S. Vincent of Saragossa| S. Raymond of Penafort| S. Emerentiana| S. Marianne Cope| Daily Meditation| Daily Quote by S. Padre Pio| Divine Mercy Reflection
St. Vincent of Saragossa
When Jesus deliberately began his “journey” to death, Luke says that he “set his face” to go to Jerusalem. It is this quality of rocklike courage that distinguishes the martyrs.
Most of what we know about this saint comes from the poet Prudentius. His Actshave been rather freely colored by the imagination of their compiler. But St. Augustine, in one of his sermons on St. Vincent, speaks of having the Acts of his martyrdom before him. We are at least sure of his name, his being a deacon, the place of his death and burial.
According to the story we have (and as with some of the other early martyrs the unusual devotion he inspired must have had a basis in a very heroic life), Vincent was ordained deacon by his friend St. Valerius of Zaragossa in Spain. The Roman emperors had published their edicts against the clergy in 303, and the following year against the laity. Vincent and his bishop were imprisoned in Valencia.
Hunger and torture failed to break them. Like the youths in the fiery furnace (Book of Daniel, chapter three), they seemed to thrive on suffering.
Valerius was sent into exile, and Dacian, the Roman governor, now turned the full force of his fury on Vincent. Tortures that sound very modern were tried. But their main effect was the progressive disintegration of Dacian himself. He had the torturers beaten because they failed.
Finally he suggested a compromise: Would Vincent at least give up the sacred books to be burned according to the emperor’s edict? He would not. Torture on the gridiron continued, the prisoner remaining courageous, the torturer losing control of himself. Vincent was thrown into a filthy prison cell—and converted the jailer. Dacian wept with rage, but strangely enough, ordered the prisoner to be given some rest.
Friends among the faithful came to visit him, but he was to have no earthly rest. When they finally settled him on a comfortable bed, he went to his eternal rest.
The martyrs are heroic examples of what God’s power can do. It is humanly impossible, we realize, for someone to go through tortures such as Vincent had and remain faithful. But it is equally true that by human power alone no one can remain faithful even without torture or suffering. God does not come to our rescue at isolated, “special” moments. God is supporting the super-cruisers as well as children’s toy boats.
“Wherever it was that Christians were put to death, their executions did not bear the semblance of a triumph. Exteriorly they did not differ in the least from the executions of common criminals. But the moral grandeur of a martyr is essentially the same, whether he preserved his constancy in the arena before thousands of raving spectators or whether he perfected his martyrdom forsaken by all upon a pitiless flayer’s field” (The Roman Catacombs, Hertling-Kirschbaum).
St. Raymond of Peñafort
Since Raymond lived into his hundredth year, he had a chance to do many things. As a member of the Spanish nobility, he had the resources and the education to get a good start in life.
By the time he was 20, he was teaching philosophy. In his early 30s he earned a doctorate in both canon and civil law. At 41 he became a Dominican. Pope Gregory IX called him to Rome to work for him and to be his confessor. One of the things the pope asked him to do was to gather together all the decrees of popes and councils that had been made in 80 years since a similar collection by Gratian. Raymond compiled five books called the Decretals. They were looked upon as one of the best organized collections of Church law until the 1917 codification of canon law.
Earlier, Raymond had written for confessors a book of cases. It was called Summa de Casibus Poenitentiae. More than simply a list of sins and penances, it discussed pertinent doctrines and laws of the Church that pertained to the problem or case brought to the confessor.
At the age of 60, Raymond was appointed archbishop of Tarragona, the capital of Aragon. He didn’t like the honor at all and ended up getting sick and resigning in two years.
He didn’t get to enjoy his peace long, however, because when he was 63 he was elected by his fellow Dominicans to be the head of the whole Order, the successor of St. Dominic. Raymond worked hard, visited on foot all the Dominicans, reorganized their constitutions and managed to put through a provision that a master general be allowed to resign. When the new constitutions were accepted, Raymond, then 65, resigned.
He still had 35 years to oppose heresy and work for the conversion of the Moors in Spain. He convinced St. Thomas Aquinas to write his work Against the Gentiles.
In his 100th year the Lord let Raymond retire.
Raymond was a lawyer, a canonist. Legalism can suck the life out of genuine religion if it becomes too great a preoccupation with the letter of the law to the neglect of the spirit and purpose of the law. The law can become an end in itself, so that the value the law was intended to promote is overlooked. But we must guard against going to the opposite extreme and seeing law as useless or something to be lightly regarded. Laws ideally state those things that are for the best interests of everyone and make sure the rights of all are safeguarded. From Raymond, we can learn a respect for law as a means of serving the common good.
“He who hates the law is without wisdom,/and is tossed about like a boat in a storm” (Sirach 33:2).
