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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Saint Joan of Arc

Saint Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc also known as Jeanne la Pucelle, the Maid)
Feast Day: May 30

A peasant girl, Joan of Arc was born on January 6, 1412 in the village of Domremy, at the time of the Hundred Years’ War when Henry V of England begun invading Normandy.   The English king along with the Duke of Burgundy, were gobbling up more and more French territory and regions were being lost to the English and the Burgundians. Domremy is a frontier village and during her childhood several local raids occurred there.  On one occasion, as her village was being burned by the Burgundians, Joan along with her parents and siblings fled eight miles distant to Neufchatel.

St. Joan of Arc experienced her first vision at the age of 12, when she heard voices as she was out alone in the fields.  These “voices” are from St. Michael, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Margaret who constantly spoke to her and which she afterward came to call her "counsel".  Gradually, the call of God was made known and the mission to take Charles to Rheims to be crowned, and to recover her homeland from English domination was revealed to her.  By May 1428, at the age of 16, the voices  insisted for Joan of Arc to see Robert Baudricourt who commanded for Charles VII in the neighboring town of Vaucouleurs and say that she was appointed to lead the Dauphin to his crowning. Baudricourt laughed and said that her father ought to give her a whipping.  His sarcastic response, however, did not deter Jeanne d’Arc to ask permission to visit the royal French court at Chinon.

In January 1429, Joan of Arc left Domremy to go again to Vaucouleurs where she made a notable prediction about a military reversal near Orléans. After a perilous journey through the territory of the Burgundians, Jeanne d'Arc reached Chinon on March 6.  Two days later, she was admitted into the presence of Charles VII.  On May 8, 1429, after overcoming opposition from prelates, courtiers and lawyers, the 17-year-old Joan was given a small army with which she raised the siege of Orleans.

Jeanne la Pucelle, the Maid, carried a sacred sword that bore a white banner adorned with lilies, and a holy cross with the names of  "Jesus, Maria,". The siege of Orleans was raised on the 9th of May and a series of spectacular military victories followed that led to Charles VII's coronation at Reims.  Joan stood proudly behind the King with her banner bearing the figure of God the Father with two kneeling angels and the words, "Jesus Maria" ; Jesus on the cross and a little girl offering to Our Lady a fleur-de-lis, the royal emblem of France.

During the fight, Joan was wounded in the shoulder by an arrow and in another incident was again injured and had to be dragged to safety.

After the winter truce, Jeanne d'Arc  hurried off to the aid of Compiegne where she was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the Duke of Bedford. After months of imprisonment, she was tried at Rouen by an ecclesiastical court and when she refused to retract the statement she had about her “counsel” who commanded her to do what she had done, she was condemned to death as a heretic and burned at the stake on May 30, 1431.  Joan of Arc was nineteen years old.

 Twenty-four years later, she was exonerated of all guilt and was declared a martyr.  She was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.

St. Joan of Arc is the patroness of soldiers and of France.


For Saint Joan of Arc to obey as she did, she must have had a deep relationship with God.  Because of this intimate relationship with Him, she is convinced of His existence and knows God’s nature and His “voice”.  This is shown in her ardent faith in God.   Someone who knows what God is like knows what his voice is like.  For this reason, she is able to obey despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

This brings to mind the responsorial psalm:  “I know my sheep and my sheep knows me”

John 10: 2-5 “But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”

We will not recognize God’s voice unless we know Him and if we want to follow God’s will, we must know how to discern His leadings.

Discernment is the art of knowing the “voice” of God.

To Jeanne la Pucelle, the idea might well seem too absurd, but because of her intimate relationship with the “Shepherd” she knew what she was doing.  Saint Joan of Arc acted boldly.  She remained simple and never became conceited or self-seeking.  To her obeying God and doing what pleases Him (no matter the outcome) is her mission, and this she accomplished triumphantly.

Please feel free to share your reflections and insights in the comment box below.  Thank you and God bless!

Joan of Arc

Friday, February 19, 2010

Saint Martin de Porres

Feast Day: November 3

The father of Martin de Porres was a Spanish knight & adventurer and his mother a colored freed-woman from Panama.  Martin de Porres was born on the 9th of December, 1579 in Lima, Peru.  Don Juan de Porres left Martin’s mother and just sent money every now and then.   Martin grew up in poverty and bore the stigma of having mixed blood and the shame of being an illegitimate child.  

