AMDG

O Most Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph

O Most Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph
In you we place all our faith and all our trust.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

St. Hilarion the Great - Feast Day: October 21


+ JMJ +

<p align=left> <B><I>Oct. 21, - Commemoration of our Venerable Father Hilarion

Saint Hilarion the Great
(291 - 371 AD)

Feast Day: October 21

On October 21st, we remember a saint who began life possessing many of the delights the world can offer, and willingly gave them all up. He is Saint Hilarion, who became one of the foremost ascetics of Palestine.

Hilarion was born at Tabatha, south of Gaza in Palestine. He was the son of Pagan parents, who did not believe in God.  But he had a happy and relatively carefree childhood. He read and played music, enjoyed sports and games, and idled away hours with his friends. There was little to suggest that he would deny himself the pleasures of life as he grew up.

Hilarion's parents wanted to give him a good education along with his other advantages. When he was a teenager, they sent him to Alexandria in Egypt -- a sophisticated city known for its libraries, schools, and excellent teachers -- to study.  It was then, as a student, that his life changed forever, and in ways his parents couldn't have anticipated.

Alexandria offered many forms of entertainment. A person could go to the theater, attend the circus, or shout with the crowds at violent, bloody contests in the arena. But Hilarion was unimpressed and even repelled by these.

He found himself drawn instead to the assemblies of Christians, who met often to worship. These people became his friends and his guides in the spiritual life.

There at the age of 15, he was baptized.  His conversion started him out on a glorious journey leading him closer to God.

Like everyone in Alexandria, Hilarion had heard about the famous monk, who made his home in the forbidding Egyptian desert and lived a wonderfully simple, prayerful life there.

After listening to an account of the angelic life of St. Anthony the Great (January 17), Egypt's illustrious hermit, Hilarion went to visit him in the desert, desiring to study with him and learn what is pleasing to God.  Upon meeting that truly great man, the Father of monks, Saint Hilarion determined to devote himself also to the ascetical life.

The visit changed young Hilarion's life forever.  He stayed with Anthony for two months, and carefully observed everything the older man did — his constant prayer, his extremely austere diet, the gentle way he dealt with other people while being so strict in his own habits.  Hilarion decided to begin a life modeled on Anthony's.

Many people came to St. Anthony for help.  Soon, it was not quiet enough there for Hilarion.  He could not find the peace he was looking for.  He wanted to be alone to serve Jesus, whom he had just come to love.  So he returned to his native land, Palestine.

When he did so, he found that his parents had died. He quickly settled his affairs by distributing his family's inheritance to the poor.  Afterwards, he set out into the desert surrounding the city of Maium to live alone as a hermit.  Though only fifteen years old (306), he built a little hut, scarcely large enough to accommodate himself, and slept on the bare ground.

Saint Jerome, who wrote an account of his life, described his efforts:

"With no other covering for his limbs but a shirt of sackcloth, and a cloak of skins which the blessed Anthony had given him when he set out, and a blanket of the coarsest sort, he found pleasure in the vast and terrible wilderness with the sea on one side and the marshland on the other."

Most of Hilarion's time was spent in reading and in meditating upon Holy Scripture.  He fasted during the day and had a small meal after sunset made up of a few figs and a little soup from herbs.  This sufficed for his nourishment, but he never took it before the setting of the sun.

He supported himself by weaving baskets, but spent the rest of his time in prayer.  Because of his mortifications and humility, he triumphed over fierce assaults by the evil one, for in the desert, Hilarion faced many temptations.  At times, he felt that God did not hear his prayers at all. But he did not let these temptations stop him from praying even harder.

The monk struggled intensely with impure, lustful thoughts, vexations of the mind and the burning temptations and passions of his flesh.  But he defeated them with heavy labor, fasting and fervent prayer. The devil sought to frighten the saint with phantoms and apparitions.

During prayer, St. Hilarion heard children crying, women wailing, the roaring of lions and other wild beasts. The monk perceived that it was the demons causing these terrors in order to drive him away from the wilderness. He overcame his fear with the help of fervent prayer.

Once, robbers fell upon St. Hilarion, and he persuaded them to forsake their life of crime through the power of his words.

After twenty years in the desert, the holy man worked his first miracle. Soon, all of Palestine learned about the holy ascetic. Many people began coming to his hut to beg his help.  He became a healer, a counselor, and a worker of miracles. 

The Lord granted to St. Hilarion the power to cast out unclean spirits. With this gift of grace, he loosed the bonds of many of the afflicted. 

Such was the grace that he received from God that he could tell by the smell of someone's body or clothing which passion afflicted his soul.  The sick came for healing, and the monk cured them free of charge, saying that the grace of God is not for sale (MT 10:8). 

Several men asked him to let them stay with him to learn from him how to pray and do penance. They came to St. Hilarion, wanting to save their soul under his guidance. In his great love for God and people, the saint invited them to stay. 

With the blessing of St. Hilarion, monasteries began to spring up throughout Palestine. Going from one monastery to another, he instituted a strict ascetic manner of life.

Because of the miracles he worked, he found himself compelled by his growing renown to leave Gaza, to escape from the throngs of people coming to ask his prayers.

He began to travel, when he was sixty-five.  He moved frequently so as not to attract adoring followers.  He passed through Egypt and Libya, and sailed to Sicily in search of peace and quiet.

