelli caught her unawares on 13 November 1894 and cruelly stabbed her before she could escape, her lips uttered nothing but invocations to the Virgin Mary and words of forgiveness.
11 October 1998
ST TERESA BENEDUCTA of the CROSS, Edith Stein, was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland), on 12 October 1891, the youngest of 11, as her family was celebrating Yom Kippur, that most important Jewish festival, the Day of Atonement. "More than anything else, this helped make the youngest child very precious to her mother". Being born on this day was like a fore-shadowing to Edith, a future Carmelite nun.
Edith's father, who ran a timber business, died when she had just turned two. Her mother, a very devout, hard-working and strong-willed woman, now had to look after the family and their large business. However, she did not succeed in keeping up a living faith in her children. Edith lost her faith in God. "I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying", she said.
In 1911 she enrolled at the University of Breslau to study German and history, but her real interest was philosophy and women's issues. She became a member of the Prussian Society for Women's Suffrage. "When I was at school and during my first year at university", she wrote later, "I was a radical suffragette. Then I lost interest in the whole issue. Now I am looking for purely pragmatic solutions".
In 1913 Edith Stein transferred to Gottingen University, to study under Edmund Husserl. She became his pupil and teaching assistant, and he later tutored her for a doctorate. At the time, anyone who was interested in philosophy was fascinated by Husserl's new view of reality. His pupils saw his philosophy as a return to objects: "back to things". Husserl's phenomenology unintentionally led many of his pupils to the Christian faith. In Gottingen Edith Stein also met the philosopher Max Scheler, who turned her attention to Roman Catholicism. Nevertheless, she did not neglect her studies and took her degree with distinction in January 1915.
"I no longer have a life of my own", she wrote at the beginning of the First World War, having taken a nursing course and gone to serve in an Austrian field hospital. This was a hard time for her, as she looked after the sick in the typhus ward, worked in an operating theatre and saw young people die. When the hospital was closed in 1916, she followed Husserl as his assistant to Freiburg, Germany. where she received her doctorate summa cum laude in 1917, after writing a thesis on "The Problem of Empathy".
Her first encounter with the Cross and its power
During this period she went to Frankfurt cathedral and saw a woman with a shopping basket going in to kneel for a brief prayer. "This was something totally new to me. In the synagogues and Protestant churches I had visited people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was
something I never forgot". Towards the end of her dissertation she wrote: "There have been people who believed that a sudden change had occurred within them and that this was a result of God's grace". How could she come to such a conclusion?
Edith Stein had been a friend of Husserl's Gottingen assistant, Adolf Reinach, and his wife. When Reinach died in Flanders in November 1917 Edith went to Gottingen to visit his widow. The Reinachs had converted to Protestantism. Edith felt uneasy about meeting the young widow at first, but was surprised when she actually met a woman of faith. "This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it ... it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me - Christ in the mystery of the Cross". Later, she wrote: "Things were in God's plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that - from God's point of view - there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God's divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God's all-seeing eyes".
In autumn 1918 Edith Stein left her job as Husserl's teaching assistant. She wanted to work independently. It was not until 1930 that she saw Husserl again after her conversion, and she talked with him about her faith, as she would have liked him to become a Christian too. Then she wrote down the amazing words: "Every time I feel my powerlessness and inability to influence people directly, I become more keenly aware of the necessity of my own holocaust".
Edith Stein wanted to obtain a professorship, a goal that was impossible for women at the time. Husserl wrote the following reference: "Should academic careers be opened up to women, I can recommend her wholeheartedly", Later, she was refused a professorship on account of being Jewish.
Baptized on the feast of the Circumcision
Back in Breslau, Edith Stein began to write articles about the philosophical foundation of psychology. However, she also read the New Testament, Kierkegaard and Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises. She felt that one could not just read a book like that, but had to put it into practice.
In the summer of 1921 she spent several weeks in Bergzabern at the country estate of Hedwig Conrad-Martius, another of Husserl's students. Hedwig had converted to Protestantism with her husband. One evening Edith picked up an autobiography of St Teresa of Avila and read this book all night. "When I had finished the book, I said to myself: this is the truth". Later, looking back on her life, she wrote: "My longing for truth was a single prayer".
