Thursday, June 24, 2010

Saint Anthony of Padua

St. Anthony of Padua
Feast Day: January 17
Doctor of the Church

St. Anthony of Padua was always seen in public squares and market places preaching and defending the truths of the Catholic Faith.  His preachings were simple yet it resounded and touched the hearts of so many that crowds of people including the heretics returned to the Church. For this reason, he is called the “hammer of the Heretics”.

Though most of his work was in Italy, Anthony was born in 1195 at Lisbon, of a noble Portuguese family. His father was a captain in the royal army.  At the age of fifteen he joined the canons regular of St. Augustine where for a period of eight years, he devoted himself to study and prayer.

One day, a group of missionaries on their way to preach the Gospel of Christ to the inhabitants of Morocco passed by their monastery.  These missionaries namely St. Bernard, St. Peter, St. Otho, St. Accursius, and St. Adjutus were massacred by the Moors and became the first martyrs of the Franciscan Order.  When the remains were brought to be buried in his church, Anthony was so moved by their martyrdom that he repeatedly begged his superiors to be given the permission to join the Franciscan Order and go to Morocco to evangelize. He was 26 years old when this earnest wish was fulfilled.

On his way to Africa, he was stricken with severe illness and so resigning to the will of God, he boarded a ship back to Portugal.  As the ship was driven out of its course by storm winds, St. Anthony found safety in the harbour at Messina, Sicily. From there, he made his way to Assisi.  St. Anthony was greeted by the Franciscans and remained there for nine months as chaplain to the Friars. When he was not praying, he was serving them by doing the lowliest duties in the convent.

In 1222, a ceremony of ordination attended by a number of Dominicans and Franciscans was held at Forli. The scheduled speaker failed to appear, so the provincial asked if someone else can give a sermon. All declined the invitation, until finally, St. Anthony was asked to give it.  St Anthony so impressed them that he was thereafter constantly invited to evagelize, preach, and teach theology throughout Italy and France. A gifted speaker, he attracted crowds everywhere he went and St Anthony's devotion to the Sacred Scriptures and to Mary were evident in his teachings.

Saint Anthony was only 36 years old when he died. Upon receiving the last sacrament he gazed
up and smiled. When asked what he saw, he answered: "I see my Lord."

The following year after his death, Saint Anthony was canonized  by Pope Gregory IX and was
proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1946.

Reflection:

Prayer is St Anthony's expression of his dependence on God.

Saint Anthony earnestly sought God through prayer and diligent study of the Scriptures,
meditating constantly on the Divine. It is this deep relationship with God that made his
heart burn within him to share and proclaim Christ to all people.  By this relationship, St.
Anthony lived more faithfully as Jesus' disciple, evangelizing, reconciling sinners with God
and sharing Jesus love with others.

Another fruit that St Anthony manifested was humility. Humility is accepting ourselves as we
truly are before God and realizing that our confidence and our greatness lies
in Christ.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Saint Barbara

Feast Day: December 4

Barbara lived in the 4th century in the city of Heliopolis.  She was the daughter of
Dioscorus, a wealthy nobleman and a pagan.  In his zeal to protect his young daughter,
Barbara was kept shut up in a tower and forbade her to have friends or speak to anyone
without his permission.

By way of a basket on a rope, she got her food and other things she needed.  It was in this
way too that she got the bible from a stranger.  One day, Barbara got ill and her father
sent for a doctor. Unknown to Dioscorus, a priest name Origen was sent instead and it was
through this that Barbara received baptism. In her solitude, she gave herself to prayer and
studied the Christian faith. 

Dioscorus, before going on a journey, instructed that a bath-house with 2 windows be built
for her daughter.  During his absence, Barbara had three windows put in instead of two, as a
symbol of the Holy Trinity and on the marble wall placed a large cross.  She, then
acknowledged herself to be a Christian.

His father was enraged by her conversion and dragged her before the civil tribunal.  She was
cruelly tortured but Barbara stood firm in her faith and would not deny Christ. Finally, she
was condemned to death by beheading and her father himself carried out the death sentence. 
On his way home, Dioscorus was struck by lightning that consumed his body.

St. Barbara is often depicted in art as standing in a tower with three windows and carrying
the palm of a martyr in her hand or she is seen holding a chalice and sacramental wafer.

Many pilgrims who came to her grave were healed or received aid and consolation. Before the
ninth century, Saint Barbara was publicly venerated  and became the patron saint in time of
danger from thunder-storms and fire as well as protector of artillerymen and miners.
Saint Barbara was proclaimed martyr on December 4, 306.


Reflection:

In her solitude, Barbara encountered God.  Her mind, heart and soul were opened by the grace of God to feel His presence and because of this she was convinced of the existence of God and was able to endure the terrible torture.

Her love for God made Barbara stood firm as she held to her faith in Jesus in the face of death.  She fearlessly bore witness to Jesus by suffering death rather than recanting her faith.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Saint John Bosco

Feast Day : January 31

Don Bosco was born on 16 August 1815 in a village called Becchi north of Italy. John’s father died when he was two years old and was brought up by his mother, Margaret. At the age of nine, John Bosco had been having dreams that revealed God's will in his life. He was in a field with an unruly crowd of children and John was asked to lead them. “Not with blows, but with kindness and love you must win over these your friends. I shall give you a Teacher under whose guidance you will become wise”. This vision became a guiding force that inspired him to become a priest and led him to minister to the poor and neglected boys.

While attending college and seminary, he did myriads of work such as a shoemaker, tailor, carpenter, baker and John Bosco would go to circuses, fairs and carnivals to learn how to juggle and do magicians tricks in order to relate to the boys that he was teaching.   His aim was to provide fun and games with teaching and praying so as to catch the attention of the children.  After this entertainment, he would talk about God and teach them.

John Bosco was ordained in 1841, just short of his 26th birthday. In Italy, priests are called Don, so John Bosco was also known as Don Bosco. He continued to teach catechism to orphans and with loving guidance led the young people to a useful, fulfilled lives. Don Bosco saw education as the key to helping the boys. He built technical schools to teach them skilled jobs like printing, bookbinding and mechanics. In those days, these were the skills that were needed to provide a better future for these young generation.

Soon enough, others were inspired to follow him in responding to the needs of the youth. Thus, he started the Salesian Missions in South America and founded the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) in 1859. He also founded the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians in 1872, and Union of Cooperator Salesians three years after. 

Don Bosco died on January 31, 1888 and was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1934.

Reflection:

Saint John Bosco became the bearer of God's love to these young boys.  With John's gift of friendship, joy, love of life...he dedicated his life to service and reached out to these children to provide for them both their material and spiritual needs.

May we continue to walk with others in the spirit of St. John Bosco and fulfill every human longing for love, joy and meaning.