September Feast Days

Blessed Francesc de Paula Castelló Aleu

Francisco de Paula Castello i Aleu was born on the 19th April 1914 in Alicante, the third child of his parents.  His father died when he was just a few weeks old, and so his mother was left to raise her three children in difficult circumstances.  Despite this, young Francisco had a happy childhood and was religiously inclined.  After he made his First Holy Communion he went to Mass as often as he could – certainly every Sunday, but a few times during the week also.  While he had an affectionate nature, he had a terrible temper and was inclined to self-love, but he was given the grace to understand these personality flaws at a young age, and so began his struggle to overcome them: here the seeds of holiness were being sown.

When he was thirteen Francisco was sent to the Marists for his secondary education, and while he excelled in his studies, he suddenly faced a spiritual crisis.  While he still continued to go to Mass each Sunday, he stopped receiving the Sacraments, a sad development for a child who had loved the Blessed Eucharist.   Two years later, in 1929, his mother suddenly died: he was distraught, as were his two sisters.  In the throes of shock and sorrow, the three children decided to make a consecration to Our Lady, and this would be the chink of light which gradually brought Francisco back to faith.

He graduated with his high school diploma with distinction on 14th April 1930, but he was now excelling in another area.  In November of that year he made the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius under a Jesuit priest, and this retreat filled him with great joy and strengthened his faith.  He placed himself under the direction of the priest, Fr Galán, and he began to live an intense spiritual life while seeking to put himself at the service of others.

First working for the Parochial Co-operators of Christ the King, Francisco then joined the newly founded Federation of Christian Youth of Catalonia.  With Catholic Action this new organisation sought to catechise young people and engage them in the apostolate of the Church.  Francisco had found his niche, working hard for the organisations, organising retreats and ministering among the young.

Meanwhile he was studying chemistry, graduating in 1934, and then winning a position as an engineer in a chemical fertilizer company on Lleida.  Among the factory workers he found another mission field, organising catechism courses for them and the poor of Lleida. It was a dangerous apostolate as Lleida was well known as an area where anti-clericalism was rife.

In May 1936 Francisco and his girlfriend Maria Pelegri became engaged.  The two shared a similar spirit of prayer and sought holiness.  In their relationship they had remained chaste, and up to the moment of his death, Francisco could say that he never had anything that needed to be confessed in his relationship with Maria: theirs was a pure love.

The Civil War was by now raging, and on the 1st July Francisco, who had kept far away from politics and the agitation that was going on, was drafted.   He was sent to the fortress in Lleida, but the next day it fell to a Marxist militia.  Francisco was well known for his faith, so it came as no surprise when he was woken up in the middle of the night on the 20th-21st July, branded a facist and taken into custody with a number of others, incarcerated in a old chapel.  Here he remained until the 12th September.  A number of times they tried to persuade him to sign a document renouncing his Catholic faith: he refused.

On the 12th September he was transferred to another prison.  Here he was free enough to get around the cells and comfort other prisoners.  Full of joy and faith, he encouraged them to remain faithful to Christ, led prayers, and helped captive priests.  He managed to get many of his fellow prisoners to go to confession to the priest-prisoners, some reconciling to God after many years of spiritual exile.

On the 23rd September his passion began.  On that day he endured a difficult interrogation by the communists; after he said to some fellow prisoners: “We will always be ‘fascist’ prisoners… Let’s give up even the glory of martyrdom in the eyes of the world, because since our sacrifice is pleasing to God, nothing else matters!”   His trial took place on the 29th September; he said farewell to his fellow prisoners, made a general confession with a priest, and with joy went to court.  There he was accused of being a fascist, which Francisco denied: he was never involved in politics.   When all their questions failed, his captors finally came to the real crime: “Are you a Catholic?”

Francisco stood up straight and replied: “Yes, of course I am a Catholic!”   The public prosecutor, shocked at the “depravity” of the young man immediately called for the death sentence.  Francisco responded, “If being Catholic is an offense, I am very glad to be an offender, because the greatest happiness that anyone can find in this life is to die for Christ. And if I had a thousand lives, I would give them all for Him, without a moment’s hesitation. I thank you therefore for the opportunity you are offering me to ensure my eternal salvation.”  He was then condemned to death.

Taken back to the prison, while his fellow prisoners were sorrowful, Francisco was filled with joy.  Given some time to himself, he wrote last letters to his fiancée whose two brothers had been killed a couple of weeks before, his sisters and aunt, and his spiritual director.  Later in the evening he was taken with five others and put on a truck.  He intoned the Credo, and led the others in singing it.  Brought to a cemetery, the favourite execution spot for the Republicans, Francisco recognised a friend of his sister in the onlookers, a young man. He smiled at him and said farewell.