On 1 January 1922 Edith Stein was baptized. It was the feast of the Circumcision of Jesus, when Jesus entered into the covenant of Abraham. Edith Stein stood at the baptismal font, wearing Hedwig Conrad-Martius' white wedding cloak. Hedwig was her godmother. "I had given up practising my Jewish religion when I was a 14-year-old girl and did not begin to feel Jewish again until I had returned to God". From this moment on she was continually aware that she belonged to Christ not only spiritually, but also through blood. On the feast of the Purification of Mary another day with an Old Testament connection - she was confirmed by the Bishop of Speyer in his private chapel.
After her conversion she went straight to Breslau: "Mother", she said, "I am a Catholic". The two women wept. Hedwig Conrad-Martius wrote: "Behold, two Israelites in whom there is no guile!" (cf. Jn 1:47).
Immediately after her conversion she wanted to join a Carmelite convent. However, her spiritual mentors, Vicar General Schwind of Speyer and Erich Przywara, S.J., stopped her from doing so. Until Easter of 1931 she taught German and history at the Dominican Sisters' school and teacher-training college at St Magdalen's Convent in Speyer. At the same time she was encouraged by Archabbot Raphael Walzer of Beuron Abbey to accept extensive speaking engagements, mainly on women's issues. "During the time immediately before and quite some time after my conversion I ... thought that leading a religious life meant giving up all earthly things and having one's mind fixed on divine things only. Gradually, however, I learnt that other things are expected of us in this world ... I even believe that the deeper someone is drawn to God, the more he has to 'go beyond himself' in this sense, that is, go into the world and carry divine life into it".
She translated the letters and dairies of Cardinal Newman from his pre-Catholic period as well as Thomas Aquinas' Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate. The latter was a very free translation, for the sake of dialogue with modern philosophy. Erich Przywara also encouraged her to write her own philosophical works. She learnt that it was possible to "pursue scholarship as a service to God". To gain strength for her life and work, she frequently went to the Benedictine monastery of Beuron to celebrate the great feasts of the Church year.
In 1931 Edith Stein left the convent school in Speyer and devoted herself to working for a professorship again, this time in Breslau and Freiburg, though her endeavours were in vain. It was then that she wrote Potency and Act, a study of the central concepts developed by Thomas Aquinas. Later, at the Carmelite convent in Cologne she rewrote this study to produce her main philosophical and theological study, Finite and Eternal Being. But by then it was no longer possible to print the texts.
She successfully combined faith and scholarship
In 1932 she accepted a teaching post in the Roman Catholic division of the German Institute for Educational Studies at the University of Munster, where she developed her anthropology. She successfully combined scholarship and faith in her work and teaching, seeking to be a "tool of the Lord" in everything she taught. "If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to him".
In 1933 darkness broke out over Germany. "I had heard of severe measures against Jews before, but now it dawned on me that God had laid his hand heavily on his people, and that the destiny of these people would also be mine". The Nazis' Aryan Law made it impossible for Edith Stein to continue teaching. "If I cannot go on here, then there are no longer any opportunities for me in Germany", she wrote. "I had become a stranger in the world".
Archabbot Walzer of Beuron now no longer stopped her from entering Carmel. While in Speyer, she had already taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. In 1933 she met the Prioress of the Carmelite convent in Cologne. "Human activity cannot help us, but only the suffering of Christ. It is my desire to share in it".
Edith Stein went to Breslau for the last time, to say goodbye to her mother and her family. Her last day at home was her birthday, 12 October, which was also the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Edith went to the synagogue with her mother. It was a hard day for the two women. "Why did you become acquainted with 'it [Christianity]?", her mother asked. "I don't want to say anything against him. He may have been a very good person. But why did he make himself God?". Edith's mother cried. The following day Edith was on the train to Cologne. "I did not feel any passionate joy. What I had just experienced was too terrible. But I felt a profound peace - in the safe haven of God's will". From now on she wrote to her mother every week, though she never received any replies. Instead, her sister Rosa sent her news from Breslau.
'A very poor and powerless little Esther'
Edith Stein entered the Carmelite convent of Cologne on 14 October and was clothed in the habit on 15 April 1934. The Mass was celebrated by the Archabbot of Beuron. Edith Stein was now known as Sr Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. In 1938 she wrote: "I understood the Cross as the destiny of God's People, which was beginning to be apparent at the time (1933). I felt that those who understood the Cross of Christ should take it upon themselves on everybody's behalf. Of course, I know better now what it means to be wedded to the Lord under the sign of the Cross. However, one can never comprehend it, because it is a mystery". On 21 April 1935 she took her temporary vows. On 14 September 1936 the renewal of her vows coincided with her mother's death in Breslau. "My mother held on to her faith to the last moment. But as her faith and her firm trust in her God ... were the last thing that was still alive in the throes of her death, I am confident that she will have met a very merciful judge and that she is now my most faithful helper, so that I can reach the goal as well".
