Temptations of St. Catherine of Sienna

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Temptations of St. Catherine of Sienna

St. Catherine of Sienna, that favourite spouse of our Blessed Lord, who bore in her body the stigmata or marks of the Sacred Wounds, was at one time of her life subject to the most violent temptations of Satan. That wicked spirit, envious of the angelic purity of her soul, was wont to fill her mind with filthy imaginations, and to assail her heart with the most impure temptations. Unceasingly did she call on God for help, but she seemed to receive no answer. Her mind was obscured with frightful darkness, and she seemed on the very brink of the precipice. Often, indeed, she was unable to distinguish between temptation and consent, but an invisible hand always preserved her from falling. Upon one occasion after the temptations had ceased, our Blessed Lord came to visit her, filling her with heavenly consolations. “Ah, my Divine Spouse,” she cried out, “where wast Thou when I lay in such an abandoned and frightful condition?” “I was with thee,” he replied. “What,” said she, “in the midst of the filthy abominations with which my soul was filled?” “Yes,” answered our Lord, “for these temptations were most displeasing and painful to thee. By fighting against them thou hast gained immense merit, and the victory was owing to my presence.” Thus did St. Catherine learn that God is never nearer to us than when we appear the most abandoned, and that He is never wanting to those who call upon Him with humility and confidence.–Butler’s Saints’ Lives.

A Prayer in Temptation
from the Imitations of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

Enlighten me, O good Jesus, with the brightness of eternal light, and cast out of darkness from the dwelling of my heart.

Restrain my many wandering thoughts and suppress the temptations that violently assault me.

Fight strongly for me and overcome these wicked beasts–Lev. xxvi. 6, I mean these alluring concupiscences, that there may be peace in Thy strength–Ps. CXXI. 7. and the abundance of Thy praise may resound in Thy holy court, which is a clean conscience.

Command the winds and storms; say to the sea: Be thou still; and to the north wind: Blow thou not; and a great calm shall ensue.–Matt. viii. 26.

St. Catherine of Sienna

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St. Catherine of Sienna, Virgin

Sienna, in the Tuscan district, is the favored place where, in 1347, St. Catherine first saw the light of this world. Her life from her childhood, was a continual exercise of the choicest virtues, but at the same time, a perpetual communication of divine grace. When scarcely five years of age she was called “the little Saint” on account of her quietness and her love of prayer. Already at that time she greeted the Virgin Mother upon every step of the staircase with the words of the Angels: “Ave Maria!” When six years old, our Lord appeared to her with the Apostles Peter, Paul and John, together with St. Dominic, looked tenderly at her and gave His blessing. This was the beginning of many and extraordinary visions with which the holy virgin was graced until her death. Her heart from this time was filled with intense love of God. She read most carefully the lives of the Saints, and endeavored to follow their example. In her seventh year she consecrated her virginity to God. Her only pleasure was solitude, prayer, work and self-immolation. Persuaded by her sister, she once began to pay more attention to her dresses and to curl her hair after the prevailing fashion of the world. This lasted, however, only a short while, for she became aware during her prayers how much God was displeased with such vanities and how long her pious sister would have to suffer on account of it in purgatory: hence she refrained from it and repented of her folly as long as she lived. Her parents desired her to marry; but she replied: “I am already wedded to a most noble spouse and shall never bestow my love on a human being;” and cutting off her hair she covered her head with a veil. To drive all thoughts of entering a convent out of her mind, her parents burdened her with the entire care of the house, as well as the hardest work, so that no leisure was left her, either for prayer, or devotional reading. This was at first a sore trial to her, but she was told by Christ to build a cell in her heart, where, in the midst of her employments she might pray, namely, by offering her work to God and by pious ejaculations. Following these directions of Christ, her soul became filled with sweet consolation, and she manifested, under the greatest drudgery, a most extraordinary happiness. This caused her parents to change their resolution, and they permitted her to live according to her vocation. Hence, she now began to live in a more retired manner, and with more austerity than before.
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St. Peter of Verona

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St. Peter of Verona, Martyr

St. Peter, upon whom God bestowed a truly apostolic zeal, was born at Verona in the year 1205. His parents were Manicheans, but he himself evinced from his earliest youth an aversion to the Arian and Manichean heresies, and would not be instructed in them nor even play with a child that was not a Catholic. His parents sent him to a Catholic school because there was no other in the city: and he soon learned not only reading and writing, but also the Articles of Faith. One day, when he was hardly seven years old, on coming from school he was met by a cousin, a Manichean who asked him what he had learned. The boy answered: “The Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God, the Father, Creator of heaven and earth.” “That is wrong,” said his blasphemous cousin. “The devil is the creator of the earth, not God.” But Peter was not to be misled by such sacrilegious words: he repeated the first article of the Creed and added all the others undauntedly. The cousin, much vexed, hastened to Peter’s father, informed him of it, and advised him not to send his son to a Catholic school. The father, however, attached so little importance to it, that he even sent Peter, afterwards, to Bologna to continue his studies. There he had the opportunity to read Catholic books, by which he profited to increase his knowledge and strengthen his Catholic faith. In this city he became acquainted with St. Dominic, the celebrated Founder of the Dominican Order, and begged him upon his knees to admit him into the newly founded community. His request was granted, and he aspired so zealously after spiritual perfection, that in a short time he became an example of every virtue. Having finished his studies and being ordained priest, he was appointed to preach, and he discharged this function so successfully that he acquired through all Italy the name of an Apostle. Continue reading

Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo

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Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo

Founder
(1786-1842)

Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo was born in 1786 at Bra in Piedmont, Italy. As a secular priest in Turin, he showed a special concern for the sick poor, receiving them into a small house. This Little House of Divine Providence, the Piccola Casa, as he called it, was the beginning of an entire city of more than 7,000 poor persons, orphans, sick and lame, retarded, penitents, served by several religious Orders. These were distinguished by their names and their religious habits, each group being dedicated to a specific work they were assigned to do. And of this Piccola Casa, as it is still called, one can say what Saint Gregory Nazienzen said in his funeral eulogy of his friend Saint Basil’s large hospital: Go a little way outside the city and se, in this new city storehouses of piety, the common treasure of the owners, where a surplus of wealth has been laid up, where sickness is borne with patience, misfortune is considered happiness, and compassion is efficaciously practiced.

For this ever more pressing work, the Saint founded fourteen religious communities which today are still very widespread, especially in Italy. Among them were some which were purely contemplative; the life of prayer its members led was destined to draw down upon the others the blessing of heaven, thus completing by a spiritual work of mercy the corporal works exercised there. These religious prayed in particular for those who have the greatest need of assistance, the dying and the deceased. The Saint trusted totally in the infinite kindness of God, and as one of his friends said, he had more confidence in God than did the entire city of Turin. When he was asked about the source of his revenues, he answered, Providence sends me everything.

Confidence in God did not, however, cause him to cross his arms and observe. He slept only a few hours, often on a chair or bench, and then returned to his daily labor, work and prayer. But Saint Joseph Benedict was exhausting his strength. In 1842, the doctors decided that he should go to visit his brother in Chieri. When he entered the carriage, one of the Sisters cried out in tears: Father, you are sick; what will become of us? Be at peace, he answered. When I am in heaven, where one can do everything, I will help you more than now I do. I will hold to the cloak of the Mother of God and keep my eyes fixed on you. Do not forget what I, a poor old man, say to you today! A few days later, on April 30, 1842, death came. The final word of this great Saint was that of the Psalm: I rejoiced when it was said unto me, Let us go unto the House of the Lord! Saint Joseph Benedict was canonized by Pope Pius XI, March 19, 1934.

Le vrai visage des Saints, by W. Schamoni (Desclée De Brouwer: Bruges, 1955).

Saint Louis Mary de Montfort

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Saint Louis Mary de Montfort

Missionary in France and Founder
(1673-1716)

One of the great Saints whose mission appears verified and on the increase as the years pass and as we find ourselves amid the latter times, Saint Louis Mary de Montfort can now be recognized as a prophet and an oracle of God for the sanctification of the Church which must resist the foretold evils of this period. Author of a Prophetic Prayer Requesting the Apostles of the Latter Times, he is also the ardent apostle of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the Saint of love for the Cross of the Lord, as we see from his Letter to the Friends of the Cross and his entire life of missionary activity.

Born at Montfort-la-Cane near Saint-Malo in 1673, he was the oldest of eight children. He studied with the Jesuits and at the age of nineteen went to Paris to enter the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice. His poverty was aided by the charity of benefactors, and after five years, during which he edified the Seminary, he was ordained a priest in 1700.

Destined to be the target of a siege of crosses, he began to experience the first ones when he went to Nantes to aid a good priest of that diocese and found a serious infestation of Jansenism there. He returned to Paris afterwards to assist one of his sisters to enter religion there, then went to Poitiers, where he became chaplain of a hospital for the poor. His zeal transformed the sick of that hospital into a community of saints; and there he established the kernel of his future Congregation of the Daughters of Wisdom. He found many other channels also open to his fervor.

Saint Louis Mary at a given moment desired to go as a missionary to New France, but the Holy Father Clement XI committed to him the vast mission of preaching in his own homeland under the bishops of France. He was commissioned to teach Christian doctrine to the children and the people, and reawaken the spirit of Christianity through the renewal of their baptismal vows. At Dinan he joined a group of missionaries and taught catechism, for which mission he had a special attraction. He could not neglect the poor, and organized a group of virtuous ladies there to take care of them.

He continued preaching in the west of France, placing before the eyes of all listeners the very source of our Redemption through the erection of large crucifixes and Calvaries. He became the target of calumny for the angry Jansenists against whose erroneous notions he preached; certain young libertines also grew irritated against him. He was poisoned; though this did not kill him, his health was seriously undermined. His enemies succeeded in influencing the bishop of Nantes to cancel the benediction of a large Calvary which had been under construction by the people for a year. The bishop required the demolition of the man-made hill which they had labored to prepare for it, transporting stones and dirt in wheelbarrows. Saint Louis Mary’s enemies had told him it contained secret chambers for conspirators and evil-doers.

With patience Father de Montfort bore all his trials: Blessed be God; I have not sought my glory but only that of God; I hope to receive the same reward as I would had I succeeded. He was a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic and taught the Holy Rosary everywhere, converting many heretics. Before he died at the age of forty-three in April of 1716, he had organized his Company of Mary at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre, where he was buried and where his remains are still in profound veneration.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 15