When he visited Egypt, he came again with longing to the place where Saint Anthony had lived.  But he was not able to remain in any one place for long, since despite all his attempts to conceal himself, the light of the grace that was in him could not be hid.  The fame of his miracles of mercy always brought crowds of visitors. (He had two thousand followers.)

A few years before his death, Hilarion finally found a lonely cave in Cyprus and at last felt that he was truly alone with God.  There, the ascetic lived in a solitary place until the Lord summoned him to Himself.  He was eighty years old when he died.

The day of St. Hilarion's death is given as October 21, 371.  His grave is on the island of Cyprus.  St. Jerome wrote the life of the holy hermit twenty years after his death in 390 AD at Bethlehem.


+  Prayer  +

 
With the streams of your tears, you have made the barren desert fertile. Through sighs of sorrow from deep within you, your labors have borne fruit a hundred-fold. By your miracles, you have become a light, shining upon the world.  O St. Hilarion, pray to Christ our God, to save our souls.

As we gather on this day, we sing your praise and acclaim, you as a never-setting light of the bright spiritual Daystar.  Those whom ignorance benighted, you illumined with your beams; and you raised to the divine heights, O St. Hilarion, all who cry out:  Height of ascetics, Rejoice!  [Source]

St. Hilarion, pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.



Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saint Serafino of Monte Granaro - Feastday: October 12 (Biography # 4)


+ JMJ +


Saint Serafino of Monte Granaro 
(1540 - 1604)

Miracle Worker, and Model of Humility, Obedience, and Charity.

Feast Day: October 12

A Capuchin, Saint Serafino served as counsel and spiritual advisor to many, despite his own limited education. He is remembered for his holiness, unwavering commitment to serve the poor, and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and Our Blessed Mother.

Born Felice de Nicola at Monte Granaro of a poor, pious family, the future saint was forced to take a job as a shepherd early in his youth to help support the family. In the fields with his sheep, he spent long hours in prayer and contemplation of the Lord, having been inspired by his mother from an early age to remain pure and innocent, and work toward sainthood. However, his early employment prevented him from gaining any formal education.

Early in life, he developed a special devotion to Our Blessed Mother, and would travel as pilgrim to the shrine devoted to her at Loreto (which was not too far from his home). On one occasion, when he reached the Potenza River, which we had to cross, he found the water so high that no boatman would assist him. In his eagerness to reach the shrine, he stepped into the river, which became as solid ground beneath his feet, allowing him to cross without danger or becoming wet!

While still a teenager, both of Felice’s parents died, and he was from that point to be looked after by his elder brother. A bricklayer, and man of extremely violent temper, his brother employed him, but provided him no warmth or family connection. Rather, he delivered harsh words and blows, and significant abuse, regardless of how hard Felice worked to please him. The future saint, however, for his part, accepted all the trials given to him with great penance, recognizing his suffering as the path to holiness.


At the young age of 16, Felice entered the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin convent as a lay brother at Ascoli Piceno, desiring to consecrate himself fully to the Lord. Upon acceptance, he is reported to have said: "I have nothing -- just a crucifix and a rosary--but with these I hope to benefit the friars and become a saint." He took the name Serafino, giving up his former identity and life.

At first, Serafino was mocked by his brothers due to his illiteracy. He turned to prayer as comfort, later recalling, "When I entered religious life I was a poor, unskilled laborer, lacking both talent and potential. I remained as I was, and this caused so many humiliations and rebukes, which the devil used as opportunities to tempt me to leave religious life and retreat to some desert, withdrawing into myself.

I entrusted myself to the Lord, and one night I heard a voice coming from the tabernacle say, ‘To serve God you must die to yourself and accept adversity, of whatever type.’ So I accepted them and resolved to recite a rosary for anyone who caused me trouble.

Then I heard the voice from the tabernacle say, 'Your prayers for those who mortify you are very pleasing to me. In exchange, I am ready to grant you many graces.’”

Eventually, despite his lack of education and young age, the brothers at the convent recognized his piety and holiness, as well as his unaffected simplicity, and soon he was respected and admired by his community.

He encouraged them in the ways of humility, obedience, limitless charity to those in need, mortification, and self-sacrifice, and worked tirelessly at the most menial chores in service to his brothers. He was graced with considerable spiritual gifts and wisdom, as well as devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady.

Serafino was further endowed by the Lord with the gift of reading the secrets of hearts, and with that of miracles (restoring the sick to health via his intercession and the Sign of the Cross) and prophecy. Although uneducated, his advice was sought by secular and ecclesiastical dignitaries, and was a fruitful source of virtue to souls.

Saint Serafino ate very little, frequently taking only one fourth of his meager rations, and distributing the rest to the poor. As porter for the community, he was responsible for feeding those in need, and he would frequently empty the larders and vegetable garden, distributing all the community had to the poor.

On one such occasion, his superior reprimanded him for endangering the welfare of his brothers, giving away all their food. Ever obedient, Serafino assured the superior that it would not happen again, and that the community would in no way suffer. Sure enough, the following morning, the vegetable garden was again full of new vegetables, having miraculously grown overnight!


