Carmelite saints, December Feast Days

St.Maria Maravillas de Jesus

Maria Maravillas Pidal y Chico de Guzman was born in Madrid on November 4, 1891 to the Marquess and Marchioness of Pidal. Her father, at the time, was the Spanish Ambassador to the Holy See and was well noted for his efforts to help the Church and religious Orders.

She was baptized at the age of eight days old in the parish of St. Sebastian. Maria was attracted to virtue from early childhood and, in her own way, made a vow of chastity at the age of five. She received a privileged education from her maternal grandmother particularly in the study of languages and general culture, and devoted herself to charitable works with the poor and marginalized. Maria was confirmed in 1896 and made her first communion in 1902.

After coming into contact with the works of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, she entered the Carmelite novitiate at El Escorial, Madrid in 1920, and in 1924 together with three sisters founded the Carmel in Cerro de los Angeles (Madrid), where several years earlier a monument to the Sacred Heart had been erected and the Nation consecrated by King Alfonso XIII. Living nearby during the construction of the convent in a provisional house in the district of Getafe, Maria made her solemn profession on May 30th 1924. She became prioress of the community in June of 1926 and on October 31st of the same year, the new Carmel in Cerro de los Angeles was inaugurated. It quickly filled with vocations and Mother Maravillas took this as a sign from the Lord to multiply ‘Our Lady’s houses’ of Carmel. In 1933, a Carmelite Bishop invited her to found another house in Kottayam, India which eventually grew into numerous other foundations throughout India.

The Spanish Civil War erupted in July of 1936 and the sisters at Cerro de los Angeles were arrested and taken to Getafe where they lived for fourteen months in a small apartment under house arrest. The community was allowed to leave Madrid in September 1937 and settled in the ancient, abandoned ‘desert’ of las Batuecas (Salamanca) and there founded another Carmel at the request of Bishop of Coria-Caceres. In 1939 Mother Maravillas returned to Madrid and began the reconstruction of the then destroyed Carmel of Cerro de los Angeles.

Soon to follow were numerous new Carmels throughout Spain. She moved to the Carmel of La Aldehuela (Madrid) in 1961 and while there founded colleges for poor young people of the area. She built a suburb of prefabricated houses, church, community hall, recreation grounds, and bought a house in Madrid for Carmelite nuns needing medical attention. In 1972 Maria obtained approval from the Holy See for the Association of St. Teresa as a means of uniting the monasteries founded by her and others that had attached themselves.

She died in peace in the Carmel of La Aldehucla on December 11, 1974 at the age of 84. As she died she kept repeating “What happiness to die a Carmelite!” A perfume of spice emanated from her body. She was beatified on May 19, 1998 by Pope John Paul II and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in Madrid 2003

December Feast Days

St.John Roberts

+Feast Day December 10

Son of John and Anna Roberts; his ancestors were princes in Wales. Raised Protestant, John always felt an affinity for Catholicism. He studied at Saint John’s College, Oxford from 1595 to 1597, but left without a degree. He then studied law at the Inns of Court at age 21. In 1598, while travelling in France, he joined the Church of Rome at Notre Dame in Paris.

Entered the English College at Valladolid, Spain on 18 October 1598. He left the College in 1599 to join the Abbey of Saint Benedict in Valladolid. Benedictine novice at the Abbey of Saint Martin in Compostela, Spain in 1600. Ordained there.

Father John returned to England as a missioner, leaving on 26 December 1602, and entering the country in April 1603. Arrested in May 1603, and exiled. Returned to England in 1604, and worked with plague victims in London; arrested and banished again. Returned to England in 1605. During a search for suspects involved in the Gunpowder Plot, John was found in the home of Mrs Thomas Percy, and was arrested again. Though he had no connection to the Plot, he spent seven months in prison, and was exiled again in July 1606.

While in exile he founded a house in Douai for exiled English Benedictines; this house became the monastery of Saint Gregory. Responsible for the conversion of Blessed Maurus Scott. Returned to England in October 1607, was arrested in December, and sent to Gatehouse prison. He escaped, and spent a year working in London, but was again arrested. His execution was scheduled for May 1609, but the intercession of the French ambassador led to a reduction in sentence; he was exiled yet again.

Returned to England a few months later, he was arrested while celebrating Mass on 2 December 1610. Convicted on 5 December 1610 of the crime of priesthood. Martyred with Blessed Thomas Somers.

