Saint Dominic Savio

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Saint Dominic Savio

Confessor
(1842-1857)

Saint Dominic Savio was born in Riva di Chieri, Italy, on April 2, 1842. He looked so frail and weak on the morning of his birth that his father rushed him that same evening to the parish church for Baptism. But Dominic survived and began serving Mass when he was five years old, one of his greatest joys. He was often seen at five o’clock in the morning in front of the church on his knees in rain or snow, waiting for the doors to be opened. On the occasion of his First Holy Communion he made the resolution to die rather than sin, as he had frequently expressed his determination and ambition to become a Saint.

The village pastor at Mondonio, recognizing in Dominic a soul of predilection, arranged to have him enter Don Bosco’s Oratory at Turin. Don Bosco soon noted Dominic’s consuming quest for sanctity, and pointed out to the boy that the path to holiness is not necessarily among hair shirts and tortures of the flesh, but in the cheerful bearing and offering of each day’s small crosses. Steering the lad away from artificial practices, his loved master showed him that for a soul avid of penance, there is a superabundance to be had for the taking, through acceptance of the monotony and tribulations inseparable from the perfect fulfillment of the duties of one’s state of life.

After a few months of life in the environment of the Oratory and under the saintly care of Saint John Bosco, Dominic’s soul was fired with the zeal of his master, whose rule of life, Give me souls, Lord; You take the rest, the boy adopted for his own. Following the example of Don Bosco, who in season and out of season sought those souls wherever they were to be found, Dominic also went after them in his own little world. In the Oratory he founded and directed the Immaculate Conception Sodality, a group of boys who by prayer, word and example carried on an apostolate among their classmates and proved to be of valuable assistance to Don Bosco in his work.

On one occasion Dominic broke up a vicious duel with stones. Standing between the boy-duelists with dramatic suddenness, he flashed a crucifix and said: This is Friday. Today Christ died for love of us. Can you look at Him and still hate each other?

When Dominic’s health began to fail he was forced to leave the Oratory. Don Bosco and the boys were very sorry to see him leave; he had been a good friend to all. Don Bosco said of him: His cheerful character and lively disposition made him extremely popular even among those boys who were no great lovers of their faith. His death at his home on March 9, 1857, was sweet and peaceful. Pope Pius XII canonized him in June, 1954.

Reflection. Death rather than sin! That cry from the soul of Dominic is now, thanks to Don Bosco, resounding across the rude battlefields of teen-age purity, seeking echoes in young and generous hearts. 

Meditations for Each Day of Lent – Tuesday After the Third Sunday

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas

Tuesday After the Third Sunday

Christ is truly our Redeemer

You were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled.–I Pet. 1. 19.

By the sin of our first parents, the whole human race was alienated from God, as is taught in the second chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians. It was not from God’s power that we were thereby cut off, but from that sight of God’s face to which His children and His servants are admitted.

Then again we descended beneath the usurped power of the devil. Man had consented to the devil’s will and, thereby, had made himself subject to the devil; subject, that is to say, as far as lay in man’s power, for since he was not his own property, but the property of another, he could not really give himself away to the devil.

By His Passion, then, Christ did two things. He freed us from the power of the enemy, conquering him by virtues which were the very contraries to the vices by which he had conquered man–by humility, namely, by obedience and by an austerity of suffering that was in direct opposition to the enjoyment of forbidden food.

Furthermore, by making satisfaction for the sin committed, Christ joined man with God and made him the child and servant of God.

This emancipation had about it two things that make it a kind of buying. Christ is said to have bought us back or to have redeemed us inasmuch as He snatched us from the power of the devil, as a king is said, by hard-fought battles, to redeem his kingdom that the enemy has occupied. Christ is again said to have redeemed us inasmuch as He placated God for us, paying as it were the price of His satisfaction on our behalf, that we might be freed both from the penalty and from the sin.

This price, His precious blood, He paid that He might make satisfaction for us not to the devil but to God. Again, by the victory that His Passion was, He took us away from the devil.