Despite the attention and recognition he received from leaders and dignitaries, Saint Serafino desired to withdraw from the world. His reputation captured the attention of all, including the dukes of Bavaria and Parma, the Peopli nobles of Bologna, and Cardinal Bandini. To avoid having people kiss his hand or tunic to show their respect, Serafino would carry a crucifix with him, offering it for them to kiss.

Serafino found his solace in quiet prayer and contemplation before the Blessed Sacrament, contemplating the suffering of Christ. He devoted each night to prayer, and would remain in front of the Sacrament for hours at a time, absorbed in the Light of Christ. He would then take a short rest, rising again to attend the Midnight Office, and after another short rest, rise in prayer and service to his brothers. The Lord preserved his bodily strength, allowing him to continue his rigorous routine on little sleep for the majority of his life.

Saint Serafino prayed each day:

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior Crucified.

Saint Serafino died peacefully on October 12, 1604, at the age of 64. Many miracles were reported at his tomb, which lies in the Capuchin friary at Ascoli.

John Paul II wrote that the message and life of Saint Serafino as an "eloquent witness of the universal vocation to holiness." The Holy Father went on to say:

"With the passage of time, holiness does not lose its force of attraction; more than that, it shines with greater luminosity. This is evident in the person of Brother Serafino, a simple and illiterate man whom all, both the humble and powerful, regarded as a real 'brother.'  Precisely because of this," the "humble son of St. Francis" is "an eloquent witness of that universal vocation to holiness.”

Pope John Paul II also had the following to say about Saint Serafino, holding him up as a holy example of prayer, penance, and mortification:

Saint Serafino "had assimilated so profoundly the evangelical exhortation 'pray without ceasing' that his mind was habitually immersed in things of the spirit.” He contemplated "the divine presence in creation and in people" and "his prayer was prolonged for hours … before the tabernacle.” Moved also "by an intense love for the passion of Christ, he would pause to meditate on the Lord's sorrows and those of the Blessed Virgin." His spirit in the course of the years "made transparent the real greatness of his soul.”

Saint Serafino "had well understood the evangelical page that proclaims: 'Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.'"

In the posts he held as caretaker and alms-giver, he came in contact with the most varied people. This saint "loved to frequent the more underprivileged and marginalized sectors of the population to discover their hidden needs and to alleviate their physical and spiritual sufferings.” Moreover, "he was a great peacemaker in families, wisely tempering, according to the circumstances, strong reprimands, gestures of loving solidarity, and words of encouraging consolation.”

We are reminded by the life of Saint Serafino of Montegranaro that simplicity in devotion and spirit are what the Lord calls each of us to. We all to frequently get caught up in the need to dramatically or philosophically proclaim our faith—or even support our faith with study and discourse, attempting to make a logical or rational argument for our beliefs.  Saint Serafino could do none of this, having never learned to read.  Rather, he proclaimed the simple Christian faith by imitating the life of Christ in service, obedience, and charity towards those in need.  The humility and simplicity of his actions are far more dramatic and inspiring than the most learned scholarly arguments.  We are reminded today that our witness is also through our actions!


+  PRAYER  +

God, our Father, You endowed Saint Serafino with the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit, and made him an admirable witness of the riches of Christ. Through his intercession, make us grow in knowledge of You, that we may walk faithfully before You, according to the truth of the gospel. Amen.


Saint Serafino, pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.


[Source of entire text and pictures:  A Year of Prayer - 365 Rosaries]


St. Seraphin of Monte Granaro - Feastday: October 12 (Biography # 3)


+ JMJ +

St. Seraphim of Montegranaro

Saint Seraphin of Monte Granaro
Religious
(1540-1604)

Feastday: October 12

Seraphin De Nicola, baptized Felice, was born in Monte Granaro, Italy, in 1540.  His parents were poor in earthly goods and obscure in the sight of men.  But the spirit of prayer, which his mother instilled in the boy, was an inheritance of priceless value.   The loving lessons of his mother caused Seraphin to make the firm resolve to remain innocent and become a saint.

His father and brother were masons, but Felice was not strong or skilled, so he was sent to work as a shepherd, a job he enjoyed because it allowed him to be by himself and pray. 

On the death of his parents, Seraphin was subjected to a severe trial.  His brother, a bricklayer and a man of a violent temper, needed Seraphin to help with the business, so he took him into his employ.  He was given tasks he could not complete.  No matter what the boy did, he received nothing but harsh words and blows from his ill-tempered brother.  He would beat him and belittle him.  Seraphin bore the cruel treatment with great patience and recognized in it the way to holiness. 

A friend urged him to accept his more spiritual side and suggested he speak with the Capuchins.  Desiring to consecrate himself to the service of God, he entered a Capuchin convent when he was only 16 years old.  He served in various friaries as porter and questor.


He devoted the night to prayer.  In the evening he would visit the Blessed Sacrament and remain there for hours absorbed in prayer and contemplation.  Then he would take a short rest, after which he would get up once more to attend the midnight office.  God seemed to preserve his bodily strength in a marvelous way.

During a famine, he ate but a fourth of his own meager meal, in order to have so much more to give to the poor.  As porter of the convent, charged with providing for the poor, he once exceeded the bounds of obedience.  For, as he had nothing more to give and there were still some poor waiting for help, he went into the garden and gathered a supply of the vegetables growing there. 

When his superior took him to task for it, the good brother assured him that the community would in no way suffer on his account, and the next morning a new growth of vegetables appeared in the garden.

The miraculous power with which God rewarded the charity of His servant continued to manifest itself.  Countless sick were restored to health when he made the Sign of the Cross over them.

Seraphin endeavored, nevertheless, to withdraw as much as possible from contact with the world.  While engaged in the quiet work about the convent, his heart was busy contemplating the sufferings of Christ.

His life was noted for its unaffected simplicity, close union with Christ, and great love for the poor and for sinners.  Inflamed with the love of God, Seraphin departed from this life on October 12, 1604, in his 64th year.  Many miracles occurred at his grave, and Pope Clement XIII canonized him in 1767.


 +  PRAYER  + 

God, our Father, You endowed Saint Seraphin with the manifold gifts of the Spirit, and made him an admirable witness of the riches of Christ.  Through his intercession make us grow in knowledge of You that we may walk faithfully before You according to the truth of the gospel.  

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.


[Sources of text and pictures: Capuchin Franciscans, Province of St. Mary, and Steven Wood's reflections.]



St. Seraphin of Monte Granaro - Feastday: October 12 (Biography # 2)


+ JMJ +



St. Seraphin of Monte Granaro
(1540-1604)

Feastday: October 12 


"The Saint is dead! The Saint is dead!"

He wasn't exactly the best groomed of saints!  His fellow countrymen described him with these words:  “His beard and hair were always ruffled … his breath smelled dreadful … his habit, covered in patches, always slipped down a little on his left side, making his hair-shirt visible … his neck was always covered with a burning rash or eczema … he never ever wanted to be touched on the shoulders … he had a great love for flowers and children.”

And these children of Ascoli Piceno, whom the old Capuchin had always loved so tenderly, were the first to announce the news of his death.  In fact, when he died, in 1604, his fellow Capuchins had first thought of burying him quietly, lest news of his death draw too big a crowd to the friary for his funeral.  But somehow the children got wind of the news and round the town they went crying aloud: "The Saint is dead!  The Saint is dead!"

'Saint', 'wonder-worker', 'prophet' - these are but some of the exalted titles by which people were referring to Brother Seraphin of Monte Granaro long before he died.  And after his death the wonders did not cease, but only seemed to increase.  46 years earlier, he had entered the Capuchin novitiate at Jesi, introducing himself with these prophetic words: "I have nothing but a crucifix and a rosary. With these I hope to benefit the Brothers and become a saint."


A Clumsy Young Man

He was a young man of eighteen then but, despite his best efforts, he had never been very of practical use to anyone or skillful at anything, except perhaps praying. He was born at Monte Granaro in the Central Italian region know as the Marches of Ancona, around 1540, the second of Jerome de Nicola and his wife Theodora's four children.  His father, Jerome was a builder by trade, but found it hard to eke out a living. This boy who was baptized Felix, was, at a young age, sent to work on a neighbouring farm, so as to earn some extra income for the family.  In the countryside, with only sheep for company, he developed a love for silence, solitude, prayer and meditation.  But when his parents died, and his brother, Silenzio took over the family business, Felix was called back home to help with the building work.  He was, however, a clumsy young man, totally incapable of learning any of the building skills, his brother tried to teach him.  Even as a mere hod carrier, his innate clumsiness got the better of him and he was regularly scolded and badly beaten by his bad-tempered older brother.

He gradually began to feel a desire to withdraw to some lonely place and dedicate himself to God alone, in a life of prayer and mortification, like Desert Fathers did of old.  One day while he was telling Lois Vannucci, a girl from nearby Loro Piceno, she suggested he could find just such a life with the newly established Capuchin Friars Minor, who had a friary at Tolentino, not very far away.
  

Early Years as a Capuchin

And so, Felix, then 16 year old, made his way to the Capuchin Friary and asked to be admitted to the Order.  His request was refused then, but he tried again two years later, in 1558, and this time he was admitted. Now known by the religious name of Brother Seraphin of Montegranaro, he spent his novitiate year at Jesi novitiate friary and one year later he made perpetual profession there.

Despite his high hopes and intense prayer life, things did not go smoothly for this newly professed Capuchin Brother during his first years in religious life. His natural  awkwardness and clumsiness still continued to blight the various ministries of fraternal service to which he was assigned, bringing upon himself the reproval of his Ministers and fellow Capuchins, as well as many humiliations, penances and frequent changes of address. His inability to satisfactorily perform the various tasks assigned to him was, in fact, one of the main reasons he had to be reassigned so often.  He lived for a short time in many of the Provinces local fraternities, at places like Loro Piceno, Corinaldo, Ostra, Ancona, Sant' Elipidio and Montolmo.  The precise chronology of his stays in these places is hard to determine.  Finally, around 1589, he was moved to Ascoli Piceno where he spent the last 15 years of his life.


The Secret of his Holiness

Wherever he went great throngs of people flocked to see him, attracted by his obvious holiness and the fame of the miracles he worked.  When the Brother Guardian of the Civitanova friary demanded to know the secret of his holiness and miraculous powers. This is the answer Brother Seraphin gave him.  "When I came to the friary, I was a poor unskilled laborer, without ability and without aptitude: and this was the cause of so many humiliations and so many reproofs on which the Demon acted, causing the temptation to leave the Order and withdraw to the desert to enter my heart. I entrusted myself to the Lord and one night a voice came out from the Tabernacle, saying, "To serve God it is necessary to die to oneself and accept adversities, whatever the nature of these may be."  I did accept them and offered to recite a rosary for those who inflicted them on me.  The familiar voice from the same Tabernacle assured me, saying, "Your prayers for those who mortify you are most pleasing to me.  I am ready, in exchange, to grant you every grace."