Taken into the cemetery, the six were lined up in front of a firing squad.  As the executioners were preparing, Francisco called out “One moment, please! I forgive you all, and I’ll meet you in eternity!”  He then joined his hands and raised his eyes to heaven and prayed.    When the commander shouted “Fire!”, Francisco shouted “Long live Christ the King!”  His body was thrown into a grave which had already been dug.

When the executioners had gone, the sister’s friend crept down into the grave.  He found that Francisco’s heart was still beating, his head tilted to the right, his eyes half open with a serene look on his face.  The young man could not save him, and Francisco was buried – whether he died before or was buried alive we do not know.   He was twenty-two years old.

Francisco was beatified in 2001, and was proclaimed one of the patrons for World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002.

September Feast Days

Sts.Michael,Gabriel & Raphael

The liturgy celebrates the feast of these three archangels who are venerated in the tradition of the Church. Michael (Who is like God?) was the archangel who fought against Satan and all his evil angels, defending all the friends of God. He is the protector of all humanity from the snares of the devil. Gabriel (Strength of God) announced to Zachariah the forthcoming birth of John the Baptist, and to Mary, the birth of Jesus. His greeting to the Virgin, “Hail, full of grace,” is one of the most familiar and frequent prayers of the Christian people. Raphael (Medicine of God) is the archangel who took care of Tobias on his journey.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that, “The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls “angels” is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.”

Angels are pure, created spirits. The name angel means servant or messenger of God. Angels are celestial or heavenly beings, on a higher order than human beings. Angels have no bodies and do not depend on matter for their existence or activity. They are distinct from saints, which men can become. Angels have intellect and will, and are immortal. They are a vast multitude, but each is an individual person. Archangels are one of the nine choirs of angels listed in the Bible. In ascending order, the choirs or classes are 1) Angels, 2) Archangels, 3) Principalities, 4) Powers, 5) Virtues, 6) Dominations, 7) Thrones, 8) Cherubim, and 9) Seraphim.

St. Michael

The name of the archangel Michael means, in Hebrew, who is like unto God? and he is also known as “the prince of the heavenly host.” He is usually pictured as a strong warrior, dressed in armor and wearing sandals. His name appears in Scripture four times, twice in the Book of Daniel, and once each in the Epistle of St. Jude and the Book of Revelation. From Revelation we learn of the battle in heaven, with St. Michael and his angels combatting Lucifer and the other fallen angels (or devils). We invoke St. Michael to help us in our fight against Satan; to rescue souls from Satan, especially at the hour of death; to be the champion of the Jews in the Old Testament and now Christians; and to bring souls to judgment.

This day is referred to as “Michaelmas” in many countries and is also one of the harvest feast days. In England this is one of the “quarter days”, which was marked by hiring servants, electing magistrates, and beginning of legal and university terms. This day also marks the opening of the deer and other large game hunting season. In some parts of Europe, especially Germany, Denmark, and Austria, a special wine called “Saint Michael’s Love” (Michelsminne) is drunk on this day. The foods for this day vary depending on nationality. In the British Isles, for example, goose was the traditional meal for Michaelmas, eaten for prosperity, France has waffles or Gaufres and the traditional fare in Scotland used to be St. Michael’s Bannock (Struan Micheil) — a large, scone-like cake. In Italy, gnocchi is the traditional fare.

St. Gabriel

St. Gabriel’s name means “God is my strength”. Biblically he appears three times as a messenger. He had been sent to Daniel to explain a vision concerning the Messiah. He appeared to Zachary when he was offering incense in the Temple, to foretell the birth of his son, St. John the Baptist. St. Gabriel is most known as the angel chosen by God to be the messenger of the Annunciation, to announce to mankind the mystery of the Incarnation.

The angel’s salutation to our Lady, so simple and yet so full of meaning, Hail Mary,full of grace, has become the constant and familiar prayer of all Christian people.

St. Raphael

Our knowledge of the Archangel Raphael comes to us from the book of Tobit. His mission as wonderful healer and fellow traveller with the youthful Tobias has caused him to be invoked for journeys and at critical moments in life. Tradition also holds that Raphael is the angel that stirred the waters at the healing sheep pool in Bethesda. His name means “God has healed”.

