Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?

Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."

To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."

As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."

June 24: Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Posted by Jacob

As today is the feast of the nativity of my confirmation saint, I am re-posting my thoughts from last year.  Saint John the Baptist, pray for each of us!

Today, June 24, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. For the Church, this is a special day—one of the only feast days of a saint falling on the date of birth, rather than the date on which the saint died (Of course, we also celebrate the beheading of Saint John the Baptist in August). Ordinarily the Church observes the day of a saint's death as his feast, because that day marks his entrance into heaven. To this rule there are two notable exceptions, the birthdays of Blessed Mary (celebrated on September 8) and of Saint John the Baptist. All other persons were stained with original sin at birth, preventing a liturgical celebration of the event. But through the grace of God—in preparation for her special role as Mother of God-- Mary, from the first moment of her existence, was free from original sin. Similarly, John was cleansed of original sin in the womb of his mother, jumping for joy at the greeting of Mary to Elizabeth during her visitation (the second Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary).

So, today, the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, is a special day for the Church. For me, this is also a special day, as Saint John is the saint I chose for my confirmation saint—due to his humility, his foresight, his contemplative nature, his tendencies toward penance, self-deprivation, and mortification, and his understanding of his place in the world (that his role was trivial in comparison to that of Christ). Saint Augustine explained the reason for today's observance—an event which heralds the coming of Jesus in anticipation of Christmas-- in the following words:

"Apart from the most holy solemnity commemorating our Savior's birth, the Church keeps the birthday of no other person except that of John the Baptist. (The feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin had not yet been introduced when he wrote this.) In the case of other saints or of God's chosen ones, the Church, as you know, solemnizes the day on which they were reborn to everlasting beatitude after ending the trials of this life and gloriously triumphing over the world.

"For all these the final day of their lives, the day on which they completed their earthly service is honored. But for John the day of his birth, the day on which he began this mortal life is likewise sacred. The reason for this is, of course, that the Lord willed to announce to men His own coming through the Baptist, lest if He appeared suddenly, they would fail to recognize Him. John represented the Old Covenant and the Law. Therefore he preceded the Redeemer, even as the Law preceded and heralded the new dispensation of grace." (For more from Saint Augustine on the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, click here.)

 Saint John the Baptist is, therefore, the Precursor of Christ, the forerunner of the Son of Justice, the minister of baptism of Jesus. His birth prepared the way for the coming of Our Lord and Savior, for the coming of salvation for all.
57When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John."
61They said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who has that name."
62Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, "His name is John." 64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord's hand was with him.
80And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel. (Luke 1: 57-66, 80)

John was born to Elizabeth, the “cousin” of Mary, and Zechariah, an elderly man and priest at the Temple of Jerusalem. Elizabeth, also in advanced age, was childless and sterile, although both she and Zechariah very much wished to conceive. According to the Gospel of Luke, John’s birth was foretold by the angel Gabriel to Zechariah while he was at work in the Temple. However, he did not belief, and was struck mute until he named his son John. John, the cousin of Jesus, the infant who leapt in the presence of the Lord prior even to his birth in purity, grew and began his public ministry—one which prepared the way for Christ. In this way, his birth and life anticipated that of Jesus. Both births were foretold by message of an angel—one to a virgin, one to a woman unable to conceive. Both men brought all to faith—one through baptism by water, one by the Spirit.

John left his father’s home—giving up considerable honor and privilege (and even some riches, perhaps!)-- and went into the desert when he was just an adolescent (scholars estimate between 12 and 15 years old). There, in the desert near the river Jordan, he entered into a contemplative life of hermitude, communing with the Lord in silence. He began a life of mortification and penance, wearing a camel-hair shirt, and sustaining his body with locusts and honey. Soon, he gained notoriety as a pious and holy man, and people flocked to him for baptism in the river. He preached reformation of life.

John served the Lord until the age of 29, at which time the angel of the Lord appeared to him, instructing him to proclaim the coming of Christ, preach penance, and to continue baptizing the many. The angel also informed John that Jesus was the Savior of the World, whom John should baptize (the Second Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary), and upon whom the Holy Spirit would descend in the form of a dove.

Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him, saying: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John....” But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “Yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28). Saint John lived the words “He must increase; I must decrease,” (John 3:30) believing them to the core of his being.  His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. The baptisms John performed were baptisms of repentance and reformation. But the baptisms that Jesus would bring to the world would be through the Holy Spirit and fire. John recognized his role, his insignificance in comparison to the greatness of Christ, and proclaimed himself unworthy to even carry the sandals of Jesus. He said:

31"The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (John 3: 31-36)

Today is a special day for the Chuch, for all the faithful!  In the words of Blessed Guerric of Igny (c.1080-1157), Cistercian abbot, from his sermon on the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist:

"Rightly, then, did the birth of this child make many rejoice then and does make many rejoice today: born in the old age of his parents he was to preach the grace of rebirth to an aging world. Rightly does the Church solemnly venerate this birth, which is wonderfully brought about by grace and at which nature wonders. To me certainly the birth of the world's Lamp (John 5:35) brings fresh joy, for it enabled me to recognize the true Light shining in the darkness but not mastered by the darkness, (Jn1,5.9).

