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Saint of the Day (Catholic News Agency)
- November 23, 2017 - 11:20pmOn June 19, 1988, Pope John Paul II canonized a group of 117 martyrs who died for the Roman Catholic Faith in Vietnam during the nineteenth century. The group was made up of ninety-six Vietnamese, eleven Spaniards, and ten French. Eight of the group were bishops, fifty were priests and fifty-nine were lay Catholics. Some of the priests were Dominicans, others were diocesan priests who belonged to the Paris Mission Society. One such diocesan priest was St. Theophane Venard. (His feast day is November 6.) St. Andrew Dung-Lac, who represents this group of heroes, was a Vietnamese diocesan priest. He came from a poor, non-Christian family and was taught by a Christian lay catechist. He worked in the missions with the priests of the Foreign Mission Society of Paris. He was imprisoned and repeatedly tortured during the persecutions of Minh-Meng, the emperor of Vietnam between 1820 and 1840 who was famed for his persecutions of the Christians. Among the many Vietnamese and international martyrs who died alongside St. Andrew Dung-Lac was Saint Peter Thi. This feast day, and the witnesses of the lives of the martyrs, give testament to the sufferings inflicted on the Vietnamese Church, which are among the most terrible in the long history of Christian martyrdom
- November 23, 2017 - 12:20amAn originator of Ireland's unique monastic tradition, who went on to serve as a missionary to continental Europe during the early Middle Ages, the abbot Saint Columbanus â€“ also known as St. Columban â€“ is honored by the Catholic Church on Nov. 23. Despite their similar names and biographies, St. Columbanus is not the same person as Saint Columba of Iona, another monk from Ireland who spread the faith abroad and lived during the same time period. In a June 2008 general audience on St. Columbanus, Pope Benedict XVI said he was â€œa man of great cultureâ€� who also â€œproved rich in gifts of grace.â€� The Pope recalled him as â€œa tireless builder of monasteries as well as an intransigent penitential preacher who spent every ounce of his energy on nurturing the Christian roots of Europe which was coming into existence.â€� â€œWith his spiritual energy, with his faith, with his love for God and neighbor,â€� St. Columbanus â€œtruly became one of the Fathers of Europe.â€� According to Pope Benedict, the course of the Irish monk's life â€œshows us even today the roots from which our Europe can be reborn.â€� Born during 543 in the southeastern Irish region of Leinster, Columbanus was well-educated from his early years. Handsome in appearance, he was tempted by women and was eventually advised by a nun to follow her example and flee from temptation by embracing monasticism. His mother disapproved of this intention, but his will prevailed even when she tried to prevent him from leaving home. The aspiring monk studied initially with Abbot Sinell of Cluaninis, before moving on to a monastery headed by the abbot later canonized as Saint Comgall. It was under his direction, in the Abbey of Bangor in County Down, that Columbanus formally embraced the monastic calling, as one of a growing number of monks drawn to the Bangor community's ascetic rigor and intellectual vitality. Though Columbanus was known as a dedicated monk and scholar, around the year 583 he felt called to undertake foreign missionary work. Initially denied permission by the abbot, he was eventually allowed to depart with a band of twelve men, with whom he sailed to Britain before reaching France around 585. There, they found the Church suffering from barbarian invasions and internal corruption. Received with favor by King Gontram of Burgundy, Columbanus and his companions founded a monastery in an abandoned Roman fortress. Despite its remote location in the mountains, the community became a popular pilgrimage site, and also attracted so many monastic vocations that two new monasteries had to be formed to accommodate them. These monastic communities remained under Columbanus' authority, and their rules of life reflected the Irish tradition in which he had been formed. Meanwhile, as they expanded, the abbot himself sought greater solitude, spending periods of time in a hermitage and communicating with the monks through an intermediary. As heirs to the Irish monastic tradition, Columbanus and his monks ran into differences with the bishops in France, partly over the calculation of the date of Easter. He also met with opposition from within the French royal family, because of his insistence that King Thierry should not live with a woman outside of wedlock. He had been urged to do so by his grandmother Queen Brunehild, who thought a royal marriage would threaten her own power. Columbanus' moral stand for marriage led first to his imprisonment, from which he escaped. But the king and his grandmother had him driven out of France by force, and they separated him from his monks by insisting that only those from Ireland could accompany him into exile. This group traveled and evangelized in present-day Germany, though political circumstances eventually forced them to cross the Alps into northern Italy. Welcomed by the ruling Lombards, Columbanus nonetheless found the Italian Church troubled by heresy and schism. The monk wrote against the Arian heresy (which claimed that Christ was not God but only a highly exalted creature), and asked Pope Saint Boniface IV to help restore the unity of the Church in the region. Columbanus himself was involved in a theological dispute with Pope Boniface, but he remained â€œbound to the Chair of Peterâ€� and acknowledged the Pope's authority. Having received a grant of land from the Lombard king, Columbanus founded his last monastery in the town of Bobbio during 614. Although St. Columbanus died on Nov. 23 of the following year, the abbey at Bobbio remained a center of theological orthodoxy and cultural preservation for centuries afterward.
