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."

January 30, 2013: Saint Martina of Rome

Posted by Jacob

Today, January 30, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Martina of Rome (died 226), virgin martyr, and model of charity for the poor.  Saint Martina was martyred for her refusal to renounce Christ and sacrifice to the pagan gods.  Martina’s witness, made all the more powerful by her youth, is said to have inspired miraculous conversions similar to that experienced by Saint Paul.  Her faith and conviction inspires us today.

Born into the family of a wealthy and noble consul in Rome, Saint Martina grew up with the luxuries and privileges reserved for the wealthy at that time.  Nonetheless, she shied away from vain pursuits, and instead offered her time (and her family’s wealth) in service to the poor.  While still young, both of Saint Martina’s parents died, and she was left with a sizable inheritance.  For the love of Christ, she distributed all that she had to the poor and needy of Rome.  This she did to sever her ties with the world, that she might be more ready for martyrdom, should she fall victim to the Christian persecution sweeping the city.

This persecution, under the direction of Emperor Alexander Severus, had begun in attempts to rid the city of the Christian faith, a faith that was deemed threatening to the Roman Empire.  Similar persecution swept throughout the land, but was most pronounced in Rome.  One afternoon, Martina was discovered praying in a church.  She readily accompanied the three officers who arrested her, begging them politely to let her finish her prayers and speak with her bishop.  This they did, triumphantly returning her to the emperor, certain that she would renounce the faith and serve as an example to other Christians.  However, when ordered to speak, Saint Martina asserted that she would never sacrifice to the pagan gods, and certainly never to idols—the handiwork of men.  She proclaimed the truth of the one true God, and was sentenced to torture.

Martina was raked with iron hooks across her body, but in the process, her torturers were thrown to the ground by a powerful shaking of the earth accompanied by a bright light.  Within this light, Saint Martina prayed for their souls, and when they arose, they had been converted, similar to Saint Paul’s experience on the road.

Not to be embarrassed, the emperor ordered her tortured again.  This time, she was tied by her hands and feet to posts in the ground and cruelly scourged.  She was allowed to rest one day, assuming this torture (and the threat of more) would change her mind.  When brought to the temple of Diana the next day to offer sacrifice, fire fell from the heavens and burnt the temple, crushing and killing many pagan priests and worshipers.

Additional torture attempts were tried, including being thrown to a lion (who lost interest in her and failed to attack) and being placed in a fiery furnace (which failed to even singe her clothing).   Eventually, Saint Martina was beheaded, her head displayed as a warning to Christians.

Saint Martina’s relics were discovered during the papacy of Pope Urban VIII, in 1634.  Along with the relics of several other martyrs, she was placed in a beautiful church located in the Roman Forum.  This church was dedicated in her honor, and hymns were written in her honor.   

Saint Martina’s life reminds us that each of us—however small—can effect great change in our communities with the help of the Lord. All we need do is ask, through prayer, and the Lord’s light will shine upon us and throughout our world. 

Hymn of Praise to Saint Martina of Rome
Written by Pope Urban VIII

Citizens of Rome! sing to the celebrated name of the glorious Martina. Sing the praises of this admirable Virgin and Martyr of Christ.

She was born of noble parents, and was brought up in every delicacy, surrounded by all that could pamper nature, and with riches of a princely house at her command.

But she spurns these luxuries, dedicates herself to the Creator of all things, and with a liberal hand distributes her riches to the poor of Christ, that she may gain the riches of heaven.

She shrinks not at the torturing hook, the wild beasts, or the cruel wound-inflicting rods. Angels descend from heaven, comforting her with divine food.

The very lions lose their fierceness, and tamely come crouching at her feet. The sword, Martina 1 gave thee the wished-for death, and death united thee to the choirs of heaven.

Our ceaseless prayers mount up to thee from thine altar, where clouds of incense shroud devotion's love; and thy blessed name banishes that of the false deity Mars.

Do thou protect thy fatherland, and give to Christian countries the rest of holy peace, driving unto Thracian coasts the din of arms and war.

Marshal the armies of princes under the banner of the Cross, deliver Jerusalem from her chains. Avenge innocent blood, and once for all crush down the Turkish foe.

O thou our Patron, and our City's Saint I see this homage of our loving hearts. Hear the prayers of thy Rome, which on this festive day offers thee its hymns and reveres thy name.

O God, whose arm protects the Martyrs, take from us the pleasures which would make us fall. O Triune God I give to thy servants the blessed light, wherewith thy mercy crowns the soul with bliss.


