Three Hail Marys

According to Catholic tradition a long held devotion is praying three Hail Marys. They are prayed after waking in the morning, and before going to bed, following the examination of conscience at night.  The practice dates back to Anthony of Padua who said it “to honor the spotless Virginity of Mary and to preserve a perfect purity of mind, heart and body in the midst of the dangers of the world”, during the reign of Pope John XXII (1316-34) recommended saying the three and offered indulgences for those doing so. Many saints have done this and the Franciscan evolved this practice to the Angelus. Saint Gertrude the Great noted that “To any soul who faithfully prays the Three Hail Marys I will appear at the hour of death in a splendor of beauty so extraordinary that it will fill the soul with Heavenly consolation.” and Mary appeared to Mechtilde of Hackeborn where she taught Mechtilde to understand that the Three Hail Marys honor the three persons of the Trinity. The first prayer recalls the power Mary received from the Eternal Father to intercede for sinners, the second commemorates the wisdom received from the Son; and the third, the love Mary bears, filled by Holy Spirit.


Lesser Known…

We begin this week with the International Day of Tolerance. It’s an UNESCO day and is on the 16th. The Day is something which we need to make a bigger deal of as Tolerance and acceptance are the two most important thing that we need more of in the world. As the song writing duo of Hal David and Burt Bacharach put so eloquently “What the world needs now is love, sweet love/It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of..”. Especially after this past week where horrible things happened all around the world, from Paris to Beirut most recently.

Gertrude of Helfta commonly know as The Great  (6 January 1256 – 1302)
Gertrude was dropped off at the nunnery at the age of five and lived there for the rest of her life. She was trained by Mechthild of Helfta, who was trained by Mechthild of Magdenburg, all are beguines.  She was a Benedictine sister and never left the convent after she arrived, which is rather funny since she is the patron of travelers. She had her first vision rather late in her life as opposed to others at the age of 26, she calls her visions favors from God. She is the only woman to have the title “the Great.”  She was all about a nuptial mysticism, where as she was the Bride of Christ, as all religious women now claim to be. Often times in art Gertrude is confused with another Gertrude who was an abbess and is depicted with a crosier as in the Benedictine orders the head of a house, ie Abbot or Abbess were given them as a sign of authority. Not much of her writings still exist today but the longest The Herald of Divine Love but it is a patchy thing at that. In her writing she made it here desire to have the wounds of Christ engraved on her heart. This should be our own desire to be this close to Jesus, where we share in his pain.

Lesser Known…

Space Week: I can’t believe that I’ve never heard of World Space Week before today. It’s a UN observance created in 1999 that runs from October 4th (the day Sputnik 1 was launched) and runs to the 10th (the day of the signing of the  Outer Space Treaty). This is the largest space event of the year and is celebrated around the world. So take a break and go stare up at the sky sometime this week, and hope that we can help inspire the world to do more stuff in space,

Our Lady of the Rosary:  This feast for Mary was originated by Pope Pius V in 1571 after the Holy League a naval force from Spain and other Catholic nations in Southern Europe which fought in the Battle of Lepanto, believing that the Holy League wouldn’t do well Pope Pius V called for all of Europe to prayer the Rosary and Pius himself led a Rosary Procession in Rome. The Ottoman forces lost and never quite recovered from it. Pius V proclaimed 7 October as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. In 1573, Pope Gregory XIII (the calendar guy) changed the name of the feast to Holy Rosary. Pope Clement XI would move it to the first Sunday in October, then Pius X changed it back to the seventh in 1913. Finally in 1960, John XXIII changed the name of the feast once again the Our Lady of the Rosary. If we’ve got some spare time this week it would be wonderful to prayer the Rosary on the 7th.

