Labors of the Apostles

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Labors of the Apostles

Imprimatur by Joannes J. Glennon, 1916

First Years of the Church (A.D. 30-42)

On Pentecost, the harvest feast of the Jews, the Holy Ghost descended on the assembled Apostles and disciples. After Peter’s first sermon, three thousand were added to the Church; and a little later over five thousand more. These early Christians “were persevering in the teaching of the Apostles and in the communion of the breaking of bread and in prayer.” They had a common fund. Seven deacons were appointed to take care of the poor and to assist in the preaching of the word of God. Mathias was chosen as an Apostle soon after the defection of Judas.

Peter and John were accused before the Sanhedrin for having cured a lame man, and were forbidden to teach in the name of Christ. Before long, all the Apostles were imprisoned and scourged. The bitter opposition of the Jews broke out in an open persecution of the Christians; and the first victim, St. Stephen, was stoned to death in the year 36. Persecuted Christianity now gained disciples everywhere. Enlightened by God in the three visions of unclean animals, Peter received the first pagan convert, Cornelius the centurion, into the Church.

Herod Agrippa began to persecute the Christians about the year 44. St. James the elder, brother of St. John, was put to death; St. Peter was imprisoned, but having been liberated by an angel, “he went into another place,” probably Rome. Continue reading

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

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Our Lady of Mount Carmel


According to the most ancient Carmelite chronicles, the Order has its origins with the disciples of the prophets Elias and Eliseus. They lived in caves on Mount Carmel. They honored the Queen of Heaven as the Virgin who is to give birth to the Saviour. When the reality replaced the symbol, the pious ascetics of Carmel were converted to the Christian Faith. In the 12th century, many pilgrims from Europe who had followed the Crusaders came to join the solitaries. A rule was established and the Order began to spread to Europe.

Amid the many persecutions raised against the Order of Mount Carmel, newly arrived in Europe, Saint Simon Stock, General of the Order, turned with filial confidence to the Blessed Mother of God. As he knelt in prayer on July 16, 1251, in the White Friars’ convent at Cambridge, She appeared before him and presented him with the well-known brown scapular, a loose sleeveless garment destined for the Order of Carmel, reaching from the shoulders to the knees. It was given as an assurance, for all who died wearing it, of Her heavenly protection from eternal death. An extraordinary promise indeed, but one requiring a life of prayer and sacrifice.

Devotion to the blessed habit spread quickly throughout the Christian world. Pope after Pope enriched it with indulgences, and innumerable miracles put their seal upon its efficacy. The first of them was worked at Winchester on a man dying in despair, who when the scapular was laid upon him by Saint Simon Stock at once asked for the Sacraments.

In the year 1636, a certain gentleman, member of a cavalry regiment, was mortally wounded at the battle of Tehin, a bullet having lodged near his heart. He was then in a state of grievous sin, but he had time to make his confession. Afterwards a surgeon probed his wound, and the bullet was found to have driven his scapular into his heart. When it had been withdrawn he soon expired, making profound acts of gratitude to the Blessed Virgin who had prolonged his life miraculously, thereby preserving him from the irremediable death of his soul.

At Lourdes in 1858, the Virgin chose to make Her last apparition on July 16th, feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the day the Church commemorates Her apparition to Saint Simon Stock. And at Fatima on October 13, 1917, it is as Our Lady of Mount Carmel that Mary appeared when She said farewell to the three children. Throughout the ages, the Queen of Carmel has always kept a faithful watch over the destinies of Her cherished children on earth.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 8

Saint Henry

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Saint Henry

King of Germany and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (972-1024)

Henry the Pious or the Lame, Duke of Bavaria, was born in 972, and bore his father’s name. Saint Wolfgang, bishop of Ratisbonne, baptized him and afterward raised him in the practices of virtue fitting for a great sovereign. His father died when his son was 23 years old, and Saint Henry assumed the paternal title of Duke of Bavaria. It was at this time that he married Cunegundes, the holy spouse whom God gave him, and who like himself is today a canonized Saint. They observed perfect chastity all their lives, and rivaled one another in their zeal and love for their subjects.

One night Saint Henry had a dream and saw his very dear deceased master, Saint Wolfgang, who told him to read the words written on a wall: After six. He supposed this meant he would die in six months, and then, after that did not occur, in six years, and he prepared himself for that eventuality by giving generous alms and initiating other good works. At the end of the sixth year, he found the prediction verified in an unexpected way, by his election as emperor and king of Germany on the first day of the year 1002. It was an archbishop who consecrated him emperor on July 8th of that same year. Trained in the fear of God, he ascended the throne with only one thought — that of reigning for God’s greater glory. By his happy combination of Christian, royal and military virtues, he proved that a good king is a true gift of heaven. He prayed often, meditated the law of God constantly, and to be armed against pride practiced humility in all circumstances, and never let himself be fascinated by human glory.

The pagan Slavs were then despoiling the empire. He provided for the reparation of the episcopal churches of six dioceses, which had been almost entirely destroyed by the invaders. Menaced by an army of one of these, he prayed to the patron of the ruined church of Merseburg, saying, Great Saint Lawrence, illustrious martyr of Jesus Christ, if by your assistance I can submit these barbaric nations to the Christian religion, I will with the help of God re-establish in its original dignity, this church consecrated to your honor. He prayed again before the battle, invoking three martyrs, and then attacked the invaders with a small force; but an Angel and the three holy martyrs were seen leading his troops, and the heathen simply fled in despair. Poland and Bohemia, Moravia and Burgundy, were in turn annexed to his kingdom, and Pannonia and Hungary won for the Church.