January 29, 2013: Our Lady of Prompt Succor

Posted by Jacob

Many of the Marian interventions, apparitions, and miracles recorded throughout history, and approved by the Holy See, have occurred in Europe. Few have been attested to here in the United States. Two such miracles are those attributed to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, occurring in New Orleans, Louisiana. As such, Our Lady of Prompt Succor (Notre-Dame de Bon Secours) is the patroness of the city and Archdiocese of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.

In 1727, Ursuline nuns founded a monastery in New Orleans, Louisiana, creating an active religious community, schools, and churches. When Louisiana became a Spanish territory in 1763, many sisters arrived from Spain to continue building the growing community of faith. However, these sisters fled in 1800 when New Orleans again became a French territory, and persecution of Catholics (under the reign of Napoleon) again began. Despite this anti-Catholic sentiment, the monastery survived, although the number of sisters quickly dwindled. Mother Saint Andre Madier wrote to a cousin in France, Mother Saint Michel, requesting assistance from her French sisters.

French religious were suffering similar anti-Catholic sentiment, and had found themselves to be short-handed in attending to their communities. Bishop Fournier, who Mother Saint Michel brought her cousin’s request to, denied it, stating that only the Pope could authorize such a request. It should be noted, at that time, Pope Pius VII was imprisoned by Napoleon, and unable to be communicated with. Bishop Fournier’s statement was, therefore, tantamount to absolute refusal. Nonetheless, Mother Saint Michel wrote the Pope, submitting her request to travel to New Orleans with a group of sisters, and aid in the re-invigoration of the new world faith community.

Before sending the letter, Mother Saint Michel prayed: O most Holy Virgin Mary, if you obtain for me a prompt and favorable answer to this letter, I promise to have you honored at New Orleans under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. Her letter was sent on March 19, 1809. Despite the odds, she promptly received a response on April 29, 1809, granting her request. Mother Saint Michel, commissioned a golden statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor holding the Infant Jesus. Both the Blessed Mother and the infant Christ were sculpted with golden crowns, Jesus holding a globe with a cross affixed to it, and the two Holy Family members looking in different directions as if they each had important tasks to focus on. The statue was blessed by Bishop Fournier, now convinced of the importance of the mission by the miraculous response, and Mother Saint Michel and several postulates departed for New Orleans.

The group arrived in New Orleans on December 31, 1810, and placed the golden statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor in the monastery chapel. Devotion to the Blessed Mother grew, and within five years, two miracles were attributed to prayers offered before the statue.

In 1812, a terrible fire ravaged the city of New Orleans, destroying large tracts of homes and businesses. Driven by a raging wind, the flames of the great fire moved quickly toward the convent. With all certainly lost, the sisters of the convent were ordered to evacuate. One sister, however, Sister Anthony, placed a small statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor on a window sill facing the advancing wall of flames, and Mother St. Michel prayed aloud: "Our Lady of Prompt Succor, we are lost, unless you hasten to our help." In an instant, the wind changed and the fire stopped its steady advance. The convent was saved and the flames extinguished. Witnesses claimed: "Our Lady of Prompt Succor has saved us!"

Again, in 1815, the convent, and indeed all of the city, was threatened, this time by British soldiers. On January 8, General Andrew Jackson and less than 1,000 soldiers (by some reports) were engaged in battle by an overwhelming force of British soldiers (more than 15,000). The citizens of New Orleans prayed to Our Lady for safety and success in battle. Along with the Ursuline sisters, the town gathered in the chapel of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, weeping and praying. Mass was offered at the altar on which the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor had been placed, and the Ursuline sisters made a vow to have a Mass of Thanksgiving sung annually should the American forces win. At the very moment of Holy Eucharist, word reached the chapel that the American forces had prevailed with miraculously few casualties. The entire battle took less than 25 minutes. Jackson acknowledged the intercession of the Blessed Mother in the victory and visited the chapel to thank the sisters. To this day, on January 8, a Mass of Thanksgiving continues to be offered.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor continues to watch over us, with numerous personal miracles and intercessions reported since the arrival of the statue in New Orleans. Moved from the old monastery in the city’s French Quarter, it now is displayed at the convent’s new chapel where citizens of the city continue to pray for intercession. The statue itself is regarded as the oldest image of the Blessed Mother and the Infant Christ in the United States.