Anna Schäffer (18 February 1882 – 5 October 1925)
Anna is a mystic from Germany. Her father died which left the family in poverty so Anna had to drop out of school and she began work as a maid at 14, eventually hoping that she would be able to join a religious order. At, 16 Anna had a vision of Christ who told her that she was destined to endure long and painful suffering. In February of 1901 while doing some laundry Anna slipped and fell while trying to reattach a stove pipe and she boiled her legs in the washing water. She was taken to the hospital but nothing could be done, skin grafts didn’t succeed so she became completely immobile, Anna could no longer become a religious and had to be cared for by her mother. Despite all this she never lost her optimism and considered her suffering, her writing, and her ability to knit clothes for her friends the three “keys” by which she could enter Heaven. Benedict XVI said at her Canonization “She struggled for a time to accept her fate, but then understood her situation as a loving call from the crucified One to follow him. Strengthened by daily communion, she became an untiring intercessor in prayer and a mirror of God’s love for the many who sought her counsel. May her apostolate of prayer and suffering, of sacrifice and expiation, be a shining example for believers in her homeland, and may her intercession strengthen the Christian hospice movement in its beneficial activity.” John Paul II added this when she was beatified “Precisely in the most intense pain Anna Schäffer realized that every Christian is responsible for his neighbor’s salvation. For this purpose she used the pen.” Every Christian is responsible for our neighbor’s salvation, let us keep that in mind during the week. Anna’s writings have been printed in English as Thoughts and memories of my life of illness and my longing for the eternal homeland.

Lesser Known Saints

This will be the last Lesser Known Saint in this format, where I talk about three or so saints, maybe I will change the focus on to Orthodox saints or something like that.

Erkembode (late 7th-early 8th century)
With Erkembode nothing is known what we do know is mostly surmised. He was an Irish monk who traveled to Saint-Omer, France where he lived in the monastery where he was later named Abbot, he was eventually also named Bishop of Thérouanne, the capital of the region. Erkembode was the name of the see where the monastery was located. He was bishop for 26 years and is buried in the cathedral of Saint-Omer. Erkembode’s tomb became a popular shrine, which is visited by depressive people and parents of crippled children. The parents often leave tiny shoes to aid in the recovery of their children.

Padarn (6th century)
Padarn was another bishop-abbot, but he lived in Britain (Wales and Brittany) to be exact. Padarn is a unique saint as his hagiography mentions Arthur, King of Britian. As the story goes Padarn is one of the seven founding saints of Brittany and he establishes a monastery there, Padarn travels around and eventually makes it all the way to Jerusalem  where he and his travel companions David and Telio were ordained bishops by the Patriarch of Jerusalem.  On this trip Padarn got tunic and it became something that King Arthur wanted to have.

Lidwina (Lydwine, Lydwid, Lidwid, Liduina of Schiedam)(18 March 1380-14 April 1433)
Lidwina was a Dutch mystic and is thought to be one of the first documented cases of multiple sclerosis ever. At 15 she fell while Ice skating and and broke a rib, biographers say that at this time she became paralyzed except for her left hand and bleed profusely. After the fall she never recovered but became progressively worse over time. Lidwina took to fasting continuously and also shed skin, bones and parts of her intestine, her parents keep these in jars and they smelt sweet, there are documents which explain this. She is the patron saint of figure skaters.


Lesser Known Saints

Sure it is Easter today and during the week here are some of the saints whose feasts we celebrate during this first week in Easter.  Today is also the third Day of the Divine Mercy Novena.

Maria Gemma Umberta Pia Galgani (12 March 1878 – 11 April 1903)
Gemma is one of my favorite saints since she is one of the younger saints of the Church. Gemma was the fifth of eight children in a large Italian family and she lost about half of her family by the time she was seven. She was a remarkably bright individual it is said that in school she excelled in French, Math and Music. At nine she received first communion. Gemma applied for to join that Passionist Order but was they refused because of her health and vision. Gemma  is a mystic who received the stigmata and said that she talked to Jesus, her guardian angels, Mary and other saints. It is also said that Gemma levitated and was frequently found in the state of ecstasy. Gemma is one of the fastest individuals to become a saint as it was only 30 years before she was beatified and a seven more before she was canonized, and this includes the usual five year waiting period.

Eutychius (c. 512 – 5 April 582)
Eutychius was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. He became a monk at 30 and rose to become Archimandrite of Constantinople, and was well regarded with the current Patriarch Menas. When Menas died Justinian the Great nominated Eutychius to be the new Patriarch. Eutychius sent the Pope a letter saying that he was Patriarch now and the Pope asked him to convene a council to deal with the lingering Nestorian issues (Three Chapter Controversy). The Pope later changed his mind and didn’t want the council to happen but it was too late, Justinian took it over and the council happened. Eutychius would later consecrate the Hagia Sofia. Eutychius and Justinian didn’t always get along as it was only a couple of year later when Justinian would have Eutychius arrested and exiled back to his monastery. After Justinian’s replacement died the people of Constantinople demanded that Eutychius be brought back, and it says that the people did like a Jesus entry into Jerusalem type welcome for Eutychius. His second time as Patriarch not much happened.

