May Feast Days

St Joan of Arc

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

On January 6, 1412, Joan of Arc was born to pious parents of the French peasant class in the obscure village of Domremy, near the province of Lorraine. At a very early age, she was said to have heard the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret.

At first the messages were personal and general, but when she was 13-years-old, she was in her father’s garden and had visions of Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret, each of whom told her to drive the English from French territory. They also asked that she bring the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation.

After their messages were delivered and the saints departed, Joan cried, as “they were so beautiful.”

When she was sixteen-years-old, she asked her relative, Durand Lassois, to take her to Vaucouleurs, where she petitioned Robert de Baudricourt, the garrison commander, for permission to visit the French Royal Court in Chinon.

Despite Baudricourt’s sarcastic response to her request, Joan returned the following January and left with the support of two of Baudricourt’s soldiers: Jean de Metz and Bertrand de Poulengy.

Jean de Metz admitted Joan had confided in him, saying, “I must be at the King’s side … there will be no help if not from me. Although I would rather have remained spinning [wool] at my mother’s side … yet must I go and must I do this thing, for my Lord wills that I do so.

With Metz and Poulengy at her side, Joan met Baudricourt and predicted a military reversal at the Battle of Rouvray near Orléans, which were confirmed several days later by a messenger’s report. When Baudricourt realized the distance of the battle’s location and the time it would have taken Joan to make the journey, he concluded she had seen the reversal by Divine revelation, which caused him to believe her words.

Once she had Baudricourt’s belief, Joan was granted an escort to Chinon through hostile Burgundian territory. For her safety, she was escorted while dressed as a male soldier, which later led to charges of cross-dressing, but her escorts viewed as a sound precaution.

Two members of her escort confirmed they and the people of Vaucouleurs gave her the clothing and had been the ones to suggest she don the outfit.

When she arrived in the Royal Court, she met in a private conference with Charles VII and won his trust. Yolande of Aragon, Charles’ mother-in-law, planned a finance relief expedition to Orléans and Joan asked to travel with the army while wearing armor, which the Royal government agreed to. They also provided Joan’s armor and she depended on donations for everything she took with her.

With a donated horse, sword, banner, armor, and more, Joan arrived to Orléans and quickly turned the Anglo-French conflict into a religious war.

Charles’ advisors worried Joan’s claims of doing God’s work could be twisted by his enemies, who could easily claim she was a sorceress, which would link his crown to works of the devil. To prevent accusations, the Dauphin ordered background inquiries and a theological exam at Poitiers to verify Joan’s claims.

In April 1429, the commission of inquiry “declared her to be of irreproachable life, a good Christian, possessed of the virtues of humility, honesty and simplicity.” Rather than deciding on whether or not Joan was acting on the basis of divine inspiration, theologians at Poitiers told the Dauphin there was a “favorable presumption” on the divine nature of her mission.

Charles was satisfied with the report but theologians reminded him Joan must be tested. They claimed, “to doubt or abandon her without suspicion of evil would be to repudiate the Holy Spirit and to become unworthy of God’s aid.”

They suggested her test should be a test of her claim to lift the siege of Orléans, as she originally predicted would happen.

In response to the test, Joan arrived at Orléans on April 29, 1429, where Jean d’Orléans, the acting head of the ducal family of Orléans, ensured she was excluded from war councils and kept ignorant of battles.

During the five months prior to Joan’s arrival to Orléans, the French had only attempted one offensive assault, which resulted in their defeat, but after her arrival, things began to change.

Though Joan claimed the army was always commanded by a nobleman and that she never killed anyone in battle since she preferred only to carry her banner, which she preferred “forty times” better than a sword, several noblemen claimed she greatly effected their decisions since they accepted she gave Divinely inspired advice.

On May 4, the Armagnacs captured the fortress of Saint Loup and the next day led to fortress Saint-Jean-le-Blanc, which was deserted. With Joan at the army’s side, English troops approached the army to stop their advance but a cavalry charge was all it took to turn the English away without a fight.

The Armagnacs captured an English fortress build around the Les Augustins monastery and attacked the English stronghold Les Tourelles on May 7. Joan was shot with an arrow between her neck and shoulder as she held her banner outside Les Tourelles, but returned to encourage the final assault to take the fortress. The next day, the English retreated from Orléans and the siege was over.