December Feast Days

St.Juan Diego

Saint Juan Diego was born in 1474 as Cuauhtlatoatzin, a native to Mexico. He became the first Roman Catholic indigenous saint from the Americas.

Following the early death of his father, Juan Diego was taken to live with his uncle. From the age of three, he was raised in line with the Aztec pagan religion, but always showed signs of having a mystical sense of life.

He was recognized for his religious fervor, his respectful and gracious attitude toward the Virgin Mary and his Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, and his undying love for his ill uncle.

When a group of 12 Franciscan missionaries arrived in Mexico in 1524, he and his wife, Maria Lucia, converted to Catholicism and were among the first to be baptized in the region. Juan Diego was very committed to his new life and would walk long distances to receive religious instruction at the Franciscan mission station at Tlatelolco.

On December 9, 1531, Juan Diego was in a hurry to make it to Mass and celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. However, he was stopped by the beautiful sight of a radiant woman who introduced herself, in his native tongue, as the “ever-perfect holy Mary, who has the honor to be the mother of the true God.”

Mary told Juan Diego she was the mother of all those who lived in his land and asked him to make a request to the local bishop. She wanted them to build a chapel in her honor there on Tepeyac Hill, which was the site of a former pagan temple.

When Juan Diego approached Bishop Juan de Zumarraga telling of what happened, he was presented with doubts and was told to give the Bishop time to reflect on the news.

Later, the same day, Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mary a second time and told her he failed in granting her request. He tried to explain to her he was not an important person, and therefore not the one for the task, but she instead he was the man she wanted.

Juan Diego returned to the Bishop the next day and repeated his request, but now the Bishop asked for proof or a sign the apparition was real and truly of heaven.

Juan Diego went straight to Tepeyac and, once again, encountered the Virgin Mary. After explaining to her what the Bishop asked, she agreed and told him she’d provide him with proof on the next day, December 11.

However, on the next day, Juan Diego’s uncle became very sick and he was obligated to stay and care for him. Juan Diego set out the next to find a priest for his uncle. He was determined to get there quickly and didn’t want to face the Virgin Mary with shame for missing the previous day’s meeting.

But the Virgin Mary intercepted him and asked what was wrong. He explained his situation and promised to return after he found his uncle a priest.

She looked at him and asked “No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre?” (Am I not here, I who am your mother?) She promised him his uncle would be cured and asked him to climb to the hill and collect the flowers growing there. He obeyed and found many flowers blooming in December on the rocky land. He filled his tilma (cloak) with flowers and returned to Mary.

The Virgin Mary arranged the flowers within his cloak and told him this would be the sign he is to present to the bishop. Once Juan Diego found the bishop, he opened his cloak and the bishop was presented with a miraculous imprinted image of the Virgin Mary on the flower-filled cloak.

The next day, Juan Diego found his uncle fully healed from his illness. His uncle explained he, too, saw the Virgin Mary. She also instructed him on her desires to have a church built on Tepeyac Hill, but she also told him she wanted to be known with the title of Guadalupe.

News of Juan Diego’s miracle quickly spread, and he became very well-known. However, Juan Diego always remained a humble man.

The bishop first kept Juan Diego’s imprinted cloak in his private chapel, but then placed it on public display in the church built on Tepeyac Hill the next year.

The first miracle surrounding the cloak occurred during the procession to Tepeyac Hill when a participant was shot in the throat by an arrow shot in celebration. After being placed in front of the miraculous image of Mary, the man was healed.

Juan Diego moved into a little hermitage on Tepeyac Hill, and lived a solidarity life of prayer and work. He remained there until his death on December 9, 1548, 17 years after the first apparition.

News of Our Lady’s apparitions caused a wave of nearly 3,000 Indians a day to convert to the Christian faith. Details of Juan Diego’s experience and Mary’s words moved them deeply.

During the revolutions in Mexico, at the beginning of the 20th century, nonbelievers attempted to destroy the Image with an explosion. The altar?s marble steps, the flower-holders, and the basilica windows were all very damaged, but the pane of glass protecting the Image was not even cracked.

Juan Diego’s imprinted cloak has remained perfectly preserved from 1531 to present time. The “Basilica of Guadalupe” on Tepeyac Hill has become one of the world’s most-visited Catholic shrines.

St. Juan Diego was beatified on May 6, 1990 by Pope John Paul II and canonized on July 31, 2002. His feast day is celebrated on December 9 and he is the patron saint of Indigenous people.

~Source : catholiconline .org

December Feast Days

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Hail Mary, full of grace”. For thousands of centuries, millions of times per day the Virgin Mary is greeted by the faithful with the greeting of the Archangel, that we hear resonating anew in today’s Gospel. The sons of the Church learn from the words of the Archangel Gabriel that the fullness of the mystery of God’s grace was realized in Holy Mary. St Paul the Apostle teaches us that the Father made all fullness dwell in His Incarnate Son (c.f. Col 1:12-20), which overflows from Christ’s head and spills out on His Mystical Body that is the Church. Before descending in Body, Christ’s fullness was spread in a unique and unrepeatable way on Mary, predestined from eternity to be the Mother of God.

Significantly in the first reading, the liturgy recalls the figure of Eve, the mother of all the living. The Fathers of the Church saw in Mary, the new Eve that unties the knot bound by the first woman. The knot of disobedience tied by Eve, was untied by the obedience of Mary. As Eve was created in purity and integrity, also the new Eve was miraculously preserved from the contamination of original sin because she had to give humanity the Word, who was incarnated for our ransom.

Saint Irenaeus compares the virginity of the pure earth from which Adam was drawn to the virginity of the immaculate humanity of Mary from which the Second Adam was drawn. ‘And as the protoplast himself, Adam, had his substance from untilled and as yet virgin soil (for God had not yet sent rain, and man had not tilled the ground (Genesis 2:5)) so did He who is the Word, recapitulating Adam in Himself, rightly receive a birth, enabling Him to gather up Adam [into Himself], from Mary, who was as yet a virgin’ (Adversus hereses III, 21:10).

Blessed Pope Pius IX on the 8th of December 1854 proclaimed the Dogma of the faith revealed by God that the Blessed Virgin Mary “in the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin” (Denz.-Schonm, 2083). If the official proclamation of the dogma is relatively recent, the profession of faith by Christians and the liturgy is very ancient in this regard. Furthermore, four years later the same Virgin Mary, appearing in Lourdes to St Bernadette, confirmed the truth of the doctrine by presenting herself with the title ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’.

Mary’s predestination to this singular grace—consistent with the suspension of the universal decree by which every man, from the moment of his conception is contaminated with original sin—leads us to ponder in the deepest depths the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity’s salvific plan. God, One and Triune, had foreseen from the very beginning the future incarnation of the Word culminating in the redemption of human nature that had fallen into sin. He therefore predestined pure Mary, so that He could draw from her uncontaminated humanity, which the Son could adopt in order to re-establish in Himself the original purity of creation and reorientate it to eternal glory.

For this reason, in the second reading of today’s liturgy, St Paul reminds us that God wants to see us holy and immaculate before Him. The purity of our origins seemed to be irredeemably lost. However, in Immaculate Mary, God found the perfect solution to reverse the disaster made from the misuse of our liberty, and returned humanity to the original purity that seemed hopelessly lost.

Mary’s Immaculate Conception is a direct consequence of her Divine Maternity. St Anslem of Aosta wrote: ‘Assuredly, it was fitting that the Virgin be beautified with a purity than which a greater cannot be conceived, except for God’s. For, toward her, God the Father was so disposed to give His only Son who was naturally one and the same common Son of God the Father and of the Virgin.’ (De conceptu virginali et originali peccato, XVIII)

This link between the privilege of Divine Maternity and Mary’s Immaculate Conception results also in her superiority with respect to us. She is a perfect image of the Church in heaven, the new triumphant Jerusalem, that won’t have any marks nor will there be pain and death. This is why today’s preface recites: ‘…she was to be a worthy mother of your Son, your sign of favour to the church at its beginning, and the promise of its perfection as the bride of Christ, radiant in beauty’. Also in heaven Mary is not and will never be only a disciple, but her Son’s most exalted. She is and will always be the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, the Queen of the Angels and Saints. Therefore, the preface of the Mass adds: ‘…You chose her from all creatures to be our advocate with you and our pattern of holiness.’

Mary was Immaculate because she had to be the Mother of God. She, herself has received the original grace of purity and the final state of the blessed life that we also, by collaborating with Divine Grace, hope one day to receive.

Immaculate Mary is full of grace. She is not only Christ’s disciple, who with the help of grace has overcome the chains of sin, but she is totius Trinitatis nobile triclinium, the noble resting place of the Holy Trinity (St Thomas Aquinas, Exposito Salutationis Angelicae, I). The Immaculate, full of grace, will always be Mother and Queen for that elect part of the Church that we hope one day to join, that will one day joyfully sing before the Almighty.

~Source:Catholic culture.org

December Feast Days

St.Ambrose

Saint Ambrose, also known as Aurelius Ambrosius, is one of the four original doctors of the Church. He was the Bishop of Milan and became one of the most important theological figure of the 4th century.

Ambrose was born around 340 AD to a Roman Christian family. He grew up with his siblings, Satyrus and Marcellina, in Trier, Belgic Gaul (present-day Germany). It is believed by many that when Ambrose was just an infant, a swarm of bees landed on his face and left behind a drop of honey. To his father, this was a sign that Ambrose would become someone great with a wonderful sense for speaking.

After Ambrose’s father passed away, he was educated in Rome, where he studied law, literature and rhetoric. Ambrose received a place on the council, like his father, and was made consular prefect, or the Governor, of Liguria and Emilia around 372. Ambrose?s headquarters were in Milan, the then second capital of Italy.

Ambrose remained Governor until 374 when he became the Bishop of Milan. After the former Bishop of Milan died, Ambrose attended the election to prevent any uproars between the Nicene Church and the Arians. While giving an address, the assembly began calling for him to become the next bishop.

Ambrose was known for his Nicene beliefs, but Arians also favored him because he had previously shown charity in theological matters. However, being neither baptized or trained in theology, Ambrose refused to become the next bishop.

He ran and attempted to hide, but his colleague gave him up. Within a week’s time, Ambrose was baptized, ordained and duly consecrated bishop of Milan on December 7, 374.

As bishop, he donated all of his land and gave his money to the poor. This made him widely popular and often times more politically powerful than even the emperor.

He studied theology with Simplician, a presbyter of Rome. Using his new education, along with his knowledge of Greek, he took the time to study the Old Testament and Greek authors. He used all of this while preaching; his abilities impressed Augustine of Hippo, who previously thought poorly of Christian preachers.

After meeting Ambrose, Augustine reevaluated himself and was forever changed. In 387, Ambrose baptized Augustine, who he had a great influence on. St. Monica, Augustine’s mother, loved Ambrose “as an angel of God who uprooted her son from his former ways and led him to his convictions of Christ.”

According to legend, Ambrose tried to put an end to Arianism in Milan. He often attempted to theologically dispute their propositions. The Arians appealed to many high position leaders, but Ambrose was able to stay one step ahead. The Arians increasing strength proved troublesome for Ambrose. Around 386, the Emperor Valentinian II and his mother, Justine, along with many other people, including clergy, laypersons, and military, professed Arianism.

They demanded some of the churches in Milan be dedicated to them, one in the city and one in the suburbs. Ambrose refused and was ordered to appear in front of the council, where he then spoke eloquently in defense of the Church. He is quoted with stating: If you demand my person, I am ready to submit: carry me to prison or to death, I will not resist; but I will never betray the church of Christ. I will not call upon the people to succour me; I will die at the foot of the altar rather than desert it. The tumult of the people I will not encourage: but God alone can appease it.

The imperial court did not like Ambrose’s religious principles, but he was sought out to help and speak to Magnus Maximus to prevent him from descending upon Italy. Ambrose was successful.

During a second attempt, the embassy was not successful and Milan was taken. Justine and Valentinian II fled, but Ambrose stayed. He is credited with doing a great service to the sufferers during this time.

In 385, Ambrose once again refused handing over the Portian basilica to Valentinian II, this time to be used by Arian troops. A year later, Ambrose was again ordered to hand over the church for Arian use. Ambrose and his congregation barricaded themselves within the church walls until the imperial order rescinded.

After Theodosius I, emperor of the East, married Justine, Ambrose had him excommunicated for the massacre of 7,000 people. The emperor did several months? worth of public penance.

In his later years, Ambrose retired in Bologna and assisted in the transferring of saints Vitalis and Agricola’s relics.

Two years after Theodosius died, after he acquired the possession of the Roman empire, Ambrose passed away on April 4, 397. He was succeeded as bishop of Milan by Simplician.

Ambrose’s body remains in the church of St. Ambrogio in Milan, along with the bodies of Saints Gervase and Protase.

