Thursday, November 01, 2012

All Saints

The 2010 All Saints Post

The 2011 All Saints Post

Jadwiga of Poland

Jadwiga's girlhood was unusual; she became King. Daughter of Louis of Hungary and Elizabeth of Bosnia, she was born for royal courts and trained for the diplomatic life; she spoke six languages fluently. At the death of Louis, the throne of Hungary went to his eldest daughter Mary. However, Mary was married to a man, Sigismund of Luxembourg, who had a great many enemies in Poland, and the Polish nobles decided that the no longer wished to share a crown with Hungary. After some intense negotiation and outright fighting, the Polish nobles chose Jadwiga as their new monarch. It was the fourteenth century, and Polish law had no provisions for a ruling Queen. But as it happens, nowhere in Polish law did it explicitly say that the King had to be male. So Jadwiga was crowned King of Poland. She was only about ten or eleven at the time. Being a girl with a crown made her highly marriageable material, and the young monarch spent the next couple of years fighting off men trying to trick or force her into marrying them. She did officially marry Grand Duke Władysław Jaegila of Lithuania, who was fourteen years older; but she and the Polish nobles made very sure that she kept all royal rights over Poland.

The Kingdom of Poland was pretty much run by the nobles, and foreign policy was likely handled by Władysław Jaegila on her behalf, but the young girl was still active as a monarch, providing moral support for her armies, receiving diplomats, sponsoring artists, and founding scholarships for young students.She was very devout and active in charity. She is usually depicted with an apron of roses, due to the most famous legend about her. She would regularly smuggle food out of the castle at night to distribute to the poor, and the rumor began to go about that she was giving information to rebels who wanted to get rid of Jaegila. Furious, he waited for her one night by the door she always left and, when she appeared, sprang out and demanded to see what she had in her apron. She opened her apron and, instead of the food, it was full of roses.

In 1399 she gave birth to a girl, but both mother and child died due to complications in childbirth. Her feast day is July 17.

Kateri Tekakwitha

The Lily of the Mohawks was the daughter of a Mohawk chief and an Algonquin woman who had been baptized as a Catholic by French missionaries. The Mohawks at that time were in a state of expansion, being a relatively strong tribe that regularly assimilated captives from other tribes. When she was a young girl, a smallpox epidemic went around; Tekakwitha survived, but her face was ever after scarred from smallpox, and the disease left her with poor eyesight. Tekakwitha was baptized at age 20 in 1676, after several years of catechesis; it was not a good time to be both Mohawk and Catholic, because the Mohawks saw the Jesuit missionaries as the representatives of a foreign power that had humiliated them in war, forcing them into a peace treaty that included allowing unharrassed travel to the missionaries. But she lived an ascetic life as a consecrated virgin, and died in 1680.

André Bessette

Brother André was a lay brother in the Congregation of the Holy Cross. He was orphaned at the age of 12 and had to make his own way. His religious devotion was noticed by the pastor of his parish, and when he was in his twenties his pastor sent him with a recommendation to the C.S.C., but they rejected at him at first, because he, being in ill health and without much in the way of talent or training, didn't seem to be useful for much -- the C.S.C. is a teaching order, and it wasn't obvious what André, who couldn't even read and write, could do for him. However, he kept at it, and he was eventually admitted. He was assigned to be porter at Notre Dame College, a school for young boys, which meant that he was mostly there just to keep an eye on things, serve as a receptionist, and do various janitorial jobs. Everyone who came to the school had to talk with him, because he was the receptionist, and he turned out to be a great talker, and, even more importantly, a great listener. Soon people started showing up at the school just to talk with Brother Andr&eactue;, to tell him their troubles and get his advice. Brother André was devoted to St. Joseph, whom he insisted had helped him out many times in his difficult life, and began to advocate the building of a chapel dedicated to St. Joseph. The Archbishop rebuffed him, saying that it would not be wise to go into debt for such a thing. So Brother André started raising money. He put out a coin jar for nickels and dimes, and starting cutting boys' hair for donations. After a few years he had a few hundred dollars, so he did the best he could: he built a little shed dedicated to St. Joseph. But he kept collecting in the hopes that the shed would grow, and every so often he went back to the Archbishop. Finally the Archbishop told him he could have any building he wanted, as long as he did not go into debt building it. For years and years he collected and worked, until there was now an entire basilica being built. It still wasn't finished when André died in his nineties, but people kept building because of him, and the result was the Oratoire St.-Joseph in Montreal.

Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès

Rafqa, a young Maronite girl, became a nun so that she did not have to marry. Much of her life was just the simple life of a nun, but she was often brought up sharply against the sorrow and suffering of the world. Maronites in Lebanon often had tense relations with their neighbors, and every so often Maronites would be massacred by the hundreds or thousands. This contrast bothered Rafqa; she lived a relatively tranquil life, but all around her people were suffering and dying. Then when she was about fifty-three she was struck by violent pains that left her virtually paralyzed and nearly blind. The doctors could do nothing, and, in fact, made things worse: one doctor, attempting to understand why she had shooting pains in her eyes, accidentally popped her eyeball out. She eventually became blind, and her eye sockets often discharged blood; she often had frequent nosebleeds. It was a very miserable state, but Rafqa kept up her good spirits, and remained cheerful to the end. She did what little she could do for the community, which was mostly confined to prayer and knitting, which she could do by touch. She made socks for the other sisters, and simply knitted through the pain. The suffering, however, was not at its worse. Her body began quite literally falling apart as the attachments between her bones deteriorated. Sill she continued to be less distressed at what was happening to her than the people around her were. When she lay dying, one of the sisters begged her to tell of her life so it could be recorded, and she simply replied that nothing of importance had happened in her life. Her feast day is March 23.

Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga

Alberto Hurtado, although interested in labor law from an early age, joined the Jesuits and began to focus on catechesis and pedagogy. He was highly critical of catechetical practices in his native Chile, in which there were plenty of volunteers but insufficient training, and argued that they were the cause of Chile's shortage of priests. After he became the national director for Catholic Action he went so far as to write a book questioning whether Chile were a genuinely Catholic country -- rural populations were often forced to go priestless, over half the priests in the country were foreign, stable parishes with an assigned priest were nonexistent throughout much of the country, and most of Chilean religious life consisted of loose devotion to the Virgin and the saints rather than participation in the sacraments. Because of the book he was often accused by conservative Catholics of being a crypto-Communist. This did not stop Father Hurtado from following his interests in social action. He founded a movement, the Hogar de Cristo, to feed and shelter children who were either abandoned or were members of families too poor to care for them. The idea caught on, and a number of shelters were developed throughout the company. Still interested in labor law, he began to take a more active involvement in the labor movement, founding the Chilean Trade Union Association. In 1952 he suddenly one day doubled-over in pain; he had pancreatic cancer, and died soon after. His feast day is August 18.

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