His birth brings me a joy utterly unspeakable, for so many outstanding benefits accrue to the world through it. He is the first to give the Church instruction, to initiate it by penance, to prepare it by baptism. When it is prepared he delivers it to Christ and unites it with him, (John 3:29). He both trains it to live temperately and, by his own death, gives it the strength to die with fortitude. In all these ways he prepares for the Lord a perfect people, (Luke 1:17).”

All powerful God,
help Your people to walk the path to salvation.
By following the teaching of St. John the Baptist,
may we come to your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

June 23: Saint Etheldreda

Posted by Jacob

Today, June 23, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Etheldreda (also known as Saint Audrey, 636-379), ascetic, queen, and foundress of the “double monastery” at Ely. Against earthly pressures, and through divine intervention, Saint Etheldreda maintained her personal consecration to the Lord, remaining a virgin and engaging in ascetic pursuits despite her noble station. Her perseverance in faith and commitment to a life of prayer and service is remarkable still today.

Born in Northumbria, the daughter of a king, Etheldreda was brought up in a God-fearing household. From an early age, Etheldreda had but one goal: to consecrate herself entirely to the Lord through entrance into a religious order. Etheldreda longed to fully serve with her life, her wealth, and her actions. Her father, on the other hand, had other plans for her. For political reasons, Etheldreda was married (at quite a young age) to a prince named Tonbert, from who she received a track of land on the Isle of Ely. For three years the couple lived together, and due to her young age and commitment to sanctity, Etheldreda was able to maintain her purity. Upon Tonbert’s untimely death, she relocated to the Isle of Ely, where she intended to devote herself to entirely spiritual pursuits.

However, it was not to be. Her father, again sensing political opportunity, arranged for a second marriage, this time to the young son of the powerful king of Northumbria, Egfrith. Etheldreda obeyed her father’s wishes, but chose to live in the royal palace as a sister to the king, rather than a wife. This was not problematic, due to the youth of the boy, who would sit at Etheldreda’s feet, learning Scripture from her. For twelve years, Etheldreda engaged in purely ascetic activities, forgoing the accoutrements and privilege of her position, and maintaining her purity. Etheldreda became known for devoting her time to works of mercy and love, while observing a scrupulous regularity of discipline.

At the age of twenty-four, Egfrith ascended to the throne of Northumbria, becoming king. As Queen, Etheldreda delighted in the society of monks and nuns, and took care to invite and attract to her those most distinguished for learning and piety. Among these was St. Cuthbert, the young Prior of Lindisfarne, upon whose monastery she bestowed many gifts from her own private property. Over time, Etheldreda became friends with Saint Wilfrid, her confessor, who on her behalf, encouraged the king to allow her to retire for some years to the Convent at Coldingham Abbey. There, she lived as a sister, having received the veil from Saint Wilfrid himself. Her husband, the king, shortly after consenting to her departure from the royal court, changed his mind and pursued her. When Saint Wilfrid pleaded on her behalf, the king made his intentions known: he would find Etheldreda and bring her back to the court by force, where he would consummate his marital privileges.

Etheldreda fled toward her land on the Isle of Ely, with the king in pursuit. She took refuge on a headland on the southern coast of England where a miracle prevented further advance of the king. While she was standing on a large outcropping of rock, the tide rose such that it created an island of refuge for the saint, water surrounding her. Etheldreda remained in this island refuge for seven days, until her royal spouse, recognizing the divine will, agreed to leave her in peace.

Etheldreda, freed from her marriage, continued on her trek to the Isle of Ely. On one extremely hot day during her travels, legend tells us that Etheldreda was overpowered with fatigue. She stuck her staff into the ground and lay down to rest on the open plain. When she awoke, the staff had put forth leaves and branches, and it afterwards became a mighty oak tree, larger than any other for many miles around.

At length, after many days of weary walking, the saint arrived on her own lands in Ely. There, she established a “double monastery,” shepherding both nuns and monks. Saint Wilfrid appointed her abbess, and she governed the abbey for many years, serving as advisor to the pope and other Church officials during that time. Etheldreda ruled over her monastery for seven years, setting a great example of piety and abstinence and all other monastic virtues. Though of royal lineage, and having been delicately reared, Etheldreda abstained from all luxuries. She never wore any linen, but only rough woolen clothing. She denied herself the use of the warm bath, only using the bath that had already served the other nuns. Many of her old friends, relations, and courtiers followed her and her example, engaging in ascetic practices, discipline, and prayer. The monastery grew considerably under her holy leadership

Not only holy and a model of virtue in shepherding her people to the Lord, Etheldreda also was graced with the gift of prophecy. Most notable of her prophecies was that of her own death by plague, and the exact number of her monks and nuns who would be carried off by the same epidemic. True to her prophesy, Etheldreda died of a quinsy, a form of plague which led to the development of a large tumor upon her neck. Etheldreda, never complaining about the pain or the sight of the growth, regarded is as a punishment for her former love of fine clothing, and, in particular, for having worn jewels on her neck.