Prayer for Intercession of Our Lady of Prompt Succor

Our Lady of Prompt Succor, ever Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God, you are most powerful against the enemy of our salvation. The divine promise of a Redeemer was announced right after the sin of our first parents; and you, through your Divine Son, crushed the serpent's head. Hasten, then, to our help and deliver us from the deceits of Satan. Intercede for us with Jesus that we may always accept God's graces and be found faithful to Him in our particular states of life. As you once saved the City of New Orleans from ravaging flames and our Country from an invading army, have pity on us and obtain for us protection from hurricanes and all other disasters. (Silent pause for individual petitions.) Assist us in the many trials which beset our path through life. Watch over the Church and the Pope as they uphold with total fidelity the purity of faith and morals against unremitting opposition. Be to us truly Our Lady of Prompt Succor now and especially at the hour of our death, that we may gain everlasting life through the merits of Jesus Christ Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us.


Oh, Immaculate Heart! Help us to conquer the menace of evil, which so easily takes root in the hearts of the people of today, and whose immeasurable effects already weigh down upon our modern world and seem to block the paths towards the future!

From famine and war, deliver us.
From nuclear war, from incalculable self-destruction, from every kind of war, deliver us
From sins against the life of man from its very beginning, deliver us.
From hatred and from the demeaning of the dignity of the children of God, deliver us.
From every kind of injustice in the life of society, both national and international, deliver us.
From readiness to trample on the commandments of God, deliver us.
From attempts to stifle in human hearts the very truth of God, deliver us.
From sins against the Holy Spirit, deliver us, deliver us.

Accept, O Mother of Christ, this cry laden with the sufferings of all individual human beings, laden with the sufferings of whole societies.

Let there be revealed, once more, in the history of the world your infinite power of merciful Love. May it put a stop to evil. May it transform consciences. May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light of Hope.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Hasten to help us!

Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Hasten to help us!

Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Hasten to help us!

January 28, 2013: Saint Julian of Cuenca, Model of Charity

Posted by Jacob

Today, January 28, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Julian of Cuenca (1127-1208), second bishop of Cuenca, Spain, professor, hermit, priest, preacher, patron saint of Cuenca, Spain and rain.

Saint Julian was born in Burgos, Spain.  There, he studied at the cathedral school, followed by the University of Palencia where he earned his doctorate.  He was appointed professor of philosophy and theology in 1153, at the age of 26.  For the next ten years, not only did he devote himself to teaching, he used his free time to make baskets and other trade goods, donating all he made to the poor of the city.  Saint Julian lived on the principal of charity, always doing for others.

After a decade of work, he left Palencia to enter life as a hermit, to spend time in quiet contemplation with his thoughts of God.  He found a modest home outside of Burgos, on the banks of the picturesque Arlanzon river. He was eventually ordained, and received minor orders.  He continued to live a life of charity, mortification, and solemn contemplation of the Lord.

Following some time, he and his companion, Lesmes, set off as itinerant preachers, traveling throughout Spain, as far as Cordoba and Toledo.  There, in Toledo, he was appointed archdeacon.  Along with his administrative duties, Saint Julian continued his tradition of basket-making to raise money for the poor.  He preached and served as archdeacon of Toledo for five years, before being chosen as the second bishop of Cuenca.

Until his death, Julian continued his preaching, instituting significant reform to the clergy of the area.  He spent his free time in charitable work for all members of the city—Christian, Jew, and Muslim alike.  One each year Saint Julian retired to the country, where he entered into silent contemplation, generally accompanied by basket making.  It is said that on one of these retreats, Jesus appeared to him in the guise of a beggar, thanking him for his lifetime of charitable works.

Saint Julian’s relics lie in the Cathedral of Cuenca, where he is honored as patron saint and protector of the city.

Prayer for Charitable Hearts

Thank You Lord for the many graces and blessings you have placed in my life.
I offer You my heart-felt gratitude for Your countless gifts to me each day.
In turn, dear Lord, help me to be aware of the needs of my least sisters and brothers, and to respond to those those who are poor and less fortunate with generous expressions of charity, kindness and caring.

On that day Lord, when I finally stand before You to give an account of my life, I pray I will hear you say, “Come O good and faithful servant to share your Father’s joy, for when you saw me hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, ill and imprisoned, you offered your gifts in charity and you lovingly did it for me”.