September Feast Days

St.Simon Rojas

Father Simón de Rojas of the Trinitarian Order was born at Valladolid, Castilla, Spain, the 28th of October, 1552. At twelve years of age, he entered the Trinitarian monastery of the city where he was born and there made his religious profession on October 28, 1572; he studied at the University of Salamanca from 1573 to 1579; he was ordained a priest in 1577; he taught philosophy and theology at Toledo from 1581 to 1587; from 1588 until his death he fulfilled with much prudence the office of superior in various monasteries of his province and was sent as apostolic visitor twice to his own province of Castilla, and once to that of Andalusia; on April 14, 1612 he founded the Congregation of the Slaves of the Sweet Name of Mary; in 1619 he was named tutor to the royal princes of Spain; on May 12, 1621 he was elected Provincial of Castilla; on January 1, 1622 he was chosen confessor of Queen Isabel of Borbon; he died on September 29, 1624.

It was his mother, the virtuous Constanza, who instilled and helped grow in the soul of Simon the love of Mary. The veneration that she and her husband Gregorio constantly gave to Mary, makes it easily understandable why the first words that Simon, who had been a slow learner and stuttered, said at the age of fourteen months, were “Ave, Maria”. He was only repeating the prayer so frequently recited by his parents.

His greatest joy was to visit Marian shrines, to pray to Mary and with Mary, to imitate her virtues, to sing her praises, to acknowledge her importance in the mystery of God and of the Church. Through profound theological studies, he came to understand even better the mission of Mary in cooperation with the Trinity for the salvation of the human race and the sanctification of the Church. He lived his religious vows in the imitation of Mary. He held that, for everyone to be completely of God, as Mary had been, it was necessary to become her slaves, or better, slaves of God in Mary; for this reason he established the Congregation of the Slaves of Mary for the greater glory of the Trinity, in praise of the Virgin, in the service of the poor. For him, to be a slave of Mary meant belonging totally to her: “Totus tuus” in order to unite oneself more intimately to Christ and in Him through the Spirit, to the Father.

The Congregation founded by him was intended for the laity: persons of every social class could join. The members, who included the King and his children, dedicated themselves to honor Mary by giving maternal help to her favorite children: the poor. This work still continues in Spain. Fr. Simon, who is held to be one of the greatest contemplatives of his time and who in his work, “The Greatness of Prayer” is clearly a great instructor of prayerful souls, wanted the contemplative dimension joined to the active through works of mercy. Faithful to the Trinitarian charism, he promoted the ransom of captives, he helped relieve the many needs of the poor, he consoled the sick, the destitute and the left-out of every kind. He accepted duties at the Court, only on the condition that he be able to continue his work with the poor, whom he helped in a thousand ways, always with a smile on his face and at any hour of the day or night. The expressions of his love of Mary are manifold. The painters who depicted him, put the greeting “Ave Maria” on his lips, words he uttered so frequently that he was familiarly called: “Father Ave Maria”. He had thousands of images of the Most Holy Virgin printed with the inscription: “Ave Maria”, which he also sent abroad. He had rosaries made with seventy-two blue beads on a white cord, symbols of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception, and also a reminder that Mary, according to the belief of the time, lived to the age of 72 years. He sent these rosaries everywhere, even to England. Using his influence at Court, he had the angelic greeting so dear to him, “Ave Maria”, engraved in letters of gold on the facade of the royal palace in Madrid.

On June 5th, 1622, he petitioned the Holy See for the approval of his liturgical text composed in honor of the Sweet Name of Mary, which later, Pope Innocent XI extended to the universal Church.

After his death on September 29th, 1624, the honors bestowed on him at his funeral, took on the aspect of an anticipated canonization. For twelve days, the most re-known preachers of Madrid exalted his virtues and his holiness. Impressed with this unanimous veneration, on October 8th, shortly after Fr. Simon’s death, the Papal Nuncio ordered the beginning of the process leading to his glorification by the Church. His heroic virtues were recognized by Clement XII, on March 25th, 1735; he was beatified by Clement XIII on March 19, 1766; and on July 3rd, 1988, just before the close of the Marian Year, Pope John Paul 11, entered the name of this great servant of Mary and Father of the poor on the list of the Saints.

September Feast Days

St.Vincent de Paul

St. Vincent de Paul was a great apostle of charity, and brought a great revival of the priesthood in the 17th century. He was born near Dax in the Landes (France) in 1581. As a young priest he was captured by Moorish pirates who carried him to Africa. He was sold into slavery, but freed in 1607 when he converted his owner.

