Saint Isidore of Madrid

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Saint Isidore of Madrid

Confessor
(† 1170)

Saint Isidore the Farmer, a perennially popular Saint in Spain, was born near Madrid of very poor but very Christian parents, who early inspired in him love for God and horror of sin. His education was accomplished entirely by the Holy Spirit who taught him, without books, the science of salvation.

He married a wife rich in virtue, Maria Torribia, and God blessed them with a son whom they brought up in the sentiments of their own piety. The child fell into a well, which is still shown in Madrid, and drowned; but when his parents prayed he might be returned to them, the water rose to ground level and brought up the child full of life and health. They promised then to separate, apparently out of gratitude to God, and to live in perpetual continence.

Saint Isidore’s wife became a hermit like himself; Maria, too, performed miracles and merited after her death the name of Santa Maria de la Cabeza, meaning Head, because her head, conserved in a reliquary and carried in procession, has often brought down rain from heaven for the afflicted countryside. Her remains are honored by all of Spain by pilgrimages and processions at Torrelaguna, where they were transferred in 1615.

Saint Isidore himself was a day-laborer on a farm near Madrid, but every day found him at Mass in one of the churches of the city before he set out for his daily task. His employer desired to verify whether he was wasting time during his work, and one day saw two mysterious personages helping the holy worker to guide his plow; Isidore himself told him they were Angels. Afterwards the wealthy owner became still more convinced that piety was useful in all occupations. For not only did his worker bring back to life one of his horses, which he very much needed; when his daughter, too, died, she was resurrected by the Saint. A fountain of water which the Saint caused to surge up by striking the ground still exists.

Saint Isidore, though poor, shared all he had with the poor; and one day, when no provisions were left, his cupboard was found well furnished when still another beggar arrived.

Saint Isidore died some time after his wife; and forty years later his remains, which had been in extremely wet ground, were found incorrupt. They were taken into the Church of Saint Andrew and re-interred there; miracles have been countless, and celestial music has often been heard at his tomb. He has protected the city of Seville, making himself visible occasionally; and the kings of Spain themselves urged his canonization, which was carried out in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 5

Saint Catherine of Genoa

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Saint Catherine of Genoa

Widow
(1447-1510)

Saint Catherine Fieschi, daughter of a Viceroy of Naples, was born in Genoa. Her family, rich in great men, had given to the Church two popes, nine cardinals and two archbishops. Catherine, noble in birth, rich, and exceedingly beautiful, had as a child rejected the solicitations of the world, and begged her divine Master for some share in His sufferings. Despite her ardent desire to enter the cloister, at sixteen years of age she found herself promised in marriage to a young nobleman of dissolute habits. She was obliged to obey her parents’ intentions. Her spouse treated her with such harshness that after five years, wearied by his cruelty, she somewhat relaxed the strictness of her state and entered into the worldly society of Genoa. At length, enlightened by divine grace as to the danger of her state, she resolutely broke with the world and entered upon a life of rigorous penance and prayer. Having seen Jesus with His cross, and heard His reproaches, O love! she cried, I will sin no longer!

For twenty-three years she could take no nourishment but Holy Communion, and she drank only a little water mingled with vinegar and salt. Every day she prayed for six to seven hours on her knees, and never relaxed this practice. Her heroic fortitude was sustained by the constant thought of the holy souls of purgatory, whose sufferings were revealed to her, and whose state she has described in a treatise full of heavenly wisdom.

The charity with which she devoted herself to the service of the hospitals, undertaking the most disagreeable offices with joy, caused the administrators of the large hospital of Genoa to confide it entirely to her government. She served there without any remuneration whatsoever. Her examples also induced her husband to practice patience and amend his ways; before he died he joined the Third Order of Saint Francis and faithfully followed its penitential exercises. A long, grievous and mysterious illness during the last nine years of her own life served to perfect her union with God. The most able physicians could not help Saint Catherine, and judged that her illness was not from natural causes. Her first biographer wrote an account in detail of her last month on earth, and assures the Church that she left this mortal life in a state of total purification. She died on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14, 1510.

Reflection: The constant thought of purgatory will help us not only to escape its dreadful pains, but also to avoid the least imperfection which hinders our approach to 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); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 11

The Death of St. Benedict

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The Death of St Benedict

‘Benedict, the holy Abbot, on this present day departed from this mortal life to the eternal, which he had thoroughly merited by his holy conduct.’