Seventeen years after her death, Saint Wilfrid and Saint Etheldreda’s physician discovered her body to be incorrupt. The incision that had been made into her tumor shortly before she died had miraculously healed in death. (Saint Etheldreda remains the patron of sufferers of throat complaints.) The linen cloths in which her body was wrapped were as fresh as the day she had been buried. Her body was placed in a stone sarcophagus and reburied at the Abbey. Unfortunately, the tomb of Saint Etheldreda was desecrated during the English Reformation, with only the incorrupt hand of the blessed saint surviving. Her relics remain at St Etheldreda's Roman Catholic church at Ely, where many miracles have been reported through her intercession.

The life of Saint Etheldreda reminds us that we cannot truly be servants of Christ when our souls are distracted by the pleasures and desires of the world. In her wisdom, Saint Etheldreda gave up her wealth, station, and privilege, instead choosing to live the ascetic life of a abbess, guiding people to Christ and contributing to His kingdom on earth. We might take a lesson from Saint Etheldreda today, examining what binds us to the world, preventing us from truly and fully serving our Creator.

Eternal God,
who bestowed such grace upon your servant Etheldreda
that she gave herself wholly to the life of prayer
and to the service of your true religion:
grant that we, like her,
may so live our lives on earth seeking your kingdom
that by your guiding
we may be joined to the glorious fellowship of your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday Prayer Requests, June 22

Posted by Jacob

Please join me in praying for those intentions submitted by readers over the past week.  Together, we raise our voices in prayer.

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:18)

 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with 
thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6)

For improved prayer life, for the faith of a parish, for the ill (B, Singapore);   For strength, for healing of a relationship (M, Ireland);  For healing of serious illness (J, United Kingdom);   For a son experiencing difficulties, that he may be healed (M, USA-NY);  For healing upon a family (M, India);  For multiple intentions, including health, occupational, and financial (S, Australia);  For good mental health, continued relationship with the Lord, and safekeeping of a home (V, USA-AL);  For a nephew battling addiction, for strained family relationships, for true conversion and healing of a family (A, India);  For successful employment, for a relationship blessed by the Lord (N, India);  Successful employment, financial security (J, Ghana); Grace of God to fill life and overcome flaws (R, USA-VA);  Help for a family in financial trouble, freedom from anxiety and depression (B, Ireland);  Career success (R, USA-NY);  For curing of a serious blood disorder, comfort for a niece who lost her husband (M, USA-IL);  Blessings upon a ministry and school, for health, healing, peace, protection, and for someone battling with addiction and mental illness (B, USA-AL);  Blessings and healing upon husband, brother, son, and family (B, USA-CA);  For faculty and students at school, that they be filled with patience and understanding (E, England);  Successful employment, grace and strength (B, USA-MA); For personal intentions (C, USA-GA).

"Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth." (Psalm 54:2)
"If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." (Matthew 21:22)

Friday Prayer Requests, June 15

Posted by Jacob

Please join me in praying for those intentions submitted by readers over the past week.  Together, we raise our voices in prayer.

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:18)

 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with 
thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6)

Financial blessings upon a family (A, USA-CA); Successful occupational and academic placements for a family moving between countries (S, India); Healing of a marriage and strained family relationships (J, Kenya); For a son in period of vocational discernment (A, USA-MD);  For blessings and financial favor for family and friends (S, USA-MO); For a friend suffering from addiction (S, Canada); For a friend dealing with grief and bereavement (J, Norway);  Specific prayer intentions (J, Malta); Blessings and healing upon a son (M, USA-NY);  Successful completion of education (U, Nigeria);  Successful acceptance in the army (U, Norway); End to sadness, protection for home (S, India); Health, safety, and blessings for family and friends (M, Philippines); Blessings and healing upon a strained relationship (K, Serbia); Healing upon a relationship (M, USA-ND);  Healing upon a husband and a relationship (R, India).

"Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth." (Psalm 54:2)
"If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." (Matthew 21:22)

Hymns of Saint Joseph the Hymnographer

Posted by Jacob

Today, June 14, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Joseph the Hymnographer (810-886), tireless servant of the Lord, glorifying Him in life, in works, and through writing countless hymns and canons to the saints. Despite a lifetime of struggle, suffering, and imprisonment, Saint Joseph produced a catalog of writings which remain today, as well as over 200 hymns, many of which are still sung by modern congregations. He has been called "the sweet-voiced nightingale of the Church." Through his legacy of writings and song, Saint Joseph preserved a priceless record of the history of our faith—a faith which continues, unchanged and unabated, today.