Having returned to France, he became successively a parish priest and chaplain to the galley-slaves. He founded a religious Congregation under the title of Priests of the Mission or Lazarists (now known as Vincentians), and he bound them by a special way to undertake the apostolic work of charity; he sent them to preach missions, especially to the ignorant peasants of that time, and to establish seminaries.

In order to help poor girls, invalids, and the insane, sick and unemployed, he and St. Louise de Marillac founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity, now better known as the Sisters of St. Vincent.

St. Vincent worked tirelessly to help those in need: the impoverished, the sick, the enslaved, the abandoned, the ignored. He died in 1660 at St. Lazarus’s house, Paris. His motto: “God sees you.”

“Let us love God; but at the price of our hands and sweat of our face.”

September Feast Days

Saint Marie Victoire Couderc

Marie Victoire Couderc was the daughter of a prominent farmer of Sablieres in southeast France. After finishing boarding school, she decided to join a religious teaching community, the Daughters of St. Regis, founded recently at Aps by the local pastor, Abbe John Terme. She took the name Therese. This was in 1826. In 1824, Abbe Terme had been sent to LaLouvesc to work among the peasants of the area and at the same time to take charge of the shrine of the popular local missionary and saint, John Francis Regis. Father Terme soon concluded that there should be a hospice for women connected with the shrine. In 1827, therefore, he summoned Sister Therese and two others of his teaching sisters at Aps to manage the hospice. In Sister Couderc he discovered “a sound head, sound judgment and a power of spiritual discrimination.” Therefore, he named her superior of the hospice, although she was only 23. In 1828 Father Terme decided that the guests at the hospice should henceforth be restricted to laywomen who were making retreats according to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. Retreats for women were a great novelty then, and the undertaking caught on at once.

The Jesuit fathers took over the shrine and the hospice shortly before Father Terme’s death in 1834. Gradually the retreat-group at LaLouvesc was separated from the teaching community at Aps and turned into a new religious order devoted solely to retreat-related work. Eventually it took the name “Congregation of Our Lady of the Retreat in the Cenacle.” (The “cenacle” was the “upper room” in which Jesus and the apostles partook of the Last Supper, and in which, after the Resurrection, the disciples and Mary gathered daily to pray.)

When Sister Therese, superior since 1828, made her final vows in 1837, she also made an act of consecration in which she abdicated her authority. She resigned in 1838, blaming herself (though it was not her fault) for the debts the community had incurred. The three women named superiors to follow her were ill-chosen. The third of these nuns held Mother Therese in so small regard that she assigned her only menial tasks and tried to see to it that she had no contact with the other nuns. Mother Couderc’s fourth successor left the order because of the continued internal strife. During this whole period Therese was even denied the credit of being co-foundress, with Father Terme, of the order.

What is remarkable is that throughout St. Therese’s eighty years she held herself so “useless” that she was not disturbed by the confusion around her and the way in which she herself was “discarded.” Although there was much to criticize, she never criticized. She continued to work for the betterment of her religious community by prayer, penance and the acceptance of her rejection. In the end, she was able to say, “God has always given me peace of soul, the grace to leave myself in His hands and to want nothing but to love him and be ever closer to Him.”

The Congregation of the Cenacle eventually steadied and expanded into many nations. (Under Bishop James E. Kearney, the sisters opened their Rochester Cenacle Retreat House at 693 East Avenue in 1948). Stabilization and growth were no doubt largely due to the intercession of the foundress. Therese Couderc was beatified in 1951 and canonized in 1970.

St. Therese’s steadfastness amid trials has set for us all, I think, an admirable example. She belonged to an institution that was good in itself, though it came upon difficult days. If we were in the same position, we might easily grow impatient, say “What’s the use?”, and resign from the community. She didn’t. Because her order was good in itself, she stuck with it, trusting that God would not let it go under.

There is a parallel today with the Church itself. Some Catholics, faced with the Church’s trials during a period of transition, have said, “What’s the use?” and have left the Church along one avenue or another. But the church is a good thing. We should therefore stick with it in steadfast prayer. Our faith assures us that Christ, in due time, will rebuke the wind and say to the sea, “Quiet. Be still!” Will he then turn to us and say, “Why are you so terrified? Why are you lacking in faith?” (Mk. 5:39-40)

Source:Father Robert F. McNamara

September Feast Days

Blessed Herman the cripple

Herman was born into royalty, the son of a duke of Altshausen. From birth, it was apparent that he would be horribly crippled and disfigured, earning him the less-than-pleasant name of “Hermannus Contractus” (or “Herman the Twisted”). Sources suggest he was born with a cleft palate, cerebral palsy and spina bifida. Without assistance, he could not move, and could barely speak, but within his body was a keen mind and iron will.

