Saint Alexander

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Saint Alexander, Pope and Martyr

A holy Pope and Martyr comes today, laying his bright crown at the foot of the triumphant Cross, whereby he won his victory. It is Alexander, the fifth successor of St. Peter. Let us honor this venerable witness of the Faith, who is now receiving the devout homage of the Church Militant, he who, for these long ages past, has been enjoying in heaven the company of our Risen Jesus. The Passion of his Divine Master was ever present to his mind while here on earth; and the Church has registered in her annals his adding four words to the Canon of the Mass, in which he expresses the fact of our Lord’s having instituted the august mystery of the Eucharist the day before he suffered.
We owe to the same holy Pontiff another institution, most dear to Catholic piety. It is by him that the Church received the sacramental which is such an object of terror to Satan, and which sanctifies everything it touches: Holy Water. This is an appropriate day for our renewing our faith in what regards this powerful element of blessing, which heretics and infidels have so frequently made the subject of their blasphemies, but whose use will ever serve as one of the distinguishing marks between them that are, and them that are not, Children of the Church. Water, the instrument of our regeneration—and Salt, the symbol of immortality, form, under the Church’s blessing, this Sacramental, in which we would have the greatest confidence. The Sacramentals, like the Sacraments, derive their efficacy from the Blood of the Redeemer, the merits of which are applied to certain material objects by the power of the Priesthood of the New Law. Indifference for these secondary means of salvation would be not only an indiscretion, but a sin; and yet, in these days of weak faith, nothing is so common as this indifference. There are Catholics for whom Holy Water is as though there were no such thing in existence; the continual use made of it by the Church is a lesson lost to them; they deprive themselves, without a single regret, of the help wherewith God has thus provided them, both to strengthen their weakness and to purify their souls. May the holy Pontiff Alexander pray for them, that their faith may become more what it ought to be; and that they begin to value the supernatural aids which God, out of pure mercy to them, has so profusely bestowed on his Church.
The following short notice on this holy Pope is given in the Breviary.
Alexander Romanus, Adriano imperatore regens Ecclesiam, magnam partem Romanæ nobilitatis ad Christum convertit. Is constituit, ut tantummodo panis, et vinum in mysterio offerretur: vinum autem aqua misceri jussit, propter sanguinem et aquam quæ ex Jesu Christi latere profluxerunt; et in Canone missæ addidit: Qui pridie quam pateretur. Idem decrevit, ut aqua benedicta sale admixto perpetuo in Ecclesia asservaretur, et cubiculis adhiberetur ad fugandos dæmones. Sedit annos decem, menses quinque, et dies viginti, vitæ sanctitate, et salutaribus institutis illustria. Martyrio coronatus est una cum Eventio et Theodulo presbyteris, sepultusque est via nomentana, tertio ab Urbe lapide, eodem in loco ubi securi percussus fuerat: creatus diverso tempore mense decembri presbyteris sex, diaconis duobus, et episcopis per diversa loca quinque. Eorum corpora postea in Urbem translata in Ecclesia sanctæ Sabinæ condita sunt. In eumdem diem incidit beata mors sancti Juvenalis Narniensis episcopi: qui cum plurimos in ea urbe sanctitate et doctrina Christo peperisset, clarus miraculis in pace quievit, ibique honorifice sepultus est.
Alexander, who was born at Rome, governed the Church during the reign of the emperor Adrian, and converted a great portion of the Roman nobles to Christ. He decreed that only bread and wine should be offered in the Mystery, but that water should be mingled with the wine, in memory of the Blood and Water which flowed from the Side of Christ Jesus. He added to the Canon of the Mass these words: Qui pridie quam pateretur. He also decreed that Holy Water, with salt in it, should always be kept in a Church, and that it should be used in the dwellings of the Faithful for the purpose of driving away evil spirits. He governed the Church ten years, five months, and twenty days. He was illustrious for the holiness of his life, and the useful laws which he made. He was crowned with martyrdom together with the Priests Eventius and Theodulus, and was buried on the Nomentan Road, three miles out of Rome, and on the very spot where he had been beheaded. He ordained, in the December of various years, six priests, two deacons, and five bishops for divers places. The bodies of these Saints were afterwards translated to the Church of Saint Sabina in Rome. On this same day occurred the death of blessed Juvenal, Bishop of Narni, who, after having, by his learning and virtue, converted many persons of that city to Christ, and being celebrated for the miracles he wrought, he slept in peace, and was honorably buried in the same city.
Receive, O holy Pontiff, on this day, sacred as it is to the Cross of thy Divine Master, the devout homage of the Christian people. It was by the way of the Cross that thou, this day, ascendedst to heaven; it is but just that thy praise should be mingled with those which we are giving to the sacred instrument of our Redemption. Intercede for us with Him who shed his Blood for us upon this Tree of Life: may he graciously accept our celebration of his triumphant Resurrection, and the hymns we sing in honor of his Cross. Pray for us, that our Faith may increase; that thus we may appreciate the divine economy of the Redemption, whereby our Lord Jesus Christ deigned to employ, for our salvation, those very elements which the enemy had perverted to our destruction. Drive far from us that wretched nationalism, which while approving of certain usages of the Church because they happen to fit in with its fancies, presumes to treat all the rest with disdain. Pray also for the holy Church of Rome! She invokes thy name on this thy feast; prove to her that she is still dear to thee.