The Wonder worker

And oh! How many were the graces ensued?  These were not primarily graces given for his own personal benefit but for the good of others.  Some 2000 pages of documentation for the process of his canonization contain a list testimonies about these numerous graces and miracles brought about by him.  That list might even have been longer if one Guardian had not commanded him to stop working miracles.  People had only to kiss his mantle, be touched by his hands, or even invoke his name, to be cured of stubborn ailments and escape from impossible predicaments. Anything he touched seemed to bring about miracles.  Bread, oranges, grass, wheat, lettuce, and especially his rosary beads, made from fennel and pieces of pumpkin - all these became imbued with miraculous powers.  In fact the ordinary people had more faith in his rosary beads than they had in any medicines city doctors might prescribe.


Some of Brother Seraphin's Healings

A mother brought once a young girl who had never been able to speak and asked him to cure her.  "O Little Saint," he said "take her to the church to the altar of the Blessed Sacrament." A little while later when he saw the girl and her mother kneeling before the altar, he said to them "It is nothing!" and placing three fragrant roses in the girl's hand, he said to her mother "Take her home and you will see that she will be talking even more than you want her to."  That evening during supper the little girl began to talk and talk, so much so that her parents were wondering how they might get her to shut up!

A canon of the Cathedral of Ascoli Piceno, Reverend Francis Panicci, was suffering from a contagious skin disease which caused his hands to break out in pus-filled spots and crusty scabs.  He received all sorts of medical treatment but the skin disease got worse instead of better, so much so that he was no longer able to say Mass in public.  One day he decided to take a walk in the Capuchin friary garden, where he came upon old Brother Seraphin, who took his hands in his, saying "Whose hands are these?  Are they perhaps the hands of a priest, of a canon even?" Half jokingly the Canon asked him. "Will you give me some remedy, Brother Seraphin!"  Brother Seraphin plucked a fistful of grass from a nearby meadow and began to rub it into the priest's hands until they were green all over, saying over and over: "I want you to be healed, to make these hands beautiful!"  Though the hands did not get better there and then the did feel better and softer afterwards.  Within a fortnight, the Canon's hands were perfectly restored to health and he was able to say Mass publicly again.

He once healed a bishop who was at death's door. The bishop told him, "I made a long journey and was hoping to enter paradise. But, thanks to you, they shut the door in my face and threw me down the stairs, so here I am back in this world."

Even his fellow Capuchin Saint, Brother Laurence of Brindisi was aware of his fame as a miracle worker who could even raise the dead to life. But when he met him earlier during his visitation of the Province, he did not recognize the elderly Brother, who volunteered to go on the Missions, as the one that all the talk was about. And that is the way Brother Seraphin himself would have wanted it.

Even when an aura of sanctity came to surround him and he was attracting throngs of cheering devotees, he always sought to remain hidden and steadfastly did his best to escape the applause of the people. He used to often tell a grateful devotee: “All right, calm down, little saint, calm down! Because it was not I, but Christ and your faith that healed you!”


A Model Capuchin at the Service of his Brothers

Brother Seraphin of Monte Granaro was a typical Capuchin, from head to toe, the very personification of the Order's main charisms.  He was indeed a man of prayer, a brother of the people, a poor and austere Friar Minor and evangelizer of poor. As a peacemaker, he thirsted for righteousness and justice and delighted also in the works of God's Creation.

Brother Seraphin was always grateful to the Capuchin Brothers for accepting him into the Fraternity, despite his many drawbacks. This fraternal love and gratefulness found its concrete expression, above all, in his prompt obedience.  He moved willingly from friary to friary, seeking to be of use to his Brothers, as cook, gardener, questor, porter and companion to preachers, But his fraternal love reached its apex in the prayers he offered for those Brothers who were critical of him or insulted him publicly because of his incompetence.  

Another remedy he used for dealing with such rebukes was a healthy sense of humour.  Once a Guardian shouted at him that he was a "hypocrite, a deceiver of the whole world and a stiff necked man!" "I may be a hypocrite" answered Seraphin straight away, "but I am not a lazy one, because I am always going about deceiving now this one, now that!"

When a Priest Brother in the Fraternity was afflicted with scruples and depressed, Brother Seraphin told him to follow him into the kitchenette, where he had some reserved cases for him.  There he opened the cupboard and showed him a big quantity of cheese, saying with an impish grin, "These are my reserved cases." (In Italian 'casi riservati' can mean both reserved cases and preserved cheeses).  At this his confrere could not help burst out laughing, and soon forgot about the scruples, that were causing his depression.    


