February Feast Days

Blessed Eustochium

Bl. Eustochium was the illegitimate child of a seduced nun, she was born at San Prosdocimo convent in Padua, baptized Lucrezia, and raised and educated at the convent.

When she grew older she wished to become a nun and despite the opposition of many in the community because of the circumstances of her birth, the Bishop approved her noviceship and she was veiled, taking the name Eustochium. Though normally humble and obedient, she soon began to display strange and curious spells of unusual behavior in which she acted like a mad woman. For a time she was tied up for days and when the Abbess fell ill, Eustochium was accused of poisoning her and was barely saved from a mob of townspeople who wanted her burned as a witch. Instead the Bishop had her imprisoned in a cell; fortunately the Abbess recovered, but Eustochium was shunned by the members of the community. Her spells continued, with such manifestations as self-inflicted wounds, walking on high roofs, and being found naked in her cell with marks on her throat; on her recovery from each of the attacks, she was a model religious. At the insistence of her confessor, she was allowed to become a nun and seems to have conquered what appeared to be diabolical attacks.

In time she won the respect of her community by her penitance and holiness. She died on February 13, at which time the name Jesus was found burned on her breast. Her feast day is February 13th.

February Feast Days, Marian apparitions

Our Lady of Lourdes

The Apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes

Thursday 11th february 1858: the first meeting

Accompanied by her sister and a friend, Bernadette went to Massabielle on the banks of the Gave to collect bones and dead wood. Removing her socks in order to cross the stream, she heard a noise like a gust of wind, she looked up towards the Grotto : “I saw a lady dressed in white, she wore a white dress, and equally white veils, a blue belt and a yellow rose on each foot.” Bernadette made the Sign of the Cross and said the Rosary with the lady. When the prayer ended the Lady suddenly vanished.

Sunday 14th february 1858: holy water

Bernadette felt an inner force drawing her to the Grotto in spite of the fact that she was forbidden to go there by her parents. At her insistence, her mother allowed her; after the first decade of the Rosary, she saw the same lady appearing. She sprinkled holy water at her. The lady smiled and bent her head. When the Rosary ended she disappeared.

Thursday 18th february 1858: the Lady speaks

For the first time, the Lady spoke. Bernadette held out a pen and paper asking her to write her name. She replied; “It is not necessary” and she added: “I do not promise to make you happy in this world but in the other. Would you be kind enough to come here for a fortnight?”

Friday 19th february 1858: the first candle

Bernadette came to the Grotto with a lighted blessed candle. This is the origin of carrying candles and lighting them in front of the Grotto.

Saturday 20th february 1858: in silence

The Lady taught her a personal prayer. At the end of the vision Bernadette is overcome with a great sadness.

Sunday 21th february 1858: “Aquero”

The Lady appeared to Bernadette very early in the morning. About one hundred people were present. Afterwards the Police Commissioner, Jacomet, questioned her. He wanted Bernadette to tell what she saw. Bernadette would only speak of “AQUÉRO” (“that thing” in local dialect)

Tuesday 23th february 1858: the secret

Surrounded by 150 persons, Bernadette arrived at the Grotto. The Apparition reveals to her a secret “only for her alone”.

Wednesday 24th february 1858: «Penance !»

The message of the Lady: “Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for sinners. Kiss the ground as an act of penance for sinners!”

Thursday 25th february 1858: the spring

Three hundred people were present. Bernadette relates; “She told me to go, drink of the spring (….) I only found a little muddy water. At the fourth attempt I was able to drink. She also made me eat the bitter herbs that were found near the spring, and then the vision left and went away.” In front of the crowd that was asking “Do you think that she is mad doing things like that?” she replied; “It is for sinners.”

Saturday 27th february 1858: silence

Eight hundred people were present. The Apparition was silent. Bernadette drank the water from the spring and carried out her usual acts of penance.

Sunday 28th february 1858: the ecstasy

Over one thousand people were present at the ecstasy. Bernadette prayed, kissed the ground and moved on her knees as a sign of penance. She was then taken to the house of Judge Ribes who threatened to put her in prison.

Monday 1st march 1858: the fist miracle

Over one thousand five hundred people assembled and among them, for the first time, a priest. In the night, Catherine Latapie, a woman from Loubajac, 7 kilometres away , went to the Grotto, she plunged her dislocated arm into the water of the spring: her arm and her hand regained their movement.