The Liturgical Year. 1904. Abbot Dom Gueranger, O.S.B. Translated from the French by Dom Laurence Shepherd, O.S.B. Imprimatur, 1910.

Blessed Mafalda of Portugal 

Blessed Mafalda of Portugal

(Matilda), Queen, OSB, Cistercian: Body Found Incorrupt When Exhumed in 1617.
c 1195 – 1257.
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Mafalda, daughter of King Sancho of Portugal and Dulce of Aragon, Sister of Saint Theresa of Portugal and Saint Sancha of Portugal.
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Portugal was involved in a war to reclaim the Iberian peninsula from the Moors, and to seal an alliance with the neighboring kingdom of Castile, a marriage was arranged between Mafalda and King Henry I of Castile. They were married in 1215, however because Henry was only 10 years old, the marriage was never consummated. Pope Innocent III annulled the marriage in 1216 because of consanguinity.
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At once she returned to Portugal, entered the convent of Arouca and, in 1222, professed the Benedictine Rule. At her suggestion, the convent joined the Cistercians. She did not simply enter the monastery as the only alternative, but because she desired to give herself totally to God. She slept on the bare ground or spent the night in prayer. Her fortune was used to restore the beautiful cathedral of Oporto, found a hospice for pilgrims and a hospital for twelve widows, and build a bridge over the Talmeda River.
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Returning from a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Silva, she fell ill at Rio Tinto (Gondomar) and died in the monastery there on May 2, 1256. Mafalda died in sackcloth and ashes. When her body was exhumed in 1617, it was found to be flexible and incorrupt (Attwater 2, Benedictines, Coulson, Farmer). Cultus approved in 1793.
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Eternal Father, I wish to honor Blessed Mafalda of Portugal, and I give Thee thanks for all the graces Thou hast bestowed upon her. I ask Thee to please increase grace in my soul through the merits of this saint, and I commit the end of my life to her by this special prayer, so that by virtue of Thy goodness and promise, Blessed Mafalda of Portugal might be my advocate and provide whatever is needed at that hour. Amen.

Carthusian Martyrs of London

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Carthusian Martyrs of London

That there was good reason to go in terror of Henry was made clear by the fate of the handful of monks who upheld the jurisdiction of the pope and the unity of Christendom. On 20 April 1535 John Houghton, Augustine Webster, and Robert Lawrence, the priors of the Charterhouses of London, Beauvale, and Axelhome were arrested. 74 They were committed to the Tower which they entered by the Traitors’ Gate, and in which they remained in foul conditions. They were soon joined by Dr. Richard Reynolds, of the Brigettine monastery at Syon who was reputed to be “the most learned monk in England”. While in the Tower they were subjected to a personal interrogation by Cromwell and the Royal Commissioners who brought with them the Act of Parliament under which it was intended to condemn them if they refused the oath. The priests said that they were ready to consent to all that the law of God permitted. “I admit no exception,” said Cromwell. “Whether the law of God permits it or no, you shall take the oath without any reserve whatsoever, and you shall observe it too.” The prisoners objected that the Catholic Church had always taught the contrary to what was set forth in the Act of Parliament “I care nothing for what the Church has held or taught,” replied Cromwell. “I will that you testify by solemn oath that you believe and firmly hold what we propose to you to profess: that the king is Head of the English Church.” The prisoners answered that the fear of God would not allow them to disobey or abandon the Church, seeing that St. Augustine says that he would not believe even the Gospel if the Holy Catholic Church did not teach him to do so.