So begins Ælfric’s sermon on the life of St Benedict. ‘This present day’, March 21, is indeed the date of the death of St Benedict, the father of Western monasticism. In honour of today we look at Ælfric’s sermon, which we give you an extract from the end of Ælfric’s sermon, telling of Benedict’s last miracle and his death:

Another time, the holy man was standing at his prayers on an upper floor, where his bed was. He stood there at a window until far in the night, praying to Almighty God, when suddenly a great light sprang up, brighter than any day, so that the holy man could see across all the world, and he perceived amid the great light the soul of a bishop being led with a company of angels to heaven. His name was Germanus. The saint wanted to have witnesses to that wondrous sight, and he quickly called his deacon to him, and he saw a part of the light. Then the holy man sent a swift messenger to the bishop’s city, so that he could find out whether he was alive. The messenger found that he was dead. He asked all about the details of his death, and learned that he departed at that time when the holy Benedict saw his soul carried to heaven.

A wonderful sight, for a mortal man to be able to see across all the world! But when a man sees the light of God, then creation will seem very small, and his soul is spread out within that light, in God, so that it rises above the world and above itself also. What wonder was it that the holy man saw all the world before him, when he was raised up in his mind’s light above the world? Truly, the light which he saw outwardly was shining in his mind, and drew up his mind to heaven, and showed him how small all creatures below would appear to him in the immensity of the divine light.

This blessed man Benedict wrote the rule of monks with great power of distinction, in lucid language, in which every one may recognise all the acts of his teaching – for the saint lived just as he taught. The blessed man was cheerful in appearance, with white hair, fair in body, and in mind filled with great love, so that he was living in the heavenly realm although he still dwelt on earth. The year that he departed he made known his death in advance to some of his disciples who were living with him, and to some others dwelling in distant places. Seven days before he died he ordered his tomb to be opened, and he was at once greatly afflicted with a severe fever throughout those seven days. On the sixth day of his illness he commanded them to carry him into the church, and there to give him the Eucharist. He then stood between the hands of his brothers, with hands outstretched towards heaven, and between his prayers he breathed out his spirit.

On the same day there appeared to two of his disciples a path from the building in which he died, on the east side, reaching up to heaven. The way was laid with palls and shining with numberless lights. On it there stood a venerable man with bright garments, asking what path it was that they beheld. They said that they did not know. The angel said to them, “This is the path by which God’s darling, Benedict, ascended to heaven.”

Who in this world can relate all the wonders that the Almighty Creator, through this noble man, has shown to the earth? To Him be glory and praise for ever through eternity with all his saints, who alone is ineffable God. Amen.

THE HOLY ABBOT BENEDICT

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THE HOLY ABBOT BENEDICT
by Leonard Goffine, 1871

Truly, St. Benedict was as his name indicates, a child of blessing. He was born about the year 480 at Nursia in Italy. His parents sent him, when growing up, to Rome, that there he might be instructed in all the fine sciences. Benedict soon perceived the moral corruption of the Romans, and was seized by fear concerning his own innocence. In order to escape the enticements, he left Rome and sought his way into the mountains; thence he went to Subiaco, a day’s journey distant from Rome, where he found a desert with inhospitable caverns in the mountain-cliffs. He had resolved to serve his God in solitude and retirement, and to acquire such virtues as would enable him to perform and undergo great labor for the Church and the welfare of his fellowbrethren.

On his way to the desert he met with a holy monk, named Romanus, to whom he revealed his intention. Romanus gladly approved of the design, promising him to keep his secret, and gave him a monk’s garment. Benedict now chose for his dwelling-place an almost inaccessible narrow grotto at the foot of one of the mountain-cliffs. Romanus daily laid aside a portion of his bread, and secretly brought it to the young hermit, lowering it by means of a rope. The sound of a bell attached to the rope was to announce the arrival of the bread.  Continue reading

St. Photina and Companions

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St. Photina and Companions

Martyrs
(† 1st century)

Samaritan martyr. According to Greek tradition, Photina was the Samaritan woman with whom Jesus spoke at the well as was recounted in the Gospel of St. John, chapter four. Deeply moved by the experience, she took to preaching the Gospel, received imprisonment, and was finally martyred at Carthage. Another tradition states that Photina was put to death in Rome after converting the daughter of Emperor Nero and one hundred of her servants. She supposedly died in Rome with her sons Joseph and Victor, along with several other Christians, including Sebastian, Photius, Parasceve, Photis, Cyriaca, and Victor. They were perhaps included in the Roman Martyrology by Cardinal Cesare Baronius owing to the widely held view that the head of Photina was preserved in the church of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls.