Sunday, November 01, 2015

All Saints

And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: Looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God.

Margaret Clitherow

The Pearl of York, as she is sometimes called, was born Margaret Middleton in Yorkshire, England, in 1556. She married John Clitherow in 1571 and converted to Catholicism in in 1574, at the age of 21. (Her husband, with whom she seems to have always remained on good terms, continued to be Protestant, but did not interfere with her conversion or devotions or even her dangerous work of protecting Catholic priests.) It was, you must remember, after the Church of England had broken from Rome. She regularly supported the Catholic community in northern England, including hosting Masses, which were illegal, and protecting Catholic priests despite the law. She was eventually investigated and it was discovered in 1586 that her house had priest-holes to allow priests to escape. She was put on trial, where she refused to plead her case (because that would have let the government force her children to testify) and therefore was tortured. She was found guilty and was executed on Good Friday of 1586 in the way criminals with forced pleas usually were: crushed to death. They took the door off her house, put it on top of her, and piled it with rocks until she died; a smaller rock was put under her so that the rocks would break her back. It was a relatively quick way to be executed. She was beatified in 1929 by Pius XI and canonized in 1970 by Paul VI as part of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. She is celebrated with those martyrs on May 4, although on English liturgical calendars she is usually celebrated on August 30 with St. Anne Line and St. Margaret Ward, who also were executed for harboring priests. She is a patron saint of businesswomen.

Kaleb Elesbaan of Axum

The Kingdom of Axum (covering modern-day Ethiopia and Eritrea); Kaleb was one of its more important kings and lived in the sixth century. The act for which he is most famous was his invasion of Yemen, somewhere around 520, in order to put an end to the king of Yemen's persecution of Christians. This was successful, although Axum control of southern Arabia did not last very long. Longstanding legend says that after a long reign he abdicated his throne and made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he donated his crown to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and became a monk. St. Kaleb, or St. Elesbaan, as he is sometimes called, was a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, the bishops of which were not in communion with Rome; but he was put in the Roman Martyrology in the sixteenth century and has been there ever since. He is also on the Ethiopian and Eritrean Catholic calendars. His feast day is October 27.

Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin Martin

Azélie-Marie Guérin wanted to become a nun, but she couldn't find anyone who would take her -- she had serious respiratory problems accompanied by migraines, and thus there were worries that she wouldn't actually be able to contribute to the missions of the religious orders she tried to join. She became a lacemaker to support herself, and eventually fell in love with a watchmaker named Louis Martin. Interestingly, Louis himself had wanted to become a monk and had been rejected because he didn't have the kind of education that the monastery needed. The woman who couldn't be a nun because of a lack of health and the man who couldn't be a monk because of a lack of the right education married each other in 1858. While both had been doing well enough, Zélie's lacemaking was so much more lucrative than Louis's watchmaking that Louis sold his watchmaking shop in order to help Zélie with her work. They were a good pair, if occasionally a little different from normal, and they had five daughters survive into adulthood, all of whom became nuns. The best known of these, of course, was Marie Françoise Thérèse, who became St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Doctor of the Church. Zélie died of breast cancer in 1877 at the age of 46. Louis sold the lacemaking business, which he had mostly been involved with in order to support Zélie. He suffered paralyzing strokes and spent the last few years of his life being cared for by his younger daughters until his death in 1894 at the age of 71. Louis and Zélie were beatified by Benedict XVI in 2008 and canonized by Francis in October of 2015. Their shared feast day is July 12.

Gertrude of Nivelles

Gertrude was born in the seventh century to an important Frankish noble family. It is said that she vehemently refused to marry the man her father had arranged for her to marry, swearing an oath that her only spouse would be Jesus. While it's possible that her father could have forced her into the marriage, he died before he could do so, and Gertrude instead became a nun. This was not to be the end of her troubles with marriage, however, because she kept getting marriage proposals by people who wanted to marry into her family. These only came to an end when she and her mother Itta worked together to found a monastery at Nivelles, in modern-day Belgium. After Itta's death, Gertrude became abbess, where she became famous for being even-handed, for building churches, and for making sure orphans were cared for. She died most probably in 659. She was celebrated as a saint locally almost immediately but only raised to the universal calendar a millenium later by Clement X, in 1677. Her feast day is March 17.