A Man of Prayer

Like Saint Francis before him, Brother Seraphin was not so much a man who said prayers but a man whose whole life had become a prayer.  Witnesses tell us that even while he was conversing with other people. his mind was habitually raised up to God and that he enjoyed that rarest of mystical gifts, a lifelong union with God. Not only when he was staying at the Friary, but also when he stopped overnight at the houses of benefactors while questing, his prayers extended deep into the silence of the night.  After the other Brothers had gone to bed, he would make his way quietly to the church, to pray for hours before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  At night, he usually spent more time in the chapel than in his cell. If someone saw him there, and he was aware of it, he would pretend to be asleep, snoring loudly! When one Brother reproved him for such irreverence, he answered half-jokingly “My little saint, I get more sleep in the chapel than in the refectory.”  He also told one Confrere that he spent the nights in church because in his cell he found himself terribly tempted against chastity, despite his advance age!

His heart-to-Heart conversations with the Lord, led Brother Seraphin to an intimate experience of God, It was an experience enabled this semi-illiterate Capuchin Lay Brother to penetrate the deepest mysteries of the our Faith, arrive at the summits of contemplation and astound even the most learned churchmen with his supernaturally acquired wisdom. During prayer, he sometimes fell into ecstasies, as one of his companions witnessed during a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Loreto in 1596.   In fact, that confrere, Brother Simon of Femo, had to shake saintly old Brother to rouse him, after he had spent fourteen hours in continuous prayer inside the Holy House, without ever moving.

Ecstatic though it sometimes was, Brother Seraphin's prayer never evaded reality.  One of the Brothers. who was spying on Brother Seraphin in church, overheard him repeat over and over, with sighs,  "Peace, Lord, I ask for peace for ..." Not being able to make out the name of the person, he tried to move closer, but bumped his leg against a seat in the darkness, startling Brother Seraphin, who immediately got up and told him to go to bed.  The next day in the refectory, the Brothers heard that some long feuding noble families in the city had reconciled with each other that very morning!

Brother Seraphin, as a true Franciscan, was most devoted to Jesus's Passion, to His Eucharistic presence and to His Taking Flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Boverius, the celebrated chronicler of the Capuchin Order, noted that when Brother Seraphin was mediating on the mysteries of the Passion, he "experienced in himself such tenderness of heart and such a fire of divine love that he dissolved in a flood of tears." He always carried with him a little wooden cross or, in later years, a brass crucifix.  Pointing to that crucifix, he would often say to his Brother Priests: "Behold the book for studying and for preaching to the people".  His own prolonged prayerful and contemplative gaze often rested on this image of Christ Crucified.

His other predominant devotion was devotion to the Eucharist, which was expressed above all in an intense participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass.  He said over and over that he desired to be transferred to Loreto or Rome, so as to be able to serve more Masses each day.  In divergence from what was customary at the time, he received Communion daily, with the permission of the Order's Ministers.

His devotion to the Incarnation and to the Blessed Virgin Mary can be seen in the frequency of his pilgrimages to the Holy House of Nazareth, preserved in the Basilica of Loreto.  As a child he had crossed a flooded river dry-shod in order to get there quickly, while his relatives waited on the bank waiting for the torrent would abate.  Frequently pictured with a rosary beads in his hand, he prayed the rosary often and delighted in meditating on the mysteries of the life of Christ and of Our Lady.


A Poor and Austere Lesser Brother

His bare cell, which had not even the narrowest of windows, only a door, bears eloquent witness to his love for Lady Poverty.  His clothing and the objects he used, even devotional objects, such as his rosary beads, were made from the poorest materials. Only once in his lifetime, and much to his embarrassment, did his Ministers persuade him to wear a new habit.

His austerity shone out above all in his penances, which lead him to incredible abstinence when it came to food and drink.  He usually ate nothing but a little vegetable soup and salad,  He even refrained from drinking water, when he travelled along sun-drenched, dusty country roads in summer, questing for the Brothers' needs. Yet he was always ready to break his fasts if he, by eating, could persuade a sick brother to eat with him. He irritated his skin by wearing with a rough hair shirt next to it and he subjected his body to frequent flagellation.  All this, he did, in order to become more like the Crucified Christ and overcome himself, so as to better live the Gospel life he had promised.

Taking the last place was not merely a matter of choice for Seraphin, but also a condition enforced on him by necessity. He was so ill-suited to the various chores he had to do around the house, that the Order's Ministers often humiliated him by assigning him the lowliest of tasks in the house.  He himself used to say that "the way to go up" was by the "way of descending below," He understood well the significance of Franciscan minority and when, in 1604, he first heard that Pope Clement VIII had made Brother Anselm of Monopoli the first Capuchin Cardinal in history, he exclaimed with a loud cry: "O poor Capuchin Order, instituted on the foundation of deepest humility!"


An Evangelizing "Brother of the People"

Prayer was the powerhouse of his evangelizing dynamism. In prayer, he encountered Christ and experienced the Good News of his Gospel.  This experience was one he shared with others, especially with the poor and the marginalized, not only by his simple words, but also by the witness of his example and good deeds.

The unction of his exhortations often astounded learned people.  Once he turned up at a theology class and was compelled by obedience to say a few words to those gathered there. He spoke with such faith and such holy competence, that the students wondered if the Seraphic Doctor of the Church, Saint Bonaventure himself. had come back under the guise of this simple Lay Brother.  When sometimes he was obliged by obedience to give a sermon in the refectory, his words in commenting on Psalm 91, beginning with the words "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High", or on the "Stabat Mater" sequence were so full of feeling, that he used to reduce his listeners to tears.