At their trial the monks insisted that the supremacy of the pope had been instituted by Our Lord “as necessary to the conservation of the spiritual unity of the mystical body of Christ.” They were cut short by the judge who stated that as the Act had been passed and was law it could not be called into question. Twice the jury refused to condemn priests of such radiant holiness despite threats that if they failed to find in favour of the king they would suffer the same fate as the monks. Cromwell himself then came to intimidate them in person, and they brought in a reluctant verdict of guilty. The four prisoners were sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn. 75 Tuesday 4 May 1535 was the day fixed for their execution. It had rained during the night and the streets were coated with mud. The Martyrs for the faith were dragged by horses to Tyburn, lying on their backs on hurdles, jolting over rough cobbles, their heads beaten against the rough stones, and splashing through puddles of filthy water. St. Thomas More, and his daughter Margaret who was visiting him, witnessed the beginning of the sad procession from the window of his cell in the Bell Tower. Tears came into his eyes as he gazed down upon the scene below, and he said to Margaret: “Lo, dost thou not see Meg, that these blessed fathers be now as cheerfully going to their deaths as bridegrooms to a marriage.” As a young man More had aspired to the Carthusian life, but eventually decided that this was not his vocation. In his deep humility the Saint told Margaret that God was calling the monks to everlasting life as a reward for spending their days in a hard, penitential, and painful life, but because of his own unworthiness he was condemned to remain longer on earth.

The painful three mile journey to the Tower halted at the hospital of St. Giles-in-the Fields where, in accordance with tradition, the condemned men were offered a bowl of ale. Together with a secular priest, John Hale, the Vicar of Isleworth, they were hanged, drawn, and quartered as traitors. Hale had been denounced to the authorities for remarks concerning the king’s tyranny and licentiousness made during a private conversation. In an act of unprecedented barbarism the monks were executed wearing their religious habits. Had they truly been guilty of treason or any other capital offence they should have been degraded to the lay state and executed wearing secular clothing. This had been the invariable practice in England.

The Tears of Saint Monica

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The Tears of Saint Monica

The tears of St. Monica and the golden words of St. Ambrose led to the conversion of her son, St. Augustine of Hippo. Sorrow expressed in prayer is very valuable. There’s nothing wrong with getting emotional and pouring all our sadness upon God. Our tears are like precious diamonds for Jesus; they are not bullets that shoot our frustrations heavenward to force God to hurry up and make things better. Each tear is itself a prayer. When you’re tired of using words, just cry.

Our tears, given to God in a moment of surrender, are very precious prayer-diamonds that he treasures and holds delicately. For the moment, we’ve quit trying to change what we cannot change. We might still want to, but while we’re crying we have stopped trying. In that humble surrender, we give God clearance to move in and comfort us.

Litany of Saint Monica

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of Heaven,
have mercy on us.

God, the Son, Redeemer of the world,
have mercy on us.

God the Holy Ghost,
have mercy on us.

Holy Trinity, one God,
have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, conceived without stain of original sin,
pray for us and for our children.

Holy Mary, glorious Mother of Jesus Christ,
pray for us and for our children.

St. Monica,
pray for us and for our children.

Model of wives,
pray for us and for our children.

You who converted your unbelieving husband, Mother of St. Augustine,
pray for us and for our children.

Strict and prudent teacher, guardian of your son in all his ways,
pray for us and for our children.

You who carefully watched over his conduct,
pray for us and for our children.