Tuesday 2nd march 1858: message to the priests

The crowd becomes larger and larger. The Lady asked her: “Go and tell the priests that people are to come here in procession and to build a chapel here.” Bernadette spoke of this to Fr. Peyramale, the Parish Priest of Lourdes. He wanted to know only one thing: the Lady’s name. He demanded another test; to see the wild rose bush flower at the Grotto in the middle of winter.

Wednesday 3rd march 1858: a smile

From 7 o’clock in the morning, in the presence of three thousand people, Bernadette arrived at the Grotto, but the vision did not appear! After school, she heard the inner invitation of the Lady. She went to the Grotto and asked her again for her name. The response was a smile. The Parish Priest told her again: “If the Lady really wishes that a chapel be built, then she must tell us her name and make the rose bush bloom at the Grotto.”

Thursday 4th march 1858: the day all were waiting for !

The ever-greater crowd (about eight thousand people) waited for a miracle at the end of the fortnight. The vision was silent. Fr. Peyramale stuck to his position. For twenty days Bernadette did not go to the Grotto, she no longer felt the irresistible invitation.

Thursday 25th march 1858: the name they waited for !

The vision finally revealed her name, but the wild rose bush, on which she stood during the Apparitions, did not bloom. Bernadette recounted : “She extended her arms towards the ground, then joined them as though in prayer and said Que soy era Immaculada Concepciou (I am the Immaculate Conception)”. The young visionary left and, running all the way, repeated continuously the words that she did not understand. These words troubled the brave Parish Priest. Bernadette was ignorant of the fact that this theological expression was assigned to the Blessed Virgin. Four years earlier, in 1854, Pope Pius IX declared this a truth of the Catholic Faith (a dogma).

Wednesday 7th april 1858: the miracle of the candle

During this apparition, Bernadette had to keep her candle alight. The flame licked along her hand without burning it. A medical doctor, Dr. Douzous, immediately witnessed this fact.

Friday 16th july 1858 : the final apparition

Bernadette received the mysterious call to the Grotto, but her way was blocked and closed off by a barrier. She thus arrived across from the Grotto to the other side of the Gave. “I felt that I was in front of the Grotto, at the same distance as before, I saw only the Blessed Virgin, and she was more beautiful than ever!”

February Feast Days

St.Jose Sanchez del Río

Our young saint lived in tumultuous times. The socialist government of Mexico was waging a bloody war against the Catholic Church, and fervent Catholics known as the Cristeros rose up to defend Christ the King. Their heroic resistance, La Cristiada, began in 1926.

The Mexican constitution of 1917—socialist at its core—sparked this terrible conflict. It put the Church under the strict control of the State: it regulated Catholic preaching, allotted a fixed number of priests per state, dictated Mass attendance, baptisms, weddings, the Sacraments, and tithing. Even the ringing of Church bells was hampered, and prelates caught disobeying these unjust laws were exiled or killed.

The president at the time, Venustiano Carranza, did not immediately enforce the anti-Catholic laws, but showed temporary tolerance. When Plutarco Elías Calles took power in 1920, however, the new constitution was brutally enforced. Calles sent more than two hundred priests into exile, along with a number of archbishops and bishops.

The worst persecution was unleashed by the iniquitous Ley Calles (Calles Law) of July 31, 1926. It prohibited the practice of the Catholic religion in public. All education was removed from the care of the Church and put under direct State control. Religious vows were illegal. Monasteries and convents were dissolved, and religious could no longer use habits. Church property was confiscated.

Moreover, it was illegal for anyone, especially priests, to speak out against the government or the constitution. Priests wishing to exercise their ministry had to ask the State for permission. Frequently, this “permission” was not granted. Finally, those who did not obey these immoral laws were fined or imprisoned. A “serious” or repeated offense often meant execution.

In this turmoil, God rose up a strong reaction: the Cristeros. Among these Catholics we find the heroic figure of José Sánchez del Río. The young saint was born on March 28, 1913 in Sahuayo, Michoacan. His parents, Macario Sanchez Sanchez and Maria del Río Arteaga, had three older sons, two of whom joined the Cristeros.

Saint José Luis Sánchez del Río as a youth of nine years on his First Holy Communion day in 1922.

José witnessed the horrible persecution of the Church and, following his brothers, decided to join the Cristiada movement. He was so young, however, that his parents were reluctant. After much pleading and a visit to a Cristero officer, don Macario and doña Maria gave José their parental blessing. José was overjoyed, but also aware of the suffering he would endure. Before departing, he declared: “For Jesus Christ, I will do everything.”