When she took her perpetual vows on 21 April 1938, she had the words of St John of the Cross printed on her devotional picture: "Henceforth my only vocation is to love". Her final work would be devoted to this author.
Edith Stein's entry into the Carmelite Order was not escapism. "Those who join the Carmelite Order are not lost to their near and dear ones, but have been won for them, because it is our vocation to intercede with God for everyone". In particular, she interceded with God for her people: "I keep thinking of Queen Esther who was taken away from her people precisely because God wanted her to plead with the king on behalf of her nation. I am a very poor and powerless little Esther, but the King who has chosen me is infinitely great and merciful. This is a great comfort" (31 October 1938).
On 9 November 1938 the anti-Semitism of the Nazis became apparent to the whole world. Synagogues were burnt and the Jewish people were terrorized. The Prioress of the Cologne Carmel did her utmost to take Sr Teresa Benedicta of the Cross abroad. On New Year's Eve 1938 she was smuggled across the border into the Netherlands, to the Carmelite convent in Echt. This is where she wrote her will on 9 June 1939: "Even now I accept the death that God has prepared for me in complete submission and with joy as being his most holy will for me. I ask the Lord to accept my life and my death ... so that the Lord will be accepted by his people and that his kingdom may come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world".
In Echt, Edith Stein hurriedly completed her study of "The Church's Teacher of Mysticism and the Father of the Carmelites, John of the Gross, on the Occasion of the 400th Anniversary of His Birth, 1542-1942". In 1941 she wrote to a friend, who was also a member of her order: "One can only gain a scientia crucis (knowledge of the cross) if one has thoroughly experienced the cross. I have been convinced of this from the first moment onwards and have said with all my heart: 'Ave, Crux, Spes unica' (I welcome you, Cross, our only hope)". Her study on St John of the Cross is entitled: Kreuzeswissenschaft "The Science of the Cross".
Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo on 2 August 1942, while she was in the chapel with the other sisters. She was to report within five minutes, together with her sister Rosa, who had also converted and was serving at the Echt convent. Her last words to be heard in Echt were addressed to Rosa: "Come, we are going for our people".
Together with many other Jewish Christians, the two women were taken to a transit camp in Amersfoort and then to Westerbork. This was an act of retaliation against the protest letter written by the Dutch Catholic Bishops against the pogroms and deportations of Jews. Edith commented: "I never knew that people could be like this, neither did I know that my brothers and sisters would have to suffer like this.... I pray for them every hour. Will God hear my prayers? He will certainly hear them in their distress". Prof. Jan Nota, who was greatly attached to her, wrote later: "She is a witness to God's presence in a world where God is absent".
On 7 August, early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. It was probably on 9 August that Sr Teresa Benedicta of the Gross, her sister and many others of her people were gassed.
When Edith Stein was beatified in Cologne on 1 May 1987, the Church honoured "a daughter of Israel", as Pope John Paul II put it, "who during the Nazi persecution remained united, as a Catholic, in fidelity and love to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ, and, as a Jew, to her people.
10 June 1997
ST JOHN OF DUKLA (1414-1484) was born to middle-class family of Dukla, a small town in Galicia. As a young man he lived as a hermit in his native town and later joined the Conventual Franciscans (1440-1463). While a Conventual he served as a preacher and local superior. In 1463 he joined the Observant Franciscans, who were known in Poland as Bernardines. He spent the rest of his life as a Bernardine, preaching to German burghers in what is now Lviv, Ukraine. A model of patience and charity, he continued to preach and hear confessions even after losing his sight. He died in Lviv in 1484 and was buried there in the order's church. In 1945 his body was taken first to Rzeszow and then to Dukla. Beatified in 1733, the canonization process was halted due to the partition of Poland (feast day 10 July).