January 26, 2013: Blessed Bishop Michal Kozal, Martyr

Posted by Jacob

Today, January 26, we celebrate the feast day of Blessed Michal Kozal (1883-1943), bishop, minister to those imprisoned, and one of the many Polish martyrs who perished during the Second World War.  Beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II, Blessed Michal stood for love and faith in the face of tyranny and persecution.  He earned the martyrs crown via his tireless preaching of the Gospel, even while imprisoned in a concentration camp.

Born in the small Polish village of Nowy Folwark, Michal was the member of a very large family. Due to their size, the family was quite poor, although managed to get by.  They were sustained on faith, through the example and leadership of John and Marianna, Michal’s devout parents.  While not all the children were sent for education, Michal demonstrated an academic aptitude, serious nature, and fondness of everything sacred, and as such, was sent first to elementary school and then to high school.

After graduating in 1914, Michal entered the seminary Leonium Poznan, and was ordained in 1918, despite his studies having been disrupted by World War I. He served well in various assignments, moving from town to town in rural Poland, and demonstrating both zeal for the Lord and dedication to the Church.  Simultaneously, Michal continued his theological studies, and was recognized in 1922 via appointment as the Prefect of the Catholic School of Humanities in Bydgoszcz.  He was later named the director and spiritual father of the Major Seminary of Gniezno.  So successful in his tasks, he was appointed the rector of the seminary in 1929, despite the fact that he was the only teacher there who had not yet finished his academic degree.

Blessed Michal labored for a decade at the seminary, leading his charges by prudent and disciplined example.  In 1939, Pope Pius XII appointed him auxiliary Bishop of Wloclawek, and he was installed in the Cathedral of the city on August 13.  Only two weeks later, Poland was invaded by Nazi troops, and Bishop Kozal found his position required him to allay the fears of his parishioners, bringing comfort in a time of horror and devastation.  The Polish authorities urged the Bishop to leave the city and reside in a safer location, but he felt strongly that his place was with his people, and he remained in Wloclawek to administer the parish and preach the Gospel.

Only 22 months following his appointment, the German troops took Wloclawek, and systematically began dismantling the Church, as they had in other cities.  Catholic publications were suppressed, buildings belonging to the churches and religious institutions were seized, and the clergy were arrested and detained.  Despite the terror and persecution, Bishop Kozal protested the seizures and arrests zealously, but in vain.  He was ordered to present himself to the Gestapo, who ordered him to deliver his sermons only in German.  He refused, given that the vast majority of his parishioners did not speak German.

On November 7, 1939, Bishop Kozal was arrested, along with the other priests still remaining in the city, and imprisoned in the city jail.  He was placed in solitary confinement, once it became clear that the others were looking to him for leadership, spiritual counsel, and direction.  Shortly thereafter, the Gestapo began torturing him, as an example for the others.

Three months later, in January 1940, Bishop Kozal was transferred with the remaining priests and seminarians to a more comfortable location.  There, kept under house arrest, he began to re-organize the diocese and seminary, to promote the faith and provide hope to those without hope.  Each day, from the small window of his room, he could see the crowds of deportees, and realized that he, too, would suffer that fate.  In that moment, he offered his life to God, for the salvation of the Church, and for the sufferers of Poland.

Despite the efforts of the Holy See to save them, on April 25, 1941, Bishop Kozal, seven priests, and a deacon were transferred to the concentration camp of Inowroclaw.  The other priests and seminarians had been deported earlier to several other camps, the idea being that they should not all remain together.  Arriving at Inowroclaw, Bishop Kozal’s tortures began anew, with injuries resulting to both his legs and his left ear. Only three weeks later, the group was transferred to Dachau.  Bishop Kozal was given prisoner number 24544, and continued to suffer daily torture.  However, he also continued to preach the Gospel and lift the spirits of the imprisoned, regardless of faith, with all his remaining strength.  Bishop Kozal contracted typhus, and was taken to a medical ward.  It is there that he was given a lethal injection of poison.

Blessed Bishop Kozal’s body was incinerated at the crematorium at Dachau on January 30, 1941.  A stone memorial at the cathedral of Wloclawek commemorates his martyrdom, as well as that of 220 other priests of the Wloclawek diocese, who died in Dachau.

Inspired by the life and courageous living of the Gospel demonstrated by Blessed Michal Kozal, today we pray for courage to face the difficulties—both large and small—on our lives.  

Dear God, give me courage, 
for perhaps I lack it more than anything else.

I need courage before men against their threats 
and against their seductions.

I need courage to bear unkindness, 
mockery, contradiction.