José and a friend, Trinidad Flores, set off to a Cristero camp. After a long journey they presented themselves to the officer in charge and were given tasks: carry water, prepare the fire, serve food and coffee, wash dishes, feed the horses, and clean rifles.

José enthusiastically went about the chores, and the soldiers quickly became fond of him. He fervently attended daily Mass and prayed the Rosary with the soldiers every evening. José learned how to play the bugle for battle, and was put under the care of General Luis Guizar Morfin who, with the intention of protecting the lad, gave him the duty of standard bearer.

Outnumbered and outgunned, the Cristeros used guerrilla tactics over pitched battles. On February 6, 1928, the Cristeros ambushed the enemy, between Cotija and Jiquilpan. When the order was given to retreat, Federal machine gun fire opened up on their position, ripping through the rocks that gave the Cristeros cover. José saw the General’s horse drop dead beneath him. Although the General himself was not seriously injured, José rushed over, jumped off his own horse and urged him to take it:

“General, here’s my horse!”

The general replied: “Run boy, run! Go!”

But José insisted: “I am young; you are more important than me! Viva Cristo Rey!”

Overtaken by the boy’s sacrifice, the general accepted the horse and fled. José, refusing to run, stayed behind to provide covering fire for his fellow Cristeros, but he soon ran out of ammunition and was captured by the Federals. They pushed, hit, kicked and insulted him while uttering foul blasphemies. Another young boy, Lorenzo “El Escurridizo,” was captured as well. Their execution was interrupted by a federal general who asked the two boys to join the anti-Catholic side. José answered without hesitation:

“You have captured me because I ran out of ammo, but I have not given up!” Surprised by the answer, the general threw José and Lorenzo into prison at Cotija.

Captured by the Federals, their general asked him to join the anti-Catholic side. Jose answered without hesitation: “You have captured me because I ran out of ammo, but I have not given up!”

In his prison cell, José remembered the advice of his dear mother: have complete confidence in the Mother of God, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

As the early morning sun shone through the tiny window in José’s cell, he wrote a letter to his mother dated February 6, 1928.

My dear mother:

I was made a prisoner in battle today. I think I will die soon, but I do not care, mother. Resign yourself to the will of God. I will die happy because I die on the side of our God. Do not worry about my death, which would mortify me. Tell my brothers to follow the example that their youngest brother leaves them, and do the will of God. Have courage and send me your blessing along with my father’s.

Send my regards to everyone one last time and finally receive the heart of your son who loves you so much and who wanted to see you before dying.

~José Sánchez del Río

On February 7, José and Lorenzo were transferred from the prison in Cotija to the Catholic church in Sahuayo—where José was baptized—which had been turned into a stable for animals by the impious federals. Horse manure, military supplies, empty beer bottles, and food scraps covered the floor. Soldiers vandalized the altar, using its wood to start a fire. The church, once beautiful, was now disfigured beyond recognition.

News of José’s imprisonment spread rapidly. Attempts were made to obtain his release, but the soldiers refused to let him go. José’s godfather, Rafael Picazo, a local political boss in Sahuayo, visited him. This man, however, was a federal sympathizer and he slyly attempted to convince José to attend military school and become an officer in the Federal Army. José was shocked by the proposal and replied:

“I’d rather die first! I will not go with those monkeys! Never with those persecutors of the Church! If you let me go, tomorrow I will return to the Cristeros! Viva Cristo Rey! Viva La Virgen de Guadalupe!”

José was outraged by the sacrilegious behavior of his captors who released fighting cocks inside the church, and had them fight in the sacred sanctuary. The colorful fighting birds roamed freely, perching on sacred objects, including the tabernacle. But as soon as José saw them, he decided to stop the profanation of the altar. Disregarding certain reprisal from the guards, he grabbed the roosters and cracked their necks one by one.

After he finished them off, José washed his hands with a rag, knelt down and prayed devoutly with a strong and loud voice. He then went calmly to bed. Of this episode, author Luis Laurean Cervantes remarks, “As Christ had cleaned the vendors out of the Temple, he [José] had cleaned it of fighting cocks.”

The next morning, when Picazo saw what José had done, he was enraged. Picazo wrenched José up by the arm and screamed:

“Don’t you realize what you did? Don’t you know the cost of a rooster?!”

José replied: “The only thing I know is that the house of God is not a corral nor a barnyard! I am willing to endure everything. Shoot me now so that I can go before Our Lord!”

Lorenzo, who was also in the church-prison, grew scared, but José counseled him to remain strong, and spoke about Christ, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the stories of Anacleto González Flores and Father Miguel Pro—both martyrs.