When Joan was in Chinon and Poitiers, she had declared she would show a sign at Orléans, which many believe was the end of the siege. Following the departure of the English, prominent clergymen began to support her, including the Archbishop of Embrun and the theologian Jean Gerson, each of which wrote supportive treatises.

After the Orléans victory, Joan was able to persuade Charles VII to allow her to march into other battles to reclaim cities, each of which ended in victory. When the military supplies began to dwindle, they reached Troyes, where Brother Richard, a wandering friar, had warned the city about the end of the world and was able to convince them to plant beans, which yields an early harvest. Just as the beans ripened, Joan and the army arrived and was able to restore their supplies.

Following their march to Troyes, Joan and the French military made its way to Paris, where politicians failed to secure Duke Philip of Burgundy’s agreement to a truce. Joan was present at the following battles and suffered a leg wound from a crossbow bolt. Despite one failed mission – taking La-Charité-sur-Loire” – Joan and her family were ennobled by Charles VII in reward of her actions on the battlefield.

A truce with England came following Joan’s ennoblement but was quickly broken. When Joan traveled to Compičgne to help defend against an English and Burgundian siege, she was captured by Burgundian troops and held for a ransom of 10,000 livres tournois. There were several attempts to free her and Joan made many excape attempts, including jumping from her 70-foot (21m) tower, landing on the soft earth of a dry moat, but to no avail. She was eventually sold to the English for 10,000 gold coins and was then tried as a heretic and witch in a trial that violated the legal process of the time.

Clerical notary Nicolas Bailly, who was responsible to collect testimony against Joan, was unable to find any evidence against her. Without evidence, the courts lacked grounds to initiate trial but one was opened anyway. They denied Joan the right to a legal advisor and filled the tribunal with pro-English clergy rather than meeting the medieval Church’s requirement to balance the group with impartial clerics.

When the first public examination opened, Joan pointed out that the partisans were against her and she asked for “ecclesiastics of the French side” to provide balance, but her request was denied.

Jean Lemaitre, the Vice-Inquisitor of Northern France, objected to the trial from the beginning and many eyewitnesses later reported he was forced to cooperate after the English threatened to kill him. Other members of the clergy were threatened when they refused as well, so the trial continued.

The trial record includes statements from Joan that eyewitnesses later claimed astonished the court since she was an illiterate peasant who was able to escape theological traps. The most well-known exchange was when Joan was “[a]sked if she knew she was in God’s grace, she answered: ‘If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.'”

The question is a trap because the church doctrine was that no one could be certain of being in God’s grace. If she answered yes, she would have been charged with heresy, but if she answered no, she would have been confessing her own guilt. Notary Boisguillaume later testified that “those who were interrogating her were stupefied.”

Many members of the tribunal later testified important parts of the transcript were altered.

Joan was held in a secular prison guarded by English soldiers, instead of being in an ecclesiastical prison with nuns as her guards per Inquisitorial guidelines. When Joan appealed to the Council of Basel and the Pope to be placed in a proper prison, Bishop Cauchon denied her request, which would have stopped his proceeding.

While imprisoned, Joan wore military clothing so she could tie her clothing together, making it harder to be raped. There was no protection in a dress, and a few days after she started wearing one she told a tribunal member that “a great English lord had entered her prison and tried to take her by force.” Following the attempted rape, Joan returned to wearing male clothing as a precaution and to raise her defenses against molestation.

Jean Massieu testified her dress had been taken by the guards and she had nothing else to wear.

When she returned to male clothing, she was given another count of heresy for cross-dressing, though it was later disputed by the inquisitor presiding over court appeals after the war. He found that cross-dressing should be evaluated based on context, including the use of clothing as protection against rape if it offered protection.

In accordance to the inquisitor’s doctrine, Joan would have been justified in wearing armor on a battlefield, men’s clothing in prison and dressing as a pageboy when traveling through enemy territory.

The Chronique de la Pucelle states it deterred molestation when Joan was camped in the field but she donned a dress when men’s garments were unnecessary.

Clergy who testified at the posthumous appellate trial confirmed that she wore male clothing in prison to deter molestation.

Though the Poitiers record did not survive the test of time, Joan had referred the court to the Poitiers inquiry when questioned about her clothing and circumstances indicate the Poitiers clerics approved the practive. She had also kept her hair short through the military campaigns and during her imprisonment, which Inquisitor Brehal, theologian Jean Gerson and all of Joan’s supporters understood was for practical reasons.

Despite the lack of incriminating evidence, Joan was condemned and sentenced to die in 1431.

Eyewitness accounts of Joan’s execution by burning on May 30, 1431 describe how she was tied to a tall pillar at the Vieux-Marché in Rouen. She asked Fr. Martin Ladvenu and Fr. Isambart de la Pierre to hold a crucifix before her and an English soldier made a small cross she put in the front of her dress. After she died, the English raked the coals to expose her body so no one could spread rumors of her escaping alive, then they burned her body two more times to reduce it to ashes so no one could collect relics. After burning her body to ash, the English threw her remains into the Seine River and the executioner, Geoffroy Thérage, later said he “… greatly feared to be damned.”

In 1452, during an investigation into Joan’s execution, the Church declared a religious play in her honor at Orléans would let attendees gain an indulgence by making a pilgrimage to the event.

A posthumous retrial opened following the end of the war. Pope Callixtus III authorized the proceeding, which has also been called the “nullification trial,” after Inquisitor-General Jean Bréhal and Joan’s mother Isabelle Romée requested it.

The trial was meant to determine if Joan’s condemnation was justly handled, and of course at the end of the investication Joan received a formal appeal in November 1455 and the appellate court declared Joan innocent on July 7 1456.

Joan of Arc was a symbol of the Catholic League during the 16th century and when Félix Dupanloup was made bishop of Orléans in 1849, he pronounced a panegyric on Joan of Arc and led efforts leading to Joan of Arc’s beatification in 1909. On May 16, 1920, Pope Benedict XV canonized her.

Centuries after her death, Joan became known as a semi-legendary figure. There were several sources of information about her life, time on the battlefield and trials, with the main sources being chronicles.

Many women have seen Joan as a brave and active woman who operated within a religious tradition that believed a person of any class could receive a divine calling.

There are several prayers to Joan of Arc, including the “Prayer of Thanks and Gratitude to St. Joan of Arc,” written by Andrea Rau:

Dear Patron Saint,

Thank you for accompanying me throughout the day, and in the work that I did. Thank you also for your guidance and your counsel. Please help me to listen to God and to you, dear Saint, that I may do what I am called to do. Please intercede on my behalf and beg God to take all my faults and turn them into virtues. I thank you for all you have done for me, and all the things you have interceded for on my behalf. Please continue to pray for me and for all the souls who need it.

St. Joan of Arc, Pray for us.

Amen

Source:catholiconline.org

May Feast Days

St.Bona of Pisa

The feast day of St. Bona of Pisa is celebrated on May 29. She is the patron saint of flight attendants, travelers, pilgrims and travel guides.

St. Bona of Pisa was born in 1156 in Pisa, Italy. She was the child of a single mother. She was told that her father had vanished during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. As a child she was very pious. In a vision while praying before the crucifix, Jesus reached out his hand and touched her. By the age of ten she had become an Augustinian tertiary. (A tertiary is a lay member of a monastic order).

In another vision she learned that her father was still alive and fighting in the Crusades in Jerusalem. St. Bona decided to make a trip to Jerusalem to find her father. After finding him she returned home, only to be captured by pirates on the Mediterranean Sea!  Countrymen came to her rescue and she eventually arrived home safely.

St. Bona was appointed the official pilgrimage guide by the Knights of St. James.  She made nine trips to Spain and Santiago de Compostella, always leading a group of pilgrims. On her final trip she became very ill. She died at the age of 51 after returning home from the pilgrimage.

Pope John XXIII named her the patron saint of flight attendants, travel guides, couriers and travelers

May Feast Days

St.Phillip Neri

Though he was related to Italian nobility, Philip came from a poor family. His father, Francisco Neri, worked as a notary. Philip’s brother died in childhood, but his two sisters, Caterina and Elisabetta survived. Known as a pious youth, Philip was taught humanities by the Dominicans.

The family moved to San Germano in 1533 to help some relatives with their business, and while there Philip would escape to a local Dominican chapel in the mountains. Having received a vision that he had an apostolate in Rome, Philip cut himself off from his family, and went there.

He was befriended by Galeotto Caccia who took Philip in and paid him to tutor his two sons. Wrote poetry in Latin and Italian. He studied philosophy and theology, and when he tired of learning, he sold all his books and gave the money to the poor.