The devil had indeed had dominion over us, but unjustly, since what power he had was usurped. Nevertheless, it was but just that we should fall under his yoke, seeing that it was by him we were overcome. This is why it was necessary that the devil should be overcome by the very contrary of the forces by which he had himself overcome. For he had not overcome by violence, but by a lying persuasion to sin. 

Saint Frances of Rome

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Saint Frances of Rome

Widow
(1384-1440)

Frances was born in Rome in 1384. Her parents, of high rank, overruled her desire to become a nun, and when she reached the age of twelve, married her to Lorenzo Ponziano, a Roman noble. During the forty years of their married life they never had a disagreement. While spending her days in retirement and prayer, Saint Frances attended promptly to every household duty, saying, A married woman must leave God at the altar to find Him in her domestic cares. She once found the verse of a psalm, at which she had been four times thus interrupted, completed for her in letters of gold. Her ordinary food was dry bread, and secretly she would exchange with beggars good food for their hard crusts.

Two of her children died young. Her son was nine years old when he foretold his father’s death wound and his own coming departure for heaven; and then he returned a year later with an Angel whom she saw clearly. He said he had come for his little five year-old sister, that she might be placed among the Angels with him. He left the Angel with her in exchange, to remain always.

During the invasion of Rome in 1413, Lorenzo was banished, his estates confiscated, his house destroyed, and his eldest son taken as a hostage. Frances saw in these losses only the hand of God, and blessed His holy Name. When peace was restored Ponziano recovered his estates, and after her husband’s death, Saint Frances founded a Community of Benedictine Oblate nuns. At the age of forty-three, barefoot and with a cord about her neck she asked admission to the community, and was soon elected Superior.

She lived at all times in the presence of God, and among many visions was given constant sight of her Angel, who shed such a brightness around him that the Saint could read her midnight Office by this light alone. He shielded her in time of temptation, and directed her in every good act. But when she fell into some fault, he faded from her sight, and whenever any unsuitable words were spoken before her, he covered his face in shame. Saint Frances died on the day she foretold, March 9, 1440.

Reflection. God has appointed for each one of us, to protect us from all evils, a Guardian Angel whose warnings we are bound to heed. Let us listen to his voice here below, and we shall see him hereafter when he leads us before the throne of God.

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).

Meditations for Each Day of Lent – Monday After the Third Sunday

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas

Monday After the Third Sunday

The Passion of Christ has delivered us from the devil.

Our Lord said, as His Passion drew near, Now shall the princes of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself (John xii. 31, 32)

He was lifted up from the earth by His Passion on the cross. Therefore by that Passion the devil was driven out from his dominion over men.

With reference to that power, which, before the Passion of Christ, the devil used to exercise over mankind, three things are to be borne in mind.

1. Man had by his sin earned for himself enslavement to the devil, for it was by the devil’s temptation that he had been overcome.

2. God, whom man in sinning had offended, had, by his justice, abandoned man to the enslave ment of the devil.

3. The devil by his own most wicked will stood in the way of man s achieving his salvation.

With regard to the first point the Passion of Christ set man free from the devil s power because the Passion of Christ brought about the forgiveness of sin. As to the second point the Passion delivered man from the devil, because it brought about a reconciliation between God and man. As to the third point, the Passion of Christ freed us from the devil s power because in his action during the Passion the devil over-reached himself. He went beyond the limits of the power over men allowed to him by God, when he plotted the death of Christ, upon whom, since he was without sin, there lay no debt payable by death. Whence St. Augustine s words, ” The devil was overcome by the justice of Christ. In Him the devil found nothing that deserved death, but, none the less, he slew him. And it was but just that those debtors that the devil detained should go free since they believed in Him whom, though he was under no bond to him, the devil had slain.”

