Saint Margaret of Cortona

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Saint Margaret of Cortona

Franciscan tertiary, penitent
(1247-1297)

It is not strange that the world feels drawn to the Augustines and Magdalenes of every age. The world knows its guilt and is ashamed. With the lives of such saints placed warmly and tactfully before us, it is impossible to abandon hope. From the tumbleweed of sin many saints have grown.

Margaret was born at Laviano, in Tuscany, Italy, about 1247, of poor farm people. Her mother died when she was only seven years old, and two years later her father married again. His new wife was a strong, masterful woman, who had little sympathy for her pleasure-loving stepdaughter. Margaret had always yearned for love and it was always denied her at home. It is not hard to understand, then, how the pretty young girl fell prey to the prospect of love and luxury offered her by a rich young cavalier (whose name she never divulged) from a neighboring village. She went away with him one night and lived with him as his mistress for the next nine years, during which time she gave birth to a son. During all those years Margaret remained faithful to her lover, even though she was an object of scorn to the townspeople, who regarded her as a depraved woman.

The sudden and brutal murder of her lover brought Margaret to the realization of God’s grace. Ashamed and horrified by her own behavior, she went immediately to her father’s house to beg forgiveness. Although he was willing to accept her, her stepmother for a second time turned Margaret away from the love she needed so badly.

She had heard of the Friars Minor (Franciscans) and of their reputation for gentleness and patience with sinners. By this time, utterly depressed, she traveled to Cortona, where she begged admittance into the Third Order as a penitent. For the first three years of her conversion she was guided in the spiritual life by Fra Giunta Bevegnati, her confessor. It is to him we are indebted for the story of her life.

Margaret began to earn her living by nursing the ladies of the city, but soon gave it up in order to devote herself to caring for the sick poor, depending on alms for her existence. She persuaded the leading citizen of Cortona to aid her in starting the hospital of Our Lady of Mercy, staffed by Franciscans tertiaries whom Margaret formed into a congregation called Poverelle. She also founded the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy, which was pledged to support the hospital and to search out and assist the poor. Her son was sent to school at Arezzo, and he later became a Franciscan friar.

As Margaret continued to advance in holiness, Christ became the dominating feature in her life. She was favored with visions in which Christ spoke to her and addressed her as the third light granted to the Order of my beloved Francis, that is, exceeded in glory only by Saint Francis and Saint Clare. Margaret was also favored with visions of her guardian angel.

The people of Cortona had observed the holiness of Margaret’s life, and they sought her payers in 1279, when Charles of Anjou, king of Sicily, threatened to invade Tuscany. After fervent prayer it was revealed to her that an armistice had been arranged and peace would follow.

Toward the latter part of her life our Lord said to her: Show now that thou art converted; cry out and call others to repentance. Margaret was obedient to the call and saw that she must lead a more active life. She carried on this new mission successfully, drawing many lapsed Catholics back to the Church, and she was called on many times to perform miraculous cures.

The day and hour of her death were revealed to her, and she died at the age of fifty in 1297. Her fame is mostly confined to Tuscany, where the people of Cortona refer to their patron as the lily of the valley.

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas – Thursday After First Sunday

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas

Thursday After First Sunday

It was fitting that Christ should be Crucified with the Thieves

Christ was crucified between the thieves because such was the will of the Jews, and also because this was part of God’s design. But the reasons why this was appointed were not the same in each of these cases.

1. As far as the Jews were concerned Our Lord was crucified with the thieves on either side to encourage the suspicion that he too was a criminal. But it fell out otherwise. The thieves themselves have left not a trace in the remembrance of man, while His cross is everywhere held in honour. Kings laying aside their crowns have broidered the cross on their royal robes. They have placed it on their crowns; on their arms. It has its place on the very altars. Everywhere, throughout the world, we behold the splendour of the cross.

In God’s plan Christ was crucified with the thieves in order that, as for our sakes he became accursed of the cross, so, for our salvation, He is crucified like an evil thing among evil things.