When the Faith was secure in Germany, Henry passed into Italy, drove out an antipope and brought Benedict VIII back to Rome. He was crowned in Saint Peter’s Basilica by that Pontiff, in 1014. It was Henry’s custom, on arriving in any town, to spend his first night in prayer, in some church dedicated to our Blessed Lady. As he was praying in Saint Mary Major’s, during the first night of his arrival in Rome, he saw the Sovereign and Eternal Priest-Child Jesus enter to say Mass. Saints Lawrence and Vincent assisted, as deacon and sub-deacon. Countless Saints filled the church, and Angels sang in the choir. After the Gospel, an Angel was sent by Our Lady to give Henry the sacred book to kiss. Touching him lightly on the thigh, he said, Accept this sign of God’s love for your chastity and your justice, and from that time on, the emperor always limped.

Saint Henry employed the fruits of his conquests in the service of the temple, imitating in this the royal prophet-king. The forests and mines of the empire, all the best resources which his treasury could provide, were consecrated to the sanctuary. Stately cathedrals, noble monasteries, innumerable churches enlightened and sanctified the once heathen lands. In 1024 Henry lay on his deathbed; he then gave back to her parents his wife, Saint Cunegundes, a virgin still, as a virgin he had received her from Christ, and at the age of 52 years surrendered his own pure soul to God.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 8; 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 Bonaventure

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Saint Bonaventure

Cardinal-Bishop, Doctor of the Church
(† 1274)

Born in Tuscany in 1225, this frail child was given the name of John at his baptism. He soon fell so ill that his cure was despaired of, and his sorrowing mother had recourse to Saint Francis, recognized everywhere in Italy as a Saint. She promised God she would endeavor to have the child take the habit of the Franciscan Order, if he were cured. Her prayer was granted, the child was cured, and Saint Francis himself gave him his new name. In reference to the miraculous cure, he prophetically exclaimed of the infant, O buona ventura!— O good fortune! Saint Francis died a few months later, not without foreseeing the future of this little one, destined to be a seraph of love like himself. Saint Bonaventure is titled the Seraphic Doctor, from the fervor of divine love which breathes in his writings.

Sanctity and learning raised Bonaventure to the Church’s highest honors, yet at heart he was ever the poor Franciscan friar, who practiced and taught humility and mortification. He was the friend of Saint Thomas Aquinas; they received the Doctor’s cap together in Paris. Saint Thomas asked him one day from what source he drew his great learning; he replied by pointing to his crucifix. Another time Saint Thomas found him in ecstasy while writing the life of Saint Francis. The Angelic Doctor said, while retiring quietly, Let us leave a Saint in peace, to write of a Saint!

At the age of thirty-six Saint Bonaventure was made General of his Order. In 1265 he only escaped another dignity, the Archbishopric of York, by dint of tears and entreaties to the Holy Father Clement IV. When he learned of Pope Gregory X’s resolve to create him a Cardinal, he quietly made his escape from Italy, and in France began to compose a book. But Gregory sent him a summons to return to Rome. On his way, he stopped to rest at a convent of his Order near Florence; and there two Papal messengers, sent to meet him with the Cardinal’s hat, found him washing the dishes. The Saint asked them to hang the hat on a nearby bush, and take a walk in the garden until he had finished what he had begun. Then taking up the hat with unfeigned sorrow, he joined the messengers, and paid them the respect due to their character.

He was the guest and adviser of Saint Louis, and the director of Saint Isabella, the king’s sister. He sat at the right hand of Pope Gregory X and presided all sessions at the Council of Lyons, assembled to provide for the reform of morals and the needs of the Holy Land, and to cement the union of the Greeks with the Roman Church. The piety and eloquence of Saint Bonaventure won over the Greeks to Catholic union, but his strength failed suddenly, the day after its closure. He died on the 15th of July, 1274, and was buried by the assembly of the Council members, still in Lyons; he was mourned by the entire Christian world.

Reflection: Saint Bonaventure prescribed humility to his brothers in these terms: Let Ministers always receive the religious with gentleness and charity, so that each one can approach them and express his sentiments… The Ministers must be the servants of all the Brothers. This is the mandate of Christ: Let the one who would be first among you be your slave.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 8; 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).


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Apostolic Constitution

Pope St. Pius V

From the very first, upon Our elevation to the chief Apostleship, We gladly turned our mind and energies and directed all out thoughts to those matters which concerned the preservation of a pure liturgy, and We strove with God’s help, by every means in our power, to accomplish this purpose. For, besides other decrees of the sacred Council of Trent, there were stipulations for Us to revise and re-edit the sacred books: the Catechism, the Missal and the Breviary. With the Catechism published for the instruction of the faithful, by God’s help, and the Breviary thoroughly revised for the worthy praise of God, in order that the Missal and Breviary may be in perfect harmony, as fitting and proper—for its most becoming that there be in the Church only one appropriate manner of reciting the Psalms and only one rite for the celebration of Mass—We deemed it necessary to give our immediate attention to what still remained to be done, viz, the re-editing of the Missal as soon as possible.

Hence, We decided to entrust this work to learned men of our selection. They very carefully collated all their work with the ancient codices in Our Vatican Library and with reliable, preserved or emended codices from elsewhere. Besides this, these men consulted the works of ancient and approved authors concerning the same sacred rites; and thus they have restored the Missal itself to the original form and rite of the holy Fathers. When this work has been gone over numerous times and further emended, after serious study and reflection, We commanded that the finished product be printed and published as soon as possible, so that all might enjoy the fruits of this labor; and thus, priests would know which prayers to use and which rites and ceremonies they were required to observe from now on in the celebration of Masses. Continue reading