Philip began to visit and care for the sick, and impoverished pilgrims, and founded a society of like-minded folk to do the same. He became a friend of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. A layman, he lived in the city as a hermit. During Easter season of 1544, while praying in the catacomb of San Sebastiano, he received a vision of a globe of fire that entered his chest, and he experienced an ecstasy that physically enlarged his heart.

With Persiano Rose, he founded the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity. He began to preach, with many converts. In 1550 he considered retiring to the life of a solitary hermit, but received further visions that told him his mission was in Rome. Later he considered missionary work in India, but further visions convinced him to stay in Rome.

He entered the priesthood in 1551. Father Philip heard confessions by the hour, could tell penitents their sins before they confessed, and had the gift of conferring visions. He began working with youth, finding safe places for them to play, becoming involved in their lives.

Pope Gregory XIV tried to make him a cardinal, but Philip declined. His popularity was such that he was accused of forming his own sect, but was cleared of this baseless charge. In 1575 he founded the Congregation of the Oratory (Oratorians, a group of priests dedicated to preaching and teaching, but which suffered from accusations of heresy because of the involvement of laymen as preachers. In later years he was beset by several illnesses, each of which was in turn cured through prayer.

Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life. Therefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits.

– Saint Philip Neri

May Feast Days

St.Mary Magdalene de Pazzi

Mary Magdalene bore the surname of the noble family of Pazzi in Florence. Already by the 15th century, the Pazzi family exercised great political power. She was born on 2nd April 1566, given a good education and, from her childhood, she had a deep sense of the presence of God, a great love for the Eucharist and a longing to live a penitential life. Contrary to the usual practice but, with the consent of her confessor, she was allowed to make her first communion at the age of ten years.

When she was seventeen years, she was accepted by the Carmelite nuns of Saint Mary of the Angels in Florence, her native city. During her novitiate, she had a serious illness which lasted for two months and brought her close to death. As a result, she was allowed to anticipate her profession. However, she recovered and for three years she was assistant mistress of novices, then sacristan, and, for a further six years, mistress of novices. Also, for a period, she had charge of the junior professed and in 1604 she was elected subprioress. Her continuous physical sufferings and severe spiritual trials were a great burden but she was enriched by God with extraordinary graces. She died on 25th May 1607. She was beatified in 1626 and canonized on 28th April 1669.

In addition to her deep spiritual life, she observed conscientiously her religious vows and led a hidden life of prayer and self denial. She was filled with a burning desire for the renewal of the Church: keenly aware of the urgent need for reform, yearning to see it spread, and offering herself so that the “anointed ones” (i.e. priests) would once again be a witness to the world and that the lapsed would return to the Church. “The central theme in her spirituality (although not thought out in a fully systematic fashion) is love; we are created by God with love and by love, and such is the means by which we must turn to him; love is the measure of how far the soul has returned to God. The principal function of love is to unite the soul to God. The spiritual life is like a circle, inspired by love, which in God has both its point of departure and its moment of arrival.” Saint Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi had also a great devotion to Our Lady and she was a significant inspiration in the development of Carmelite Marian devotion to the “Most Pure Virgin”, claiming that the beauty of Mary lay in her purity, which was what had made her one with the Word in her divine maternity.

Her mystical experiences were written in five “original manuscripts”, that is the notes which were written by her nuns recording all that she did or said during her ecstasies and her “overflowings of divine love”. These notes were later revised by the saint herself. They are entitled: Forty Days, Conversations, Revelations and Understandings, Trials and Renewal of the Church, together with her Sayings and Letters.

May Feast Days

Our Lady Help of Christians

The feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, was instituted by Pope Pius VII. By order of Napoleon, the Pope was arrested on 5 July 1808, and imprisoned at Savona, Italy and Fontainebleau, France. In January 1814, after the Battle of Leipzig, he was brought back to Savona and set free on 17 March, the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, the patroness of Savona. The journey to Rome was a veritable triumphal march with the pontiff, attributing the victory of the Church after so much agony and distress, to the Blessed Virgin. He visited many of her sanctuaries on the way, crowning her images, and entered Rome on 24 May 1814 to enthusiastic crowds. To commemorate his own sufferings and those of the Church during his exile he extended the feast of the Seven Dolours of Mary to the universal Church on 18 September 1814.