2. The Pope, St. Leo the Great, says that the thieves were crucified, one on either side of Him, so that in the very appearance of the scene of His suffering there might be set forth that distinction which should be made in the judgment of each one of us. St. Augustine has the same thought. “The cross itself,” he says, ” was a tribunal. In the centre was the judge. To the one side a man who believed and was set free, to the other side a scoffer and he was condemned.” Already there was made clear the final fate of the living and the dead, the one class placed at His right, the other on His left.

3. According to St. Hilary the two thieves, placed to right and to left, typify that the whole of mankind is called to the mystery of Our Lord’s Passion. And since division of things according to right and left is made with reference to believers and those who will not believe, one of the two, placed on the right, is saved by justifying faith.

4. As St. Bede says, the thieves who were crucified with Our Lord, represent those who for the faith and to confess Christ undergo the agony of martyrdom or the severe discipline of a more perfect life. Those who do this for the sake of eternal glory are typified by the thief on the right hand. Those whose motive is the admiration of whoever beholds them imitate the spirit and the act of the thief on the left-hand side.

As Christ owed no debt in payment for which a man must die, but submitted to death of His own will, in order to overcome death, so also He had not done anything on account of which He deserved to be put with the thieves. But of His own will He chose to be reckoned among the wicked, that by His power He might destroy wickedness itself. Which is why St. John Chrysostom says that to convert the thief on the cross and to turn him to Paradise was as great a miracle as the earthquake.

Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio

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Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio

Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio was born of poor peasants in the year 1502, at Gudena in the Spanish province of Galicia. In his youth he attended his father’s sheep. When he was twelve years old, he was seized with a pestilential disease. His anxious mother carried him to a little hut far out in the field, so that no one else would be infected by him. While he lay there one day quite helpless and alone, a wolf from the neighboring woods approached by the providence of God, and bit open the plague spot with the result that Sebastian recovered completely.
When he arrived at young manhood, Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio left home to look for work among stangers in order to support his poor parents and his brothers and sisters. Because he was comely in appearance, wicked women frequently set snares for his purity. In order to escape them, he resolved, at thirty-one years of age, to sail for America which had been discovered recently. On the voyage he had to endure much ridicule from the sailors and his fellow passengers because of his piety and reserve.

Arriving safely at Pueble, Mexico, he at once resumed work in the fields. Also, he made plows and wagons, which were until then unknown to the half-civilized inhabitants, and taught them how to use them. With his team he plowed the fields of as many of the people as possible, never asking any compensation. He also built roads through the forests and mountains to the cities and seaports, making it easier to transport the produce. The main highway that to this day connects the mountain city of Zacatecas with the capital of Mexico was his work.

Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio undertook, in a carrier of his own, to transport grain and other wares, thus acquiring great wealth. He used the money for worthy purposes, while he himself lived like a poor man. In this way he won the esteem and the love of the natives as well as of the Spaniards. He married twice, each time choosing a poor but devout young woman; and with their consent he lived with them in virginal purity.

When death robbed him of his second wife, he gave all his possessions to the poor and to a convent of Poor Clares which he had established in Mexico City. Then, in the year 1573, when he was already seventy-one years old, he asked for admission among the lay brothers in the Order of St Francis. It was only after frequent and urgent requests that his petition was finally granted. In the novitiate he would not exempt himself from any of the hardships or works of penance, though he was an old man; he outdid even the most zealous of the young brothers.

After Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio had made his solemn vows, he was appointed to the task of collecting alms for the convent. He performed this trying task for the remainder of his mortal life to the great edification of the brethren and the faithful. Despite the many distractions that his work afforded, he was able to keep recollected in God, and his encouragement and example were instrumental in gaining many infidels and sinners for God.
He added certain rigorous penances to his daily labors, and God, who does not let Himself be outdone in generosity, granted him extraordinary graces. Sebastian could read the innermost secrets of hearts and could foretell future events. The wildest animals willingly obeyed him; and frequently, when he was in special need, angels brought him assistance in remarkable ways, at times bringing him food, another time protecting him from falling down a precipice, at other times again directing him on the right road.

In his ninety eighth year Sebastian died in the convent at Pudbla on February 25, 1600. When his body lay in state, the crowds that gathered were so great, and the miracles wrought were so numerous, that he could not be buried for a long time. More than three hundred miracles which he worked in his lifetime were cited at the process for beatification. Pope Pius VI beatified him in 1787; and efforts are being made in Mexico to have his cause of canonization introduced. 

