Saint John of Matha

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Saint John of Matha

Founder
(1160-1213)

The life of Saint John of Matha, born in southern France of an illustrious family, was consecrated to God by a vow at his birth. His life from his youth was exemplary, by his self-sacrifice for the glory of God and the good of his neighbor. As a child, his chief pleasure was serving the poor; and he would say to them that he had come into the world for no other end but to care for them. He served every Friday in a hospital, and obtained for the sick whatever they needed. Later he studied in Paris with such distinction that his professors advised him to become a priest, in order that his talents might render greater service to others. For this purpose John gladly sacrificed his high rank and other worldly advantages.

At his first Mass an Angel appeared, clad in white, with a red and blue cross on his breast, and his hands reposed on the heads of a Christian and a Moorish captive. To comprehend what this vision might signify, John went to Saint Felix of Valois, a holy hermit living near Meaux, under whose direction he led a life of extreme penance. Another sign was given the two hermits, by a stag they saw with a red and blue cross amid its antlers. The two Christians then set out together for Rome, to learn the Will of God from the lips of the Sovereign Pontiff. Pope Innocent III consulted the Sacred College and had a Mass offered in the Lateran basilica to understand what God was asking. At the moment of the Elevation, the Pope saw the same Angel in the same vision as had been given Saint John. He told the two servants of God to devote themselves to the redemption of captives, and for this purpose they founded the Order of the Holy Trinity, whose habit was first worn by the Angel.

The members of the Order fasted every day, and after preaching throughout Europe, winning associates for their Order and gathering alms to buy back captives, went to northern Africa to redeem the Christian slaves taken prisoner during the Crusades or while traveling on the seas. They devoted themselves also to the many sick, aged, and infirm captives whom they found in both northern Africa and Spain, and who were unable to travel and thus to return home. Saint John on one occasion was assaulted in Morocco and left, in his blood, for dead. He was preserved by a miracle, and took up his charitable services again.

The charity of Saint John of Matha in devoting his life to the redemption of captives was visibly blessed by God: the Pope approved the Constitution of the Order, and in 1198 it was canonically instituted with an establishment in Rome, where the liberated captives were taken from Ostia to give thanks to God and rest for a time.

On his second return from Tunis he brought back one hundred and twenty liberated slaves. But when he was about to undertake another voyage, the Moors attacked the ship and disabled it before it could sail, removing the rudder and sails. Saint John told the passengers to take the oars and set out just the same, then he prayed on his knees to the Star of the Sea, prayers which the sailors and passengers repeated after him. He tied his cloak to the mast, saying, Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered! O Lord, Thou wilt save the humble, and wilt bring down the eyes of the proud. Suddenly wind filled the small sail, and a few days later brought the ship safely to Ostia, the port of Rome, three hundred leagues from Tunis.

Worn out by his heroic labors, John died in 1213, at the age of fifty-three.

Reflection. Let us never forget that our blessed Lord bade us love our neighbor not only as ourselves, but as He loved us, who afterwards sacrificed Himself totally for us.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 2; 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). 

Saint Romuald

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Saint Romuald

Founder and Abbot
(906-1027)

In the tenth century Sergius, a nobleman of Ravenna, quarreled with a relative over an estate and, in a duel to which his son Romuald was witness, slew him. The young man of twenty years was horrified at his father’s crime, and entered a Benedictine monastery at Classe to do a forty days’ penance for him. This penance led to his entry into religion as a Benedictine monk.

After seven years at Classe, Romuald went to live as a hermit near Venice, under the guidance of a holy man who had him recite the Psalter from memory every day. When he stumbled, the hermit struck his left ear with a rod. Romuald suffered with patience, but one day, noting that he was losing his hearing in that ear, asked the old man to strike him on his right ear. This episode supposes great progress in virtue. The two religious were joined by Peter Urseolus, Duke of Venice, who desired to do penance also, and together they led a most austere life in the midst of assaults from the evil spirits.