I need courage to fight against the devil,
against terrors and troubles, temptations, 
attractions, darkness and false lights, 
against tears, depression, and above all fear.

I need Your help, dear God.

Strengthen me with Your love and Your grace.

Console me with Your blessed Presence 
and grant me the courage to persevere 
until I am with You forever in heaven.  Amen.

January 25, 2013: The Conversion of Saint Paul

Posted by Jacob

O ruler of the universe, Lord God,

great deeds are they that you have done,
surpassing human understanding.
Your ways are ways of righteousness and truth,

O King of all the ages.
Who can fail to do you homage, Lord
and sing the praises of your Name?
for you only are the Holy One.

All nations will draw near and fall down before you
because your just and holy works have been revealed.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

January 25 marks the feast day of the Conversion of Saint Paul, while traveling on the road to Damascus. During this remarkable moment, Paul comes face to face with Jesus, who states, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.” Paul’s heart is changed, as is his life. His encounter with Jesus transforms his beliefs, and his prolific theology springs forth, which he shares with all who will listen. For Paul, an everyday trip becomes the start of an extraordinary journey toward the Lord. And for him, the path to God is love.

Born in Tarsus to a noble family, Saint Paul was at first named Saul. His family, given the laws at the time, were bestowed the rights and privileges of citizens of the Roman Empire. Saul grew up instructed in Mosaic Law, which he strictly observed. Sent to Jerusalem to study, Saul mentored with the strictest and most prideful sect of Pharisees. As was the Jewish rule of the time, he also learned the craft of tent-making. During this time (36 A.D.), Christianity was spreading throughout the region, but was not to be tolerated.

Saint Stephen the Deacon was an early martyr of the church at that time. He was persecuted and put on trial by the Sanhedrin for preaching the message of Christ. Throughout his trial, he remained steadfast in his faith, with “the countenance of an angel.” Eventually, the observers, acting “as a single man,” rushed at him, dragged him from the city, and stoned him to death. While they were doing so, they laid their cloaks at the feet of Saul, who kept them—a sign at the times for responsibility of the execution. While he was dying, Saint Stephen pleaded for the forgiveness of his tormentors, including Saul. 60 He fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” And with that he died. (Acts of the Apostles, 7:60) Saints and theologians credit Saint Stephen’s intercession as one of the precursors to the Lord’s conversion of Saul.
1 Saul, for his part, concurred in the act of killing. That day saw the beginning of a great persecution of the church in Jerusalem. (Acts of the Apostles, 8:1) By virtue of the power he had received from the high priest, Saul dragged Christians out of their homes, loaded them with chains, and thrust them into prison where they were tortured and oftentimes executed. He was ruthless and unmoved by their pleas for mercy. In the fury of his zeal he asked for permission to persecute all the Jews in Damascus who confessed to Jesus Christ, and to bring them in bonds to Jerusalem, that they might serve as examples for the others. It was with this permission that Saul, and his assistants, set off on the road to Damascus, where he would encounter the saving grace, and unquestionable patience and mercy of the Lord.

1 Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus which would empower him to arrest and bring to Jerusalem anyone he might find, man or woman, living according to the new way. 3 As he traveled along and was approaching Damascus, a light form the sky suddenly flashed about him. 4 He fell to the ground and at the same time heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 “Who are you, sir?” he asked. The voice answered, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. 6 Get up and go into the city, where you will be told what to do.” (Acts of the Apostles, 9:1-6)

In his epistles, Paul details that while he was struck down and blinded, he experienced a vision of Jesus. But he further explains that vision does not fully capture the experience. Rather, an “illumination” of his life, and above all, a “revelation” of the vocation that will become his calling. He preaches throughout the world the mysteries of Christ, and the simple truth that conversion was not the result of a development of thought or reflection, but the fruit of divine intervention-- an unforeseeable, divine grace. Paul’s message is clear: Jesus Christ must remain the center of our lives, so that our identity is tied to his, just as Paul’s identity was reborn through his encounter with Christ. Our lives are made whole through the Eucharist, by communion with Christ, and in his Word which restores purity and virtue.

Saint Paul went on to preach throughout the Mediterranean. He authored thirteen epistles of the New Testament, spreading the word of God, and greatly contributing to the growth of the Church. The blasphemer and persecutor had become the greatest writer of that time.

Upon returning to Jerusalem (approximately 60 AD), Saint Paul was beheaded, a Christian martyr. His remains are buried at the Basilica of Saint Paul, outside the walls of Rome. Recent scientific inquiry into the remains, at the behest of Pope Benedict XVI, has confirmed their authenticity.