St. Ambrose was generous to the poor. He considered them not a group of outsiders, but rather those of the united people. To him, giving to the poor was just a repayment of God’s resources, which were intended for everyone equally.

He introduced reforms in the order and manner of public worship. He was known for his “liturgical flexibility that kept in mind that liturgy was a tool to serve people in worshiping God, and ought not to become a rigid entity that is invariable from place to place.”

Ambrose is credited with advising Augustine of Hippo to follow local liturgical customs. “When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the church where you are,” he stated. This advice remains today, and is translated in English as the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Some believe Ambrose was a Christian Universalist, based on interpretations of his writing. The Theological treatises of Ambrose had great influences on Popes Damasus, Siricius and Leo XIII. Ambrose studied largely on the virginity of Mary and her role as Mother of God. He viewed celibacy as superior to marriage and saw Mary as virginity’s model.

Ambrose authored many of the Church’s important writings and hymns. He is credited with composing the repertory Ambrosian chant, also known as the Antiphonal Chant. He is also credited with composing the hymn “Te Deum,” which is believed to have been written when he baptized Augustine of Hippo.

St. Ambrose is the Confessor and Doctor of the Church. He is the patron saint of bee keepers, beggars, learning and Milan, and his feast day is celebrated on December 7.

~Source:catholic online

December Feast Days

St.Nicholas of Myra

Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra, is undoubtedly one of the most popular saints honored in the Western world. In the United States, his memory has survived in the unique personality of Saint Claus — the jolly, rotund, white-bearded gentleman who captivates children with promises of gifts on Christmas Eve. Considered primarily as the patron saint of children, Nicholas is also invoked by sailors, merchants, bakers, travelers and pawnbrokers, and with Saint Andrew is honored as the co-patron of Russia. 

In spite of his widespread fame, Saint Nicholas, from the historian’s point of view, is hardly more than a name. He was born in the last years of the third century in Asia Minor. His uncle, the archbishop of Myra in Lycia, ordained him and appointed him abbot of a nearby monastery. At the death of the archbishop, Nicholas was chosen to fill the vacancy, and he served in this position until his death. About the time of the persecutions of Diocletian, he was imprisoned for preaching Christianity but was released during the reign of Emperor Constantine.

Popular legends have involved Saint Nicholas in a number of charming stories, one of which relates Nicholas’ charity toward the poor. A man of Patara had lost his fortune, and finding himself unable to support his three maiden daughters, was planning to turn them into the streets as prostitutes. Nicholas heard of the man’s intentions and secretly threw three bags of gold through a window into the home, thus providing dowries for the daughters. The three bags of gold mentioned in this story are said to be the origin of the three gold balls that form the emblem of pawnbrokers. 

After Nicholas’ death on December 6 in or around 345, his body was buried in the cathedral at Myra. It remained there until 1087, when seamen of Bari, an Italian coastal town, seized the relics of the saint and transferred them to their own city. Veneration for Nicholas had already spread throughout Europe as well as Asia, but this occurrence led to a renewal of devotion in the West. Countless miracles were attributed to the saint’s intercession. His relics are still preserved in the church of San Nicola in Bari; an oily substance, known as Manna di S. Nicola, which is highly valued for its medicinal powers, is said to flow from them. 

The story of Saint Nicholas came to America in distorted fashion. The Dutch Protestants carried a popularized version of the saint’s life to New Amsterdam, portraying Nicholas as nothing more than a Nordic magician and wonder-worker. Our present-day conception of Santa Claus has grown from this version. Catholics should think of Nicholas as a saint, a confessor of the faith and the bishop of Myra — not merely as a jolly man from the North Pole who brings happiness to small children. Many countries and locations honor St. Nicholas as patron: Greece, Russia, the Kingdom of Naples, Sicily, Lorraine, and many cities in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Belgium. 

~Excerpted in part from Lives of the Saints for every day of the Year, Volume III 

December Feast Days

Blessed Bartholomew Fanti

A native of Mantua, Italy, he was a Carmelite in the Mantuan Congregation and already ordained priest by 1452. For 35 years in the Carmelite church of his city, he was the spiritual director and rector of the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for whom he wrote a rule and a set of statutes.

Humble and gentle, he gave an example to everyone of a life of prayer, of generosity and of faithful service of the Lord. He was outstanding for his love of the Eucharist which was the centre of his apostolic life and for his devotion to Mary. He died in 1495.

~Source:ocarm.org