Fulbert of Chartres (952-970–10 April 1028)
Fulbert is an interesting Saint for the simple point that he has never been canonized, Rome granted permission for Chartres and Poitiers to celebrate his day but that was it. Fulbert’s early life is a big mystery as there is no great evidence of his birth date or location. In the 980s he is sources say at Cathedral school in Rheims, and in the middle of the 990s he has become a school master or something at Chartres. In 1004 he became a deacon and in two year he became the Bishop of Chartres which he was until his death. Fulbert is perhaps best known for his writing about the Virgin Mary as well as the feast of the Nativity of Mary on September 8.

Thomas Merton

Today was the day that Thomas Merton slipped his earthy coil, or whatever they saying is. I am surprised that compared to other holy men and women we don’t see the constant push for Merton to be Canonized. Sure Merton is different from the others but from all that I’ve read he made quite an impact on vocations after his book Seven Storey Mountain was published. I read some where that it was one of the accessories that many men brought with them as they joined. Merton wrote a lot of things and now many people have taken those things and compiled them in various books. The book that introduced me to Merton was Seeds edited by Robert Inchausti. In the book one of the sections is about Merton thoughts about Sainthood. I really like these thoughts Merton writes in Seven Storey Mountain, about a conversation he had with Robert Lax, Merton’s friend says “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let Him do it? All you have to do is desire it.” This is a concept that many people struggle with we are supposedly all called to be saints but through the centuries it seems that the average individual has little chance to become a saint, but what Lax said really simplifies the whole thing If you want to be a saint all we have to do is to want to be one. The other quote that I really like comes from New Seed for Contemplation is “The saints are what they are, not because their sanctity make them admirable to others, but because the gift of sainthood makes it possible for them to admire everybody else.” Being a saint is not something that takes place in isolation, we are members of a communal religion and it sort of echoes the sentiment of Hugo to love another person is to see the face of God.

Lesser known Saints

Catherine of Genoa (1447 – 15 September 1510)

Born Caterina Fieschi Adorno to a prominate Italian family in 1447. At 13 all she wanted to do was become a nun, like her sister who had become an Augustinian, but the order that she applied to would not take her saying she was too young. After her dream was dashed she put this idea aside. in 1463 her father passed away and Caterina married at her parents wish a nobleman Giuliano, some believe to end a feud between the two families. This marriage was horrible, it was childless and loveless. Giuliano wasn’t the greatest of people for ten years Caterina put up with this. Then on March 22 1473, she had a conversion during confession where she felt God’s immense love for her. This was the beginning of her close union with God in prayer (although not using typical means like a rosary) she began receiving communion daily and  underwent mental and pathological experiences. These are documented in Von Hugel’s book The Mystical Element of Religion. Catherine would also volunteer at a hospital where she and he husband eventually lived. In her lifetime she wrote some teachings down in two volumes which can still be found today Dialogues on the Soul and the Body and A Treatise on Purgatory.

Euphemia the All-praised (d. 303)
Euphemia is a more popular saint in the Orthodox Church, she was a consecrated virgin. Not much is really known about her life other than what the legends tell us. According to tradition she was arrested with a group of like 40 other Christians for refusing to offer sacrifice to Ares. Euphemia was take and tortured, after a number of days she was sent to the area with the lions and instead of attacking her the lions went and licked Euphemia’s wounds. Tradition states that she was killed by a bear in the arena, and eventually a cathedral was built over her grave. Now this isn’t where the story ends during the Council of Chalcedon in 451, she played an important role. At this council the Monophysites and the Orthodox butted heads over if Jesus was one nature divine or two natures human and divine. Each side wrote down their doctirne and they were placed on the breast of Euphemia within her tomb and after three days the scroll of the Orthodox was in the hand of Euphemia and the Monophyites was crumpled at her feet. This lead to the Chalcedon schism.