You who were sorely distressed at his erring from the right,
pray for us and for our children.

You who were untiring in your petitions for his soul’s safety,
pray for us and for our children.

You who still hoped on amid the bitterness of your heart and your floods of tears,
pray for us and for our children.

You who were filled with consolation upon his return to God,
pray for us and for our children.

You who died calmly after faithfully fulfilling your duties,
pray for us and for our children.

You who are the prayerful intercessor of all mothers who pray and weep as you did,
pray for us and for our children.

Preserve the innocence of our children,
we beseech you, St. Monica.

Protect them against the deceits of evil men,
we beseech you, St. Monica.

Protect them from the dangers of bad example,
we beseech you, St. Monica.

Watch over the movements of grace in their hearts.
Let the Christian virtues strike deep root in their hearts and bear much fruit.
Redouble your intercession for youth approaching manhood.
Obtain for all in mortal sin true contrition and perfect conversion.
Obtain for all mothers to fulfill their duties steadily and perseveringly.

Commend all mothers to the protection
of the ever-blessed Virgin Mother of Our Lord.
Favorably incline the heart of your beloved son Augustine
to the salvation of our children.

St. Augustine, holy son of a saintly mother,
pray for us and for our children.

Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
spare us, O Lord!

Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
graciously hear us, O Lord!

Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us, O Lord!

Pray for us, O holy St. Monica,
That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Novena of Saint Monica

Exemplary Mother of the Great Augustine,
you perseveringly pursued your wayward son,
not with wild threats but with prayerful cries to heaven.

Intercede for all mothers in our day
so that they may learn to draw their children to God.

Teach them how to remain close to their children,
even the prodigal sons and daughters who have sadly gone astray.
Amen.

Dear St. Monica, troubled wife and mother,
Many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime.
Yet you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence and profound faith,
you prayed daily for the conversion of your beloved husband, Patricius,
and your beloved son, Augustine.

Grant me that same fortitude, patience and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for me, dear St. Monica, for (mention your petition here)
and grant me the grace to accept his will in all things,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever. Amen.

St. Monica

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St. Monica, Widow

St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine, the great teacher of sacred wisdom, was a native of Africa. She was doubly a mother to the Saint; for, she not only gave him earthly life, but also spiritual life, by regenerating him for Heaven. Her parents, who were Christians and in comfortable circumstances, brought her up in modesty and virtue. She was devoted to pious exercises from early childhood. Having heard from her mother how pleasing in the sight of God it is to overcome sleep at night, and spend the time in prayer, she forthwith began to rise during the night and pray. Nor was she less devoted to the poor. She often deprived herself of food in order to supply the wants of the indigent. She never evinced any pleasure in vainly adorning her person, but always attired herself according to her station in life. In all her words as well as actions, she endeavored to be decorous and retiring. When grown up, it was her desire to live in virginal purity, but was obedient to her parents who wished her to marry. As a wife her conduct was so exemplary that she might be held up as a model for all married people. Patricius, her husband, tormented his pious wife in a thousand different ways, as he was of a violent temper, immoral, and addicted to many vices. Monica always treated him with love and gentleness, never reproaching him for his vices. She never contradicted him when, giving way to passion, he burst out into manifold curses: but waited until his anger had passed away, and then represented his faults to him with Christian calmness. Praying to God unceasingly for his conversion, she gradually changed him so completely, that he at last led a very edifying life. The women who lived in her neighborhood, and who were acquainted with the passionate temper of Patricius, often wondered that he never struck or otherwise brutally treated her, as their husbands did to them. But Monica told them the reason of it, and taught them to be submissive to their husbands, to meet them with love and gentleness, and above all things, never to contradict them when they were angry, but to bear their faults in patience and silence. But just as anxious as Monica was to live in love and peace with her husband, so was she determined not to permit strife and contention among her household, still less other vices. She had three children, two sons and one daughter, and her greatest care was to give them a Christian education. Augustine, her first born, however, was not obedient, especially after the death of his father, but led a wild, licentious life, regarding neither the admonitions, supplications, nor menaces of his pious mother, until at last, he fell into the heresy of the Manichees. Continue reading