SS. Martyrs of Gorcum

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SS. Martyrs of Gorcum.

NINETEEN priests and religious men, who were taken by the Calvinists in Gorcum, after suffering many insults, were hanged on account of their religion at Bril, on the 9th of July, 1572. Of these, eleven were Franciscan friars, called Recollects, of the convent of Gorcum, amongst whom were Nicholas Pick the guardian, and Jerom Werden, vicar of the same convent. The former was thirty-eight years old, an eminent preacher, and a man endued with the primitive spirit of his order, especially the love of holy poverty and mortification. He feared the least superfluity even in the meanest and most necessary things, especially in meals; and he would often say: “I fear if St. Francis were living, he would not approve of this or that.” He was most zealous to preserve this spirit of poverty and penance in his house, and he used to call property and superfluity the bane of a religious state. His constant cheerfulness rendered piety and penance itself amiable. He often had these words in his mouth: “We must always serve God with cheerfulness.” He had frequently expressed an earnest desire to die a martyr, but sincerely confessed himself altogether unworthy of that honour. The other martyrs were a Dominican, two Norbertins, one Canon Regular of St. Austin, called John Oosterwican, 1 three curates, and another secular priest. The first of these curates was Leonard Vechel, the elder pastor at Gorcum. He had gained great reputation in his theological studies at Louvain under the celebrated Ruard Tapper; and in the discharge of pastoral duties at Gorcum, had joined an uncommon zeal, piety, eloquence, and learning with such success, that his practice and conduct in difficult cases was a rule for other curates of the country, and his decisions were regarded as oracles at the university itself. For the relief of the poor, especially those who were sick, he gave his temporal substance with such tenderness and profusion as to seem desirous, had it been possible, to have given them himself. He reproved vice without respect of persons; and by his invincible meekness and patience disarmed and conquered many who had been long deaf to all his remonstrances, and added only insults to their obstinacy. Nicholas Poppel was the second pastor at Gorcum, and though inferior in abilities, was in zeal worthy to be the colleague of Vechel, and to attain to the same crown with him. The rest of this happy company had made their lives an apprenticeship to martyrdom. They were declared martyrs, and beatified by Clement X. in 1674. The relation of several miracles performed by their intercession and relics which was sent to Rome in order to their beatification, is published by the Bollandists. 2 The greater part of their relics is kept in the church of the Franciscan friars at Brussels, whither they were secretly conveyed from Bril. See the accurate history of their martyrdom written by the learned doctor William Estius, printed at Douay in 1603. Also Batavia Sacra, part. 2. p. 174. and various memoirs collected by Solier the Bollandist, t. 2. Julij, p. 736.

July 9. Rev. Alban Butler. 1866. Volume VII: July. The Lives of the Saints

St. Veronica Giuliani

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St. Veronica Giuliani

Born at Mercatello in the Duchy of Urbino, Italy, 1660; died at Citt’ di Castello, 9 July, 1727. Her parents, Francesco Giuliana and Benedetta Mancini, were both of gentle birth. In baptism she was named Ursula, and showed marvelous signs of sanctity. When but eighteen months old she uttered her first words to upbraid a shopman who was serving a false measure of oil, saying distinctly: “Do justice, God sees you.” At the age of three years she began to be favoured with Divine communications, and to show great compassion for the poor. She would set apart a portion of her food for them, and even part with her clothes when she met a poor child scantily clad. These traits and a great love for the Cross developed as she grew older. When others did not readily join in her religious practices she was inclined to be dictatorial. In her sixteenth year this imperfection of character was brought home to her in a vision in which she saw her own heart as a heart of steel. In her writings she confesses that she took a certain pleasure in the more stately circumstances which her family adopted when her father was appointed superintendent of finance at Piacenza. But this did not in any way affect her early-formed resolution to dedicate herself to religion, although her father urged her to marry and procured for her several suitors as soon as she became of marriageable age. Owing to her father’s opposition to her desire to enter a convent, Veronica fell ill and only recovered when he gave his consent.