When Martin turned 8, his father sent money for him and his sister to go to school. At age 12, he became an apprentice to a barber-surgeon where he learned to cut hair as well as to draw blood, prepare medicinal herbs, set broken bones and to properly care for the sick.  It was also during this time that he became a servant in the Holy Rosary Dominican priory.  At fifteen, he was allowed to become a lay brother at the Dominican Friary and was placed in charge of the infirmary.

St. Martin de Porres spent much time in prayer and meditation and had a great devotion to the sacrament of the Eucharist.  God endowed him with many supernatural graces and lights.  There are recorded instances when he was seen bi-locating or was inside the chapel levitating and so filled with love for Christ.  He went about curing the sick and giving alms to the poor; helped the farm laborers, Negroes and mulattoes.  He was good-natured and charitable and thus gained the name “Martin the charitable”.  He is also known as the first Black Saint from the Americas.


*What amazes me about Saint Martin de Porres is his profound humility.  He had suffered much and had experienced terrible humiliation yet instead of wallowing in self-pity  or  instead of redeeming himself by compensating or retaliating he continued to live in self- imposed poverty and reached out to the sick, the poor and the oppressed.  To me, this is a clear evidence that he was able to transcend the prejudice and humiliation he went through in his childhood.

 This reminds me of the quote from Mother Teresa about if you are humble nothing can hurt you.  Here's an  accurate quote on that one:

"Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity and obedience.  It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent.  If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.  If you are blamed you will not be discouraged.  If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal." 
-Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 'The Joy in Loving' page 363

 To Martin de Porres, only God suffices. His knowledge of the greatness of God, made him aware of his dignity as a child of God as well as his nothingness.  Though he is nothing, God loves him profoundly.  This experience of God’s love is all that mattered.  God’s love redeemed Martin and healed him of his pains.  To Saint Martin de Porres, God’s love was the source of all the love he generously shared to the poor, the sick and the unwanted and he looked on these poor people the way he looked at himself - a child of God.

* In God’s great wisdom, He chose Martin de Porres, an illegitimate, Negro to be a Saint to show that His love is universal.  

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini

Feast Day: November 13
Patron of immigrants

St. Frances was born in Lombardi, Italy on July 15, 1850. She was the thirteenth child of a farmer's family and was educated to be a school teacher.

In her teens, she desired to become a Nun, but poor health stood in her way. The idea however, never deserted her so she sought admission from one religious order to another only to be rejected over and over.  Finally, Monsignor Serrati, saw her potential and assigned her to a small orphanage which had been poorly managed and the funds squandered.  Despite this, Frances attracted other recruits to the community.  She made her vows  and took the religious habit in September 1877.   Eventually, at the request of her Bishop, St Frances Xavier Cabrini  founded the "Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart" to care for poor children in schools and hospitals.    Along with her are 6 other sisters from the orphanage.

St Frances Cabrini's time marked the period of great migrations to America.  In Italy, Bishop Scalabrini, spoke to her about the religious and social conditions of the Italian immigrants in the States and pleaded her to go there.

Even with her frail condition, Frances Cabrini along with other six sisters traveled to New York City to work among the thousands of Italian immigrants.  Upon arriving, they were told that the house intended to be Cabrini’s first orphanage in the United States was not available. Cabrini was advised to return, but determined to establish the orphanage and believing that this was God’s will for her, she refused to leave.  St Frances Xavier Cabrini set up  orphanages and schools for the Scalabrini Fathers; organized schools and adult education classes for the immigrants as well as put up hospitals in New York and Chicago and a mission in New Orleans. She didn’t stop there but went all the way to Nicaragua, South America, England and Spain to set up schools and hospital.  At the time of her death, on December 22, 1917, at Chicago, Illinois.  Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini founded nearly seventy institutions dedicated to caring for the poor, abandoned, uneducated and the sick.  In these institutions, she was known to have an astute business sense and fine administrative abilities.

In 1946, she was elevated to sainthood by Pope Pius XII making Frances Xavier Cabrini the first American citizen to be canonized. One of the miracles attributed to her was the complete healing of the baby accidentally blinded at birth.


Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini is a woman of prayer and action.  Surely, she met disappointment and difficulties in executing these tasks but her deep trust in God gave her the strength to continue doing Christ's work.  She always accepted challenging moments in her life with patience and love. And because of her persistence and desire to give herself wholly to God she became a pioneer worker for the Italian immigrants and established orphanages, schools, and hospitals, in over eight countries in Europe, North, Central and South America.

Mother Cabrini is a source of inspiration to women of today.  She is consistent and uncompromising in her faith and values.  By balancing prayer and action whether in taking care of the children, cooking, cleaning the house or working or running an institution…..etc.  Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini proclaimed Christ not only by words, but by example and service as well.  