Below, two additional hymns, originally penned by Saint Joseph (and later adapted for modern usage in the Church):

And Wilt Thou Pardon, Lord

And wilt Thou pardon, Lord,

A sinner such as I,
Although Thy book his crimes record,
Of such a crimson dye?

So deep are they engraved,
So terrible their fear,
The righteous scarcely shall be saved,
And where shall I appear?

O Thou Physician blest,
Make clean my guilty soul
And me, by many a sin oppressed,
Restore and keep me whole.

I know not how to praise
Thy mercy and Thy love;
But deign my soul from earth to raise

And learn from Thee above.

O Happy Band of Pilgrims

O happy band of pilgrims,

If onward you will tread,
With Jesus as your Fellow,
To Jesus as your Head.

O happy if you labor,
As Jesus did for men;
O happy if you hunger
As Jesus hungered then.

The cross that Jesus carried
He carried as your due;
The crown that Jesus weareth
He weareth it for you.

The faith by which you see Him,
The hope in which you yearn,
The love that through all troubles
To Him alone will turn.

What are they but forerunners
To lead you to His sight?
What are they save the effluence
Of uncreated Light?

The trials that beset you,
The sorrows you endure,
The manifold temptations
That death alone can cure.

What are they but His jewels
Of right celestial worth?
What are they but the ladder
Set up to heaven on earth?

O happy band of pilgrims,
Look upward to the skies,
Where such a light affliction
Shall win you such a prize.

To Father, Son, and Spirit,
The God Whom we adore,
Be loftiest praises given,

Now and for evermore.

June 14: Saint Joseph the Hymnographer

Posted by Jacob

Today, June 14, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Joseph the Hymnographer (810-886), tireless servant of the Lord, glorifying Him in life, in works, and through writing countless hymns and canons to the saints. Despite a lifetime of struggle, suffering, and imprisonment, Saint Joseph produced a catalog of writings which remain today, as well as over 200 hymns, many of which are still sung by modern congregations. He has been called "the sweet-voiced nightingale of the Church." Through his legacy of writings and song, Saint Joseph preserved a priceless record of the history of our faith—a faith which continues, unchanged and unabated, today.

Joseph was born into a pious Christian family in Sicily. His parents, Plotinus and Agatha, in response to an invasion of Arabs, moved the family to Greece. There, at the young age of 15, Joseph entered the monastery at Thessolonica, and earned the love and respect of his community through industriousness, obedience, piety, humility, and scholastic aptitude.

During a routine visit to the monastery, Saint Gregory (then deacon) took notice of the young brother, and asked him to accompany him to the church in Constantinople—then suffering under the iconoclast persecution (see also Saint Theodosia of Constantinople). There, they lived near the Church of the Holy Martyrs, defending religious icons, preaching the Word of God, and ministering to the suffering Christian population. When it was decided that an emissary should be sent to Rome to have audience with Pope Leo III and inform him of the persecution under the Byzantine Emperor, Joseph was selected due to his obedience, wisdom, and gift of oration. He set off for Rome at once.

But life was not to be easy for Saint Joseph. On the way to Rome, he was taken captive by Arab bandits, brought to the island of Crete, and turned over to the Iconoclasts who locked him away in a dungeon. Never giving up hope and faith in the Lord, Joseph ministered to his fellow prisoners, keeping their spirits high, praying with them, and inspiring many to die martyr’s deaths for the faith.

Saint Joseph spent six years in prison, until the death of the Byzantine Emperor and the end of the iconoclast persecution. Prior to his release, he received a heavenly vision from Saint Nicholas of Myra, who provided him with a scroll upon which read: “Hasten, O Bountiful One and as Thou art merciful, hasten to come to our aid, for as Thou wilst, Thou canst…” Saint Joseph, after receiving instruction from Saint Nicholas, sang the words aloud, causing his chains to fall to the ground and the prison gates to be opened. He returned to Constantinople where he established a church in patronage to Saint Nicholas, and later a monastery.

Saint Joseph received the gift of the relics of Saint Bartholomew, which he placed in the church. He felt compelled to sing a hymn of praise to the saint, but no such suitable hymn existed, and he didn’t feel qualified or capable to write a canon for one so deserving. Saint Joseph prayed for 40 days, trying to discern the proper course of action, upon when Saint Bartholomew appeared to him. He said, “May the Right Hand of Almighty God bless thee, may Heavenly Wisdom pour out upon thy tongue, may thy heart be a temple of the Holy Spirit, and may thy hymnody sweeten the universe.” Following the apparition, Joseph wrote the canon to Saint Bartholomew, and from then on began to compose liturgical hymns in honor of Jesus, the Heavenly Father, the Mother of God, and the Saints.