8 June 1997
ST HEDWIG of ANJOU (1374-1399), Queen of Poland, was born in Hungary to Louis, King of Hungary and Poland, and Elizabeth, Princess of Bosnia. After her father's death in 1382 she was chosen, with the consent of the Polish nobility, for the throne of Poland, as her older sister Maria was destined for the Hungarian throne. Crowned Queen of Poland at the age of 10 (1384), she was married at the age of 12 (1386) to Grand Duke Jogaila (Jagiello in Polish) of Lithuania, on condition that he and his nation would convert to the Christian faith. She was not only the King's wife, but had a chancellery of hew own and actively participated in the life of the enormous Polish-Lithuanian State. In 1397 she received permission from Pope Boniface IX to establish the Theology Faculty of the University of Krakow. She founded several hospitals and defended the rights of peasants against the Polish magnates. A woman of extraordinary piety and kindness, she died on 17 July 1399. Her cultus was approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1979 (feast day 17 July).
2 June 1996
ST EDIGIO MARIA of ST JOSEPH was born into a poor family in Taranto, Italy, on 16 November 1729 and was baptized Francesco Antonio Pontillo. His father, died when he was 18, leaving him to provide for the family.
Despite his responsibilities, in 1754 he joined the Alcantarine Franciscans in Galatone, Lecce, Italy. He made his religious profession in 1755 and was sent as a cook to the friary in Squinzano. While staying a few days at the monastery of Capurso near Bari, he was assigned to St Paschal's Hospice, Naples, where he remained for 53 years, alternately serving as cook and porter, and begging for alms, to the edification of all but especially to the poor who flocked to the friary for help and whom, with Franciscan concern and active charity, he devoted all his energy to serving.
Bro. Edigio Maria's mission was marked by so many miracles that, while he was still alive, he earned the popular title "Consoler of Naples".
"Love God, love God", he would repeat to all he met on his daily pilgrimage through the streets of Naples. The noble and learned used to enjoy. talking to this Franciscan, whose words were simple but imbued with faith. The sick found in him the strength and counsel to bear their sufferings. The poor, the outcasts and the exploited discovered God's merciful face in this humble man who begged for alms.
His life was essentially contemplative and he would spend nights in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He had a special love for the Redeemer's birth and professed a tender devotion for Our Lady, Mother of God, and for the saints. His "contemplation in action" was precisely what enabled him to see his brethren's suffering and misery and made him burn with tenderness and love.
He died in the odour of sanctity on 7 February 1812, the First Friday of the month, as the bells of the Franciscan church pealed their invitation to venerate the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God in the Virgin Mary's womb.
Proclaiming God's love of man was the mission Providence had given this humble Franciscan in a social context torn by fighting and discord. In him the Father showed forth his love for the outcast and the forsaken. He bore witness to love in his simple words, and especially in his poor and joyful life, which strengthened his brethren in the certainty that God is alive and active among his people. His heroic virtues were declared by Pius IX in 1868 and he was beatified by Leo XIII in 1888.
ST JEAN-GABRIEL PERBOYRE was born in Montgesty, France, on 6 January 1802. He followed his brother, Louis, to the seminary of the Congregation of the Mission and soon became aware of his vocation.
He was ordained a priest in 1826 and became responsible for the seminarians formation. When his brother died on his voyage to the missions in China, Jean-Gabriel asked to replace him.
He arrived in China in August 1835. After getting his bearings in Macao, he made a long trip by canoe, on foot and on horseback to Nanyang, Hunan, where he concentrated on learning Chinese.
After five months, when he was already at ease with the language, he began his ministry, visiting the small Christian communities. He was then transferred to Hu-pei, in the region of the lakes formed by the Yang Tze River.
A persecution of Christians broke out unexpectedly in 1839. On 16 September that same year, Fr Jean-Gabriel was arrested by a group of soldiers, who by using threats forced a catechumen to reveal the missionary's hiding place. Totally defenceless and at the mercy of wardens and judges, the missionary's sad Calvary began. He was subjected to a string of trials and endless questioning. He was pressed to betray his companions in the faith but he stood firm and said nothing.
The missionary was obliged to suffer deeply for his fidelity to Christ: he was hung by his thumbs and beaten mercilessly with bamboo rods. His cruelest judge was the viceroy, who turned brutally against him, personally beat him and finally condemned him to death by strangulation.
The emperor's approval was required, but the war between China and the English prevented the emperor from taking any benevolent step. Thus, on 11 September 1840 an imperial legate arrived with the decree confirming the sentence.
That same day the missionary was taken to a hill called the "Red Mountain". There, while they executed the outlaws, Jean-Gabriel meditated and prayed, inspiring admiration in all those present. When his turn came, they lashed him to a cross, put a rope round his neck and strangled him.