- November 21, 2017 - 11:20pmSt. Cecilia's family was one of the principle families of Rome. According to the cultural custom of the time, Cecilia's family betrothed her to a young man named Valerius. On their wedding night, Cecilia told Valerius that she had sworn to remain a virgin before God and that an angel guarded her body, protecting her virginity from violation. She told Valerius that he would be able to see this angel if he went to a certain milestone along the road. Valerius went to the milestone as Cecilia had instructed, and there encountered Pope Urbanus, who instructed the young man and baptized him.During that era, it was forbidden for anyone to bury the bodies of Christians, so Valerius and his brother dedicated themselves to burying the bodies of all the Christians they found. For this, they were arrested and brought before a judge who ordered them to worship the Roman god Jupiter, and were martyred when they refused to deny thier Christian faith.The police then came for Cecilia and strongly advised her to renounce her faith. In reply, she told them that she would prefer to die than to denounce the true faith. Upon hearing her response, they brought her to a large oven with the intention of suffocating her with the hot and toxic gasses it emitted. However, instead of choking, Cecilia began to sing, which is perhaps why she is considered the patron of musicians. Infuriated, her persecutors attempted to behead her, but after three strokes of the sword, Cecilia was still alive and her head was not severed. The soldiers then left her covered in blood in her own home, where she remained for three days before she died.
- November 20, 2017 - 11:20pmThe feast of tday, November 21, commemorates the presentation of the Blessed Virgin as a child in the Temple. Tradition holds that all young Jewish girls were left in the care of the temple for a period of time, during which they were educated.The feast originated in the Orient probably about the 7th century, and is found in the constitution of Manuel Comnenus (1166) as a recognized festival. It was introduced into the Western Church in the 14th century. Pope Pius V then struck it from the calendar. Pope Sixtus V later reestablished the feast in 1585.
- November 20, 2017 - 1:20amSaint Bernward served as the thirteenth Bishop of Hildesheim, Germany during the middle of the tenth century. His grandfather was Athelbero, Count Palatine of Saxony. After having lost his parents, Bernward was sent to live with his uncle Volkmar, who was the Bishop of Utrecht. His uncle enlisted the assistance of Thangmar, the pious and well-educated director of the cathedral school at Heidelberg, the help with Bernward's education. Under the instruction of Thangmar, Bernward made rapid progress in Christian piety as well as in the sciences. He became very proficient in mathematics, painting, architecture, and particularly in the manufacture of ecclesiastical vessels and ornaments made of silver and gold.Saint Bernward completed his studies at Mainz, where he was then ordained a priest. In leiu of being placed in the diocese of his uncle, Bishop Volkmar, he chose to remain near his grandfather, Athelbero, to comfort him in his old age. Upon his grandfatherâ€™s death in 987, he became chaplain in the imperial court, and the Empress-Regent Theophano quickly appointed him to be tutor of her son Otto III, who was only six years old at the time. Bernward remained at the imperial court until 993, when he was elected Bishop of Hildesheim.A man of extraordinary piety, he was deeply devoted to prayer as well as the practice of mortification, and his knowledge and practice of the arts were employed generously in the service of the Church.Shortly before his death in 1022, he was vested in the Benedictine habit. He was canonized by Pope Celestine III in 1193.
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