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 15, 2013: Saint Ita, "Foster Mother" to the Irish Saints

Posted by Jacob

Lives my little cell within;
What were wealth of cleric high-,
All is lie but Jesukin.

Nursing nurtured, as 'tis right,
Harbors here no servile spright,
Jesu of the skies, who are
Next my heart through every night.

Jesu, more than angel aid,
Fostering not formed to fade,
Nursed by me in desert wild,
Jesu, Child of Judah’s Maid.

Unto heaven's High King contest
Sing a chorus, maidens blest!
He is o'er us, though within
Jesukin is on our breast.
(Irish Lullaby attributed to Saint Ita)

Today, January 15, we celebrate the feast of Saint Ita (also known as Saint Deirdre or Saint Mida, 475-570), nun, teacher, miracle-worker, and “Foster Mother” to the Irish Saints. Second only to Saint Brigid among the ancient Irish female saints, Saint Ita served the Lord through teaching and forming many other Catholic saints. She is widely venerated throughout Ireland—even one of the professional football teams is named for her, with her image appearing on their crest!

Saint Ita, born and baptized Deirdre, was born at Decies, Waterford (in Ireland), of royal lineage. From a young age, she felt drawn to serve the Lord, and while still a child, consecrated herself in virginity to Jesus. Her father wished her to be married, however, and arranged a potential suitor which would make good political sense. Deirdre, for her part, refused to marry, however. She fasted for three days, praying constantly to God, and on the third day, her father was visited by an angel in a dream, following which he understood the important holy role his daughter was to play. Upon awakening, he offered his blessing to Ita, who moved to Killeedy, Limerick and pursued a life of holy virtue.

Deirdre took the name Ita, which means “thirst for Divine Love,” and after taking the veil, founded a community of nuns at Hy Conaill, in County Limerick. The convent quickly swelled, with many flocking to become a member of her community. Saint Ita lived an extremely austere life, fasting rigorously, and modeling humility, patience, and obedience to her charges. So committed to poverty, it is said that once, when a rich man pressed gold on her, she immediately sent for water to wash her hands. She enacted the harshest bodily mortifications.

Saint Ita established a school for boys in Killeedy, with many saintly students—including Saint Fachtna of Ross, Saint Pulcherius of Liath, Saint Cummian of Clonfert, and Saint Brendan the Voyager—learning from her. According to holy legend, When Saint Brendan asked Saint Ita what three things were most pleasing to God, she replied, “True faith in God with a pure heart, simple life with a religious spirit, and openhandedness inspired by charity."

“And what three things," the child, Saint Brendan, continued, "does God most dislike?"

Saint Ita is said to have replied, "A face which scowls upon all mankind, obstinacy in wrongdoing, and an overweening confidence in the power of money."

Saint Ita is reported to have performed extravagant miracles, including re-attaching the severed head of a decapitated man, and living for years solely from food delivered directly from heaven. Saint Ita gained a reputation for prophecy, and many came from all over the Isles to seek her advice, counsel, and spiritual direction. Saint Ita is also said to have been visited by an apparition of the Baby Jesus, at which time she penned an Irish lullaby to the Jesukin, still sung today. She is further remembered for her kindness. In one such legend, emphasizing her kind spirit, Saint Ita is said to have allowed a beetle (which was feeding on the flesh of the dead in the cemetery) to instead feed upon her body so that those who had lost family members would not be tormented by the disrespect of their remains. The beetle is said to have devoured much of her side, growing to the size of a small suckling pig over time!

Saint Ita's Cross
The symbol of Saint Ita is a cross with a heart at the center of a small labyrinth. “As Ita saw it, there is only one way we can marry our hearts to the love of Christ: We must take our hearts, our innermost thoughts and feelings, and move them ever more deeply into the heart of the cross. Thus, as the wheel of humanity is formed through Christ, through whom all things were made, we spiral from the outermost rim, where we dwell with our concerns about the world, and urge our hearts to the center as we gradually replace our worldly thought and feelings with the desire for Wisdom. It is this centering prayer that leads us to the heart of the cross. In the heart of the cross we find our own hearts, for they too have been created by God, have been redeemed by Christ, and are continually sustained by the Holy Spirit.” (from allsaintsbrookline.org)

Saint Ita died in her nineties, following the exact prediction of time and place of her death. She was buried in the Church cemetery at Killeedy, where her grave is venerated today. While the monastery lies in ruins, tradition dictates that flowers are brought to cover her grave—a tradition that is still followed by faithful pilgrims today.

Heavenly Father, we are grateful for holy women like Saint Ita who can be such an inspiration to young men and women today. Through her pious life and teachings, many others were influenced to live holy lives and also become saints. May we all strive to lead lives that inspire others to holiness. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Lord God, it was through the power of your Spirit that Saint Ita was tireless in caring for the afflicted, and in guiding the young toward holiness, and so we pray: prepare in our hearts, as you prepared in hers, a home where you will dwell.


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