Patron Saint of:
Today in the Latin calendar, we also commemorate the Feast Day of S. Emerentiana, Virgin and Martyr. A story about this Saint can be found below:
St. Andrew's Missal lists a little known Virgin and Martyr, St. Emerentiana, on January 23, two days after the feast of St. Agnes. Nothing seems to be more appropriate:
Emerentiana followed Agnes in her life as well as in her death, so she should also follow Agnes in the Liturgical Calendar. It is not surprising to find another Virgin Martyr in the Christmas cycle, which includes so many other admirable virgin saints, e.g., St. John the Apostle, St. Paul the Hermit and St. Antony the Abbot.
Here is the brief paragraph that offers rich food for thought:
A foster-sister of St. Agnes, the virgin Emerentiana, while still a catechumen, shed tears on the tomb of her friend who had just been martyred. Some Pagans mocked at her grief. She, full of the divine virtue of which Jesus is the source, reproached the idolaters with their cruelty towards Agnes, and they in their fury stoned her on that very tomb.
Baptized in her own blood, she went to join forever her Spouse and her sister (about the year 304).
‘Baptized in her own blood’
In the account of the martyrdom of St. Emerentiana we find confirmed the Church's constant teaching on the Baptism of Blood.
Raised to the altar and included in the Liturgical Calendar, this Roman girl, daughter of a slave of the wealthy noble family of Agnes, was still a catechumen and not yet baptized when Agnes was martyred.
Emerentiana's mother was the wet nurse and nanny of St. Agnes. The influence of the Christian patrician parents and the example of their virtuous daughter Agnes had a profound effect on the servant and her daughter Emerentiana. A slave by birth but a milk-sibling, Emerentiana was inspired by her mistress Agnes who was teaching her the holy Faith so that she might be baptized a Christian.
Her course of study was abruptly ended with the glorious death of Agnes. Several days after Agnes was publicly martyred, which Emerentiana probably witnessed, she went to the tomb to pray. Mocked by a group of pagans who saw her there grieving, she courageously defended her mistress.
This brave rebuttal raised the fury of a group of pagans and they stoned Emerentiana to death on the very tomb of her dear mistress Agnes. The tomb of the teacher became the throne of martyrdom for the disciple. It is a beautiful scene.
Also it is a scene that confirms what has been believed and taught since the first centuries of the Church: that martyrdom is equivalent to baptism for those not yet baptized. It is Catholic doctrine that Baptism of Blood blots out Original Sin and all actual sin, along with the punishment due to it.
This teaching is confirmed in the Collect of the Mass for the Virgin Martyr:
Indulgéntiam nobis, quaesumus, Dómine, beáta Emerentiána Virgo et Martyr implóret: quae tibi grata semper éxistitit, et merito castitatis, et tuae professione virtútis.
May blessed Emerentiana Thy virgin and martyr, we beseech Thee, O Lord, implore for us Thy forgiveness; for she was ever pleasing unto Thee, both by the merit of her chastity, and by her confession of Thy power.”
Thus, did St. Emerentiana join that privileged group of martyr saints who were never baptized with water but gave their blood for Christ such as the Holy Innocents massacred by Herod and one of the guards who witnessed the martyrdom of the 40 Saints of Sebaste.
The words of St. Ambrose praising the 13-year-old martyr Agnes for making “her twofold profession, of religion and of chastity, apply equally to her servant companion Emerentiana. The great Church Doctor affirmed: “You have, then, in one victim a twofold martyrdom, of chastity and of religion. For she both remained a virgin and she obtained martyrdom.”
The great St Ambrose left no less than four treatises dedicated to virginity, De virginibus, De virginitate, De institutione virginis, and Exhortatio virginitatis, besides his treatise addressed to widows, De viduis, in which some of his teachings on virginity and marriage are reaffirmed. His teaching is characterized and distinguished by the connection he makes between martyrdom and virginity, and the great praise he makes of celibacy.
The two virgins, St. Agnes and St. Emerentiana, who both won the crown of martyrdom in the year 304 under the Diocletian persecution, remain linked in life and death. The body of St. Agnes was buried by her parents in a private cemetery they owned along the Nomentan Way, and the body of the catechumen Emerentiana rightly was interred there also.
This cemetery grew rapidly in fame, with many miracles taking place at it. During the reign of Constantine, through the efforts of his daughter Constantina who received a miracle of healing through the intercession of St. Agnes, a basilica was erected over the grave of that Virgin Martyr, which was later remodeled by Pope Honorius (625-638), and has since remained unaltered. In this Basilica under the main altar is the tomb of both St. Agnes and her disciple and friend St. Emerentiana.
Beati immaculati in via: qui ambulant in lege Domini. Blessed are the undefiled in the way: who walk in the law of the Lord.
St. Marianne Cope (1838-1918)
Though leprosy scared off most people in 19th-century Hawaii, that disease sparked great generosity in the woman who came to be known as Mother Marianne of Molokai. Her courage helped tremendously to improve the lives of its victims in Hawaii, a territory annexed to the United States during her lifetime (1898).
