St. Hugh

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St. Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, Confessor

THE FOUNDATIONS of an interior life are most safely laid in holy solitude which is the best preparation for the functions of the active life, and the support of a spirit of piety amidst its distractions. In the desert of Chartreuse St. Hugh learned first to govern himself, and treasured up in his heart the most lively sentiments of pure and perfect virtue, the most essential qualification of a minister of Christ. He was born of a good family in Burgundy in 1140: lost his mother before he was eight years old, and was educated from that age in a convent of regular canons, situate near his father’s seat, who, after having served as an officer in the army, with great reputation for honour and piety, retired himself to the same place, and there ended his days in the exercises of a devout and penitential religious life. Hugh, being blessed with a happy genius and good natural parts, made great progress in every branch of learning to which he applied himself. A venerable ancient priest was appointed by the abbot to instruct him in his studies and in religious discipline, whose serious admonitions made a deep impression on his soul. When he was nineteen years old the abbot took the saint with him to the Chartreuse near Grenoble, on an annual visit which he was accustomed to make to that holy company. The retirement and silence of the desert, and the assiduous contemplation and saintly deportment of the monks who inhabited it, kindled in Hugh’s breast a strong desire of embracing that institute. Nor were the canons, his brethren, able to dissuade him from this resolution after his return; so that being persuaded that God called him to this state, he secretly went back to the Chartreuse, and was admitted to the habit. The interior conflicts which he sustained, served to purify his soul, and make him more fervent and watchful. Under these trials he was often refreshed with consolations and great heavenly sweetness; and, by mortification and humble continual prayer, the fiery darts of the enemy were at length extinguished. The time approaching when he was to be promoted to priest’s orders, an old father whom he served according to the custom of the Order, asked him if he was willing to be ordained priest. Hugh answered him with simplicity, out of the vehement desire he had of offering daily to God the holy victim of the altar, that there was nothing in the world he more earnestly desired. The old man fearing the danger of presumption, and a want of the great apprehension which every one is bound to have of that tremendous function, said to him with a severe countenance: “How dare you aspire to a degree, to which no one, how holy soever, is advanced, but with trembling, and by constraint?” At this rebuke, St. Hugh, struck with holy fear, fell on the ground, and begged pardon with many tears. The other moved at his humility, told him he knew the purity of his desires; and said he would be advanced not only to the priesthood, but also to the episcopal dignity. The saint had passed ten years in his private cell when the general procuratorship of the monastery was committed to him: in which weighty charge the reputation of his prudence and sanctity was spread over all France. 1 Continue reading

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus

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St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, Bishop and Confessor

From his life by St. Gregory of Nyssa, Eusebius, l. 6, c. 23; St. Jerom in Catal. and the saint’s Oration to Origen; also St. Basil, l. de Spir. Soc. c. 29, ep. 62–65. See Tillemont, t. 4; Ceillier, t. 3, p. 307; Cave’s Primitive Fathers.

A.D. 270.

THEODORUS, afterwards called Gregory, and, from his extraordinary miracles, surnamed Thaumaturgus, or Worker of Wonders, was of Neocæsarea in Pontus, born of parents eminent for their rank and fortune, but engaged in the superstitions of idolatry. At fourteen years of age he lost his father, and from that time began to discover the vanity of the heathenish religion, as his reason grew more quick and manly, and was improved by education; and by this means his inclinations were insensibly turned towards the belief of the unity of the Deity and the Christian faith. 1 His mother pursued the plan, begun by his father, in giving him a literary education, with an intention of bringing him up to the bar, and the practice of oratory. In the study of rhetoric he made such surprising progress, that it was easy to foresee he would one day be one of the greatest orators of the age. He learned the Latin tongue, which was a necessary qualification for preferment to great dignities in the Roman empire: his masters also persuaded him to study the Roman laws, an acquaintance with which they said would be a great advantage to him in whatever profession he should afterwards embark. His sister being married to the assessor, or assistant of the governor of Cæsarea in Palestine, she was conducted thither at the public charge, with such as she was disposed to take with her. Gregory accompanied her upon this occasion with his brother Athenodorus, who was afterwards a bishop, and suffered much for the faith of Jesus Christ. From Cæsarea the two brothers went to Berytus, to attend a famous school of the Roman law in that neighbourhood. After a short stay there they returned to Cæsarea. 1 Continue reading

St. Gertrude the Great

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St. Gertrude the Great, Abbess and Virgin