“Viva Cristo Rey!”

On February 10, Picazo made up his mind to execute his godson. The order to kill José Sánchez del Río was issued at six o’clock and the execution itself was scheduled for eight-thirty.

José was allowed to write a final letter to his family, which he did. Thirty minutes before the execution, José’s aunt Magdalena brought him dinner. At her request, a priest hid the Blessed Sacrament in the food package and José secretly received Holy Communion for the last time.

Then José bid his aunt farewell: “We will see each other in Heaven soon.” José was about to cry, but he chocked back his tears because he didn’t want to weep in front of a woman. “…take care of my mother. Tell her not to rush [to see me] as I will have already won Heaven.”

Finally, the time for the execution arrived. Picazo wanted the execution to be done “quietly” without a formal firing squad. Instead, the federals cut the soles of José’s feet with a knife. They brutally beat him over and over, but with each cut and each savage blow, he shouted: “Viva Cristo Rey!”

The guards made José walk ten blocks, barefoot and bleeding, along a rocky path to the cemetery were he would be buried. Along the way, the soldiers screamed blasphemies with satanic hatred, praising the godless government, trying to pressure the boy to deny his faith: “You better learn your lesson!” “We will kill you!” “What a proud and arrogant boy!” they said.

José’s only response was: “Viva Cristo Rey!” and “Viva La Virgen de Guadalupe!”

Already at the cemetery, José asked: “Where is my plot?” as he did not want any of the troops to touch him. One of the soldiers suddenly swung his rifle around, breaking José’s jaw with the butt. Without hesitation, the soldiers furiously stabbed him in the neck, chest and the back with knives. At every stab, José proclaimed the name of Christ the King at the top of his lungs, “Viva Cristo Rey!”

José was dying slowly. But he still mustered enough energy to defy the soldiers, saying: “You have done a lot to me, but God still allows me [to continue]! But when I can no longer speak, if I wiggle my feet, that means, ‘Viva Cristo Rey and the Virgin of Guadalupe!’”

A federal officer approached the dying and bleeding boy on the ground and asked in a sarcastic tone: “What should we tell your father?” José answered: “That we will see each other in Heaven! Viva Cristo Rey! and the Virgin of Guadalupe

Overtaken by anger, the officer grabbed his gun and shot José behind the ear. José Sánchez del Río won the crown of martyrdom.

The federals tossed the boy’s body into the grave, shoveled some dirt over it and left. Luis Gomez, the undertaker, waited for the federals to leave and immediately closed the gates of the cemetery. He ran to the house of Father Ignacio Sanchez, José’s uncle, and asked the priest to give the martyr a Christian burial. Luis and the priest hurried back to the cemetery. They took José’s mangled body out of the grave and wrapped it in a blanket while the priest prayed the prayers for the dead.

Soon, everyone knew about the boy-martyr. People started to pray to him. His heroic life quickly became a model across Mexico.

The body of the martyr was buried in that same cemetery until 1945. After Fr. Miguel Serrato repaired the local church of the Sacred Heart, blessed José’s remains were transferred to its shrine where other Cristero martyrs are interred. Finally, in 1996 his remains were moved to the parish church where he was held captive. His relics are kept in a wooden coffin in the baptistery, the same place where he was held captive. He was beatified on June 22, 2004, and on October 16, 2016 was canonized a saint.

Let us imitate the virtues of this young saint: fortitude, valor, faith, holy audacity, hope and charity. Let us pray for the grace to have the same enthusiasm to defend the law and the rights of God that are under attack today, and to endure all hardships for the greater glory of God and Holy Mother Church.


February Feast Days

St. Miguel Febres Cordero

Francisco Luis Febres-Cordero y Muñoz was born in Ecuador on the 7th of November 1854 to Francisco María Febres-Cordero y Montoya and Ana de Jesús Muñoz y Cárdenas. His siblings were Aurelio Febres-Cordero y Muñoz and Ana de Jesús Febres-Cordero y Muñoz.

He was born with an infirmity of the feet that rendered him incapable of standing or walking. This was cured at the age of five when he received a vision of the Mother of God.At the age of eight he was—attributed as a miracle at the time—saved from being mauled to death at the hands of a wild bull. His mother took great care of him and also assumed charge of his education until he was nine. After the death of his mother he welcomed his stepmother Heloise Santillán and half brother Benjamín Febres-Cordero Santillán.