Pope Benedict XVI, in a general audience, spoke of Saint Paul, saying, “Clement of Rome, my Predecessor to this Apostolic See, wrote of [Paul of Tarsus] in the last years of the first century: ‘Because of jealousy and discord, Paul was obliged to show us how one obtains the prize of patience.... After preaching justice to all in the world, and after having arrived at the limits of the West, he endured martyrdom before the political rulers; in this way he left this world and reached the holy place, thus becoming the greatest model of perseverance.’”

Saint Paul was a tireless preacher of the truth of Christ’s love, his letter beautiful and elegant instruction in the salvation of the Lord. But he is the same man, Saul, who ceaselessly persecuted Christians, prior to his meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus. In considering that meeting, we are struck by his amazing conversion, his rebirth into life through the love and saving grace of Christ. No longer was redemption bound by the law, or acquired through works, but instead, assured through commitment to Christ and his loving forgiveness. We are left with the certainty that if the Lord can enable Saul to start anew as Saint Paul, He will change us for the better if we believe whole-heartedly and with conviction. Called to conversion on a daily basis, today we pause to examine what we could do better, and ask our Lord to change our hearts.

38 For I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor powers, 39 neither height nor depth nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Jesus Christ, our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

January 23, 2013: Saint Ildephonsus of Toledo, Doctor of the Virginity of Mary

Posted by Jacob

“O Lord, give me the fire that you sent forth when coming on earth. Enable me to be aflame with the ardor of charity, to glow with the splendor of obedience, and to grow ardent with love. Help me to be saved from destruction amid dangers, to escape all perils, and to hasten toward Your goodness. Grant me to come peacefully into Your presence, to be satiated forever by its manifestation, and to praise You unceasingly for all eternity.”

Today, January 23, we celebrate the feast of Saint Ildephonsus of Toledo (607-667), Doctor of the Virginity of Mary, Archbishop of Toledo, and recipient of a blessed priestly vestment from Our Blessed Mother, in reward for his zeal and love for her. Saint Ildephonsus is highly venerated in Spain, and considered a precursor in establishing the later official Vatican doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Our Blessed Mother. He was the first to establish the feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Ildephonsus was born to a noble and distinguished family in Toledo, Spain. He was the nephew of Saint Eugenius, who proceeded him as Bishop of Toledo, and a pupil of Saint Isidore of Seville. While very young, he entered the Benedictine monastery at Agalia, much against the wishes of his father. He embraced the monastic life, being ordained a deacon at the age of 23, and later becoming Abbot of the monastery. Eventually, following his attendance at the Councils of Toledo in 653 and 655, King Reccesyinth selected him to succeed Saint Eugenius as Archbishop of Toledo. It was in this capacity that he served the city and it’s inhabitants for nine years, performing his duties with diligence and sanctity until his death.

Saint Ildephonsus is a favorite saint of medieval artists, hymnographers, and poets, largely due to two famed events which occurred during his life. In one occasion, Saint Ildephonsus was praying before the relics of Saint Leocadia. It is said that during his prayers, the martyred saint rose from her grave, thanking him for the devotion he showed towards the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On a separate occasion, Our Blessed Mother herself appeared to Saint Ildephonsus, presenting him with a priestly vestment in thanks for his devotion to her. On the feast of the Mother of God, Ildephonsus and the clergy found the church engulfed in a radiant light upon arriving to celebrate Matins. All but Ildephonsus and two deacons fled, deeply afraid. When the three entered the church, there, seated on the Archbishop’s throne, was Our Blessed Mother surrounded by choirs of angels and holy virgins. Our Blessed Mother spoke to Ildephonsus, saying: "Thou art my chaplain and faithful notary. Receive from me this chasuble, which my Son sends you from His treasury." Having said this, the Immaculate Virgin clothed Ildephonsus in the chasuble, and instructed him to wear it for the Holy Sacrifice on her festivals.

Saint Ildephonsus was also a prolific writer, and his literary works are better known than the details of his life. While only four of his works have survived, they include his treatise on the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin, and an important document of the history of the Spanish Church during the first two-thirds of the seventh century, entitled Concerning Famous Men.

Saint Ildephonsus wrote several prayers in honor of Our Blessed Mother. 