The devil still continues to exercise a power over men. He can, God permitting it, tempt them in soul and in body. There is, however, made available for man a remedy in the Passion of Christ, by means of which he can defend himself against these attacks, so that they do not lead him into the destruction of eternal death. Likewise all those who before the Passion of Christ resisted the devil had derived their power to resist from the Passion, although the Passion had not yet been accomplished. But in one point none of those who lived before the Passion had been able to escape the hand of the devil, namely, they all had to go down into hell, a thing from which, since the Passion, all men can, by his power, defend them selves.

God also allows the devil to deceive men in certain persons, times and places, according to the hidden character of His designs. Such, for example, will be anti-Christ. But there always remains, and for the age of anti-Christ too, a remedy prepared for man through the Passion of Christ, a power of protecting himself against the wickedness of the devils. The fact that there are some who neglect to make use of this remedy does not lessen the efficacy of the Passion of Christ.

Saint John of God

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Saint John of God

Founder
(1495-1550)

Nothing in the early life of John Ciudad, born of a poor couple in a town of Portugal, foreshadowed his future sanctity. Following a traveler whose description of Madrid had captivated his imagination, this only son of his parents ran away from his home. Soon regret and misery overtook him, but he was ashamed to return to his abandoned parents. In effect his mother, struck with a fever, but advised by an Angel that John would have to undergo long trials which would strengthen his virtue, departed this life only a few days after his adventure began.

For several years the renegade was engaged in tending sheep and cattle in Spain; his employer eventually offered him his only daughter in marriage and thereby a rich heritage, but John was interiorly advised that such was not his vocation. He left in secret the next day, joined the army of Spain against the French, later against the Turks. When he was about forty years of age, feeling profound remorse for his life which lacked order and purpose, he returned to his home village, only to learn of the death of both his parents. I am not worthy to see the light of day! exclaimed the grief-stricken voyager. He visited the cemetery, suffocated by his sobs, and cried out, Pardon, pardon! O mother! Eternal penance!

He resolved to devote himself to the ransom of Christian slaves in Africa, and on his way served the sick in a hospital. Meeting an aged nobleman at Gibralter, unjustly exiled and on his way to Africa, John offered to go there as his servant, to remain with him and his family and support them by his labor. Count DaSilva fell ill in the new climate and soon died, thanking John for his unfailing aid, and predicting he would some day be one of Spain’s greatest apostles. His family received amnesty and returned to Spain.

John, too, returned there by the advice of his confessor, and sought to do good by selling holy pictures and books at low prices. Finally the hour of grace struck. At Granada a sermon by the celebrated John of Avila shook his soul to its depths, and his expressions of self-abhorrence were so extraordinary that he was taken to the asylum as one insane. For a time he acted this role purposely, in order to be whipped daily as a remedial measure. His confessor was John of Avila, who when he learned of this told him to cease his pretense and do something useful. Thereafter he employed himself in ministering to the sick.

He began to collect homeless poor, and to support them by his work and by begging. One night Saint John found in the streets a poor man who seemed near death, and, as was his wont, he carried him to the hospital, laid him on a bed, and went to fetch water to wash his feet. When he had washed them, he knelt to kiss them, but was awestruck: the feet were pierced, and the print of the nails shone with an unearthly radiance. He raised his eyes, and heard the words, John, it is to Me that you do all that you do for the poor in My name. It is I who reach forth My hand for the alms you give; you clothe Me; Mine are the feet that you wash. And then the gracious vision disappeared, leaving Saint John filled at once with confusion and consolation.

The bishop became the Saint’s patron and gave him the name of John of God. When his hospital was on fire, John was seen rushing about uninjured amid the flames until he had rescued all his poor. After ten years spent in the service of the suffering, the Saint’s life was fitly closed when he plunged into a river to save a drowning boy, and died in 1550 of an illness brought on by the attempt. He was fifty-five years old.

Reflection. God often rewards men for works that are pleasing in His sight, by giving them grace and opportunity to do other works higher still. Saint John of God often attributed his conversion, and the graces which enabled him to do his works of love, to his self-denying charity in Africa.

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 GuĂ©rin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 3.