Hildegard of Bingen, OSB known as Sibyl of the Rhine (1098 – 17 September 1179)
Hildegard is one of the newest Doctors of the Church and I’ve shared some about her in the past. She is a pretty cool individual. Hildegard began having visions as a child and had her visions while she was mentally awake. She collected her visions in her three books, Scivias; Book of Life’s Merits; and Book of Divine Works. Her main concern is that Love overflows into all things. The whole world and everything on it were made out of love. This is something that we need to remember in the world today.

Lesser known Saints

Elizabeth of Schönau (1126 – 18 June 1165)
Elizabeth was a German mystic and visionary who was friends with Hildegard. She is an interesting individual among the Saints as Elizabeth has never officially been canonized nor has the Church really said anything about her. Elizabeth was most likely born of nobility in 1126 and that helped lead her down her path in life. In 1147 she joined the Benedictine order in Schonau and a decade later she became the abbess. During her first five years as a sister she was sick, depressed, and anxious due to her strictness with the ascetic life. In 1152,  Elizabeth began having vision it is said that  Christ, Mary, an angel, or the saint of the day would appear and instruct her,  or she would see in great detail the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension, or other events from the Bible. Elizabeth told the abbot about her vision and he told her to write it down and send them to her brother. I haven’t read any of her visions but from what the internet says her first book, Liber viarum Dei, is similar to Hildegard’s Scivias and talks about the ‘ways of God’ followed by looking at men and women. Her second book Revelatio de sacro exercitu virginum Coloniensium, tells of the martyrdom of St. Ursula and her companions. The final book Visio de resurrectione Beate Virginis Marie, tries to answer whether Mary’s body had gone to heaven with her soul at her death. The works are up for debate if they are really vision or merely as Eusebius Amort points out “nothing more than what Elizabeth’s own imagination could produce, or illusions of the devil, since in some things they disagree with history and with other revelations.”

Adalbert sometimes Albert (c. 901- 20 June 981), sometimes known as the Apostle of the Slavs:
Adalbert was the first Bishop of Magdeburg and was a successful missionary to the Slavic people. Adalbert was a German Benedictine monk who sent to Kievan Rus in 961 to help Princess Olga convert the Slavic people. However when Adalbert arrived Olga’s son Sivatosklav, a staunch pagan had become ruler and when Adalbert arrived his companions were slain and he barely escaped. Adalbert would eventually become the first archbishop of Magdeburg which would be used as a base for missionaries for the Slavic peoples

Albert Chmielowski, CFAPU (1845–1916)
Albert is a Polish Brother who founded his own religious order, the Albertine and the Albertine Sisters as well. Albert is from Krakow and as a young boy he lost both of his parents and was raised by some relatives. At 18 he lost a leg in the Polish Uprising as he opposed the Czarist Russian government which controlled Poland at the time. So Albert left the country and went to Ghent where he found a talent for painting.  Albert’s most famous work is Ecce homo and is below I found an image on wikipedia. In 1874 he was able to return home to Poland where he discovered the problems that faced the poor. Albert felt the need to help so he served at a homeless shelter, over time he decided abandon his career, as an artist, to live among the poor and needy and to accept a beggar’s life and lifestyle. In 1887, Albert became a Third Order Franciscian and began calling himself Brother Albert. A year later he decided to profess religious vows and he founded the Brothers of the Third Order of Saint Francis, Servants of the Poor. A short while later he helped form a parallel women’s congregation with Maria Jablonska (Blessed Bernadina, CSAPU). Brother Albert believed that the biggest problem of our time is that we refuse to see and relieve the suffering of others. The so-called “haves” live away from the “have-nots”, ignoring them and leaving their care to society. Although we live almost a century later it seems that this sentiment still rings true. Pope John Paul II was a big fan of Brother Albert, as he wrote a play about him called Our God’s Brother and even Brother Albert gave him the spiritual support to become a priest and give up the foolish world of theater and literature.


Lesser Known Saints

As we have moved closer to modern times there are fewer and fewer named Saints, there are a bunch of individuals named blesseds though. Two of these Blesseds will be canonized on Sunday and I will talk about them next week. The 20th century had some serious wars the World Wars and the Cristero War all of which produced many martyrs, but it seems the vast majority of these saints is that they where monks and nuns.