In 1677 she was received into the convent of the Capuchin Poor Clares in Citt’ di Castello, taking the name of Veronica in memory of the Passion. At the conclusion of the ceremony of her reception the bishop said to the abbess: “I commend this new daughter to your special care, for she will one day be a great saint.” She became absolutely submissive to the will of her directors, though her novitiate was marked by extraordinary interior trials and temptations to return to the world. At her profession in 1678 she conceived a great desire to suffer in union with our Saviour crucified for the conversion of sinners. About this time she had a vision of Christ bearing His cross and henceforth suffered an acute physical pain in her heart. After her death the figure of the cross was found impressed upon her heart. In 1693 she entered upon a new phase in her spiritual life, when she had a vision of the chalice symbolizing the Divine Passion which was to be re-enacted in her own soul. At first she shrank from accepting it and only by great effort eventually submitted. She then began to endure intense spiritual suffering. In 1694 she received the impression of the Crown of Thorns, the wounds being visible and the pain permanent. By order of the bishop she submitted to medical treatment, but obtained no relief. Yet, although she lived in this supernaturally mystical life, she was a practical woman of affairs. For thirty-four years she was novice-mistress, and guided the novices with great prudence. It is noticeable that she would not allow them to read mystical books. In 1716 she was elected abbess and whilst holding that office enlarged the convent and had a good system of water-pipes laid down, the convent hitherto having been without a proper water supply. She was canonized by Gregory XVI in 1839. She is usually represented crowned with thorns and embracing the Cross.

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APA citation. Hess, L. (1912). St. Veronica Giuliani. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Hess, Lawrence. “St. Veronica Giuliani.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.


Saint Maria Goretti

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Saint Maria Goretti

Virgin and Martyr

This little Italian girl, who before reaching the age of twelve was slain for having preferred death to sin, was beatified and canonized before fifty years had passed. Saint Maria Goretti, born in October, 1890 in the small hilltop village of Corinaldo near Ancône, was the second of the six living children of a very pious poor family. Her mother consecrated the infant to the Blessed Virgin on the day of her baptism. Her courageous parents labored under the sign of Christian poverty to support the children, but by 1896 their little plot of land proved insufficient to feed the growing family. The father decided they would move down to the plains of Rome, where it was said that fertile farm land could be rented at low cost. The move to Ferriere di Conca, near Nettuno, proved fatal to the good Luigi, who after only four years, exhausted by the unhealthy climate, the heavy heat and his hard labor, died a Christian death.

His courageous widow could not follow his dying admonition to return to Corinaldo, since their contract obliged her to pay what she owed to their employer. Maria, nine years old and deeply affected by her father’s death, seconded her mother’s labor in the fields by taking over the care of her four younger brothers and sisters. She was an angelic child whose piety was observed by all who knew her. Her fervor won her the grace to make her First Communion, as she begged to do, with the other children. When she asked that permission, her mother told her she did not know how to read or write, and they did not have the means to buy the shoes, robe, and veil she would need. Maria replied that in the town a lady who knew how to read would teach her, and on Sundays she could go to a village where the priest taught catechism to all the children, and she was sure that God in His providence would care for her material needs. She was right; she passed the questioning session by the Archpriest of Nettuno with honors, and kind benefactors gave what she needed.

Living conditions for the little family of orphans were very difficult; they shared a kitchen with another family. This other one was motherless: the mother had died in an asylum, and the father was a drunkard. His son, 19 years old, began to pay much attention to Maria, and the little girl, who wished to remain pure for her beloved Jesus, begged her mother never to leave her alone. But one day in the torrid heat of summer, while Maria watched her baby sister and prepared the meal, Alessandro left the field where everyone was working and went to the house with evil intentions. No one heard Maria’s cries for help; it was only an hour or so later that a younger brother of Alessandro entered and found her bathed in her blood on the floor. Her love of purity had cost her fourteen grievous wounds, nine of which were very profound. She lived long enough to tell the priest who came to her in the hospital that she forgave her assassin and wanted him to be with her in Paradise. She received the Last Sacraments in peace and joy, dying on July 6, 1902.

The story did not end there. Alessandro was condemned to thirty years of prison. Gruff and totally impenitent, he was mistrusted by the guardians. But the bishop of the diocese, Monsignor Blandini, wanted to save his soul, and went to the prison, asking to talk with him. My son, he said, your bishop wants to greet you and comfort you. I didn’t ask for your visit, and I don’t need comfort or your sermons, was the reply. But when the prelate told Alessandro how, during her last minutes, Marietta had forgiven him and wished to have him near her in heaven, the nonchalant young man was overcome. That is not possible! he exclaimed. Before the bishop left, Alessandro had fallen into his arms, weeping; and in the hours of solitude which followed, he began to pray. Three years before the end of his term, for his good behavior he was set free, and in 1937, at the age of 55, he went to see the mother of the little victim. When he fell on his knees and begged her pardon, like her little daughter she gladly forgave him. They went to Communion in the little village church at Christmas; and there was no inhabitant who did not rejoice with a Christian joy in this new proof of the sanctity of Maria, to whom they all attributed his wondrous conversion. Pope Pius XII beatified the new Saint Agnes in April 1947, and in June of 1950, she was inscribed among the Saints.

Sainte Marie Goretti, Vierge et Martyre, by Fr. M.-Ludovic Bastyns, Marist (Éditions Marie-Médiatrice: Chateau-Richer, Québec, 1964).