The Portrait of the Saint

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The Portrait of the Saint

from “Saint Bernard”
The Oracle of the 12th Century
by Rev. Hugo H. Hoever 

The whole world knows that God glorified his servant Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, through miraculous signs. However, he displayed the greatest miracle in his own person. His gaze was serene, and his appearance humble. In his sermons, he exercised prudent caution, and his actions were filled with fear of God. He was a man of meditation and prayer, who, in all his undertakings, trusted more in prayer than in his own abilities. God had given this holy soul a fitting body to assist him. A more spiritual than sensual charm enveloped his whole appearance. Heavenly glory brightened his face, and from his eyes shone out the innocence of an angel and the simplicity of a dove. So great was the interior beauty and fullness of grace of this man that it was radiated in his bodily exterior. The body of the Saint was built most tenderly and almost completely without flesh. A fine red covered his cheeks. His hair was very fair and the reddish beard grew grey in the last years of his life. Although he was only of medium height, Bernard appeared tall rather than short. If he could withdraw from exterior businesses he prayed, read, wrote, taught his monks or enjoyed silent meditation …” Continue reading

St. Bernard of Clairveaux

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St. Bernard of Clairveaux, Abbot

St. Bernard, illustrious throughout the whole Christian world for his great learning, holiness and miracles, was born of very pious parents who had, besides him, six sons and one daughter. Before he was born, his mother dreamed that she was bearing a dog, which barked while still in the womb. The priest to whom she related this, said: “Fear not; you will give birth to a child, who will enter the religious state, watch over the Church of God, combat her enemies, and heal the wounds of many with his tongue.” The mother was greatly comforted, and when her child was born, she endeavored to educate him most carefully. To her great joy, she perceived that, early in childhood, he possessed a most tender love for God and the Blessed Virgin, a great horror for sin, a most watchful care to preserve his innocence and purity, a great contempt for all temporal goods, and a high esteem of all that related to God and the salvation of souls. One day, while still a small boy, he suffered intensely from headache; and when a woman came to him to pronounce some superstitious words over him, the pious child, perceiving her intentions, leaped out of bed and drove her from the room, saying that he would rather die of pain than be relieved by sin. The Almighty recompensed this heroic conduct by immediately relieving him of his pain.  Continue reading

The Death of Pope Pius X

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The Death of Pope Pius X

Pope Pius X. died at twenty minutes past one on Thursday morning. In a moment of lucidity, just before his death, his Holiness is reported to have said: “Now I begin to think the end is approaching. The Almighty in His in- exhaustible goodness wishes to spare me the horrors which Europe is undergoing.” It is stated that since the outbreak of the war the Pope showed very deep feeling, and again and again repeated “Poor children !”—alluding to the soldiers killed in action.

The Pope was a man of great personal charm of character as well as of great goodness of heart, but no one but a flatterer could suggest that he had the intellectual qualities requisite for his great office. His theological ideas were those of an old-fashioned country vicar, and when he was called upon to deal with the Modernist movement he was, of course, quite incapable of handling it wisely. It is greatly to be hoped that the Conclave when it meets will choose a successor to Pope Pius X. who will be able to cope with modern conditions.

From The Spectator, 22 August 1914.

Saint John Eudes

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Saint John Eudes

Founder of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary (Eudists) and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity
(1601-1680)

Saint John Eudes, forerunner of devotion both to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, was born in 1601, some time after France had been torn apart by the revolt of the Huguenots. The rebels were calmed but relegated to western France by King Henry IV, after he himself returned to the Catholic faith. It was in that region that this young Saint spent his childhood, at Argentan in Normandy, and was educated with the Jesuits of Caen. The father of this firstborn of a family of solid and profound virtue, had himself desired the sacerdotal life, and he did not long oppose John’s desire to consecrate himself to God as a priest. At eighteen years of age Saint John had already composed a treatise on voluntary abnegation, which his confessor obliged him to publish. He was ordained in Paris as a member of the recently founded French Oratory of Saint Philip Neri; his teachers there were Fathers de Berulle and de Condren, two unsurpassed spiritual directors. The governing theme of his meditation, his preaching and his writings was the importance of the redemptive Incarnation of the Son of God, through the intermediary of His Immaculate Mother. Controversy was not lacking in those days, when the Mother of God had been relegated to a very secondary if not insignificant role by the reformers, and Saint John did not fear controversy. He chose to study both theology and what we would call debate, as essential preparations for his calling. In those days seminaries were scarce; aspiring future priests themselves sought out the instruction they needed.