Saint Romuald, whose aim was to restore the primitive rule to the Order of Saint Benedict, succeeded in founding some hundred monasteries in both Italy and France, and he filled the solitudes with hermitages. The principal monastery was that at Camaldoli, a wild, deserted region, where he built a church, surrounded by a number of separate cells for the solitaries who lived under his rule; his disciples were thus called Camaldolese. For five years the fervent founder was tormented by furious attacks by the demon. He repulsed him, saying, O enemy! Driven out of heaven, you come to the desert? Depart, ugly serpent, already you have what is due you. And the shamed adversary would leave him. Saint Romuald’s father, Sergius, was moved by the examples of his son, and entered religion near Ravenna; there he, too, was attacked by hell and thought of abandoning his design. Romuald went to visit him; he showed him the error of the devil’s ruses, and his father died in the monastery, in the odor of sanctity.

Among his first disciples were Saints Adalbert and Boniface, apostles of Russia, and Saints John and Benedict of Poland, martyrs for the faith. He was an intimate friend of the Emperor Saint Henry, and was reverenced and consulted by many great men of his time. He once passed seven years in solitude and total silence. He died, as he had foretold twenty years in advance, alone in his monastery of Val Castro, on the 19th of June, 1027, in an advanced and abundantly fruitful old age.

By the life of Saint Romuald, we see how God brings good out of evil. In his youth Saint Romuald was much troubled by temptations of the flesh; to escape them he had recourse to hunting, and it was in the woods that he first conceived his love for solitude. His father’s sin prompted him to undertake a forty days’ penance in the monastery, which he then made his permanent home. Some bad examples of his fellow-monks induced him to leave them and adopt the solitary mode of life; the repentance of a Venetian Duke brought him his first disciple. The temptations of the devil compelled him to lead his severe life of expiation; and finally, the persecutions of others were the occasion of his settlement at Camaldoli, mother house of his Order.

Reflection. If we follow the impulses of the Holy Spirit, like Saint Romuald we shall bring Him into situations which seem without hope. Our own sins, the sins of others, their ill will against us, our own mistakes and misfortunes, if we react with the help of God, are capable of bringing our own souls and others to the throne of God’s mercy and love.

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. 2 

Saint Titus

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Saint Titus

Bishop
(† Towards the end of the first century)

Saint Titus was a Greek-speaking convert from paganism and a disciple of Saint Paul, one of the chosen companions of the Apostle on his journey to the Council of Jerusalem. He became his fellow-laborer in many apostolic missions. From the Second Epistle which Saint Paul sent by the hand of Titus to the Corinthians, we gain an insight into the disciple’s character as a peacemaker and an administrator, and understand the strong affection which his master bore him.

Titus had been commissioned to carry out a twofold office needing much firmness, discretion, and charity. He was to be the bearer of a severe rebuke to the Corinthians, who were harboring a scandal and were wavering in their faith; and at the same time he was directed to put their charity to the test by calling upon them for abundant alms for the church at Jerusalem. Saint Paul at Troas was anxiously awaiting the result. He writes, I had no peace of mind at Troas, because I did not find there Titus, my brother. (II Cor. 2:13) And he set sail for Macedonia. Here at last Titus brought the good news; his success had been complete. He reported the sorrow, the zeal, the generosity of the Corinthians, and the Apostle was filled with joy, and sent his faithful messenger back to them with the letter of comfort from which we have quoted.

Titus was finally left as a bishop on the Island of Crete, where Saint Paul addressed to him the epistle which bears his name. We see from Saint Paul’s Epistle to Titus that this cherished disciple had organized the Christian community, and was engaged in correcting abuses and establishing a clergy. We do not know the history of the final years of Saint Titus from Scripture, only that he was in Dalmatia a short time before the martyrdom of Saint Paul. (Epistle to Timothy 4:10) Writers on Church history state that he died on Crete. His relics are conserved at Venice in the cathedral church of Saint Mark.