Many of the circumstances of his martyrdom closely resemble those of the passion and death of Christ, such as his betrayal, his imprisonment, his death on a cross and even the time of day. He was a faithful witness and disciple of Christ throughout his life.
Fr Jean-Gabriel Perboyre was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 10 November 1889.
ST JUAN GRANDE ROMAN was born in Carmona, Seville, Spain, on 6 March 1546, and received a Christian education at home, in the parish, and later in Seville where he was taught to weave.
Aged 17, he worked selling cloth in his native town but later left home to live as a hermit. After a year seeking his vocation in prayer, he consecrated himself totally to God and took the name of "John the Sinner", by which he was later known. He then began to care for the elderly poor and begged alms for their maintenance.
In 1566 he moved to Jerez de la Frontera, and at the Royal Prison worked for the poor whom he tended in a room next to the chapel of La Virgen de los Remedios.
When the number of sick increased, he sought to enlarge the premises, but was prevented from doing so by the local confraternity. So he set up a hospital next to the Church of San Sebastian to care for the neediest sick and convalescents, the incurables and those too proud to beg. As they increased in number, his new hospital, named Our Lady of Candlemas, came into being.
Admired by all in Jerez, John the Sinner continued his charitable activities. In 1574 he sent the town council a petition calling for greater concern for the sick, forced onto the streets during a widespread epidemic.
His dedication to the sick was accompanied by an equally intense prayer life. 'God and the poor were his raison d'etre, the focus of his life. He was also famous for his outstanding devotion to the Eucharist. Hearing of St John of God's work in Granada, he visited it and joined it in 1574, applying specific aspects of its rule to his own hospital and way of life. His exemplary devotion attracted others and his work spread.
Witnesses claim that he lived in extreme austerity while caring for his poor. He possessed almost nothing, slept on a mat and ate frugally. His charitable work also extended to ill soldiers from the port of Cadiz and he cared for the prostitutes of Jerez.
In the spring of 1600 a plague epidemic broke out in Jerez. Unstinting in his efforts for the victims, John the Sinner finally fell prey to it. He offered himself to God as a victim of atonement so that it would end, convinced that "no one has greater love than he who gives his life for those he loves". He died a week after falling ill on Saturday, 3 June 1600 at the Candlemas Hospital. He was buried without pomp in the hospital courtyard.
Pope Pius VI proclaimed his heroic virtues in 1775, and Pius IX celebrated his beatification in 1853.
3 December 1995
by Fr Nicola Ferrara, O.M.I.
ST CHARLES JOSEPH EUGENE de MAZENOD was born in Aix-en-Provence on 1 August 1782, the eldest of the three children of Rose Joannis and Charles Antoine de Mazenod, President of the State Audit Board of Provence. He was baptized on 2 August. Eugene had a happy childhood. All seemed peaceful, but a revolution was brewing and broke out in 1789. When he returned from Paris, where he had been a deputy to the Estates General on 13 December 1790 President de Mazenod was forced to flee to Nice, still part of the Italian duchy of Savoy. He was joined there a few months later by his family.
Their emigration to Italy lasted 10 years. In Turin for two years, Eugene studied at the school for nobles. In Venice, where they stayed for four years, the president and his brothers had to resort to trade in order to survive, while Eugene had the good fortune to be educated by an excellent priest, Fr Bartolo Zionelli. In 1797 Napoleon's troops invaded the Republic. The de Mazenods fled to Naples where Eugene spent a year of boredom and forced idleness. On the other hand, the three years they spent in Palermo enabled him to make friends with rich and noble Italian and French families, and especially with the family of the Duke of Cannizzaro.
In 1802 the young man returned to France. He was soon disappointed with his town and his post-revolutionary homeland. He found material and moral decadence everywhere.
After several years of a personal crisis, in 1805 Eugene began to be interested in the life of the "neglected Church". He taught the catechism and engaged in prison work. On Good Friday 1807, at the foot of the crucifix he shed "bitter tears" over his past life and human ambitions and decided to become a priest. He studied at the seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Paris from 1808 to 1812.
When he returned to his home town, Aix, he began his ministry by preaching in Provencal during Lent 1813 to workers and the poor. He later founded the Christian youth association of Aix, which in a few years numbered 400 young people. He also carried his ministry in the prison, where in 1814 he contracted typhus and for a few months hovered between life and death.