At Caen a pestilence broke out and soon decimated the populace, often deprived of spiritual assistance. John Eudes offered to care for them in person, and while the scourge lasted slept outdoors in a field, in an old barrel, to protect his brothers in religion from contagion. In 1639 he was named Superior of the Oratory of Caen by Father de Condren, although the Superior General feared that office could interfere with his missions, from which they hoped for great renovation in western France. Nonetheless, from 1638 until 1642, Saint John, with his brethren in religion, was engaged in preaching missions in the dioceses of Bayeux and Lisieux, where the bishops encouraged him and soon were praising him highly. The fruits of these missions were rich and long-lived. Father Eudes was a follower of Saint Vincent de Paul in his ardent desire to evangelize the poor folk, so long neglected, and it was to the people that the preaching of the Oratorian missionaries was addressed. Their missions lasted for several weeks. Otherwise, said Saint John, we put a bandage on the wound, but do not heal it. Processions, hymns, little religious plays, special conferences for specific groups, organization of leagues against duels and blasphemy, and visits to the sick occupied the missionaries’ very full days.

Saint John Eudes left the Oratory, a Society of priests which he loved sincerely, like other founders who have been in a similar position, because he was called by God to break new ground in establishing a group of priests without religious vows, destined to occupy posts in the new seminaries of France. The Council of Trent had commanded these establishments everywhere, ordaining that priests be formed to head parishes and to establish in each of them a school. Already in 1658 Saint John himself had founded four seminaries in Normandy — at Caen, Coutances, Lisieux and Rouen. Before the Revolution in France, the Eudists had accepted the responsibility for sixteen seminaries or minor seminaries. This required a foundation in depth in theology and all pastoral duties. Some of his former brethren turned against him when he left them, and he met obstacles also when founding in Caen a Congregation of women to raise up poor girls led astray by ignorance or need. The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity founded by Saint John, parent body of the Good Shepherd nuns, have done an immense good in many countries. The Congregation of Jesus and Mary has sent missionary priests to several countries, all over the world. Saint John Eudes, who died in 1680, was beatified in 1909 by Saint Pius X, and canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925.

Le Vénérable Père Eudes, by Henri Joly (V. Lecoffre: Paris, 1907); Saint Jean Eudes, by Paul Milcent, in Vie Eudiste, quarterly review, No. 8, 1973

Saint Helen

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Saint Helen

Empress
(† 328)

It was the pious boast of the city of Colchester, England, for many ages, that Saint Helen was born within its walls; and though this honor has been disputed, since others say she was born in York, it is certain that she was a British princess. She married a Roman General, Constantius Chlorus, and became the mother of Constantine the Great. She embraced Christianity late in life; but her incomparable faith and piety greatly influenced her son Constantine, the first Christian emperor, and served to kindle a holy zeal in the hearts of the Roman people. Forgetful of her high dignity, she delighted to assist at the Divine Office amid the poor; and by her almsdeeds showed herself a mother to the indigent and distressed.

In her eightieth year she made a famous pilgrimage to Jerusalem, with the ardent desire of discovering the cross on which our Blessed Redeemer had suffered. After many labors, three crosses were found on Mount Calvary, together with the names and the inscription recorded by the Evangelists. The miraculous discovery and verification of the true Cross is still celebrated by the Church on the 3rd of May. The pious empress, transported with joy, built a beautiful Basilica on Mount Calvary to receive the precious relic, sending portions of it also to Rome and Constantinople, where they were solemnly exposed to the adoration of the faithful. She built two other famous churches in Palestine to honor the sacred sites of Our Lord’s life, one at the site of His Ascension, and the other, known as the Basilica of the Nativity, in Bethlehem, which she and her son richly adorned.

Saint Helen’s influence on her son Constantine is recognized by all historians. He always honored her in every way. In the year 312, when Constantine found himself attacked by Maxentius with vastly superior forces, and the very existence of his western empire was threatened, he remembered the crucified Christian God whom his mother Helen worshiped. Kneeling down, he prayed God to reveal Himself as the supreme God, by giving him an otherwise impossible victory. Suddenly at noonday, a cross of fire was seen by his army in the calm and cloudless sky, and beneath it the words, In hoc signo vinces — In this sign thou shalt conquer. By divine command, Constantine made a standard like the cross he had seen, to be borne at the head of his troops. This is the famous banner known as the Roman Labarum. Under this Christian ensign they marched against the enemy and obtained a complete victory.

When past the age of 80, Saint Helen returned from Jerusalem to Rome, dying there in 328.

Reflection: Saint Helen thought it the glory of her life to find the Cross of Christ, and to raise a temple in His honor. Yet many Christians in these days are ashamed to make this life-giving sign publicly, and to confess themselves followers of the Crucified!

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 10