One of those hymns, Stars of the Morning, follows:

Stars of the morning, so gloriously bright,
Filled with celestial splendor and light,
These that, where night never followeth day,
Raise the “Thrice Holy” song ever and aye.

These are Thy ministers, these dost Thou own,
God of Sabaoth, the nearest Thy throne;
These are Thy messengers, These dost Thou send,
Help of the helpless ones! man to defend.

“Who like the Lord?” thunders Michael the chief;
Raphael, “the cure of God,” comforteth grief;
And, as at Nazareth, prophet of peace,
Gabriel, “the light of God,” bringeth release.

Then, when the earth was first poised in mid space,
Then, when the planets first sped on their race,
Then, when were ended the six days’ employ,
Then all the sons of God shouted for joy.

Still let them succor us; still let them fight,
Lord of angelic hosts, battling for right;
Till, where their anthems they ceaselessly pour,
We with the angels may bow and adore.

Upon the resurgence of iconoclasm, Saint Joseph was exiled for eleven years, but was subsequently returned to his position in Constantinople, and eventually made Bishop of Salonica. He continued to write Canons and hymns, many of which survive. After attaining advanced age for that time, Saint Joseph fell ill. Prior to his death, he received a vision from the Lord, telling of his approaching journey to Heaven. Saint Joseph set his affairs in order, and spent the remainder of his days in quiet prayer. He received Holy Eucharist, blessed those from the community who were present, and joyfully gave his life to the Lord. Saint Theodore, later appearing to an impatient friend of Saint Joseph stated, "Why do you become angry O man? Joseph the Hymnographer's soul was being separated from his body and we were with him. When he died this night, all of us whom he glorified in hymns, translated his soul to the heavens and placed it before the Face of God. That is why I was tardy in not appearing to you."

Saint Joseph is credited with 200 hymns and canons, although some place the number he wrote at more than one thousand. Throughout his life, he preached the Word of God—through his writings, through Canons to the Saint, through opposition to persecution, and through joyful song. Encouraged by his visions of saints, Saint Joseph the Hymnographer raised his voice in praise of Our Lord, even when he faced violent opposition, imprisonment, and exile. How often can we say the same of ourselves?

Let Us Now Our Voices Raise (written by Saint Joseph, the Hymnographer)

Let us now our voices raise,
Wake the day with gladness;
God Himself to joy and praise
Turns our human sadness;
Joy that martyrs won their crown,
Opened heav’ns bright portal,
When they laid the mortal down
For the life immortal.

Never flinched they from the flame,
From the torment never;
Vain the tyrant’s sharpest aim,
Vain each fierce endeavor:
For by faith they saw the land
Decked in all its glory,
Where triumphant now they stand
With the victor’s story.

Up and follow, Christian men!
Press through toil and sorrow;
Spurn the night of fear, and then,
O the glorious morrow!
Who will venture on the strife;
Who will first begin it?
Who will grasp the land of life?
Warriors, up and win it!

Friday Prayer Requests, June 8

Posted by Jacob

Please join me in praying for those intentions submitted by readers over the past week.  Together, we raise our voices in prayer.

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:18)

 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with 
thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6)


Blessings, healing, financial favor, safety, and protection (E, Indonesia);  Blessings upon a relationship and marriage (S, India);  For an ill baby (M, unknown); For career success, humility, and obedience for a son (S, India); Health and financial blessings for a family (E, USA-FL);  For financial/occupational success for a son, for vocational discernment (S, Canada);  Blessings and physical healing for daughters (L, New Zealand); Healing for a father recovering from surgery (N, India); For a couple struggling in their relationship, for a soldier returned from overseas having lost faith (J, USA-NJ);  Physical healing and end to loneliness (M, USA-OH); Financial assistance (B, Nigeria); Physical healing, finding a home, blessings upon an incarcerated son (V, London); Blessings upon a friend (M, USA-VA); For specific intentions (A, Philippines); Conversion for a daughter, spiritual guidance for a grandson (D, USA-LA); Healing, success in occupational pursuits (X, USA-CA); Blessings, healing, and occupational/financial security for a family (C, Kenya).

"Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth." (Psalm 54:2)
"If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." (Matthew 21:22)

Blessed Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, Servant of God

Posted by Jacob

“I do strongly believe that God will not ask us to suffer anything beyond our capacity.”

“You must have the awareness that you are in the presence of God.”

“Don't talk too much. What is the advantage of it? You talk as if you were honest and just. Only God knows the inside and outside.”

“Death will catch hold of us like a thief. Nobody knows at what age and when it happens.. When we die, we have to leave everything here on earth.”

“Love one another; help one another.”

"Suffer all the difficulties patiently and without murmuring."