Please feel free to share your reflections/inputs/insights in the comment box below.  Thank you and God Bless!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Saint Lorenzo Ruiz

Feast Day: September 28

Lorenzo Ruiz was born in Binondo, Manila on November 28, 1594.  His father was Chinese and his mother Filipino.  During his youth, Lorenzo was educated by the Dominican Fathers and from them he learned the fundamentals of faith.  He became the errand boy of the friars and was an altar boy at Binondo convent.  As he grew older, he was employed as their "escribano" because of his skillful hand.

Lorenzo is a devout Catholic and was a great devotee of the Blessed Virgin.  He was blessed with two sons and a daughter and had a happy and harmonious married life.  Things changed, however, when he found himself being accused of a crime he did not commit after having an argument with a Spaniard. Fearing for his life, he sought to escape and when he learned that the Dominicans were preparing to embark on a mission to Japan, he joined the group.  He bade goodbye to his loved ones and left the Philippines with a heavy heart.

The expedition was a clandestine one for the Christians were hunted down, persecuted and put to death in Japan at that time.  His intention, at the start was to remain in Macau to earn a living for his family.  But St. Lorenzo Ruiz changed his plan and decided to be a missionary instead.  Not many days after their arrival in Okinawa, the missionaries were arrested and thrown into prison. Two years after, they were brought in a torture chamber in Nagasaki. There they suffered incredible torture as they were hung by their feet and were submerged in water which brought some of his companions to recant their faith. There were beaten and needles were inserted inside their finger nails while they were being questioned.

"If we grant you your life, are you willing to renounce your faith?"

To this St. Lorenzo Ruiz answered:

"I am a Christian and this I profess, and although I did not come to Japan to become a martyr, I am now willing to give up my life for God. You can do with me as you will please."

On September 1637, muzzled and hand tied the prisoners marched to the place of execution.  Saint Lorenzo Ruiz was hanged head down inside a small pit called a 'horca y hoya'.  Only his limbs were seen from above the ground.  To slow down the flow of blood, he was bound and his flesh slightly cut.  For three days, his torturer left him this way. Their bodies were burned and the ashes were thrown into the sea.

He and his companions were beatified by Pope John Paul II during the Papal visit to Manila on 18 February 1981.  He was canonized on October 18, 1987.

 He is recognized as the first Filipino Saint and Martyr.


Anyone can be a saint. Saint Lorenzo Ruiz or more known to Filipinos as San Lorenzo Ruiz is an ordinary man.  Just like us, he simply wants to have a happy, peaceful, harmonious life.  However, his circumstances changed and he was thrust into a situation so complicated.   Yet, even if he didn’t want what was happening in his life, Saint Lorenzo Ruiz faced it with unwavering courage and unyielding faith and trust in God.  In the end, he willingly gave his life to a God who is truly deserving of all Saint Lorenzo Ruiz can offer.

Saint Lorenzo Ruiz encourages us to never lose faith and to always trust in God no matter what.  Surely, God was with him during those terrible last days and though his body was suffering, his soul found happiness, peace and assurance that his suffering was not in vain.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Saint Vincenta Maria Lopez y Vicuña

Feast Day: December 26

Saint Vincenta Maria Lopez y Vicuña was born at Cascante, Spain in March 24, 1847. Vicenta had a happy childhood. She was a daughter of a famous lawyer, reared in a Catholic home and educated in Madrid. She may have had a good chance of living a comfortable life yet she chose the way of austerity and sacrifice. Vicenta’s uncle was a priest while her aunt was a nun who founded a home for domestic servants. This perhaps, fostered her attraction to religious life. At 23, she too became a nun and organized a group of ladies to protect and promote the welfare of the working girls- This was the beginning of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate. Along with this, Vicenta Maria founded several foundations, technical training schools, hostels, canteen, and provided these working girls boarding houses while they are away from home. She was a mother and homemaker to them, helping and teaching them in the ways of the Lord.

Her congregation spread throughout Spain and other parts of Europe as well as in Latin America. She endured many trials and difficulties which she faced with courage and faith. Saint Vicenta Maria died on December 26, 1890. Sixty years after her death and through numerous graces obtained through her intercession, she was canonized Saint.


What could have prompted Saint Vicenta Maria to abandon a life of comfort and live an austere life for others?
In her desire to give herself totally to God, she gave up all that she had and all that she might have been. She love God abundantly (a love that she first received from God) and that love overflowed to her neighbors.