Pius V

Antonio Ghisleri was born in 1504. He entered the Dominican order at the age of fourteen, taking the name of Michele, and eventually became first a priest and then bishop. He thrived under Pope Paul IV, but had some problems getting along with the nect Pope, Pius IV. Ghisleri, however, would become Pius IV's successor in 1566 and took the name Pius V. Pius IV had closed the Council of Trent; Pius V vigorously pushed through the Council's reforms. As part of this work, he promulgated the first standardized Missal, reformed the Breviary. He was an important figure in the formation of the Holy League that managed to defeat the Turkish army at the Battle of Lepanto. Throughout his papacy he was extremely active in charitable works. He died in 1572, after six short but extremely active years as Pope. He was beatified in 1672 by Clement X and canonized by Clement XI in 1712. His feast day is April 30.

Clare and Agnes of Assisi

Chiara Offreduccio was born the eldest daughter of the Count of Sasso-Rosso, and thus belonged to a minor but very ancient and wealthy noble family. At the age of 18, however, she heard St. Francis of Assisi preach. She left her family, gave up everything, to follow Francis. He sent her to a Benedictine convent, whence her father tried to take her by force. She refused to go with him, literally holding onto the altar in the church. Francis then sent her to another convent, where she was joined by her sister; we don't know for sure the sister's birth name, although there is some reason to think it was Catarina, but the sister took the name of Agnes when she became a nun, just as Chiara took the name of Clare. Francis repaired a building near the church of San Damiano for them, and a number of other women began to join Clare and Agnes, becoming known to the locals as the Poor Ladies of San Damiano. The eventually received a Rule from Francis, becoming the Second Order of the Franciscans, and they just took the title the people had given them: the Order of the Poor Ladies of San Damiano. The house at San Damiano began to interact with other small religious institutes of women that had been formed on a broadly Franciscan model and soon became the dominant and most respected house. For a while Clare was the prioress of the community, governing it under the supervision of a priest and ultimately under Francis himself, but she was eventually made abbess, and thus became herself the supervisor of the order. Clare eventually chose her sister to lead another community in the order that was just starting, at Monticelli near Florence, and Agnes through the rest of her life went from place to place organizing nascent communities in the order. Because of Clare's influence and insistence on Franciscan principles, she was often known as the Other Francis. She died in 1253, shortly after Innocent IV confirmed the legitimacy of Clare's Rule for the order. In 1255, Clare was canonized by Alexander IV, and the name of the Order of the Poor Ladies was changed by Urban IV to the Order of Saint Clare in 1263; popularly they are known by a mix of the two, the Poor Clares. Agnes died shortly after Clare in 1253; she was widely venerated as a saint in areas in which the Franciscans were a significant presence, but she was only raised to the universal calendar in 1753 by Benedict XIV. Clare's feast day is August 11 and Agnes's is November 16.

Kuriakose Elias Chavara

Born in 1805 in the Indian state of Kerala, Kuriakose Chavara was a bright young man and soon found his way to seminary. He became a priest in 1829. With some fellow priests, he sought to form a congregation devoted to the monastic life, the Servants of Mary Immaculate. This congregation became the first Syro-Malabar religious congregation for men. The young group would eventually become affiliated with the Discalced Carmelites, leading to the name they retain today, the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. The congregation became an active force, introducing new approaches to religious life and devotion while at the same time firmly upholding the centrality of doctrine and the unity of the Church. The success of this project led him to fulfill another ambition. He had long argued that the improvement of society required an emphasis on education, especially on the education of women, and in 1866 he founded a religious congregation for Syro-Malabar women for this purpose, which is known today as the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel. He died in 1871, was beatified by John Paul II in 1986, and canonized by Francis in 2014. His feast day is January 3.