In 1863 he was enrolled into a school that the Brothers of the Christian Schools ran—an order that was a new arrival in the nation. He was selected to give the welcome address to President Gabriel García Moreno when the latter came to visit the school.

Muñoz became a member of that order on 24 March 1868, the first Ecuadorian to be received in it.He assumed the religious habit on the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation with the name of “Miguel”. He entered despite the opposition of his father and after several vain attempts he relented. He held the position of a school teacher in Quito for over three decades where he became known as a gentle and dedicated individual. He published his own school textbooks, including one for the teaching of Spanish, as well as odes and discourses on teaching methods. The government adopted some of his textbooks that were circulated across all schools. He also did research and authored books on literature and linguistics, which earned him membership in the Ecuadorian Academy of Letters in 1892, followed by the Academies of Spain, France, and Venezuela.As a result of his high standing in educational affairs he was elected to educational academies in his home in 1892 as well as in France and Venezuela. He conducted religious retreats and also helped to prepare children for their First Communion. He also served as the novice director for his order’s house from 1901 to 1904.

In 1888 he was sent as the representative to the celebration in which Pope Leo XIII beatified the order’s founder: John Baptist de la Salle. Muñoz was sent to Europe in 1905 in order for him to translate texts from French to Spanish for the order to use and he worked to that extent in Belgium. His health started to deteriorate in 1908 and he was transferred to Barcelona in Spain where he continued to work until his health would not permit him to do so. Yet strikes broke out and churches were burned which led to the evacuation of the order but despite this he managed to make a pilgrimage to Zaragoza.

He died in 1910 of pneumonia and was buried in Premià de Mar.He was exhumed during the Spanish Civil War and was found to be incorrupt. In 1937 his remains were transferred to Quito where his tomb became a popular pilgrimage site.

February Feast Days

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich

Anna Katharina Emmerick was born on September 8, 1774 in the farming community of Flamsche near Coesfeld. She grew up amidst a host of nine brothers and sisters. She had to help out in the house and with the farm work at an early age. Her school attendance was brief, which made it all the more remarkable that she was well instructed in religious matters. Her parents and all those who knew Anna Katherina noticed early on that she felt drawn to prayer and to the religious life in a special way.

Anna Katharina labored for three years on a large farm in the vicinity. Then she learned to sew and stayed in Coesfeld for her further training. She loved to visit the old churches in Coesfeld and to join in the celebration of Mass. She often walked the path of Coesfeld’s long Way of the Cross alone, praying the stations by herself.

Anna Katharina wanted to enter the convent, but since her wish could not be fulfilled at that time, she returned to her parental home. She worked as a seamstress and, while doing so, visited many homes.

Anna Katherina asked for admission to different convents, but she was rejected because she could not bring a significant dowry with her. The Poor Clares in Münster finally agreed to accept her if she would learn to play the organ. She received her parents’ permission to be trained in Coesfeld by the organist Söntgen. But she never got around to learning how to play the organ. The misery and poverty in the Söntgen household prompted her to work in the house and help out in the family. She even sacrificed her small savings for their sake.

Together with her friend Klara Söntgen Anna Katharina was finally able to enter the convent Agnetenberg in Dülmen in 1802. The following year she took her religious vows. She participated enthusiastically in the life of the convent. She was always willing to take on hard work and loathsome tasks. Because of her impoverished background she was at first given little respect in the convent. Some of the sisters took offence at her strict observance of the order’s rule and considered her a hypocrite. Anna Katharina bore this pain in silence and quiet submission.

From 1802 to 1811 Anna Katharina was ill quite often and had to endure great pain.

As a result of secularization the convent of Agnetenberg was suppressed in 1811, and Anna Katharina had to leave the convent along with the others. She was taken in as a housekeeper at the home of Abbé Lambert, a priest who had fled France and lived in Dülmen. But she soon became ill. She was unable to leave the house and was confined to bed. In agreement with Curate Lambert she had her younger sister Gertrud come to take over the housekeeping under her direction.

During this period Anna Katharina received the stigmata. She had already endured the pain of the stigmata for a long time. The fact that she bore the wounds of Christ could not remain hidden. Dr. Franz Wesener, a young doctor, went to see her, and he was so impressed by her that he became a faithful, selfless and helping friend during the following eleven years. He kept a diary about his contacts with Anna Katharina Emmerick in which he recorded a wealth of details.

A striking characteristic of the life of Anna Katharina was her love for people. Wherever she saw need she tried to help. Even in her sickbed she sewed clothes for poor children and was pleased when she could help them in this way. Although she could have found her many visitors annoying, she received all of them kindly. She embraced their concerns in her prayers and gave them encouragement and words of comfort.