Marian Prayer of Saint Ildephonsus

Virgin Mary, hear my prayer:
through the Holy Spirit
you became the Mother of Jesus;
from the Holy Spirit may I too have Jesus.
Through the Holy Spirit your flesh conceived Jesus;
through the same Spirit may my soul receive Jesus.
Through the Holy Spirit you were able to know Jesus,
to possess Jesus,
and to bring him into the world.
Through the Holy Spirit may I too come to know your Jesus.
Imbued with the Spirit,
Mary, you could say:
"I am the handmaid of the Lord,
be it done unto me according to your word";
in the Holy Spirit,
lowly as I am,
let me proclaim the great truths about Jesus.
In the Spirit you now adore Jesus as Lord
and look on Him as Son;
in the same spirit,
Mary, let me love your Jesus

Below, a Prayer of Saint Ildephonsus to Our Blessed Mother. Taken from his work, “On the Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Mother,” it is one of the Church’s earliest expressions of total consecration to Mary.

The Abundance of the Sweetness of Thy Son

I come to thee, only Virgin Mother of God,
and fall prostrate before thee,
who alone didst cooperate in the Incarnation of God.
I humble myself before thee,
who alone wert found to be the Mother of my Lord.
I pray thee, who alone wert found to be the handmaid of thy Son:
obtain that my sins be wiped away;
command that I be cleansed of the wickedness of my deeds,
and, that I may love the glory of thy virtue,
reveal to me the abundance of the sweetness of thy Son.

Thou Art His Co-Worker in My Redemption

Bestow upon me the gift of proclaiming the true faith of thy Son,and of defending it.
Grant that I may cleave to God and to thee,
that I may serve thy Son and thee,
that I may be His bondsman and thine;
His, because He is my Creator,
and thine, because thou art the Mother of my Creator;
His, because He is Lord of the angelic powers,
and thine, because thou art the handmaid of the Lord of All;
His, because He is God,
and thine because thou art the Mother of God;
His, because He is my Redeemer,
and thine because thou art His co-worker in my redemption.

The Body by Which He Healed My Wounds

That which He wrought for my redemption,
verily He formed in thine own person.
That He might be my Redeemer,
He became thy Son.
That He might be the price of my ransom,
He became incarnate of thy flesh.
The Body by which He healed my wounds,
He took from thee so that He, in it, might be wounded.
The mortal Body by which He took away my death,
He took from thy mortality.
The Body by which He brought my sins to nought,
He received sinless from thee.
This nature of mine that ahead of time, in Himself,
He placed above the angels in the glory of His Father's right hand,
He assumed -- humbling Himself -- out of thine own true body.

I Am Thy Slave

Therefore, I am thy slave,
because Thy Son is my Master.
Therefore thou art my Lady,
because thou art the handmaid of my Lord.
Therefore I am the slave of the handmaid of my Lord,
because thou, my Lady, didst become the Mother of my Lord.
Therefore I have become thy slave,
because thou didst become the Mother of my Maker.

By the Holy Spirit

I pray thee, I pray thee, holy Virgin,
may I, by the Spirit through Whom thou didst give birth to Jesus,have Jesus and hold Him.
By that Spirit through Whom
thou didst conceive this same Jesus in thy flesh,
may my soul receive Jesus.

Let the Spirit gift me with the knowledge of Jesus,
this Spirit by Whom it was given Thee to bear Jesus and to give Him birth.
Let the Spirit in Whom thou didst declare thyself the handmaid of the Lord,
choosing that it should be done unto thee according to the Angel's word,
grant me to proclaim the heights of Jesus with lowliness.

To Love Jesus and to Fear Him

In the Spirit thou didst adore Jesus as thy Lord
and gaze upon Him as thy Son;
in that same Spirit may I love Him.
And may I fear this same Jesus,
with that reverence by which He, truly being God,
became subject to His parents

January 22, 2013: Saint Vincent the Deacon

Posted by Jacob

"In this world you will suffer persecution," Saint Vincent once said to his disciples, adding to allay their fears, "but rest assured, I have conquered the world."

Today, January 22, we celebrate the feast of Saint Vincent the Deacon (also known as Vincent of Saragossa and Saint Vincent Martyr, died 304), willing martyr of the Church. Saint Vincent, when confronted with the most horrific tortures, held true to his faith, reminding us of the words of Saint Paul, “To you, it has been granted for Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.”