Today, June 6, we celebrate the feast day of Blessed Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan (also known as Mother Maria Theresa Chiramel, 1876-1926), Servant of God, foundress of the Congregation of the Holy Family, mystic, and visionary.  Mother Mariam Theresa is the fifth person from India to be beatified.  James Pazhayattil, Bishop of Irinjalakuda, said of her: “One of the five servants of God who are beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 9 could be a "lookalike" of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Besides the name of baptism, Teresa, have in common not only the foundation of a religious congregation: one of the Missionaries of Charity, the other of the Holy Family, but most of all they both have distinguished service to the disadvantaged: the poor , the sick, the outcast, the dying. Both Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan of Kerala and Mother Teresa of Calcutta sacrificed themselves for others, with a preferential love for the poorest of the poor and so practicing the evangelical virtue of charity in heroic degree.”

Born Thresia, the third of five children, in the village of Puthenchira (Trichur District), Kerala, India, the future Servant of God was called at an early age to devote her life to the Lord.  Although her family was once rich and noble, they had fallen on harder times, been forced to sell their property, and lived in poverty. Thresia’s father began drinking heavily, and the family suffered the injustices of poverty and prejudice.  Thresia, as a child, turned to the Blessed Mother, praying the Rosary several times each day, and fasting in the likeness of suffering Christ.  Despite her mother’s encouragement to eat, given that she had grown quite thin, Thresia persisted in her suffering for the salvation of the world, fasting four times per week, and consecrated herself and her virginity to the Lord

When Thresia was just twelve, her mother died, and she was forced to withdraw from elementary school.  While she longed to leave her life, now the caretaker of the family, and retire to a quiet life of prayer and contemplation, this was not to be possible.  Rather, she spent hours praying in the community Church, cleaning and decorating the altar.  She devoted herself to helping the poor, sick, and lonely of the parish.  She risked herself and her health to minister to the abandoned, specifically those with leprosy and small pox, who had no one else to care for them.  Despite the family’s poverty, she took in orphaned children, taking extra work to pay for their care.

Thresia and three young companions could be found working among those in need, taking to the streets against custom that women should be accompanied by men when leaving the home.  They formed a life of prayer and service, and placed their trust in the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  Around this time, Thresia began experiencing visions of the Holy Family, which guided her work.  She prayed for the conversion of sinners, fasted, and urged all toward repentance.  Following a vision of the Blessed Virgin, Thresia requested that all began referring to her as Mariam Thresia, at the request of the Holy Mother.

Mariam was also gifted with mystical and miraculous experiences.  She received several mystical gifts like prophecy, healing, aura of light, and sweet odor. She experienced frequent ecstasies and levitations. On Fridays, townspeople would gather to see Mariam Thresia lifted high and hanging in the form of a crucifix on the wall of her room.  She also bore the stigmata, which she kept secret from all, not wishing further attention. Mariam was further visited upon and tormented by demons throughout her life.  She humbly submitted to exorcisms, but also fully embraced the suffering of her temptations, offering suffering for those who sinned. 

In 1913, Mariam Thresia was permitted to build a prayer house, that she and her companions moved into.  They led a life of prayer and austere penance like hermits but continued to visit the sick and help the poor and the needy irrespective of religion or caste. The new religious order was consecrated the Congregation of the Holy Family (C.H.F.) and Mariam Thresia was appointed its first Superior.

The new congregation grew under the guidance and nurturance of Mother Mariam Thresia.  She built, in less than twelve years, three new convents, two schools, two hostels, a study house, and an orphanage.  Today, the Congregation of the Holy Family has 1584 professed Sisters, serving in Kerala, in the mission areas of North India, in Germany, Italy, and Ghana, with a total of 176 houses in 7 provinces and 119 novices.

Mother Mariam Thresia died in 1926, at the age of 50, from a wound suffered after being struck by a falling object.  Numerous miracles of healing followed her death, and she was beatified in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

From the Beatification Homily of Pope John Paul II:

"Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest" (Jn 12: 24). From childhood, Mariam Thresia Mankidiyan knew instinctively that God's love for her demanded a deep personal purification. Committing herself to a life of prayer and penance, Sr Mariam Thresia's willingness to embrace the Cross of Christ enabled her to remain steadfast in the face of frequent misunderstandings and severe spiritual trials. The patient discernment of her vocation eventually led to the foundation of the Congregation of the Holy Family, which continues to draw inspiration from her contemplative spirit and love of the poor.

Convinced that "God will give eternal life to those who convert sinners and bring them to the right path" (Letter 4 to her Spiritual Father), Sister Mariam devoted herself to this task by her visits and advice, as well as by her prayers and penitential practice. Through Bl. Mariam Thresia's intercession, may all consecrated men and women be strengthened in their vocation to pray for sinners and draw others to Christ by their words and example.