The mission of Titus to Corinth shows us how well the disciple had learned the spirit of his master. He knew how to be firm and to inspire respect. The Corinthians, we are told, received him with fear and trembling. He was patient and painstaking. Saint Paul gave thanks to God, who had put such solicitude for them in the heart of Titus. And these gifts were enhanced by a quickness to detect and elicit all the good in others, and by a joyousness which overflowed upon the spirit of Saint Paul himself, who abundantly rejoiced in the joy of Titus. (II Cor. 2:13)

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 1; 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) 

Saint Dorothy

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Saint Dorothy

Virgin and Martyr
(† 304)

Saint Dorothy was a young virgin celebrated already in Caesarea of Cappadocia, where she lived, for her angelic virtue. Her parents are believed to have been martyred before her in the Diocletian persecution; thus, when the Governor Sapricius came to Caesarea and called her to appear before him, he sent this child of martyrs to the eternal home where they were waiting for her.

She explained that the God she adored was majestic — above all emperors, who were mortal, and their gods, none of whom created either heaven or earth. She was stretched upon the rack, and offered honors if she would consent to sacrifice, or death if she refused. And they waited. She asked why they delayed to torture her; they were expecting she might cede out of fright. She said to them, Do what you have to do, that I may see the One for whose love I fear neither death nor torments, Jesus Christ. She was asked, Where is this Christ? and she replied: As Almighty He is everywhere, but for weak human reason we say that the Son of God has ascended into heaven, to be seated at the right hand of the Almighty Father. It is He who invites us to the garden of His delights, where at all times the trees are covered with fruits, the lilies are perpetually white, the roses ever in their freshness. If you believe me, you too will search for the true liberty, and will labor to earn entry into the garden of God’s delights. She was then placed in the custody of two women who had fallen away from the faith, in the hope that they might pervert her; but the fire of her own heart rekindled the flame in theirs, and led them back to Christ.

When she was set once more on the rack, Sapricius himself was amazed at the heavenly expression on her face, and asked her the cause of her joy. Because, she said, I have brought back two souls to Christ, and because I shall soon be in heaven rejoicing with the Angels. Her joy grew as she was buffeted in the face and her sides were burned with plates of red-hot iron. Blessed art Thou, she cried, when she was sentenced to be beheaded, Blessed art Thou, O Lover of souls, who call me to paradise, and invite me to Thy nuptial chamber!

Saint Dorothy suffered in mid-winter, and on the road to her execution a lawyer called Theophilus, who had grown accustomed to calumniating and persecuting the Christians, asked her, in mockery, to send him apples or roses from the garden of her Spouse. The Saint promised to grant his request. Just before she died, a little child stood by her side bearing three apples and three roses. She told him to take them to Theophilus, and to tell him it was the present he sought from the garden of her Spouse. Saint Dorothy had gone to heaven, and Theophilus was still making merry over his challenge to her, when the child entered his room. He recognized that the fruit and flowers were of no earthly growth, and that the child was an Angel in disguise. He was converted to the faith, and then shared in the martyrdom of Saint Dorothy.

Reflection. Do you wish to be safe amid the pleasures and happy despite the troubles of this world? Pray for heavenly desires, and say with the Saints, Paradise, paradise!

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. 2

INSTRUCTION ON SEXAGESIMA SUNDAY

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INSTRUCTION ON SEXAGESIMA SUNDAY

Rev. Fr. Leonard Goffine
The Church’s Year

In the Introit of this day’s Mass, the Church brings before us one who seeks to be loosed from his sins, and calls on God for help and assistance. Arise, why sleepest thou , O Lord? arise, and cast us not off to the end: why turnest thou thy face away, and forgettest our trouble? Our belly hath cleaved to the earth: arise, O Lord, help us and deliver us. O God, we have heard with our ears; our Fathers have declared to us. (Ps. XLIII. 23. 25.) Glory be to the Father, &c.

COLLECT O God, who seest that we trust not in aught we do; mercifully grant that by the protection of the Doctor of the Gentiles we may be defended against all adversities. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, &c.

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