When Napoleon left Elba and returned to Paris, Murat was about to march through the Papal States from Naples. Pius VII fled to Savona on 22 March 1815, where he crowned the image of Our Lady of Mercy on 10 May 1815. Following the Congress of Vienna and Battle of Waterloo, he returned to Rome on 7 July 1815. To give thanks to God and Our Lady, he instituted the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians for the Papal States on 15 September 1815; it was celebrated on 24 May, the anniversary of his first return. The dioceses in the Tuscany region adopted it on 12 February 1816, and it spread over nearly the entire Latin Church.

They hymns of the Office were composed by Brandimarte. It is the patronal feast of Australasia, a double of the first class with an octave, and is celebrated with great splendour in the churches of the Fathers of the Foreign Missions of Paris. It has attained special celebrity since Saint John Bosco dedicated the mother church of his congregation at Turin to Our Lady, Help of Christians. The Salesian Fathers have carried the devotion to their numerous establishments, and prayers for her intervention are credited with the miraculous cure of Blessed Artemide Zatti.

May Feast Days

St.Giovanni Battista Rossi

One of four children born to Charles de Rossi and Frances Anfossi. Taken by a wealthy noble couple to Genoa, Italy for schooling. There he met some Capuchin friars who thought well of him, and helped him continue his education in Rome, Italy. Studied under the Jesuits at the Roman College at age 13. Member of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin and the Ristretto of the Twelve Apostles. Epileptic.

His self-imposed acts of austerity nearly broke his health, and he never completely regained his strength. Studied philosophy and theology under the Dominicans. Ordained on 3 March 1721, assigned to Rome.

Helped start a hospice for homeless women near Saint Galla’s hospice in Rome. Canon of Santa Maria, Cosmedin in 1737; he used his compensation from the position to purchase an organ for the church. Missioner and catechist to the teamsters, farmers, herdsmen, homeless, sick, beggars, prostitutes, and prisoners of the Campagna region. For many years, John was avoided hearing confessions for fear he would have a seizure in the confessional, but the bishop of Civitá Castellana convinced him it was part of his vocation. John relented, and soon became a sought after confessor in Rome; he once said that the shortest road to heaven was to guide others there by the confessional. Sought after preacher. Assigned as catechist to many government and prison officials, including the public hangman. Miracle worker. Always had a special devotion to Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

May Feast Days

St.Rita of Cascia

Daughter of Antonio and Amata Lotti, a couple known as the Peacemakers of Jesus; they had Rita late in life. From her early youth, Rita visited the Augustinian nuns at Cascia, Italy, and showed interest in a religious life. However, when she was twelve, her parents betrothed her to Paolo Mancini, an ill-tempered, abusive individual who worked as town watchman, and who was dragged into the political disputes of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Disappointed but obedient, Rita married him when she was 18, and was the mother of twin sons. She put up with Paolo’s abuses for eighteen years before he was ambushed and stabbed to death. Her sons swore vengeance on the killers of their father, but through the prayers and interventions of Rita, they forgave the offenders.

Upon the deaths of her sons, Rita again felt the call to religious life. However, some of the sisters at the Augustinian monastery were relatives of her husband’s murderers, and she was denied entry for fear of causing dissension. Asking for the intervention of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Augustine of Hippo, and Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, she managed to bring the warring factions together, not completely, but sufficiently that there was peace, and she was admitted to the monastery of Saint Mary Magdalen at age 36.

Rita lived 40 years in the convent, spending her time in prayer and charity, and working for peace in the region. She was devoted to the Passion, and in response to a prayer to suffer as Christ, she received a chronic head wound that appeared to have been caused by a crown of thorns, and which bled for 15 years.

Confined to her bed the last four years of her life, eating little more than the Eucharist, teaching and directing the younger sisters. Near the end she had a visitor from her home town who asked if she’d like anything; Rita’s only request was a rose from her family’s estate. The visitor went to the home, but it being January, knew there was no hope of finding a flower; there, sprouted on an otherwise bare bush, was a single rose blossom.

Among the other areas, Rita is well-known as a patron of desperate, seemingly impossible causes and situations. This is because she has been involved in so many stages of life – wife, mother, widow, and nun, she buried her family, helped bring peace to her city, saw her dreams denied and fulfilled – and never lost her faith in God, or her desire to be with Him.