Saints Joseph Mkasa, Charles Lwanga, & 20 Martyrs of Uganda

Posted by Jacob

Today, June 3, we celebrate the feast day of Saints Joseph Mkasa, Charles Lwanga and 20 martyrs of Uganda (died 1886). These relatively modern-day saints and martyrs—mostly children—died for their faith with joy, as observed by witnesses of their martyrdom. Their courage and conviction reminds us that unquestioning trust in the Lord and the faith of a child are attributes to aspire to, even in the midst of our “adult” priorities, worries, and preoccupations.

The birth of the Church in Africa was built on the lives of courageous martyrs for the faith, whose death was the “spark” of the flames of Christian love. Missionaries spread the word of God, and often paid with their lives. The task of evangelizing quickly fell to the newly converted, who undertook the preaching of the Gospel with love and zeal. It is to another African from centuries before the deaths of the Ugandan martyrs, Tertullian (160–225), to whom we owe the aphorism “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” For many Ugandan Christians, the seed of their Church is the blood of these 22 young men.

Today, the Catholic Church thrives in Uganda, but this was not always the case. In 1879, a French Catholic missionary group—the Society of Missionaries in Africa (also known locally as “the White Fathers”)—reached Uganda, and received permission from then-king Mutesa to live and evangelize in Uganda. Along with this group, King Mutesa authorized a Protestant and Muslim group of missionaries as well, all of whom worked, preached, and taught their faiths. The members and staff of the royal court became highly sought-after converts, and upon Mutesa’s successor seizing the throne, many of the royal court had already embraced Christianity. The struggle for power created a violent and dangerous atmosphere for the nation’s fledging Christians.

The newly ascended king—King Mwanga (the son of Mutesa, who had ruthlessly deposed his father)—was both violent and paranoid himself. He ruled his court through fear and coercion, and his pages—mostly youth—were under constant threat of his temper and sadistic tendencies. The Christians at Mwanga’s court struggled to protect the youth from their ruler, who began looking for opportunities to force them to renounce their faith (due to fears that the Church was gaining too much power, threatening his unstable monarchy).

Upon the martyrdom of the leader of the Christian community—Saint Joseph Mkasa—the instruction and safekeeping of the youth of the royal court fell to Charles Lwanga. Joseph had courageously stood up to the king, condemning his execution of a Protestant missionary. The king, who had previously considered Joseph a friend (after he had saved his life from a poisonous viper with his bare hands), ordered him bound and burnt alive. He was fueled by the advice of his trusted advisors, who repeatedly stated that Joseph’s allegiance lay with “another king”—the King God of the Christians. Prior to death, Joseph forgave the king, pleading the case of the children. He stated to the executioner, “A Christian who gives his life for God is not afraid to die. Tell Mwanga, that he has condemned me unjustly, but I forgive him with all my heart.” The executioner was so impressed with Mukasa that he beheaded him swiftly before tying him to the stake and burning his body. His powerful witness inspired what happened next.

Charles Lwanga picked up where Joseph had left off, organizing prayer meetings for the youth of the court, and generally keeping them out of the king’s hands. This, however, aroused the paranoia and suspicion of Mwanga, who after ruthless questioning of one of the pages, determined that religious instruction was poisoning the minds of the youth and preventing them from acquiescing to his orders. The youth, no more than 13, informed the king of his teacher’s name-- Denis Ssebuggwawo—who the king promptly had executed by sticking a spear through his throat.

Religious instruction and prayer was forbidden at the court following that incident, but the Christians—on fire for their faith—were unable to be deterred. When little changed, King Mwanga ordered the royal court sealed-- no one could come or go, except the royal executioners whom he had summoned. He gathered all the attendants in the throne room, dividing them into two groups: Christian and non-Christian. He stated, “Those who do not pray stand by me, those who do pray stand over there." In all 20 young men and boys chose the “Christian” group. When Mwanga asked them if they intended to remain Christian, they gave a joyful affirmation, and were promptly sentenced to death. With death imminent, Charles Lwanga baptized those youth ready for baptism, in preparation for their ascent to heaven.

The 20 boys and young men were ordered on a 37 mile march to the place of execution—a journey which would take them past the home of the White Fathers who greeted them on the road, offering absolution. The missionaries would later remark that the boys were laughing and talking on their way to death, filled with joy at their imminent journey to heaven, and filled with the courage of the Lord. Of primary notice was a 13 year old youth, Kizito (one who had been baptized shortly before by Lwanga), who also drew the attention of the guards. He, and two companions, were killed upon the road. His companions, Andrew Kagwa, a local chief—had converted many to Christianity, and Matthias Murumba, an assistant judge, raising the ire of the counselor in charge of the execution party. When the counselor described what he was going to do with Matthias, he mocked the men, saying, "No doubt his god will rescue him." Matthias answered peacefully, "Yes, God will rescue me. But you will not see how he does it, because he will take my soul and leave you only my body." Matthias was cut up on the road and left to die with Andrew and Kizito -- it took him at least three days to slowly bleed to death from his injuries.