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
The Emperor fell in 1814. The political restoration also brought a movement of religious renewal. Together with a few priests, in 1816 Eugene began to preach missions in the rural parishes of Provence where religious ignorance was most common. The congregation developed rapidly and in 1826 was approved by Pope Leo XII. While continuing to preach missions in the Dioceses of southern France and then all over France, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate became missionaries abroad. In 1841 they went to England and Canada, where in 10 years they founded missions from the Atlantic to the Pacific, especially among the American Indians of the North-West and Oregon. In 1847 they went to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and in 1849 to South Africa. The founder and Superior General governed his congregation firmly but kindly. He wrote hundreds of letters requiring that the Rule be observed; he guided the superiors and encouraged the fathers and brothers. At his death in 1861, his institute included 6 Bishops and 414 professed religious.
Diocese of Marseilles (1823-1861)
In 1823 the Diocese of Marseilles, which had been joined to that of Aix during the Revolution, was restored with the appointment of Bishop Fortune de Mazenod. The prelate was approaching the age of 75, and accepted the office on condition that his nephew be Vicar General. Reorganization of the Diocese soon began and the projects were beginning to bear fruit when the Revolution of July 1830 broke out. It lasted for several years and was radically anticlerical, causing great harm to the Church.
In 1837, Eugene was appointed Bishop of Marseilles. In 25 years, he transformed the Diocese, creating 23 new parishes and building or repairing about 50 churches. He also started work on the construction of the cathedral and shrine of Notre-Dame de la Garde, which dominates the city. Thirty-three religious congregations were welcomed to the Diocese: nine male, and 24 female. The Bishop sought to be close to the people, and was available to visitors every day for four hours. He visited all his parishes every year, preaching in Provencal. He regularly administered the sacrament of Confirmation to adults in his chapel, and for this reason also visited the sick at home. He celebrated all ordinations personally and made a day of recollection every time with the ordinands. He supervised the seminaries, and the number of priests increased from less than 200 to over 400.
Illness and death
In 1856, Napoleon III named the Bishop of Marseilles a Senator of the Empire, and in 1859 proposed him as a Cardinal to Pope Pius IX. Illness overtook him unexpectedly at the peak of his activity, in January 1861. In just a few months a tumour took him from his Diocese and from his institute. He was still conscious when he received viaticum and the sacrament of the sick. In his agony, he told those who were with him: "If I start to fall asleep, awaken me; I want to die knowing that I am dying". He gave up his soul to God on 21 May 1861.
16 June 1993
ST ENRIQUE DE OSSO Y CERVELLO was born near Tarragona on 16 October 1840 the youngest of the three children of Jaime de Osso and Micaela Cervello, where he grew up in a family with strong Christian faith and deep Catalan roots. When he was 11 years old, Enrique was sent to his uncle near Barcelona, as an apprentice to learn a trade. He fell gravely ill, and received his First Communion as Viaticum. When he was cured, he returned home, going first to the shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar to offer thanks for his recovery. After some rest he went to Reus where he was apprenticed to another businessman; there his knowledge and spirituality deepened. The death of his mother seemed to cause a certain amount of restlessness and searching in him; he went to Montserrat for a retreat, and decided that he was being called to the priesthood. He returned home and began studies in the seminary of Tortosa, and later Barcelona, where he was ordained a subdeacon. While still a seminarian, he was brought back to Tortosa to teach in the seminary; there he was ordained a priest in 1867. His ideal was always to love Jesus more each day, and to make him known and loved by all, to spread his message, the Good News of the love of God the Father who wants us all to be his children in the Son.
He was put in charge of catechesis in the city of Tortosa. At that time the Church in Spain, as in many parts of Europe, was under attack from anti-clerical forces; Enrique did not ignore the attacks but confronted them, teaching the faith to seminarians, children and families.
In 1873 he founded the Association of Young Catholic Daughters of Mary and Saint Teresa of Jesus, calling young women in the secular state to perform a Christian apostolate in their own environment. In 1876 he founded the Josephine Sisterhood, the "Little flock of the Child Jesus", and the Society of St Teresa of Jesus, which was dedicated to Christian education for all. Christian education, he said, is the only thing that can transform society, drawing it to Christ. The Society of St Teresa of Jesus grew quickly and extended to Portugal and Latin America. However, in 1895 a misunderstanding with the superior general of the community he had founded caused him to leave the city; he went to the Franciscan friary of the Holy Spirit in Gilet, near Valencia, where he was given hospitality. He died there several months later, on 27 January 1896.
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