The life of Saint Vincent the Deacon has somewhat been lost to history. What we know comes from the hymnographer, Prudentius, who wrote a hymn detailing the Passion of Saint Vincent. In the writings of Saint Augustine, we learn that the Acts of the Saint Vincent’s Martyrdom were read throughout Africa as early as the fourth century, which would have occurred shortly following his death. Based upon his heroic courage and defense of the faith, devotion to Saint Vincent the Deacon quickly spread throughout the Church following his death.

As recorded by Prudentius, Saint Vincent was born at Saragossa, Spain to a respectable family. He studied under the tutelage of Valerius, Bishop of Saragossa, and was found to be an exceptionally pious and bright young student. Bishop Valerius, due to a speech impediment, was unable to preach effectively, and thus appointed Vincent as Deacon, allowing him to both preach and speak for the bishop.

At that time, the wicked Emperor Dacian had undertaken his vigorous persecution of Christians, and the bishop was summoned before him. Now willing to leave his friend and bishop, Saint Vincent accompanied him. There, the two brave men were urged to recant their faith and sacrifice to the Roman pagan gods. Vincent, speaking for the pair, refused. As recorded by Prudentius:

In answer Vincent then cries out,
A levite of the sacred tribe,
Who at God's altar stands and serves,
One of the seven pillars white:

'Let these dark fiends rule over you,
Bow down before your wood and stone;
Be you the lifeless pontifex
Of gods as dead as you, yourself.

'But we, O Dacian, will confess
The Father, Author of all light,
And Jesus Christ, His only Son,
As one true God, and Him adore.'

Both Vincent and Valerius were imprisoned in Valencia. They were subjected to hunger and torture, which failed to break them. Over time, Vincent succeeded in converting his jailor, as did many saints and martyrs under similar circumstances. Eventually, Bishop Valerius was sent into exile, but Emperor Dacian insisted that Vincent—who had spoken so eloquently against him—remain to suffer the full force of his torture.

Saint Vincent was mercilessly tortured, first upon a hot grate, then over a burning fire. When none of these tortures elicited the result Dacian wished, he had the torturers beaten for failure and to encourage them to utilize more aggressive methods. Saint Vincent was given more time on the gridiron, and his sides were raked with metal hooks. Still, he held firm in his faith, and was thrown back into his filthy jail cell—a cell that had been lined with straw and shards of broken pottery.

The emperor then, weeping with bitterness at his failure, did something strange. He ordered that Saint Vincent be moved from his cell to the most luxurious accommodations in the city, with a comfortable bed and decent food. His hope was to shake the saintly man’s constancy. After a day in comfort, Dacian threatened to send Vincent back to the prison, unless he recanted the faith and burned the Scriptures in a fire. Of course, Vincent refused, and was subsequently executed.

According to Holy Legend, his badly beaten body was thrown to be devoured by vultures, by the Lord sent a raven to defend the body from desecration. Instead, the emperor had the body cast into the sea, where it washed upon the shore and was buried by a pious widow at a place now referred to as Saint Vincent’s Cape. The grave was subsequently guarded by a flock of ravens until a chapel was built over his remains. In the twelfth century, the relics of Saint Vincent were translated to Lisbon, Portugal where they are venerated at the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora.

Saint Vincent the Deacon is the most renowned martyr of Spain. He is represented in art wearing the dalmatic (wide sleeved over-garment slit up the sides) of a bishop, accompanied by a raven (who valiantly defended his body after death), a cross (his comfort), a grate, or a fire-pile (instruments of his torture). Saint Vincent is the patron saint of many Spanish and Portuguese cities, as well as the patron saint of winemakers, bricklayers, and deacons.

The life of Saint Vincent- like that of all Church martyrs—inspires us to live a more perfect and holy life, one in which we equally value the love we are given by the Lord and the call to suffer for Christ. We pray for the intercession of Saint Vincent Martyr that we may find the courage and the endurance to withstand the evils and judgments of the world, holding firm to our faith as was his model for us.

Saint Vincent's Prayer for Deacons

Holy God, Saint Vincent served You as a permanent deacon and gave his whole life and soul to You, even to the point of becoming a martyr. I lift up to You the deacons of the Church and all those who are being called by God to become deacons. Guide them as they discern how to serve the Body of Christ. Prevent the attractions of the world and the busyness of secular jobs from interfering with their vocations. Teach them to grow in humility. Help their families learn from their examples and support their deaconates with trust and joy. Saint Vincent, pray for us. Amen.

Eternal Father,
You gave Saint Vincent
the courage to endure torture and death for the Gospel:
fill us with Your Spirit
and strengthen us in Your love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.