Upon arrival at the place of execution—Namugongo—the now 17 prisoners were locked up for 8 days while a large funeral pyre was constructed. During that time, the martyrs prayed and sang together, relishing in the love of God. On June 3rd, before turning their attention to the main group of prisoners, the executioners put Charles Lwanga to death on a small pyre on the hill above the execution place. He was wrapped in a reed mat, with a slave yoke on his neck, and was forced to arrange his funeral pyre himself. To increase his suffering, the fire was first lit under his feet and legs. These were burnt to charred bones before the flames were allowed to reach the rest of his body. Taunted by the executioner, Charles replied: "You are burning me, but it is as if you are pouring water over my body." He then remained quietly praying. Just before the end, he cried out in a loud voice "Katonda! (My God!).”

Following his death, the remaining youth were tightly wrapped in reed mats, had their feet removed, and were burnt alive in a large funeral pyre. Among those who perished was Mbaga, the son of the chief executioner, who had converted to Christianity and resisted his father’s pleas to renounce his faith. The youth died calling on the name of Jesus and proclaiming, "You can burn our bodies, but you cannot harm our souls."

Also among the martyrs was a soldier, converted to Christianity, James Buzabaliawo. When sentenced to death by the king, the brave soldier joyfully stated, "Goodbye, then. I am going to Heaven, and I will pray to God for you." On his way to death, he passed by one of the White Fathers, Father Lourdel, who recorded many of the events leading up to the execution. Upon sensing the sadness of the White Father, James smiled, pointed to heaven, and stated, "Why are you so sad? This is nothing to the joys you have taught us to look forward to."

The twenty-two Roman Catholics martyrs celebrated on June 3 include:

Achilles Kiwanuka
Adolphus Ludigo-Mukasa
Ambrose Kibuuka
Anatoli Kiriggwajjo
Andrew Kaggwa
Antanansio Bazzekuketta
Bruno Sserunkuuma
Charles Lwanga
Denis Ssebuggwawo
Gonzaga Gonza
James Buuzabalyawo
John Maria Muzeeyi
Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe
Luka Baanabakintu
Matia Mulumba
Mbaga Tuzinde
Mukasa Kiriwawanvu
Noa Mawaggali
Ponsiano Ngondwe

Along with these brave men were eleven Anglican and Protestant martyrs. The martyrs at Namugongo were not Mwanga’s only victims. Dozens more Christians were killed in the surrounding countryside, and some of those who had taught the faith were singled out for special retribution. Many of their names are lost to history, but their sacrifice for the faith is remembered.

Following these deaths, missionaries working in Uganda were expelled, and forbidden to re-enter the country until King Mwanga’s death. However, fueled by the courageous deaths of the martyrs, underground Christianity spread throughout the country, and upon the return of missionaries, an active faith community emerged.

Pope Paul VI spoke of the faith legacy of the Ugandan martyrs in his homily celebrating their canonization:

"The African martyrs add another page to the martyrology – the Church’s roll of honor – an occasion both of mourning and of joy. This is a page worthy in every way to be added to the annals of that Africa of earlier which we, living in this era and being men of little faith, never expected to be repeated.

In earlier times there occurred those famous deeds, so moving to the spirit, of the martyrs of Scilli, of Carthage, and of that “white robed army” of Utica commemorated by Saint Augustine and Prudentius; of the martyrs of Egypt so highly praised by Saint John Chrysostom, and of the martyrs of the Vandal persecution. Who would have thought that in our days we should have witnessed events as heroic and glorious?

Who could have predicted to the famous African confessors and martyrs such as Cyprian, Felicity, Perpetua and – the greatest of all – Augustine, that we would one day add names so dear to us as Charles Lwanga and Matthias Mulumba Kalemba and their 20 companions? Nor must we forget those members of the Anglican Church who also died for the name of Christ.

These African martyrs herald the dawn of a new age. If only the mind of man might be directed not toward persecutions and religious conflicts but toward a rebirth of Christianity and civilization!

Africa has been washed by the blood of these latest martyrs, the first of this new age (and, God willing, let them be the last, although such a holocaust is precious indeed). Africa is reborn free and independent.

The infamous crime by which these young men were put to death was so unspeakable and so expressive of the times. It shows us clearly that a new people needs a moral foundation, needs new spiritual customs firmly planted, to be handed down to posterity. Symbolically, this crime also reveals that a simple and rough way of life – enriched by many fine human qualities yet enslaved by its own weakness and corruption – must give way to a more civilized life wherein the higher expressions of the mind and better social conditions prevail.”

O God, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before you the blessed martyrs of Uganda, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom they gave obedience, even unto death, and by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.