St. Walburga

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St. Walburga

(WALTPURDE, WALPURGIS; at Perche GAUBURGE; in other parts of France VAUBOURG, FALBOURG).

Born in Devonshire, about 710; died at Heidenheim, 25 Feb., 777. She is the patroness of Eichstadt, Oudenarde, Furnes, Antwerp, Gronigen, Weilburg, and Zutphen, and is invoked as special patroness against hydrophobia, and in storms, and also by sailors. She was the daughter of St. Richard, one of the under-kings of the West Saxons, and of Winna, sister of St. Boniface, Apostle of Germany, and had two brothers, St. Willibald and St. Winibald. St. Richard, when starting with his two sons on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, entrusted Walburga, then eleven years old, to the abbess of Wimborne. In the claustral school and as a member of the community, she spent twenty-six years preparing for the great work she was to accomplish in Germany. The monastery was famous for holiness and austere discipline. There was a high standard at Wimborne, and the child was trained in solid learning, and in accomplishments suitable to her rank. Thanks to this she was later able to write St. Winibald’s Life and an account in Latin of St. Willibald’s travels in Palestine. She is thus looked upon by many as the first female author of England and Germany. Scarcely a year after her arrival, Walburga received tidings of her father’s death at Lucca. During this period St. Boniface was laying the foundations of the Church in Germany. He saw that for the most part scattered efforts would be futile, or would exert but a passing influence. He, therefore, determined to bring the whole country under an organized system. As he advanced in his spiritual conquests he established monasteries which, like fortresses, should hold the conquered regions, and from whose watch-towers the light of faith and learning should radiate far and near.

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas – Wednesday After First Sunday of Lent

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday After First Sunday of Lent

How Great was the Sorrow of Our Lord in His Passion?

Attend and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow. Lam. i. 12.

Our Lord as He suffered felt really, and in His senses, that pain which is caused by some harmful bodily thing. He also felt that interior pain which is caused by the fear of something harmful and which we call sadness. In both these respects the pain suffered by Our Lord was the greatest pain possible in this present life. There are four reasons why this was so.

1. The causes of the pain.

The cause of the pain in the senses was the breaking up of the body, a pain whose bitterness derived partly from the fact that the sufferings attacked every part of His body, and partly from the fact that of all species of torture death by crucifixion is undoubtedly the most bitter. The nails are driven through the most sensitive of all places, the hands and the feet, the weight of the body itself increases the pain every moment. Add to this the long drawn-out agony, for the crucified do not die immediately as do those who are beheaded.

The cause of the internal pain was:

(i) All the sins of all mankind for which, by suffering, He was making satisfaction, so that, in a sense, He took them to Him as though they were His own. The words of my sins, it says in the Psalms (Ps. xxi. 2).

(ii) The special case of the Jews and the others who had had a share in the sin of His death, and especially the case of His disciples for whom His death had been a thing to be ashamed of.

(iii) The loss of his bodily life, which, by the nature of things, is something from which human nature turns away in horror.

2. We may consider the greatness of the pain according to the capacity, bodily and spiritual, for suffering of Him who suffered. In His body He was most admirably formed, for it was formed by the miraculous operation of the Holy Ghost, and therefore its sense of touch that sense through which we experience pain was of the keenest. His soul likewise, from its interior powers, had a knowledge as from experience of all the causes of sorrow.

3. The greatness of Our Lord’s suffering can be considered in regard to this that the pain and sadness were without any alleviation. For in the case of no matter what other sufferer the sadness of mind, and even the bodily pain, is lessened through a certain kind of reasoning, by means of which there is brought about a distraction of the sorrow from the higher powers to the lower. But when Our Lord suffered this did not happen, for He allowed each of His powers to act and suffer to the fullness of its special capacity.

4. We may consider the greatness of the suffering of Christ in the Passion in relation to this fact that the Passion and the pain it brought with it were deliberately undertaken by Christ with the object of freeing man from sin. And therefore He undertook to suffer an amount of pain proportionately equal to the extent of the fruit that was to follow from the Passion.

From all these causes, if we consider them together, it will be evident that the pain suffered by Christ was the greatest pain ever suffered