Maria Gemma Umberta Pia Galgani (12 March 1878 – 11 April 1903)

Gemma is a relatively young saint as she died at 25 so she is someone that young men and women can look at for inspiration. Gemma had a rough life as it seems tuberculosis followed her taking her mother, a brother, and eventually her. Like so many other saints she wanted to join an order but the Passionists rejected her because of her health. By 18 both her parents had passed so it was up to her to run the family which she did with the help of her aunt. Gemma declined two marriage proposals and worked as a housekeeper. At 21, she developed a stigmata and was frequently found in a state of ecstasy, some have claimed that she could levitate as well. Gemma had visions of Mary and her guardian angel and sometimes received messages from them about current or future events. Gemma is one of the fastest individuals to become a saint (37 years).

Maximilian Maria Kolbe, O.F.M. Conv.( 8 January 1894 – 14 August 1941)

Maximilian is one of the most well known Saints of the last century as Pope John Paul II named him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”. It is said that is life was influenced from a vision of Mary he had in his childhood, Mary offered him two crowns, and he took both (white to persevere in purity and red to become a martyr). At 13 he left home with his older brother to join the Franciscans. Maximilian formed the Militia Immaculata, which works for conversion of sinners and enemies of the Catholic Church, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. He traveled to Japan numerous times and founded a monastery in Nagasaki. When World War II broke out he hid many Jews in his friary in Poland. He was arrested and eventually transferred to Auschwitz. While there he volunteered to take the place of a man who was picked to be starved to death in an underground bunker in order to deter further escape attempts. After two weeks he was the only one left and was injected with carbolic acid and died. The man who Kolbe saved would live until 1995 and was a guest at both Maximilian’s beatification and canonization.

Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD , better known as Edith Stein,  (12 October 1891 – 9 August 1942)

Edith Stein is one of those individuals who you wouldn’t think as Catholic. Edith was the youngest in her family and was born on Yom Kippur in 5652. As a teen she became an atheist. She was a skilled learner earning a doctorate of philosophy, and became a teaching assistant. Edith was drawn to the Catholic faith by reading Teresa of Avila’s writings she was baptized in 1921 and she left the assistantship and began teaching at a Dominican nun school.  Edith also went about translating Aquinas’ De Veritate and trying to connect phenomenology and Thomism. In 1933 with the rise of Nazism there were antisemitic laws passed which forced Edith out of work. She wrote to Pope Pius XI which might have played a role in the drafting of Mit brennender Sorge. Edith became a discalsed Carmelite and to avoid a Nazi threat she was transferred to a monastery in the Netherlands. This didn’t last long as Dutch Bishops would denounce the Nazi racism which brought the hammer down on all Jews who were spared. Edith and her sister a lay sister would be arrested and sent to Auschwitz where they both were killed in a gas chamber. She is one of the six patron saints of Europe, together with Benedict of NursiaCyril and Methodius, Bridget of Sweden, and Catherine of Siena.

Today is the eighth day in the Divine Mercy Novena, today Jesus asks us to bring to me the souls who are detained in purgatory.


Holy Saturday

On Holy Saturday Jesus was in the tomb and the Disciples were together in the Upper Room for they were afraid.

Today is the Second day of the Novena of Divine Mercy, today Christ asks us to bring to Me the souls of priests and the religious.

As this is the last day of Lent I guess it’s time to admit that I am not getting The Seven Storey Mountain finished this year, as I currently have over 200 pages left in the book and I doubt that I’ll be getting much reading done today. Seven Storey Mountain may be considered a great book by many but to me if feel very dense, there is so much information on the page. Maybe I just didn’t get the hook of the story. Basically the book is about a man who comes to find what faith is and he gives up everything for it. Merton had a remarkable life traveling the world at such a young age. I think he did more and saw more of the world that the average 26 year old, when he entered the monastery.

So I stopped reading Thomas Merton and have picked up a book by George R.R. Martin, of the A Song of Ice and Fire series. That would be Game of Thrones to those television fans out there. I’ve been told that George R.R. Martin’s writing is very reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien, so I thought it would be an interesting thing to read. I picked up a retrospective of his early works and so far it is a fun read. Perhaps one day I will get around to reading his main series and perhaps watch some of the television that he has had a hand in making.