The Roman Martyrology commemorates, today, the virgin St. Gertrude, who is to be distinguished from another virgin of the same name, whose life is recorded in the month of March. The Breviary relates of her, as follows: Gertrude was born at Eisleben, in Saxony, the same place where, two hundred years later, the unhappy Luther came into the world. When hardly five years old, she went into the Benedictine convent at Rudersdorf, to consecrate herself entirely to the service of the Most High. From that time, she despised all that was worldly, and striving only after virtue, led an almost heavenly life. The meditation of the divine mysteries, to which she was much devoted, served her as an incitement to virtue and perfection. In all her actions, she sought only the honor of God. Her conversations on our Lord and His holy life were most edifying, and her devotion to the Holy Eucharist, and the bitter passion and death of Christ was so fervent, that she frequently shed floods of tears in contemplating them. The Virgin Mother, whom in a vision, Christ had given her as mother, she venerated with filial affection. She daily offered all her prayers and other good works for the souls in purgatory, many of whom she freed from their sufferings. Continue reading

Saint Albert the Great

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Saint Albert the Great

Doctor of the Church
(1207-1280)

Saint Albert the Great was born in the region of Ausgbourg, of parents rich in the goods of fortune. From the time he was a child, he manifested in his studies an unusual aptitude for the exact sciences. While he was still a boy, he had himself let down the side of a cliff to examine at close range an eagle’s nest which interested him. At the age of fifteen he was already a student of the natural sciences and the humanities at Bologna; Saint Dominic had died in that city the preceding year, 1221, and was buried in the Dominican Convent. Their house, in a suburban area of Bologna, was closely associated with the activities at the University, and students in large numbers were requesting admission to the Order.
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St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was born as Maria Francesca Cabrini on July 15, 1850 in Sant’ Angelo Lodigiano, Lombardy, Italy. She was born two months premature and the youngest of thirteen children. Unfortunately, only three of her siblings survived past adolescence and Frances would live most of her life in a fragile and delicate state of health.

Frances became dedicated to living a life for religious work from a young age and received a convent education at a school ran by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart. She graduated with high honors and a teaching certificate.

When Frances was 18, she applied for admission to the religious congregation of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, but was turned down because of her poor health. Instead, a priest asked her to teach at the House of Providence Orphanage in Cadagono, Italy. She taught at the girls’ school for six years and drew a community of women in to live the religious way of life.

In 1877, she became Mother Cabrini after she finally made her vows and took the religious habit, also adding Xavier to her name in honor of St. Francis Xavier.

When the House of Providence Orphanage closed, her bishop asked her, along with six other women from her orphanage in Cadagono, to found the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for the poor children in both schools and hospitals. Frances composed the Rule and Constitution for the religious institute.

In its first five years, the institute established seven homes and a free school and nursery. Frances wanted to continue her mission in China, but Pope Leo XIII urged her to go to the United States, a nation that was becoming flooded with Italian immigrants who needed her help. “Not to the East, but the West,” was his advice to her.

On March 31, 1889, Frances arrived in New York City along with six other sisters ready to begin her new journey. However, right from the beginning she encountered many disappointments and hardships. The house originally attended for her new orphanage was no longer available, but Frances did not gve up, even though the archbishop insisted she return to Italy.

After she refused, Archbishop Michael Corrigan found them housing with the convent of the Sisters of Charity. Frances then received permission to found an orphanage in what is now West Park, New York and now known as Saint Cabrini Home.

Filled with a deep trust in God and endowed with a wonderful administrative ability, Frances founded 67 institutions, including orphanages, schools, and hospitals, within 35 years dedicated to caring for the poor, uneducated, sick, abandoned, and especially for the Italian immigrants. Her institutions were spread out in places all over the United States, including New York, Colorado, and Illinois.

Frances was known for being as resourceful as she was prayerful. She was always able to find people to donate their money, time, and support for her institutions.

In 1909, Frances became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Eight years later, on December 22, 1917, Frances passed at the age of 67, due to complications from dysentery at the Columbus Hospital, one of her own hospitals, in Chicago, Illinois.

Frances’ body was originally placed at the Saint Cabrini Home, but was exhumed in 1931 as part of her canonization process. Her head is preserved in Rome at the chapel of the congregation’s international motherhouse. One of her arms is at the national shrine in Chicago, and the rest of her body rests at a shrine in New York.

Frances has two miracles attributed to her. She restored sight to a child who was believed to have been blinded by excess silver nitrate, and she healed a terminally ill member of her congregation.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was beatified on November 13, 1938, by Pope Pius XI and canonized by Pope Pius XII on July 7, 1946, making her the first United States citizen to be canonized. Her feast day is celebrated on November 13 and she is the patron saint of immigrants.