Many prominent people who were important in the renewal movement of the church at the beginning of the 19th century sought an opportunity to meet Anna Katharina, among them Clemens August Droste zu Vischering, Bernhard Overberg, Friedrich Leopold von Stolberg, Johann Michael Sailer, Christian and Clemens Brentano, Luise Hensel, Melchior and Apollonia Diepenbrock.

The encounter with Clemens Brentano was particularly significant. His first visit led him to stay in Dülmen for five years. He visited Anna Katharina daily to record her visions which he later published.

Anna Katharina grew ever weaker during the summer of 1823. As always she joined her suffering to the suffering of Jesus and offered it up for the salvation of all. She died on February 9, 1824.

Anna Katharina Emmerick was buried in the cemetery in Dülmen. A large number of people attended the funeral. Because of a rumor that her corpse had been stolen the grave was reopened twice in the weeks following the burial. The coffin and the corpse were found to be intact.

Clemens Brentano wrote the following about Anna Katharina Emmerick: “She stands like a cross by the wayside”. Anna Katharina Emmerick shows us the center of our Christian faith, the mystery of the cross.

The life of Anna Katharina Emmerick is marked by her profound closeness to Christ. She loved to pray before the famous Coesfeld Cross, and she walked the path of the long Way of the Cross frequently. So great was her personal participation in the sufferings of our Lord that it is not an exaggeration to say that she lived, suffered and died with Christ. An external sign of this, which is at the same time, however, more than just a sign, are the wounds of Christ which she bore.

Anna Katharina Emmerick was a great admirer of Mary. The feast of the Nativity of Mary was also Anna Katharina’s birthday. A verse from a prayer to Mary highlights a further aspect of Anna Katharina’s life for us. The prayer states, “O God, let us serve the work of salvation following the example of the faith and the love of Mary”. To serve the work of salvation – that is what Anna Katharina wanted to do.

In Colossians the apostle Paul speaks of two ways to serve the gospel, to serve salvation. One consists in the active proclamation in word and deed. But what if that is no longer possible? Paul, who obviously finds himself in such a situation, writes: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24).

Anna Katharina Emmerick served salvation in both ways. Her words, which have reached innumerable people in many languages from her modest room in Dülmen through the writings of Clemens Brentano, are an outstanding proclamation of the gospel in service to salvation right up to the present day. At the same time, however, Anna Katharina Emmerick understood her suffering as a service to salvation. Dr. Wesener, her doctor, recounts her petition in his diary: “I have always requested for myself as a special gift from God that I suffer for those who are on the wrong path due to error or weakness, and that, if possible, I make reparation for them.” It has been reported that Anna Katharina Emmerick gave many of her visitors religious assistance and consolation. Her words had this power because she brought her life and suffering into the service of salvation.

In serving the work of salvation through faith and love, Anna Katharina Emmerick can be a model for us.

Dr. Wesener passed on this remark of Anna Katharina Emmerick: “I have always considered service to my neighbor to be the greatest virtue. In my earliest childhood I already requested of God that he give me the strength to serve my fellow human beings and to be useful. And now I know that he has granted my request.” How could she who was confined to her sickroom and her bed for years serve her neighbor?

In a letter to Count Stolberg, Clemens August Droste zu Vischering, the vicar‑general at that time, called Anna Katharina Emmerick a special friend of God. In the words of Hans Urs von Balthasar we can say, “She brought her friendship with God to bear in solidarity with human beings.”

To bring friendship with God to bear in solidarity with human beings – does this not shed light on an important concern in the life of the church today? The Christian faith no longer includes everyone. In our world the Christian community represents people before God. We must bring our friendship with God to bear, let it be the decisive factor in solidarity with human beings.

Anna Katharina Emmerick is united to us in the community of believers. This community does not come to an end with death. We believe in the lasting communion with all whom God has led to perfection. We are united with them beyond death and they participate in our lives. We can invoke them and ask for their intercession. We ask Anna Katharina Emmerick, the newly named Blessed, to bring her friendship with God to bear in solidarity with us and with all human beings.


February Feast Days

St.Josephine Bakhita

Saint Josephine Margaret Bakhita was born around 1869 in the village of Olgossa in the Darfur region of Sudan. She was a member of the Daju people and her uncle was a tribal chief. Due to her family lineage, she grew up happy and relatively prosperous, saying that as a child, she did not know suffering.