At the age of seven, Herman’s parents left him at the Benedictine monastery of Reichenau, where they arranged for him to be raised and educated. Situated on the shores of Lake Constance, it was expected that this location would be ideal for Herman’s health, but also for his developing intellect. Abbot Berno, the monk who led the community, took Herman under his wing, educating him with kindness and compassion.

Despite his obvious intellect, Herman struggled to read and write at first, his physical limitations difficult to overcome. Once he mastered the basics, the academic world opened to him, and he impressed all with the breadth and depth of his subsequent studies. Not only did he immerse himself in the sciences, but also in languages, music and theology. Herman became fluent in Latin, Greek, and Arabic. He wrote extensively on mathematical and astronomical topics, as well as volumes on the history of the world. He was professed a monk at the age of 30, and continued to write, producing works of great spiritual depth. Of note, his treatise “On the Eight Principal Vices,” which he wrote in a poetic style.

More than his writings, however, Herman was known for his gentleness, joy, and sweet disposition. Never was he heard to complain, despite the fact that most activities were painful and difficult. Rather, he was recognized to have a smile for all, and became a beacon of hope and joy throughout the monastery. Students traveled great distances to study with him, learning not only their academic subjects but also strength of character, perseverance, and humility through his model.

Blessed Herman’s contributions to academics were great, as were his contributions to sacred tradition. He wrote many hymns which continue to be sung today, as well as portions of the Mass. His greatest contributions may be his hymns of devotion and love for Our Blessed Mother: Alma Redemptoris Mater and Salve Regina. The confidence and hope we place in Mary is eloquently and simply captured in his writings.

Blessed Herman died at the young age of 40, having succumbed to the symptoms of his many afflictions. He was beatified in 1863. He was a man who took joy in his struggles, and looked at each difficult day as an opportunity to grow closer to the Lord. Every time we pray the Holy Rosary, we end in prayer with Blessed Herman. The Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) reminds us of our deep connection not only to Our Blessed Mother, but to all those who suffer alongside us in the world

Marian apparitions, September Feast Days

Our Lady of Mercy

The story of Our Lady of Ransom begins with St. Peter Nolasco, born in Languedoc about 1189. At the age of 25 he took a vow of chastity and made over his vast estates to the Church. After making a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Montserrat, he went to Barcelona where he began to practice various works of charity.

He conceived the idea of establishing an Order for the redemption of captives seized by the Moors on the seas and in Spain itself; they were being cruelly tormented in their African prisons to make them deny their faith.

He spoke of it to the king of Aragon, James I, who knew him well and already respected him as a saint; for the king had already asked for his prayers when he sent out his armies to combat the Moors, and he attributed his victories to those prayers.

In effect all the Christians of Europe, and above all of Spain, were praying intensely to obtain from God the remedy for the great evil that had befallen them. The divine Will was soon manifested. On one night — August 1, 1218 — the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Peter, to his confessor, Raymund of Penafort, and to the king, and through these three servants of God established a work of the most perfect charity, the redemption of captives.

On that night, while the Church was celebrating the feast of St. Peter in Chains, the Virgin Mary appeared first to St. Peter, saying that she indeed desired the establishment of a religious Order, later known as the Mercedarians, bearing the name of her mercy. Its members would undertake to deliver Christian captives and offer themselves, if necessary, as a ransom pledge.

The Order, thus solemnly established in Spain, was approved by Pope Gregory IX under the name of Our Lady of Mercy. By the grace of God and under the protection of His Virgin Mother, the Order spread rapidly. Its growth was increased as the charity and piety of its members was observed; they very often followed Our Lady’s directive to give themselves up to voluntary slavery when necessary, to aid the good work. It was to return thanks to God and the Blessed Virgin that a feast day was instituted and observed on September 24, first in the Order, then everywhere in Spain and France. It was finally extended to the entire Church by Pope Innocent XII. Pope Leo XIII encouraged the devotion by making this feast proper to all the dioceses of England, with a focus on how Our Lady ransoms us from the slavery of our sins, and brings us the grace of conversion.

Prayer to Our Lady of Ransom

O God, who by means of the most glorious Mother of Thy Son

was pleased to give new children to Thy Church

for the deliverance of Christ’s faithful

from the power of the heathen; grant, we beseech Thee,

that we who love and honor her as the foundress of so great a work may,

by her merits and intercession,

be ourselves delivered from all sin

and from the bondage of the evil one.

Through the same Christ, our Lord.