He entered the palaces of the rich and the hovels of the poor, consoling them and often, thanks to God's special providence, curing their illnesses by means of his little crucifix.  Even the gates of the city's prison were opened to Brother Seraphin, who sought to comfort those detained there and bring them back to God.  Nobles, prelates and even Cardinals sought his prayers and advice about their spiritual concerns, as well as about their material ones.  His supernatural wisdom, his way of being present in the society he lived in and his fame as a worker of miracles, made him in truth an "Evangelizer of the Poor" and a true "Brother of the People."


A Peacemaker who Thirsted for Justice, in Love with Creation

Brother Seraphin knew how to insert himself in an extraordinary way in the concrete historical and social realities of his times,  Yet, in his work for reconciliation and his struggles against injustice and unrighteous behaviour, as well as in his love for creatures, he seems almost to anticipate the sensibilities of our times.

As questor and as porter, he constantly did his best to be of service to those who were either materially or spiritually in need,  With great love, he supplied the tables of the poor, sometimes even obtaining for them, from God, a miraculous multiplication of vegetables.  He was a peacemaker to families in discord, an apostle to violent and murderous bandits, a corrector of women's unrestrained opulence and men's inveterate gambling.

Like Saint Francis, he had a transparent love for creation and would burst forth in praise of the Creator.  With a childlike soul, he talked tenderly to the birds, as he fed them, before sending them on their way to soar freely once more high into the heavens. He also conversed with fish, which happily swam up his habit sleeves when he put his arms in the water.  And he took great delight in the colours and sweet fragrances of the flowers of the field.  


His Final Years and Posthumous Glorification

Brother Seraphin of Montegranaro spent the last 15 years of his life at the Friary of Ascoli Piceno.  He took Ascoli's citizenry took to his heart and they, in turn, took him to theirs, so much so that after his death, his image was displayed in almost every home and even hung on the outside of public buildings.

There on the afternoon of the 12th of October 1604, he welcomed Sister Death!  And after hearing the news of his death, spread by the children of the town, throngs of citizens rushed to the friary to bid him a last farewell.  It is said that a sweet odor emanated from his corpse, which had hardly been buried, before his first biography was published.  His remains, encased in a wax effigy, lie today enshrined in Ascoli Piceno's Capuchin Friary church.  He was beatified by Pope Benedict XIII on the 8th of July 1729 and canonized by Pope Clement XIII on the 16th of July 1767.


"All right, calm down, little saint, calm down! Because it was not I, but Christ and your faith that healed you!", "Oh little saint, little saint, may you be given white bread! Oh! that I might be worthy of purgatory!  I am but a sinner!", "I have nothing but a crucifix and a rosary. With these I hope to benefit the Brothers and become a saint." 

~  Saint Seraphin of Monte Granaro

Source of entire text and pictures:  Website of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor, Korea


St. Seraphin of Monte Granaro - Feastday: October 12 (Biography # 1)


+ JMJ +


St. Seraphin of Monte Granaro
(1540-1604)

Feastday:  October 12

Born into a poor Italian family, young Seraphin lived the life of a shepherd and spent much of his time in prayer.  Mistreated for a time by his older brother after the two of them had been orphaned, Seraphin became a Capuchin Franciscan at age 16 and impressed everyone with his humility and generosity.

Serving as a lay brother, Seraphin imitated St. Francis in fasting, clothing and courtesy to all. H e even mirrored Francis' missionary zeal, but Seraphin's superiors did not judge him to be a candidate for the missions.

Faithful to the core, Seraphin spent three hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament daily. The poor who begged at the friary door came to hold a special love for him. Despite his uneventful life, he reached impressive spiritual heights and has had miracles attributed to him.

Seraphin died on October 12, 1604, and was canonized in 1767.

http://www.capuchin.or.kr/img/data/seraphin/Seraphin01.jpg
[Source]
Comment:

For many people these days, work has no significance beyond providing the money they need to live. How many share the belief expressed in the Book of Genesis that we are to cooperate with God in caring for the earth? The kind of work Seraphin did may not strike us as earth-shattering. The work was ordinary; the spirit in which he did it was not.

Quote:

In Brothers of Men, Rene Voillaume of the Little Brothers of Jesus speaks about ordinary work and holiness: "Now this holiness [of Jesus] became a reality in the most ordinary circumstances of life, those of work, of the family and the social life of a village, and this is an emphatic affirmation of the fact that the most obscure and humdrum human activities are entirely compatible with the perfection of the Son of God." Christians are convinced, he says, "that the evangelical holiness proper to a child of God is possible in the ordinary circumstances of a man who is poor and obliged to work for his living."

[Source of entire text and pictures above.]


 +  Prayer  +

O God, who inflamed the heart of St. Seraphin with the fire of Your love, grant, we beg You, that at his intercession, we may walk in his footsteps and be inflamed with the same fire of love.  Through Christ our Lord. Amen.   [Source]

St. Seraphin, pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.