Historians believe that sometime in February 1877, Josephine was kidnapped by Arab slave traders. Although she was just a child, she was forced to walk barefoot over 600 miles to a slave market in El Obeid. She was bought and sold at least twice during the grueling journey.

For the next 12 years she would be bought, sold and given away over a dozen times. She spent so much time in captivity that she forgot her original name.

As a slave, her experiences varied from fair treatment to cruel. Her first owner, a wealthy Arab, gave her to his daughters as a maid. The assignment was easy until she offended her owner’s son, possibly for the crime of breaking a vase. As punishment, she was beaten so severely she was incapacitated for a month. After that, she was sold.

One of her owners was a Turkish general who gave her to his wife and mother-in-law who both beat her daily. Josephine wrote that as soon as one wound would heal, they would inflict another.

She told about how the general’s wife ordered her to be scarred. As her mistress watched, ready with a whip, another woman drew patterns on her skin with flour, then cut into her flesh with a blade. She rubbed the wounds with salt to make the scars permanent. She would suffer a total of 114 scars from this abuse.

In 1883, the Turkish general sold her to the Italian Vice Consul, Callisto Legani. He was a much kinder master and he did not beat her. When it was time for him to return to Italy, she begged to be taken with him, and he agreed.

After a long and dangerous journey across Sudan, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean, they arrived in Italy. She was given away to another family as a gift and she served them as a nanny.

Her new family also had dealings in Sudan had when her mistress decided to travel to Sudan without Josephine, she placed her in the custody of the Canossian Sisters in Venice.

While she was in the custody of the sisters, she came to learn about God. According to Josephine, she had always known about God, who created all things, but she did not know who He was. The sisters answered her questions. She was deeply moved by her time with the sisters and discerned a call to follow Christ.

When her mistress returned from Sudan, Josephine refused to leave. Her mistress spent three days trying to persuade her to leave the sisters, but Josephine remained steadfast. This caused the superior of the institute for baptismal candidates among the sisters to complain to Italian authorities on Josephine’s behalf.

The case went to court, and the court found that slavery had been outlawed in Sudan before Josephine was born, so she could not be lawfully made slave. She was declared free.

For the first time in her life, Josephine was free and could choose what to do with her life. She chose to remain with the Canossian Sisters.

She was baptized on January 9, 1890 and took the name Josephine Margaret and Fortunata. (Fortunata is the Latin translation for her Arabic name, Bakhita). She also received the sacraments of her first holy communion and confirmation on the same day. These three sacraments are the sacraments of initiation into the Church and were always given together in the early Church. The Archbishop who gave her the sacraments was none other than Giusseppe Sarto, the Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, who would later become Pope Pius X.

Josephine became a novice with the CanossianDaughters of Charity religious order on December 7, 1893, and took her final vows on December 8, 1896. She was eventually assigned to a convent in Schio, Vicenza.

For the next 42 years of her life, she worked as a cook and a doorkeeper at the convent. She also traveled and visited other convents telling her story to other sisters and preparing them for work in Africa.

She was known for her gentle voice and smile. She was gentle and charismatic, and was often referred to lovingly as the “little brown sister” or honorably as the “black mother.”

When speaking of her enslavement, she often professed she would thank her kidnappers. For had she not been kidnapped, she might never have come to know Jesus Christ and entered His Church.

During World War II, the people of the village of Schio regarded her as their protector. And although bombs fell on their village, not one citizen died.

In her later years, she began to suffer physical pain and was forced to use a wheelchair. But she always remained cheerful. If anyone asked her how she was, she would reply, “As the master desires.”

On the evening of February 8, 1947, Josephine spoke her last words, “Our Lady, Our Lady!” She then died. Her body lay on display for three days afterwards.

In 1958, the process of canonization began for Josephine under Pope John XXIII. On December 1st, 1978, Pope John Paul II declared her venerable. Sadly, the news of her beatification in 1992 was censored in Sudan. But just nine months later, Pope John Paul II visited Sudan and honored her publicly. He canonized her on October 1, 2000.

Saint Josephine Bakhita is the patron saint of Sudan and her feast day is celebrated on February 8.


February Feast Days

Blessed Eugenie Smet

Charity for the souls in Purgatory is one of the most touching characteristics of our Catholic Church. From the earliest ages of Christianity prayers and good works have been offered for the dead bonding the Church Militant with the Church Suffering.

However, it was not until the late 19th Century that a special Order was created for the relief and deliverance of the faithful departed through spiritual and temporal works of mercy. The Order of the Holy Souls Helpers is one of the most beautiful stones that marked the movement of the Holy Spirit.