Scholastica was the twin sister of St. Benedict. She lived most of her life in religious communities, and became known for her intensive study of the sacred texts and of the Church Fathers. She is the primary foundress of the Benedictine movement for women. She died in about 543 and her feast day is February 10. She is a patron saint of nuns.

Vinh Sơn Phạm Hiếu Liêm

Phạm Hiếu Liêm was born in the Tonkin territory of what is now Vietnam in 1732 to a Christian family; when he was baptized, he was given the name of Vicente Liem de la Paz. He eventually was sent to the Philippines to study, and after completing his degree at the University of Santo Tomas, he entered the Dominican order, and was ordained a priest in 1758. He returned to Tonkin, where he actively began preaching the faith. Because of this, he was eventually arrested and brought to trial before the local king and as a result he was executed in 1773. He was beatified by Pius X, and John Paul II canonized him in 1988. His feast day is November 24.

Thorlak Thorhallsson

Thorlak was born in Iceland in the twelfth century. After joining the priesthood, he studied in Paris. When he returned to Iceland, he founded a community of Canons Regular (priests living in community under the Augustinian Rule). He insisted on living a celibate life, which was actually unusual for priests Iceland in his day -- he repeatedly had to turn down marriage proposals. He was eventually consecrated as a bishop by St. Eysteinn Erlendsson and actively worked to root out corruptions in the Icelandic church. After his death he was informally canonized by long and universal devotion in Iceland, where he was on the local calendar, but this was not formally recognized and he was not raised to the universal calendar until John Paul II did so in 1984, when he was officially declared what he had been unofficially for the previous six centuries, the patron saint of Iceland. His feast day, December 23, is a major cultural holiday in Iceland, essentially starting off the Christmas celebrations.

John Damascene

Yanah ibn Mansur ibn Sarjun was born into Muslim-occupied Syria; his family consisted of civil servants working in the administration of the Muslim court at Damascus, and his father became secretary to the caliph. Some sources suggest that John also served as a financial officer for the caliph for at least a short time, although there is very little other evidence that this is so. He eventually became a monk at the monastery of Mar Saba (which, of course, still exists, overlooking the Kidron Valley in Palestinian territory). He seems to have been able to speak both Greek and Arabic, and shows some signs of having read the Qur'an. In the 720s, the dispute over the role of images in the prayer of the Church came to a crisis when Leo III the Isaurian in Constantinople began to back the Iconoclast side of the dispute with Imperial power. Being out of the reach of the Emperor, John was able to mount an extraordinary defense of the Iconodoules and criticism of the Iconoclasts, one that managed to be theologically sophisticated and yet also relatively accessible to the common people. John died in about 749. His theology was highly influential at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. In 1883 he was declared Doctor of the Church by Leo XIII. His feast day is December 4.

2014 All Saints Post
Marie Guyart, Alphonsa Muttathupadathu, John Neumann, Hildegard von Bingen, Pedro de San José Betancurt, Benedict the Moor

2013 All Saints Post
María Guadalupe García Zavala, Antonio Primaldi, Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini, Gabriel-Taurin Dufresse and Augustine Zhao Rong, Josephine Margaret Bakhita, John Chrysostom

2012 All Saints Post
Jadwiga of Poland, Kateri Tekakwitha, André Bessette, Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès, Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga

2011 All Saints Post
Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro, Celestine V, Olga of Kiev, Cyril of Jerusalem, Joseph Mukasa and Charles Lwanga

2010 All Saints Post
Moses the Black of Ethiopia, Micae Hồ Đình Hy, Katherine Mary Drexel, Robert Southwell, Lojze Grozde, Andrew Kim Tae Gon

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