Friday, October 5, 2012

St. Denis - Feastday: October 9


+ JMJ +

SAINT DENIS 
(d. circa 258 AD) 

Patron Saint of France

Born and raised in Italy, he was sent as a missionary to Gaul (now France) from Rome, circa 250 A.D., by Pope St. Clement, along with five other bishops.  [Source]

He made his base of missionary activity an island in the Seine near the city of Lutetia Parisorium -- what would become Paris. For this reason he is known as the first bishop of Paris and the Apostle of France.  [Source]

At this time, Paris was under Roman rule and law. Christianity had been outlawed as a strange and peculiar sect. The majority of the population followed the current belief that the Roman emperor was divine.  St. Denis denied the divinity of the Roman emperor.  [Source]

During the persecution under Valerius in 258, he was arrested, along with his inseparable companions, Rusticus and Eleutherius.  Later writers have referred to them as Denis' priest and deacon, or his deacon and subdeacon, but we have no further information on them.  [Source]

After a long imprisonment and several aborted executions, the three martyrs were taken to the temple of Mercury, on the hill now known as Montmartre (literally, "mountain of martyrs"), and beheaded with a sword.   [Source]

Nothing unusual so far, you say. People were mutilated and beheaded, according to the laws and customs of the time, regularly.  What made this particular beheading rather different was the attitude of the beheadee (this may be a new word, forgive me, but it does fit). Quite simply he picked up his head and walked!   {Source}

unknown st denis patron saint of france 1826 
St. Denis, Patron Saint of France, 1826 (unknown)
[Source]

First, he washed it in a nearby stream, and then walked a further 6000 paces carrying his head and preaching a sermon the entire way. Then he lay down and died.  It is not recorded what the bewildered Roman officials thought of all this kerfuffle.  {Source}

Another story says that his body and those of Eleutherius and Rusticus were thrown into the river.  They were later retrieved from the Seine by his converts and buried on the spot of their martyrdom [Source]

Veneration of Saint Denis began soon after his death.  The spot where he died became a holy place.  Christians visited it, at first, in secret and quietly, as the religion was still outlawed.  But in time Christianity gained popularity, and soon became the common religion, so they visited openly.  {Source}

Then in 451, Geneviève, a Christian, had a vision from God.  At this time the Huns, led by Attila, had overrun large parts of Europe, and were heading for Paris with nothing in their way to stop them.  People had already started to flee from the city.  But in Geneviève's vision, she saw that the Huns would not enter Paris, and she urged the people to stay in their city.  {Source}


St. Geneviève of Paris 
(422 - 512 AD)

They stayed, and the Huns moved south to the richer pickings of the Loire valley, and their eventual defeat, but that's another story.  Geneviève converted the current king, Clovis, to Christianity.  Assisted by the people of Paris, Geneviève (who was granted sainthood later on and became the patron saint of Paris) built a church over St. Denis's tomb at the beginning of the sixth century.  The site became a pilgrimage place.  {Source}  

File:St Denis Front.jpg

 St. Denis Basilica
Ile-de-France, Paris, France
(About noon, Winter, 2005)
  [Source]
 

The long, vaulted Gothic nave of St-Denis.
[Source]

Several churches existed before the current cathedral was built in Gothic style in the 12th and 13th centuries.  [Source]

http://www.paris-architecture.info/IMAGES/st-denis(1).jpg
[Source]

It was the first Gothic church in the world.  [Source]

Saint Denis basilica, rose window

The rose window inside the basilica.

The cathedral became the burial place for most of the kings of France, from the 5th century until the French Revolution in 1793.  [Source]
 

Tombs with Funeral Sculptures inside the Royal Basilica
 [Source]

http://ssa.paris.online.fr/pages/images/StDenis2862.jpg

(From left to right)  The tombs of Philip le Long, Jane d'Evereaux, and Charles IV, le Bel (the Good).   {Source}

http://saints.sqpn.com/wp-content/gallery/saint-denis-of-paris/saint-denis-of-paris-02.jpg
   [Source]

St. Denis is usually represented with his head in his hands.  While many Christian martyrs carry the instruments of their martyrdom in iconography, and a few others roll with the bits of severed flesh exacted by those martyrdoms, Denis is only the most notable of an entire designated sub-class who carry their own heads: cephalophores{Source}

Again we have the case of a saint about whom almost nothing is known, yet one whose cult has been a vigorous part of the Church's history for centuries. We can only conclude that the deep impression the saint made on the people of his day must have resulted from a life of unusual holiness.  [Source]

In all such cases, there are two fundamental facts: A great man gave his life for Christ, and the Church has never forgotten him — a human symbol of God's eternal mindfulness. (AmericanCatholic.org)   

October 9 is celebrated as the feast of Saint Denis and also of his companions, Rusticus and Eleutherius.  Denis (or Dionysius as he is also called) is the most famous of the three.  [Source]

Particular Patronage:

Helper against headache, trouble of conscience and faith, in painful fights when you risk your head, patron of France and Paris, former patron of the Carolingian dynasty.   [Source]


Prayer to St. Denis and Companions: 
 
O shepherd of a faithful people, you shed your blood with your brothers as a holy offering to the Lord after drawing many souls into His fold. Beheaded for your success as Christ’s evangelist, you still lead faithful souls to God. 

Pray we shall be so ready to lay down our own lives for the propagation of the Word of God, and that on our journey, we shall be protected from all the snares of the devil, that nothing shall prevent our standing at Jesus’s side both in this world and the next.  Amen.   [Source]

Shorter Prayer:   

St. Denis, we, too, are in danger during the daily strain of life.  Help us not to give up because of our weakness.  Show us the direct way to sincere penitence so that we can feel God's love and mercy.  [Source]

Saints Denis, Eleutherius, and Rusticus, pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.


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