Mother Marianne’s generosity and courage were celebrated at her May 14, 2005, beatification in Rome. She was a woman who spoke “the language of truth and love” to the world, said Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. Cardinal Martins, who presided at the beatification Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, called her life “a wonderful work of divine grace.” Speaking of her special love for persons suffering from leprosy, he said, “She saw in them the suffering face of Jesus. Like the Good Samaritan, she became their mother.”
On January 23, 1838, a daughter was born to Peter and Barbara Cope of Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany. The girl was named after her mother. Two years later the Cope family emigrated to the United States and settled in Utica, New York. Young Barbara worked in a factory until August 1862, when she went to the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York. After profession in November of the next year, she began teaching at Assumption parish school.
Marianne held the post of superior in several places and was twice the novice mistress of her congregation. A natural leader, three different times she was superior of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, where she learned much that would be useful during her years in Hawaii.
Elected provincial in 1877, Mother Marianne was unanimously re-elected in 1881. Two years later the Hawaiian government was searching for someone to run the Kakaako Receiving Station for people suspected of having leprosy. More than 50 religious communities in the United States and Canada were asked. When the request was put to the Syracuse sisters, 35 of them volunteered immediately. On October 22, 1883, Mother Marianne and six other sisters left for Hawaii where they took charge of the Kakaako Receiving Station outside Honolulu; on the island of Maui they also opened a hospital and a school for girls.
In 1888, Mother Marianne and two sisters went to Molokai to open a home for “unprotected women and girls” there. The Hawaiian government was quite hesitant to send women for this difficult assignment; they need not have worried about Mother Marianne! On Molokai she took charge of the home that St. Damien de Veuster [May 10, d. 1889] had established for men and boys. Mother Marianne changed life on Molokai by introducing cleanliness, pride and fun to the colony. Bright scarves and pretty dresses for the women were part of her approach.
Awarded the Royal Order of Kapiolani by the Hawaiian government and celebrated in a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, Mother Marianne continued her work faithfully. Her sisters have attracted vocations among the Hawaiian people and still work on Molokai.
Mother Marianne died on August 9, 1918 and was beatified in 2005 and canonized seven years later.
The government authorities were reluctant to allow Mother Marianne to be a mother on Molokai. Thirty years of dedication proved their fears unfounded. God grants gifts regardless of human short-sightedness and allows those gifts to flower for the sake of the kingdom.
Soon after Mother Marianne died, Mrs. John F. Bowler wrote in the Honolulu Advertiser, “Seldom has the opportunity come to a woman to devote every hour of 30 years to the mothering of people isolated by law from the rest of the world. She risked her own life in all that time, faced everything with unflinching courage and smiled sweetly through it all.”
We Christians continue to experience moments of special awareness and recognition. Throughout our lives we have moments of deeper growth and formation. There may be moments of doubt, as though it is all too good to be true. But Jesus is always present, always available to us.
Quote by S. Padre Pio:
I bless and pray to the Lord at every moment of the day. I give thanks to Him incessantly for the many gifts and favors granted to me.
Divine Mercy Reflection
Reflections on Notebook One: 11-111
The first notebook of Saint Faustina begins her private revelations given from the Heart of Jesus to her. She writes in a beautiful and simple way. Though, as mentioned in the introduction, her actual words are not quoted in these reflections that follow, the messages that she received and articulated are presented.
In truth, her messages are those contained in Sacred Scripture and in the Tradition of our Church. And if you were to read through the lives and teachings of the saints, you would find the same revelations. God has always spoken to us throughout the ages. He speaks the one Message of Truth, and He reveals that Message in love. The revelations to Saint Faustina are one new way that God continues to speak and reveal Himself to us, His sons and daughters.
The reflections based on her first notebook, are intentionally short and focused. They are a way for you, the reader, to slowly and carefully listen to the Heart of God spoken to this great saint. Read these reflections slowly and prayerfully. Ponder them throughout the day and allow the Lord to speak to You the message He wants to give.
Reflection 22: Abundant Mercy Stretching Your Soul
Encountering Jesus in your soul will have the effect of leading you to long for more. Do you long for more of Jesus? Do you long for His Mercy? The desire for Him, the desire for more, stretches us and enables us to receive more of His Mercy every day. Let the desire for our Lord grow in abundance within you (See Diary #18).
Spend time, this day, looking at your heart. Is it daily being stretched by the abundant Mercy of God? Do you see your soul being filled each day to the point that it feels like bursting with gratitude and overflowing with love? If not, know that God wants to pour this abundance of Mercy into your life.
Lord, I am open to You and Your Mercy. But I know there is so much more that You wish to pour out upon me. I know You desire to fill my soul with Your grace to such an abundance that it overflows with love of You and with love for others. Help me to be open to this abundance of Your love and Mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.