Founded with the special purpose of assisting the souls in Purgatory by the various means which God has revealed, this religious Order of women rose at a providential epoch.

In a century very much like our own, where material interests, indifference alternated with unbelief, the ancient practices of prayers and Masses for the dead had been for the most part swept away.

When God intends to manifest that He is, so to speak, the original Author of any special work,” says Father Garside, “often he writes His cipher on some lowly heart which the world ignores; He comes suddenly and foreshadows to it some indication of His will, the full meaning of which will not be clearly unfolded, until the divinely chosen hour shall have arrived for its executions.”

So it was with the origin of the Helpers of the Holy Souls. This order existed only as a pious idea in the heart of a young girl destined to be its foundress, Eugenie-Marie-Joseph Smet. (Blessed Sister Mary of Providence.)

As a little girl she would puzzle her playmates by a remark, “the souls are in prison, a fire, but the Good God asks us only for a prayer to let them out and wo don’t say it.” As a young woman, she once said to an Archbishop: “Day and night I am pursued by the same thought: one does not pray enough for the dead. Hundreds of thousands of people die every day. Where is there a community devoted exclusively to the relief and deliverance of these dear souls?”

Considering that there was not in the Church, any religious institute for which the principal end was the relief of the Holy Souls, she set herself to work with great zeal. The Cure d’ Ars encouraged her by telling her that it was the will of God and “a realization of the love of the Heart of Jesus.” Like a burning brand the words from Ars were lodged within her spirit. The pledge of future fire. With five companions she pronounced her vows and launched her work in Paris on December 27, 1856.

She offered herself as a victim of expiation for these souls. All her prayers, all her mortifications, all her heroic acts were offered for them.

Blessed Mary had incredible nuggets of great wisdom and insight, “If we enter on the royal road of the Cross, each trial or sorrow will be a station before which we shall kneel to adore the hand of Providence, and the last station on that road will be the gate of Heaven.

Who but Jesus can satisfy these hungry hearts of ours, starving as they are for happiness! If we thirst after God, we must thirst for everything that draws us closer to Him.

Let us make no other projects than to do God’s will. If the souls in purgatory could exchange places with us, how gladly they would suffer, and how slight our sufferings seem to them! Those who cannot suffer cannot love.

Fear nothing but not to do perfectly God’s will. You feel as if you did nothing, knew nothing, and felt nothing. Never mind; the good God will contrive to weave a crown for you out of all the nothings you have offered up for His love.

Personal sanctification is the first step towards apostleship. Before we can follow the martyrs to distant lands, we must vigorously accept daily martyrdom of minute sacrifices. If we only knew what benefit it procured for the souls in Purgatory.

Whenever anything happens, I say to myself, It has happened; and so it is God who allowed it to happen. I will not puzzle myself anymore with those two words, “why” and “how.”

Oh, let us put on Jesus Christ’s livery with joy and love and thus, clothed, descend continually into purgatory, to give the poor souls, by our acts, our sufferings, and our prayers, all the hope and consolation expressed by the Name of Jesus.

The souls in purgatory suffer without a moment’s interruption. Their helpers must never cease a moment to assist them. How could we think of rest on earth? Let us then be docile instruments in God’s hands. It is a marvelous mystery of love that He should make use of nothing and accomplish something.

Holy suffering souls, who can obtain so many graces for us, remember us in the midst of your sufferings. I will work unceasingly to obtain for you the joys of heaven and I know you will plead for me.”

Her genious was exercising charity towards her neighbor and at the same time and by the same acts, for the relief of the souls in Purgatory and of the poor of the earth. Offering to God for the holy souls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy done for the living.

Purgatory had found the way into the depths of her being: “Today I feel as thought my hands were on fire. I am burning…My God may I burn with love for You! Like St. Catherine of Genoa, she had entered into myserious participation in the pains of Purgatory, feeling its fire in her members, and the uanppeased hunger and thirst for God: “I feel within me, an inconceivable hunger and thrist for God. We must help souls to reach the object of their creation, never lose its urgency.”

Charity, charity, charity, for the suffering souls is our call. The first Mother of the Helpers of the Holy Souls will live; the flame of Blessed Mary of Providence can never die.

Let us pray that we carry that flame of love for our holy heroes to the ends of the earth and may we never be classed with those whom St. Bernard describes as producing “much weeping but no fruit, and who are more to be pitied themselves than the dead whose loss they mourn!”

~Excerpted from an article written by Susan Tassone